After Kobe Bryant dropped a profane double-F bomb on referee Bennie Adams following being assessed a foul, I wasn’t expecting anyone could find a justification for Bryant’s ugly idiocy. I should have. It seems there is nothing that can be said anymore that somebody can’t be an apologist for.
In this case it came from David Kaufman writing in The Root, (a publication I contribute to as well). Kaufman said:
Although Bryant’s word choice is certainly unfortunate, equally worrisome is the near-instant racial — and racist — overtones now permeating this debate. At its core is the comparison of the word “faggot” with “nigger,” a comparison that has become emblematic of the LGBT movement’s unabashed co-option of the African-American struggle. In this case, reader comments on blog after blog repeatedly invoke the word “nigger” in their Kobe takedown as — in the words of Joe.My.God reader “beeblmeyer” — they “wonder how Mr. Bryant would feel if someone said, ‘Fucking nigger.’ “
The real wonder here is how folks could think there is anything to compare in the first place. Without a doubt, Bryant uttered the epithet in anger, but in a fit of homophobia? Not necessarily, at least until we know for certain whether referee Bennie Adams is gay.
Despite what gay, black ex-NBA player John Amaechi might have said in today’s USA Today, calling someone a “fucking nigger” has an entirely different historical meaning and context. A black person is called a nigger precisely and exclusively because he is black. Period. And the core of the word’s offense — and racism — stems from this sheer conspicuousness. I’ve been called a nigger more than once, and there’s no doubt it was because of the color of my skin, not because I’d pissed someone off.
Like Kaufman, I’ve been called a nigger too and more often than not the person doing the calling was Black, not White. It hurt less, but it offended more because you would think someone Black would know better. Too often they don’t because they mistakenly believe it’s okay when it’s used within the race. But even Richard Pryor learned how wretched a word “nigger” really is. To suggest it hurts a gay man less to be called a “faggot” is absurd.
Sometimes I can go weeks and months without calling my wife or kids niggers. I can kiss my lovely wife on the cheek in the morning without saying, “Hello, nigger.” When my daughter comes home from high school, I almost never ask, “Hey, nigger! Learn anything useful today?” When my son drags himself home from a lousy day at work rarely do I greet him at the door with, “Nigger, why didn’t you take the trash out this morning?”
I don’t use the word “nigger” as a commonplace word and I’m weary of the suggestion “all Black people do.” Not in my house they don’t. I’ve been Black for some time now and I deleted it out of my lexicon once I figured out I people I admired like Nikki Giovanni, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King or Shirley Chisholm’s were nobody’s niggers.
I do get offended by the casual and thoughtless way the slur is tossed around. If it’s wrong for a White fan at a NBA game to shout from the cheap seats, “Pass the ball and stop jackin’ up shots, nigger!” it’s equally wrong for a Black power forward to scream at the Black point guard on his team, “Pass the ball and stop jackin’ up shots, nigger!”
“Nigger” always was a slur and always will be. Ignorant words don’t become acceptable merely because ignorant people mistakenly think it’s fashionable.
That includes calling someone a “fucking faggot” after you get whistled for a foul. Even if you don’t believe you fouled anyone. David Stern should have doubled the fine and given Kobe a game off without pay. Sure, he’d be out $259,298.00, but he probably wouldn’t have to result to collecting tin cans by the freeway to make up the difference.
Is Kaufman saying there’s nothing homophobic in what Bryant said unless we know referee Bernie Adams is gay? What about the gay fans who heard Bryant? What about all the players, coaches, trainers and anyone else within earshot who might be gay?
Once we start choosing “this word you should be offended by, but that word we’re going to let slide” we say this kind of bigotry and prejudice is okay because it affects me, but others are okay because they don’t. Contrary to what Mr. Kaufman might think straight Black people do not have the exclusive rights on suffering.
I don’t question the fact Kobe is one hell of a basketball player who can single-handedly impose his will on a game, but his greatness is no excuse for his brain-dead behavior. Bryant is also a pampered, entitled brat who scowls, sticks out his lip like a perpetually pissed-off teenager and seems to lose his mind when a referee has the audacity to assess a foul on him.
Kobe’s constant scowling gets on my nerves. The Black Mamba seems to think it makes him look tough. I think it makes him look like an irate two-year old with a fully loaded pull-up.
The ref should have shot back, “I’m not a fucking faggot, Kobe Bean Bryant, but you are a fucking dick.”
Kobe needs a class in sensitivity training and apparently a few of us do as too. Mr. Kaufman, take your seat.