LeBron James was quick to cast Phil Jackson as a racist for using a word that I and others feel is closer to “crew” and “entourage” than “gang” and “mob.” James doesn’t have to outwardly say Jackson is racist if he’s saying this instead: “I believe the only reason he used (posse) is because he sees young African-Americans trying to make a difference.”
That’s a dangerous accusation without context or research into Jackson, but it’s also the product of a climate inflamed by a president-elect who makes many minorities feel marginalized, scared and uncomfortable. And frankly, as much as Jackson’s history suggests he doesn’t view one race as superior to another (only himself as superior to everybody), it’s hard to see him call Kristaps Porzingis’ agents a “posse” instead of just his brother, Janis, and Andy Miller.
We’ll probably wait forever before Jackson utters ‘the Porzingis Posse.’
So James and his business manager, Maverick Carter, do have a point. Racism is very often unintentional and rooted in subconscious stereotypes. It’s the type of stuff that is ingrained in our brains through exposure to television and media, without us realizing it’s there until somebody else points it out. It’s certainly possible Jackson didn’t think Maverick Carter and Rich Paul were successful businessmen simply because of the way they looked. So now there’s a different word on the offensive radar — “posse” — an addition to a list that has grown impressively over time.
But what James should’ve learned from his own experience — and what he should’ve exercised instead of hammering Jackson with “I’ve lost all respect” — is that these words don’t have to define the person saying them, and change doesn’t require casting aspersions to the other side. That’s counterproductive.
LeBron James insinuated that Phil Jackson’s comments were racially charged.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
And also, James should look in the mirror.
It was about five years ago when James muttered under his breath “retarded” to describe a question from a reporter. When confronted, James’ initial reaction was to minimalize his use of the offensive word, saying, according to TIME Magazine, “I didn’t understand the question. It is definitely blown out of proportion. … I think that’s a stupid question. I don’t know why someone would even ask that question.”
It took three days for James to apologize, before he said “retarded” again in a separate interview three years later. He called it a “bad habit.”
Today there are few words that prompt more cringes from myself than “retarded.” It’s disgusting. And I think that’s because it was so openly and frequently used when I was in high school in the 1990s, to the point nobody understood it was abhorrently offensive to vulnerable people.
(Richard Harbus/for New York Daily News)
If something was dumb or stupid, it was the same as being “retarded,” or the same logic James used. The small school bus was called the “retard bus.” Two decades later, it’s embarrassing writing these things and thinking about my compliance — just as it’s embarrassing for America to have a president-elect who mocked a disabled reporter.
As we learned more about autism and other disabilities, the word has vanished from my world. My friends — including one with an autistic child — don’t use it anymore. My 13-year-old son doesn’t use it. I don’t hear it. If I did, it would come with a swift correction — but also with the type of context and consideration into a person’s character that James didn’t afford Jackson.
Words don’t define people, but they can be powerful and painful. James learned that. Hopefully Jackson did, too.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News