March 12, 2017 by gregrabidoux2013
The Golden State Warriors have not been so golden recently. Losers of 3 straight games and in danger of losing the #1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs perhaps their collective grouchiness as a team can be understood. Even forgiven.
Their emotional though volatile leader Draymond Green just picked up his 12th technical foul and responded by giving the referees an “earful” and claiming he gets called for “phantom technical” because he “don’t play their game.”
Their new superstar teammate via an off-season blockbuster trade, Kevin Durant, just went down for an indefinite period of time with a freak on-court injury.
So, predictably, the inevitable championship run had begun to slow to a crawl. Tempers flare. Even the trivial gets the full-scale press treatment.
But even in this grouchy, combustible context, the very recent post-game comments by one of their veteran players, Andre Iguodala, an African-American athlete, seems inexplicable even indefensible.
Asked to comment about Coach Steve Kerr’s decision to rest the team’s top 3 players for yesterday’s pivotal game against rival San Antonio Spurs, Iguodala first seemed taken aback, saying “What, we’re resting guys?” Then when asked how he felt about the move he went full slavery mode responding, “Do what Master say…do what Master say.” Then for good measure he added that he was just a “dumb n****r and that was it, that they were all just “dumb n*****s.
The so-called “Master,” Coach Kerr, who is a white former NBA player and analyst informed the media that they “had all been ‘Andre’d” and that he was “a real smart guy and was just stirring things up.”
For a supposed smart guy Mr. Iguodala sure has a provocative and arguably racially offensive way of showing it. “Master” has been an historically slang term for a slave owner or the one in charge of keeping slaves in line and producing for the slave or plantation owner.
On a pre-game show last night there was mixed reactions from the pundits and host at ABC which was televising a much ballyhooed match (Golden State v San Antonio) that turned out to be a dud of a game played largely between 2nd and 3d string players for both teams. The pundits seemed a bit grouchy as well. Michael Wilbon brushed off the slave imagery talk from Iguodala saying it was “nothing” and that players today don’t mean anything by using the “N” word. It’s just a thing players use between each other.
Fellow commentator and former player Jalen Rose largely agreed though did qualify his position by asserting that he (Rose) has chosen not to use the “N” word nor any “curse words” because of the “harm” they bring. Sage Steele, an African-American woman host on the pre-game panel took a harsher view of Iguodala’s remarks saying that there is “no excuse for uttering such words” and disputing Mr. Wilbon’s position that “Master” did not necessarily invoke slavery and its horror.
The disparate responses of these three African-American television personalities actually seems to represent how American society writ-large seems to feel and react to the use of the “N” word. In short, a range of reactions.
Try to get through even the first 2 or 3 verses of any rap song playing on your I-phone these days without hearing the “N” word or any of its many street slang derivatives. Apparently, when you spell it “Niggaz” as some rap groups do it becomes cool and bereft of any slavery imagery or horror.
African-American males frequently call each other the “N” word, again, apparently out of affection and some sort of Bro-hood. And this is not confined to just African-Americans to whom one would assume the “N” word would have an especially horrific meaning. Somehow, a vicious and demeaning word that was historically used by slave masters and racists everywhere has been transformed at least to some as a cool, neutral term between “brothers of any and all colors.”
This seeming embracing of what was once at least a despicable word was astutely chronicled in the 2002 book on this controversial word by Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School.
The modern English Language has over 250,000 distinct words from which to choose when expressing one’s self. That’s a tremendous reservoir of words to dip into during conversations.
Yet, Mr. Iguodala of his own free will chose the words he did, and if he is a “smart guy” as he is touted then he knew the meanings usually ascribed to those words. And it seems like he or his coach, maybe both, want to have it both ways. He chooses words he knows will be controversial, even offensive yet the team’s spin on his remarks seeks to empty the words of any historical or contemporary meaning. He was just being “Andre.” Yet, let’s suppose for a moment a white reporter called Coach Kerr the “master” of a bunch of “dumb n*****s. Would the team response be simply to shrug their collective shoulders and insist the reporter was just “funning” everyone?
But should any of us care anymore about the utterance of the “N’ word in any context? Can such a word really be a term of coolness and affection within one group become something else, something offensive and demeaning when uttered by someone form another race or group?
As Professor Kennedy claims in his book on the “N” word, when people simply embrace the word it robs would-be bullies of its inherent power. Fair enough. But when a member of the group historically victimized by this word uses it supposedly for “fun” or to “play” such meanings and feelings he (in this case Iguodala) knows people hold doesn’t that become a very indefensible double-standard?
I’ve watched the video and listened to the audio of Mr. Iguodala’s post-game comments. And he must also be quite an actor in addition to being a smart guy because he sure looked intense, defiant and never once gave off any vibe of a wink and a nod to the reporters recording him.
The very mixed and rather muted response of many to his choice of words may just mean we’ve come a long way from the days when such language would universally be seen as degrading, offensive and inflammatory. Or have we?
One thing is for certain. The reality of a multi-millionaire African-American athlete likening his Caucasian coach to a slave master because he chose to rest 3 other multi-millionaire African-American/mixed race athletes would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive.’
At least to some of us.