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S#!+ People Say

Sports, Racism, and the Layman Lexicon

Ohio State Quarterback Dwayne Haskins

Remember sportscaster Brian Davis, who was suspended for his derogatory remarks regarding Russel Westbrook? I believe he used the phrase, "He's out of his cotton-picking mind." You should, the clip of the incident went viral earlier this year, leading to an arbitrary one game suspension of the television personality. The fact that he'll live in infamy for those comments is the seemingly more harsh of the two consequences.

A comparable phrase was uttered during the Ohio State Buckeyes radio broadcast. In the closing minutes of the game, Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeyes went into ball control mode, holding on to a slim lead. The radio commentator less than eloquently painted this picture by telling the listeners something to the effect of, "He'll take his cotton-picking time." It may have been, "He's taking his cotton time," and we may never know considering I haven't heard a single word about the incident. Whose responsibility is it to shed light on these kinds of issues? In my opinion, the Ohio State IMG Radio Network itself should've done a press release to get ahead of the issue, apologizing for the insensitive comment and reprimanding the broadcaster who made the statement in some way. But I guess that's why I'm writing a blog about the situation instead of establishing public relations strategies. It seems the Radio Network instead opted to say nothing about the situation, hoping that it would blow over, and blow over it did. Not a tweet from the Twitterverse, a word from a writer, or accusation by an activist can be found regarding the subject. WTF? Does nobody listen to radio anymore?

I can't squander the opportunity to use this situation as an illustration of the subconscious racism ingrained in the fabric of our culture. Obviously the term "cotton-pickin'" is related to the work of slaves in the southern United States during the centuries of enslavement to Blacks. It's meant to be derogatory and degrading at its core. People who evoke the phrase, particularly an older generation, will claim that the term is just a simple stand in for "damn" or "damned," not meant to be racial at all. However, the simple fact that the racially over-toned term is somehow synonymous with "damned" (another way to say cursed, damned to hell) is incredibly racist in itself.

This isn't the only racially charged phrased in the lexicon of many Americans. Ever heard someone say "I got gypped" instead of "I got ripped-off"—that term is directly related to the thieving stereotype of "Gypsies" (a racist misnomer in it's own right), or the Romani (Roma) people, whom little known to most Americans, were also enslaved across Europe for hundreds of years much like African Americans in the U.S., as well as persecuted in the Holocaust. Less talked about are things like how when freed from slavery, the Roma were largely forced from the only lands that they knew, traveling to seek asylum with nothing, but the clothes on their backs. The origin of this particular stereotype is based more in circumstance than it is character in the first place. Most would be inclined to steal if faced with the same dilemma. Why is it that the groups of people who have suffered the most find themselves linked to undesirable stereotypes? "He's off the reservation" links Native Americans, victims of mass genocide, with alcoholism. "He Jewed me down," again, links Holocaust survivors with being stingy. In any case, these racially insensitive phrases should have no place in the vocabulary of the average American, much less those who sit behind a microphone.

I'm not calling for the lynching of the Ohio State broadcasters here, only hoping to spread awareness and raise consciousness about the prevalence of these distasteful, antiquated sayings. It would be great to see the IMG Radio Network address this situation publicly, and to do the same thing.

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