Media/Entertainment

The L-word: Al Sharpton and the Golf Channel eliminate racism in America

Political correctness elevates sensitivity over truth. – Bill Maher

You Americans can be so silly sometimes. Take the latest flare-up of political correctness in your sports world.

Kelly Tilghman, the Golf Channel anchor who during Friday’s broadcast from the Mercedes-Benz Championship said while discussing Tiger Woods’ dominance that young players on the PGA Tour should “lynch him in a back alley,” was suspended two weeks Wednesday for the remark.

The move came after a wave of outrage that included a call for her to be fired by civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton and despite a statement from the Woods camp saying, “It is a complete non-issue.” (Story)

Let’s see if we can sort this out.

One possibility is that Sharpton, the Golf Channel and any number of other people think that Tilghman was serious. That she was literally suggesting that other golfers drag Tiger’s uppity butt into an alley, string a rope through the fire escape, and hang him by the neck until he stops thrashing. Makes a certain degree of sense, of course – after all, he is married to a white woman and his habit of thumping his betters on the course makes clear that he doesn’t know his place. Might be a good idea to send a message to any other Negroes thinking about taking up the White Man’s Basketball.

Is there a history of racism with this reporter? Is there some larger context that would lead us to believe she uttered the L-word with malicious intent? If so, good for the Golf Channel. The last thing a civilized society can tolerate is open race-baiting by members of the press. Even the sporting press.

But if there were such evidence against Tilghman, you’d think it would have been presented by now, wouldn’t you?

The other possibility is that America has now become so sensitive to the blight of racism within its borders that it can no longer tolerate any word that a cynical grandstander might be able to twist, misconstrue and decontextualize for personal gain. Hence the good Rev. Sharpton making a show of riding in to rescue Tawana Brawley Tiger Woods. Interesting question, given that it took him roughly eight seconds to jump on Lynchgate but months to notice the plight of the Jena 6.

If, in fact, we have this much to fear from the careless use of words, there’s only one thing to do: purge the language of offensive terminology. Today. I encourage you to do your part, and you can begin by writing to the editors at Merriam-Webster, one of the nation’s most prominent hate-speech profiteers.

Additionally:

  • The L-word should never be uttered again, under threat of civil penalty.
  • This, unfortunately means that Denver Broncos safety John L**** will need to change his name immediately.
  • We must call for a boycott of financial services provider Merrill L**** until such time as they stop promoting their racist agenda via the dog-whistle pejorative in their name.
  • For the love of God, will somebody do something about L****burg, Virginia and the Klan’s favorite party punch, the L****burg Lemonade?

There’s more, because the L-word isn’t the only bit of potentially offensive racist code in the language. For instance:

  • Spade: As in, “call a spade a spade” or “in spades” or “spade flush” or “hand me that spade so I can dig up these infernal weeds in my petunia bed.” Once upon a time the S-word was a nasty racial epithet and not everyone knows that the origins and uses of these terms have nothing to do with race. We can’t risk the offense that might arise from misunderstanding.
  • Spook: Or the other S-word. It’s historically been used to refer to ghosts and spies, and can also connote startlement – as in, “the horse always spooked when it came near the stream.” However, as with the previous S-word, it has been also been employed by racists to denigrate African-Americans.
  • Black: Forgive me if I seem extreme in my zeal to rid the world of misunderstanding, but can we even refer to the color black without connoting all the injustice and horror that has been visited upon American “blacks” over the past 400 years? As Ossie Davis astutely noted in his famous essay, “The English Language is My Enemy,” even casual, everyday references to color make clear that white is good and black is bad. So not only do we need to come up with new, non-offensive words for “black,” we need to steer clear of “white,” as well.
  • Slave: Please tell me you don’t need this one explained to your dumb ass, okay?

Obviously this is just a start. But we do owe a debt of gratitude to Sharpton and the Golf Channel for their enlightened, good-faith efforts to move America forward. Say what you want about the dearth of professional opportunity available for African-Americans, about the appalling state of education in their communities, about the poverty and enduring stigma of living in a culture where your skin color marks you as less intelligent and less capable, perhaps even branding you as a genetically programmed criminal. The only reliable way to assure a nation where all are truly equal is to thoroughly regulate the speech of sports reporters.

We know this to be true, because we have seen firsthand the power that comes from excising offensive words from our language. Just last July the NAACP held a public ceremony where they buried “the N-word.” And there was never racism in America again.

18 replies »

  1. Will wonders never cease? Finally, Bonesparkle and I agree on something.

    I would bet that Tilghman’s faux pas is actually a sign that she is so naive about race that it didn’t occur to her that the idea of lynching a black man could be offensive. Clearly, she’s badly educated and probably more than a bit stupid, but that’s a tragedy, not a crime.

    I’ve had to do extensive research on lynching in America for a project of mine, and it has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Lynching was, and is, so terrifying to many African-Americans not simply because it meant death. Death was easy. It was being burned alive, roasted slowly over a spit, having your penis cut off and forced down your throat, having your fingers and toes cut off one by one as you screamed for mercy, and the like that made lynching terrifying beyond words or even more visceral understanding. All those things I mentioned, and more, not only happened with a lynching, but happened frequently. And then, white people stood around the mutilated and burned bodies to have their pictures taken for post cards.

    But I would be shocked if this has anything to do with Tilghman.

    It’s high time we started differentiating between innocent (and butt ignorant) slips, and real racism.

  2. I’ve always had a problem with people who trivialize real racism and sexism by crusading over the trivial and irrelevant, so I agree with both you and Dr. Sid (although seeing the two of you on the same side of anything has me checking for the weather report in Hell). Then again, this is America. If putting a Chinese-manufactured magnet on your car = supporting the troops, maybe suspending a reporter is eliminating racism…

  3. This is one issue I feel everyone can agree on. Trivializing the real by focusing on the manufactured is not only ignorant it hurts those who end up being actual victims.

    BTW Sam it’s snowing

  4. JS O’Brien makes a fair point, but before lynching was claimed by blacks (coloreds? African Americans? Minorities? I am not sure what we are supposed to use here…), it was a white think. The very term comes from laws that had very little to do with black people. Vigilante justice in a time when there weren’t a lot of blacks running around, much less committing crimes, was covered by Lynch laws originating in Pennsylvania. Much like slavery, which existed before the US colonists subjugated mostly people from Africa, there were slaves in “Mexico” and Asia.

  5. A real lady or gentelman would never spew words that incite violence. Against blacks or whites. It was dumb, plain and simple. People who are on public (as opposed to closed circuit) television should watch their “suggestions”.

  6. No argument it was dumb, she obviously isn’t part of any brain trust but the reaction was way out of proportion for the ignorance.

  7. Farley: I’m not sure you get the point. This “lady” didn’t “spew” anything. She used a word that a lot of other people decided to get silly about. She’s friends with Tiger, who rightly says this is a non-story. She’s close friends with Mike Tirico, who was just on his radio show essentially pointing out that we live in a world where people are looking for any half-assed excuse to be offended.

    There was no intent. There was only a word taken way the fuck out of context.

    By the way, I have good friends who come from the South, a place that has been historically mischaracterized as being less educated and more ignorant than the rest of the country. As such, I’m offended, on their behalf, at your elitist use of the words “dumb” and “simple.” You should be fired.

    I’m also offended at your bassackwards use of patently sexist language like “lady” and “gentelman” (sic). Seriously, can’t we leave that kind of patronizing 19th Century crap out of intelligent conversation?

  8. Spew, blurt, say without initial thought, plug in any adjective you’d like. Since the “L” word has been in the spotlight these past several months ,it is probable that it just popped in her head. My issue was not about using that word. It was the violent depiction she proposed to which I object.

    Gentleman, lady…those are the words you find objectionable? Man, how can I win there!? Ok, let’s say thoughtful human being.

    I don’t see your point on bringing up the south. I’m from Alabama, I know what the south is and is not. Where did my words dumb and simple point to the south? Dumb was the word I used to describe her phraseology. Plain and simple. I really don’t have to defend that use of colloquialism, do I?

  9. When is someone going to stand up to Reverand Al and tell him to shut the hell up??? Even the blacks are sick and tired of his foolishness. Does he really think what he has been doing has done anything good for anyone? He is as big a racist as any member of the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan brotherhood. Why hasn’t he been arrested for going to Mexico and meeting with an escaped prisoner? If it was you or me, we would be in jail for aiding and abbetting. Somebody PLEASE tel Racist Al to just shut up. I’m sure Tiger is powerful enough to take care of himself if he thought something wrong was done. If she had said that about John Daly, nothing would have been said about it. We get it Al. Nobody can say anything about African-Americans. You’re ruining comedy, music sports and entertainment with your foolishness. Just go away.

  10. The very term comes from laws that had very little to do with black people. Vigilante justice in a time when there weren’t a lot of blacks running around, much less committing crimes, was covered by Lynch laws originating in Pennsylvania. Much like slavery, which existed before the US colonists subjugated mostly people from Africa, there were slaves in “Mexico” and Asia.

    Patrick:

    What’s your point?

  11. >>>>O’Fay McCracker, January 10, 2008 at 1:50 pm :
    Can’t wait to hear from the numerous African-Americans who surely visit this site.<<<<

    I’m black, and I visit this site…now, following the lead of Bonesparkle, I think you can do your part sir by changing your last name. What were your parents trying to infer by “McCracker”?

    Just kidding, really.

    I think she didn’t mean anything by it. I even wrote a post about another white person who used racial slurs…

    http://cyberlog.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/larry-king-interviews-dog-the-bounty-hunter-apology-tour/

    However, wether she meant it or not, the network has to worry about its image. It simply can’t afford it, no pun intended of course.

    I will say as a black person that what I do like about the U.S. is that there exists the potential for us to work together. Lynching was a tragedy, right up until the last one in (2005?) But the white people aren’t going back to Europe and the black people (like myself) aren’t going back to Africa. The only people we have left to move forward with progressively is each other.

    So me thinks…

  12. The only way people can say that the comment was “overblown” are actually quite ignorant of American history. As an American who is a descendant of slaves and can trace my history in this country to three of the original thirteen colonies, I am deeply offended that I must constantly defend the AMERICAN experience of the descendants of African slaves.

    I often find that Americans whose ancestors arrived in the late 19th and 20th centuries need to educate themselves about American history and stop minimizing the history of our country.

    Please take the time to educate yourselves about why “lynching” is no damn joke: http://www.abolishthenword.com/

  13. Citizen Pol:

    Can you point to where somebody here suggested that lynching is a joke?

    If not, it’s possible that you missed the point entirely.

  14. Bonesparkle:

    I looked with my ‘black’ eyes and couldn’t see any inference whatsoever that you implied that the subject was being portrayed as joke. She was probably totally ignorant of how her words would be percieved.

    Did I mention that white Americans were lynched when they were caught trying to free slaves? They spilled their blood; where is their credit towards our history?

  15. Phil: Certainly she didn’t consider how her comment would be taken. You can use the word “ignorant,” although I don’t know enough about her to know whether it’s serious ignorance or just a moment where, as a function of her job (which requires that she speak instantly, as you do in conversation), her mouth just beat her brain to the finish line.

    What seems indisputable (to everyone except that braying jackass Sharpton) is that there was NO INTENT AT ALL to say anything malicious. We’ve all said dumb things that didn’t reflect any malicious intent – should we all be fired for honest mistakes?

    More importantly, what kinds of conclusions do we draw about a nation where REAL, powerful, pervasive racism continues to exist in structural ways and the elected authorities do nothing about it, but people get fired for inadvertent slips.

    Is this REALLY how you beat racism?

  16. It’s so much easier this way, BS… unless you don’t happen to be white. And male. But who cares what those kind of people think, anyway? As long as you score some cheap sensitivity points and they keep buying your product, it’s all good.

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