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Jeff Ward: On Youth Sports Coaches, Whitney Houston and Racism

If you use the N-word in a Facebook post, you deserve some criticism.

This doesn’t happen very often. Three of my favorite subjects in the same column? You’d think coaching youth sports, racism, and Whitney Houston wouldn’t be quite so closely connected, but as quantum physicists like to say, anything that can happen in Patchland probably will.

As most of you already have guessed, we’re talking about the Oak Lawn youth baseball coach who was forced to resign over some awful terminology used in a Facebook post. Frustrated by the plethora of press coverage on Whitney Houston’s passing, he wrote, “I’m so sick of reading about this dumb stupid N-word Whitney Houston.”

Of course this only proves my theory that all social media is an abomination and should be banned. Whenever a candidate comes to me on how to use Facebook, Twitter or a blog, I always shout “NO!” because it only triples your chances of saying something really stupid.

And that concept is no different for youth sports coaches, who are also held to that invisible higher standard. As a coach, I have to make sure I’m never alone with any of the kids, I always have an assistant within earshot, and though I generally swear like a sailor, I don’t do it with young ears in the vicinity.

It’s hard to believe I have to say this, but no one should use racial slurs, period, and it's about as bad it gets when the slur is used with parents to make a point.

I too, am tired of all the wailing, keening and gnashing of teeth surrounding Ms. Houston’s passing. When she realized that fame and fortune won’t make you happy, despite some fine folks' best efforts, she chose to descend into the kind of downward spiral that has inevitable consequences.

In fact, the only thing that “shocks” me is that she didn’t die 20 years earlier. I’m equally amazed that Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen are still with us, but the thing is, I don't think anyone would consider calling either one of them a “honky” to make that point.

But what really fascinated me was the brilliant piece by freelance Sun-Times reporter Bob Rakow in which our intrepid baseball coach desperately tried to prove, despite the evidence to the contrary, he isn’t a racist.

Rakow was smart enough to just let him talk.

“I didn’t even realize I put it in until after I sent it,” the coach said.

Comedian Michael Richards isn’t racist, he’s an idiot. When he taunted a minority heckler with a slur-laced tirade, it was a conscious effort to inflict the most psychological damage possible. On the other hand, nonchalantly dropping the N-word on Facebook definitely makes you a bigot, because it reveals the kind of language streaming through your internal dialog.

And it’s exactly this kind of unconscious “some of my best friends are black” racism that feeds the Tea Party and so many conservatives who so reflexively attack our president. Racism isn’t as much intentionally hurling the N-word (though that might be a pretty clear signal) as it is summarily dismissing someone simply because they’re not like you.

After all, isn’t bigotry nothing more than assigning undeserved attributes and undue anger to someone who’s done nothing to deserve it?

I’m not saying you can’t attack the president’s record—I do it all the time—but some of these attacks are so bizarre, there’s no other explanation. He wasn’t born here. He’s a Muslim. He’s a socialist. He appeases terrorists. He’s on a mission to destroy this country. And so on.

And just like our self-professed colorblind coach, they do it without a second thought and then shriek, “I’m not a bigot!” when you actually call ‘em on it.

The last time we discussed this, some of you argued that the Tea Party couldn’t be racist because so many of its members supported Herman Cain. And some of you actually convinced me you were right.

But it was only those Tea Partiers who, after watching the Cane Train’s self-inflicted derailment, realized he might not be the best man for the job. C’mon! “'Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan," quoting the Pokemon Movie and his poor recollection of the many women who filed sexual harassment complaints against him—those were some pretty clear hints.

As for the rest of the Tea Party folks, the only reason some liked Herman Cain was that he was so amusing. He was an unintentional parody of a presidential candidate.

Ah! But when faced with an educated, eloquent, smart and suave black man who can sing a killer version of the Rev. Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, that stark reality rankles some folks who just aren’t ready for it, so they lash out in ways that don’t necessarily include the N-word.

Racism is what you do and say without thinking about it. It’s immediately dismissing someone because they’re black. It’s referring to a black president as everything but the antichrist because his mere existence doesn’t fit your world view. And yes! It’s casually referring to Whitney Houston with the N-word on Facebook.

As I continued reading Brakow’s report, I found myself screaming, “don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it, please don’t say it … ” And then he did.

Our infamous Oak Lawn coach’s last stab at rehabilitating his image went something like this; “I regret using that adjective. Does that make me a racist? Are you kidding me? It was the farthest thing from my mind. I have some amazing friends who are black.”

Lori smith March 02, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Jeff I a agree with most of what you say I think what that coach did was absolutely horrible and unacceptable. However, though I don't agree with the Tea party on many things I think it is unfair to claim they are racist. Grouping all people into one category is unfair. The otherside is we have racism coming from all cultures against others and i am seeing more of it every day. So while this was a great example of this coach and you calling him on his bad behavior. I would hope you to the same when you see others of different ethnicity doing the same. Also I Hsve a challenge for you look up barackobamadotcom he has s video talking specifically to the African Americans is his reference I would love to see an article about that any other president that reached out to a specific group of people like he did would be terms for removal but we give this president so many exceptions we would never allow another president. It's not right but the media looks the other way and says very little and if you do you are called racist really? That's unfair so we keep quiet and allow it to continue. Thanks and have a great day!
Colin C. March 02, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Jeff, You state, quite correctly I think, that we may tend to reject those who are not like us. Granted, Obama is half black which, in our society, translates to "all black". There is no leeway. That makes him different from those of us who believe ourselves to be "all white" and may provoke our bigotry. But Obama is different from many of us, all white and all black, in another way. He is highly intelligent, thoughtful, and able to see and consider many sides of an issue. That's pretty much an unforgivable sin in American politics. After all, most of our recent presidents did not share these capabilities and yet managed to get elected and are still very popular with many Americans, despite their proven shortcomings.
Jeff Ward March 02, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Lori, There are so many videos on BarackObamadotcom that I could not find the one you were referring to, but what most white folks don't understand is, there is a price to pay for being in the majority. We are rightfully held to a different standard than minorities. It blows my mind that someone like radio host Larua Ingraham kills her career because she flips out over not being able to use the N-word. Let's see... Given the option, would I rather be African-American, where one of the few benefits is getting to use the N-word, or white, where one of the few downsides is you can't use the N-word? That choice is obvious. How some white folks (not you!), who dismiss minorities so regularly, then get so vicious the first time that kind of perceived dismissiveness is directed at them, boggles the imagination. Jeff
The Other Christine March 02, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Well put, Colin. I'm amazed by the way our president is automatically dismissed or just outright hated by certain people- to the point he can't do anything right in their eyes. Bin Laden's dead? Well that was the Navy Seals! He can't take credit for that! DADT was repealed? Well it's about time he did something he said he would do. He's been in office long enough! He probably only did it to get the gay's votes. Look at how much the national debt has grown! (Nevermind that the US was involved in TWO wars before he was even sworn in.) And I swear if I get another mass chain email that misquotes his book to try to prove he's a racist, I'm just gonna snap.
Bob Jonas March 02, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Great article and responses.
Ron Burgandy March 02, 2012 at 09:07 PM
You posted here. This is a blog, which is a social media outlet Alan. Just sayin..
Ron Burgandy March 02, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Get ready to snap...Obama is racist. Do you see him community organizing in Downers? How about Burr Ridge or Oak Brook? Get off your high horse. Everyone is inherently racist. You just can't admit it. There is someone you don’t care for. And so what. As long as you don’t act on your racism who cares? But go ahead and pretend you have no preconceived notions about people, which is what racism is.
Justin Eggar March 02, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Lack of respect for the President is nothing new. Look back over the past 20 years and think of how the opposing political party has acted when they aren't in power. Poorly at best. People complaining about lack or respect to our current President... that is fair enough, but realize the same thing was being done when George Bush was President (though, the jokes then were that he was a stupid southerner). Political parties need to stop crying foul when their candidate is mistreated if they aren't going to afford that same respect to the other parties candidate. Back to the article at hand though, I don't forsee that coach repairing his image any time soon as he doesn't seem to understand the issue at hand. Which is unfortuante.
Justin Eggar March 02, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Just to clarify, unfortuante is the french cousin of unfortunate.
Jeff Ward March 02, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Justin, You are correct, but no president has had to face the kind of vitriol this one has. And what's different about him? Oh yeah.... Jeff
Colin C. March 03, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Jeff, I would like to second that. I see things on the internet that turn my stomach; much worse than I have ever seen. How about Richard Cebull, the chief judge for the U.S. judicial district in Montana. Apparently he forwarded a "joke" on the internet that implied that Obama was the result of his mother having sex with a dog at a drunken party. That's not funny, not political, not excusable; it's just plain sick.
Ralph "Cash" Beardsley March 03, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Jeff- if you haven't, take a trip to the Lincoln Museum is SField and you'll see-sadly- that the level of invective he faced during the Civil War is eerily similar to what Pres. Obama has encountered during his term. It's really striking!
Justin Eggar March 03, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Mmmm, he possibly has. It might also be that each party is more acutely aware of how their candidate is treated. Out of curiosity, do you two (Jeff and Colin) vote Democrat historically? My point isn't that anybody is right in treating a President poorly.. Quite the opposite, that each party needs to act more respectfully, even when they lose an election. I can't quite fathom why that judge forwarded that email... It was a very poor choice. That said, do a 5 minute search on the Internet for jokes about George Bush and you'll find some that aren't that different. Again, people tend do be more protective of their own candidate rather than of the role of president.
Uncle Buckeye March 03, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Jeff Ward 4:17 pm, March 2 “And what's different about him? Oh yeah.... “ AH jeff, the obama only got elected because he received the support of a large population of white votes based on his promise of "hope and change". Within less than one month he literally told the republicans they had no voice at the table because "he won" and then crammed his failed almost one trillion dollar pork bill down the throats of the American people. It was not his skin color that precipitated the historical 2010 election and repudiation of his reign. There are numerous reasons that obama is the most divisive president ever in office and it is NOT due to the color of his skin. The democrats keep trying to rely on the simplistic accusation of racism but the citizens know better jeff. The obama has history now ......
Colin C. March 03, 2012 at 01:44 PM
How i vote is irrelevant to the point of this discussion. That question itself is the problem: if you feel that you can pigeonhole me by my politics then you can discount my argument because i become "one of them". That's the "ad hominem (personal attack) fallacy that so distorts our discourse. Its time that we stop the childish, personal invective and stick with the issues. Many mainstream economists believe that the 2008 crash was potentially much worse than we thought and that it might have led to an economic collapse like the Great Depression. The "Wall St. bailout" prevented the domino collapse of banks that occurred in the 30ies and wiped out thousands. The stimulus and Detroit bailout prevented unemployment from climbing to 25%+ as happened then. In the Depression the stock market did not recover for 25 years and then only because of WWII. In 2008 the Dow was 14000, it went down to 7000. This week our Dow hit 13000 and climbing in less than four years. We still have huge problems and face serious dangers. Obama cannot do much about the European situation or the price of gas or the instability of the Middle East. But we are far, far better off than we might have been. Due of his efforts. So again, why the almost hysterical demonization and hatred? Remember a few years ago when Hillary Clinton went through this? Could it have been because she was an "uppity woman"? Perhaps that makes Obama an "uppity -------"? As a people we should be better than this.
TJ March 03, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Race is a smokescreen. It's the spending, stupid. (Here's where the recipients of Obamapork like to scream about George Bush - newsflash, he's out of office)
Colin C. March 03, 2012 at 03:29 PM
You are correct. Bush is out of office. And, if you will remember, when he came into office the national budget was balanced (we actually had a surplus), and the economy was pretty good. When he left office we had run up major deficits. Tax cuts for the wealthy, the Medicare drug plan, and two unfunded, hugely expensive, and unwinable wars left us in a very dangerous economic position, and the US economy was in collapse. That was before Obama took office. To date the bulk of the "bailout" money has been repaid, with interest. The ultimate cost of the bailout in dollars to us tax payers will be far less than a total collapse of our economy would have been. Obama did not cause the recession, he prevented a total collapse---maybe. If we cannot achieve a fair balance of increased taxes and reduced spending now in order to pay for past mistakes it is very likely that the whole effort will have been in vain and we will still see the economy collapse for real in the near future. Have you ever heard of the "starve the beast" approach to the US economy that has been championed by some? The idea is to spend the US into such debt that we literally go bankrupt and are forced to virtually eliminate government. If you look at the actual economic policies of Reagan, Bush #1, and Bush #2 you might reasonably conclude that they were actually attempting to do this. Interesting, considering their huge spending, that Republicans are screaming so about Obama.
Justin Eggar March 03, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Colin, How you vote is 100% relevant. I'm not going to get drawn into a long debate on the issue... But the fact that you can't admit "Hrm, we have been treating presidents poorly recently" shows the bias. See, I am saying that people should treat Obama with more respect as whether they like it or not he is president. I am also saying it was inappropriate for whole left shows to be based on ridicule of Bush and debasing the presidency because a Republican was in office. If your own thoughts and beliefs didn't matter, scientists woukdn't have to engage in double blind studies to remove the human element. Again, my point is that we as a nation need to learn the value of respect again. Not just for our own candidate... We already do a good job of treating our vested interests with respect. By the way, I would suggest not following up claiming someone is being fallacious with statements that can't actually be proven by economists that provide you data that fits your world view.
Mike March 03, 2012 at 03:59 PM
"George Bush does not care about black people". Remember that, it was ok for Kayne West to say on national T.V. Mr. Ward go move you and your family to Englewood and I bet you will change your tune.
Bob Jonas March 03, 2012 at 05:40 PM
In a way this falls under the theme of this story, but Russ LImbaugh needs to go. He over stepped his boundaries by calling women sluts and asking to be provided with free pornography. His advertisers are pulling their spots, now he needs to be fired. If you are a fan of Limbaugh (which I'm not) I would encourage you to BOYCOTT him.
Colin C. March 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM
There is a difference between the budget and the national debt. But that is still beside the point. The fact is that the last three "fiscally conservative" Republican administrations ran up record deficits and created the climate that led to the collapse in 2008. No one could reasonably expect any president to repair all that damage in four years. So, back to Jeff's original point. How much of the vitriol aimed at Obama is based in racism? I don't know but I suspect that a lot of the worst of it may very well be. The REAL issue here is the seemingly unbridgeable ideological divide between our two major political parties. While that are fighting tooth and nail over every little thing, while they are damning each other with "no compromise" invective, we, you and I and America are left to suffer from their inability work together in good faith and to reach reasonable compromises that might move us forward. The more that we buy into either party's extremism and absolutism the more that all of us will suffer in the years to come. In the end this is not about Republicans and Democrats; Conservatives and Liberals. It is about you and me and what we can do TOGETHER to get our Country back on the right track. Name calling won't help us Somehow we must find a way to place principals above personalities.
Bob Jonas March 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Peteee, see my response under the Santorum blog.
jaskie1505 March 03, 2012 at 06:19 PM
@Peteee- I normally don't reply to your comments anymore since you never make any sense but you are wrong. He can be fired in numerous ways. Also, his advertisers are pulling away. That tells you that he was WRONG. That is a word you don't understand peteee, cause you are never WRONG.
jaskie1505 March 03, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Quicken Loans, Sleep Number, Autozone, Dominoes so far have pulled their advertising. So what do they call people like you and Rush, who wish to watch her having sex? Perverts comes to mind.
Bob Jonas March 03, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Peteee - are you even human. You talk about everything and anything to avoid the actual topic. Respect for others. No forgiveness today my poor little peteee. Bye.
Bob Jonas March 03, 2012 at 11:43 PM
LMAO-your hero, Rushie Limbaughie apologizes for his his words. Worried about his loss of income. Poor boy. On NBC National news right now. Petee, your turn to apologize since your hero just did.
Rudy March 04, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Ron Burgandy for president finally someone not afraid to say the truth. I work with many people from all different nationalities and we all gravitate to our own just saying!
Rudy March 04, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Since the Bank and Detroit bailout happened under George Bush you are giving him the rightful credit Colin? Those are the facts or are you ignorant that George Bush started Tarp?
Rudy March 04, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Colin it was balanced BECAUSE of Newt Gingrich! Remember the contract with America or are you ignorant to that one too? Clinton had a Republican House and Senate to balance the budget even though he gets the credit?
my opinion March 04, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Hey boys and girls - politics is a FULL contact sport...............life is rough wear a helmet.

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