We’ve heard and seen the gaffes occur right before our eyes…every few months it seems. Recently, there was the Brent Musburger brouhaha: he used the word “beautiful” in reference to Katherine Webb, girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. And before that, there was the “Chink” comment, made by an ESPN reporter, about New York Knicks’ guard Jeremy Lin.
And Fuzzy Zoeller’s comments 15 years ago, about Tiger Woods and fried chicken and collard greens. And a decade before that, Jimmy the Greek’s assertions that blacks are better athletes because they’ve “been bred to be that way….going back all the way to the Civil War….”
Then Al Campanis, Los Angeles Dodger vice president and general manager, during that same year, asserted that blacks lacked the “necessities” to move into management positions.
The slurs come from all sides, of course. There’s Michael Irvin commenting on Tony Romo’s heritage and pondering whether there was a “brother down in that line somewhere.” And Bryon Scott seen in a tie with the swastika symbol on it; Floyd Mayweather’s reference to Philippino Manny Pacquiao, calling him a “yellow chump,” and suggesting Pacquiao make him sushi and rice. And former NBA star Charley Barkley’s famous “This is why I hate white people” remark, even though he’s been married to a white woman for more than 20 years.
Note that all of this emanates from the sports arena alone, but race-insensitive, gender-insensitive, age insensitive, religion-insensitive, and sexual-orientation insensitive remarks are found in every field of endeavor.
What’s the lesson to be learned here? In all likelihood, many of these racial, ethnic, and gender slurs were not intended to be unkind. Even Jeremy Lin acknowledged that possibility when he told a reporter, “I don’t think it was on purpose or whatever.”
Purposeful or not, words can wound, and it’s up to each of us to ensure we are not, intentionally or inadvertently, harming others with words that might be inappropriate or, worse yet, downright mean.
Have you experienced an inappropriate or harmful remark? Did you make a harmful remark to someone, and did you learn anything from that experience?
What do you think?