Did you mean to become
something you didn’t mean? —Tim Seibles, from “Mosaic,” in Poetry (Vol. CCIII, No. 6, March 2014)
…I’m wondering what “thug” really means.
White supremacist culture dictates who and who does not get to be human. In order for people of color to receive a Human Card, they must assimilate: they must not use slang. They must be quiet. They must not wear hoodies. They must not curse. They must be gracious at all times. They must enunciate. They must not talk about racism. They must not listen to rap music. They must not sag. They must not brag. They must not laugh in public. They must not take up more than one seat on the bus. They must not ever ask for more. In short, you must be perfect. Robotic. Even if you are a professional athlete who performs for millions of Americans, playing a game in which aggression, testosterone, and energy are rewarded (demanded)…you must be quiet, gracious, calm, unassuming. Unscary. To be black and also be regarded as human, you must never make a mistake in your entire life, ever—ever—or you are a thug. Ghetto. Other. Your Human Card is denied.
Richard Sherman was Salutatorian: second in his class in high school. Richard Sherman went to Stanford. Richard Sherman launched a charity organization called Blanket Coverage to help children in need receive school supplies and clothing. Richard Sherman makes more money than anyone I know. But with all the reaction, both on Twitter and on television, to Richard Sherman’s interview, I’m forced to call upon Kanye West’s famous lyric:
Even if you in a Benz, you still a n*gga in a coupe.
I think that’s what the word “thug” really means. The n-word, arguably the most dehumanizing word in history, has been decried. It is considered inappropriate to speak it in public, and while that doesn’t stop everyone, hate will find a way. “Thug” is that way. Lately, it is a word used when we want to revoke humanity. Trayvon Martin, murdered only a few blocks from his home, was called a thug during his murderer’s trial. The jury needed to be convinced that this boy’s humanity could not possibly exist if he was “a thug.” Police put a toddler’s “thuggery” on display as if to say, “This is why we police them.” And now Richard Sherman, an athlete wealthier than most of us can possibly imagine, dares to step outside the box that a racist culture demands he live inside…and he’s a thug too.—Olivia A. Cole | Richard Sherman, Thugs, and Black Humanity (via america-wakiewakie)
Last night I woke in the darkness
of time unknown and heard
a summer rain pattering
on my roof gently, as if
in benediction, and then
somewhere in the rainy distance
a dog barked four times
quietly. And I returned
to sleep. Now I remember.
Like a window in my sleep
these sounds opened to me,
rain and a barking dog,
and closed again. They might
have been a dream, yet they were
not a dream. I don’t know what
they were. But I remember.