#Madonna: The Legibility of Racial Slurs – Urban Cusp

#Madonna: The Legibility of Racial Slurs

By David Leonard on January 21, 2014

Usually a trendsetter, Madonna follows the actions of Paula Dean, Michael Richards, Riley Cooper, Richie Incognito, countless co-workers, neighbors, and college students to use the “n-word.” With her Instagram photo, she has become yet another white person who either doesn’t understand the meaning and history, or simply doesn’t comprehend or care about the harm, pain, and violence that comes every time a white person utters the word.

Either way, her use of the word provides a window into what Leslie Picca, a professor at University of Toledo, and Joe Feagin, a professor at Texas A & M, describes as “backstage racism” – the utterances, slurs, racial jokes, and other dehumanizing language that is rarely seen or heard, yet has consequences.

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially with a racist hashtag.

Used to caption a picture of her son boxing, she noted, “No one messes with Dirty Soap! Mama said knock you out!” she wrote in the Instagram posting, to which she added the hashtag “#disni–a.”

The combination of her son boxing and the use of this word reflects the entrenched nature of racial stereotypes. I cannot help but wonder if her seeing blackness in relationship to boxing, violence, and physicality prompts her use the “n-word” here. Did the associations of blackness to hip-hop (“Mama Said Knock you Out”) and boxing inspire her to mark this activity with this particular hashtag?

One will never know her intentions and, in fact, her intent is irrelevant. She used this word, and she used it in association with her son boxing. Would she have used this hashtag had her son been practicing piano? What if he was preparing for an equestrian competition or polo match? What about preparing to take a test or audition for the ballet? I doubt it.

The word and its use in association with boxing highlight the entrenched nature of stereotypes. As Mark Anthony Neal notes in his book Looking for Leroy, blackness is often only visible as athlete, as violent, and as a physical body: “When we think about black men and boys, when we see them in certain kinds of roles we don’t even think twice about it,” noted Neal, a professor of African American Studies at Duke University. “When we see a black man with a basketball we don’t even have to process that… we know exactly what that means. If we were to see a black man with a violin that gives us reason to pause.”

For Madonna, her son boxing illustrated his blackness; his whiteness notwithstanding, his body was legibly black. The fact that Madonna saw her son as black, because he was, because it illustrates the power of stereotypes; the fact that she sought to identify this blackness with a racial slur tells us how un-post racial we are.

The faux apology is also a reminder of how far we have to come with regards to race in this country. Responding to the criticism, Madonna sampled from the greatest hits of non-apologies, noting “I am sorry if I offended anyone.”

Worse yet, she apologized for giving “people the wrong impression.” While claiming there is “no way to defend the use of the word,” she does just that with references to her intention and what she “meant.” #Weak! Rather than taking responsibility for her words, choices, and actions, she instead focused on how others may have (mis)perceived her “provocative” words.

Clearly, Madonna is preparing for her next album: “Confessions of White Privilege.” Her intentions for using the word are irrelevant, and to be clear, the word isn’t “provocative,” it’s seeped in a history of racism and white supremacist violence. She doesn’t have the power – much less the right – to simply say, “I mean it to be something else,” or to say, “it’s a term of endearment.”

I can hear the responses already; all of which will emphasize how she is a victim of “political correctness” and that this illustrates America’s racial double standards. Ignoring the fact that this entire piece is “one of endearment,” let me respond: America is a nation founded on double standards that provide daily benefits and structural advantages to whites in America. Madonna’s latest post is just more of the same #whiteprivileged #entitlement.

via #Madonna: The Legibility of Racial Slurs – Urban Cusp.

NewBlackMan: Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes

 

 

Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes

A Questionable Victory?

by Theresa Runstedtler and David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

The ongoing efforts to control, manage, and demonize black athletes, especially black boxers, once again came to a head a few weeks ago when Floyd Mayweather, Jr. beat Victor Ortiz with a “controversial” knockout punch to win the world welterweight title.

The fight promised to be a battle of two diametrical opposites. The self-assured 34-year-old black tactician with a defensive strategy was set to take on an earnest, up-and-coming 24-year-old Latino with an iron chin and aggressive style. Mayweather’s scenes in the pre-fight HBO production of 24/7 – talking into a stack of money as if it were a phone, buying a new luxury car on a whim, and fighting with his father in front of a crowd of fans – were wildly colorful, sometimes surreal, sometimes stomach-turning, and entirely bombastic. But all the while, Mayweather kept training; he kept honing his craft and conditioning his body, even pulling his entourage out of bed (and out of the club) for 2:00 am workout sessions.

In the meantime, 24/7 fashioned Ortiz into a paragon of ascetic virtue. His scenes revolved around a triumphant and righteous tale of social uplift – the quintessential good immigrant story. He came from nothing. His parents abandoned him and he still managed to pull himself up by his own bootstraps to become a successful, but humble fighter. Unlike Mayweather with his large entourage and celebrity friends, Ortiz mostly kept to himself with his truck-driving trainer and loyal brother.

The first few rounds were tight with Mayweather grabbing the early lead. In the fourth round, in what was probably Ortiz’s most effective moments in the fight, the wheels came off his attempt to defeat Mayweather. Launching at Mayweather, Ortiz landed a vicious head butt, leading Referee Joe Cortez to step in to penalize Ortiz. After several apologies from Ortiz, a few hugs, a kiss or two, and the tapping of the gloves, the fight resumed; although it appears that Ortiz didn’t get the memo leaving him vulnerable to a classic Mayweather combo that ended as many have before: with his opponent on the ground. Replays clearly illustrate that Ortiz was not paying attention and not following the creed “to protect oneself at all time,” ending the fight in what was both one of the more climatic and anti-climatic moments in boxing history.

Before the fighters even exited the ring, commentators had already denied Mayweather the victory. Described as a “questionable” win, a “marginally legal” knockout, and as one that resulted from a “cheap shot” and a “sucker punch” the victory was not simply hallow but purportedly a window into Mayweather’s dubious character. “Like the Tyson ear biting incident of yesteryear, Floyd Mayweather proved to be dirty fighter this evening who hit a man when the action had not officially commenced by the referee,” noted Jet Fan on The Bleacher Report. “To a chorus of boos, Mayweather then imploded in a post-fight interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant as he questioned Merchant’s boxing resume and then proceeded to terminate the dialogue in a profanity laced tirade. To Merchant’s credit, he stood toe-to-toe with an obvious bully who seems to relish in antagonizing men twice his age, including his own father!” A commentary on The Statesmen encapsulates the demonization directed at Mayweather that used the fight to lament Floyd’s character, pathologies and otherwise undesirable traits:

Congratulations, Floyd Mayweather. You are now the most despised athlete on the planet, non-O.J. division. Mayweather is sullying his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of our generation. His latest classless missteps came last Saturday night with a one-two punch. First, he cold-cocked Victor Ortiz in the closing seconds of the fourth round of their welterweight championship fight while Ortiz was apologizing for an intentional head butt. Yes, what Ortiz did was idiotic — first the head butt and then letting his guard down while referee Joe Cortez had his back turned toward the fighters. But what Mayweather did — perfectly legit under strict interpretation of the rules — was a punk move. But he was just getting started. Mayweather then went after HBO analyst Larry Merchant in a post-fight interview, spewing profanities before Merchant grew tired of it and yelled, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your (butt).

Apparent from the media response was both a lack of respect and a dismissal of the specifics of what happened in the ring. Rather than simply comment on the fight, the media reasserted “common sense” understandings of black athletes, reiterating the narrative of Mayweather as an immature, greedy, and petulant child who represents everything that is wrong with modern professional sports culture. The media response in this regard reflects the longstanding project of constructing black athletes as “bad boys,” which in the end “works to reinforce efforts to tame their ‘out of control’ nature” (Ferber 2007, p. 20).

Continue reading at NewBlackMan: Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes.