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.
- 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 â€œthe N-word.â€ And there was never racism in America again.