SOUTH FLORIDA, January 27, 2014 — Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman started out creating a football controversy soon followed by a political one.
After verbally bashing Michael Crabtree at the end of a bitter football contest, Sherman was on the receiving end of many racist and hateful Tweets. He was referred to as a thug in addition to being called the n-word.
In a lengthy and frequently eloquent press conference, Sherman offered valuable comments about personal responsibility and hard work as success drivers. Unfortunately the media focused on a brief response to the last question. Sherman pointed out that many people use the word “thug” as a synonym for the n-word
Is calling somebody a thug racially coded language? Is Sherman right? As with many things in life, the answer is “yes and no.”
Start with Sherman himself. He is not a thug. A Stanford graduate working on his Master’s degree, Sherman is the opposite of a thug. His active community work helps kids avoid thuggish behavior. Sherman is a role model.
Many of the people who attacked Sherman on Twitter are racists. They used the thug accusation in the same sentence as the n-word. When the accusers create linkage, linkage exists. Sherman only pointed out what other people wrote about him.
On the other hand, the thug reputation is a self-inflicted black community wound. The late gangsta-rapper Tupac Shakur had a tattoo that said “thug life.” When segments of the black community embraced the thug culture as an image, it became tougher for other blacks to claim white racism for noticing it.
Sherman was right to see a connection that many of his critics deliberately created. Conversely, some whites have every right to see a connection that other blacks deliberately created.
If thuggishness is behavioral and not racial, where does that leave Justin Bieber? The pop singer has engaged in behavior in recent months that has ranged from boorishness to criminal. He urinated in a restaurant kitchen mop bucket, before yelling f#@k Bill Clinton. More recently Bieber egged a neighbor’s house, with damage reportedly around $20 thousand. He was recently arrested for drag racing in a residential area while having alcohol and drugs in his system.
Does this make him a thug? Or a brat?
From a behavioral standpoint it should, but Bieber may not be a thug. Forget his race. Bieber has bodyguards to act like thugs for him whenever he needs. Bieber could not kick his own backside. He is a metrosexual pretending to be a tough guy.
He is a thug wannabe, which is much more pathetic.
This leads to President Obama. Like Bieber, Obama is an effeminate man who frequently and desperately tries to be seen as a “guy’s guy.” He has a Secret Service, an entire cabinet, and a pliant media to fight his battles for him. Like Bieber, Obama is ridiculed when he tries to act like a tough guy. He is no Vladimir Putin.
Using the Bieber beta male standard would exempt Obama from the thug label, but there is one quality Obama possesses that justifies the label. Being a thug comes down to intent.
Richard Sherman is not a thug because he spoke aggressively once in the heat of the moment. Bieber is a Millennial acting young and stupid, which is what Millennials do. He needs to mature quickly. Neither of these young men are malicious.
Obama frequently acts with malicious intent. He uses the power of his office to deliberately target people for harm when they disagree with him. He inflicts intentional pain to send a message to people he sees as enemies. The IRS targeting scandal is one of many instances where Obama tries to bully people solely because they have a different philosophy then he does.
Attorney General Eric Holder is the equivalent of the “bagman,” doing the dirty works so Obama can keep his hands semi-clean.
When all is said and done, being a thug can sometimes have a racial connection and sometimes have a behavioral connection. It always requires the bad behavior to be intentional. While Obama and Holder both happen to have pigmentation that is darker than straight Caucasian, it is reasonable to say that white people acting the way they do would be behaving in a thuggish manner.
This brings us back to Bieber. The drag racing and public urinating incidents can be chalked up as mere bad behavior and immaturity. The egging of the neighbor’s house was done with deliberate malice.
For these reasons, Richard Sherman is not a thug. Barack Obama and Eric Holder sometimes do act like thugs. With Bieber, the jury is out until we see if the egging instance was an aberration from his normal immature behavior or is his typical behavior.
He may not be a thug, but he is on the borderline of wanna-be-thug and time will tell which way he goes.