Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, the twin brothers who both play center in the NFL, give us one more chance to examine the overall American cultural shift that is corroding the traditional symbolic values once found in sports.
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The Pounceys played collegiately at Florida at the same time as Aaron Hernandez, the former Patriots tight end who stands accused of orchestrating the execution of Odin Lloyd. Mike roomed with Hernandez. It is perfectly appropriate and acceptable for the Pouncey Twins to be concerned and supportive of their yet-to-be-convicted former teammate.
The Pounceys should donate to Hernandez’s defense fund, financially support Hernandez’s child and baby’s mama, visit and/or write Hernandez while he’s incarcerated, and provide emotional support to Hernandez’s family.
Any and all of that would make perfect sense and be a way of not abandoning a dear friend in grave trouble.
Hitting a nightclub while wearing mindlessly rebellious “Free Hernandez” baseball caps is straight from the in-your-face, shock-value, prison culture/hip hop culture playbook. It screams the Pounceys place no value on Odin Lloyd’s life. He’s just another dead N-word who got his cap peeled by a homie.
Sound familiar? Their mentality sounds consistent with the values preached in commercial rap music. Take a look at the pictures of the Pouncey Twins sporting the hats inside the nightclub. They’re decked out, blinged out and tatted out like oversized rappers.
I’m sure they’re good kids. They’re swept up in a culture they don’t fully understand and don’t fully respect its impact. The rap music industry, the record labels and the commercial artists preach a message to young black people that expressing the most unethical, intimidating, violent, divisive and classless behavior — characteristics necessary to survive incarceration — are success tools in America’s free society.
As the father of rap music, Dahveed Nelson, said in my column on Monday, commercial rappers are high-paid collaborators to bait black youth to act like N-words. The Pounceys have only swallowed a tiny bit of the bait. But they’ve swallowed enough to think it’s cool and appropriate to support an alleged murderer with hats that trivialize the death of a 27-year-old black man. Imagine the offense they might take if they’d stopped at a club in December and Tom Brady was wearing a free George Zimmerman hat.
(I should add that one of my Ball State teammates was accused and convicted of murder not long after our playing careers ended. He was a great guy — smart, liked and respected by everyone on the team. No one thought to blindly publicly support his freedom. We were embarrassed for him and wondered how such a seemingly good guy could be involved in something so tragic.)
“I fully recognize the seriousness of the situation involving my former teammate, and I regret that my actions appear to make light of that serious situation. I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions.”
Great apology. The Pounceys are just kids. They’ll make mistakes, and we shouldn’t overreact.
The people at the top of the rap music food chain should not be afforded such easy forgiveness. They know exactly what they’re doing. They know the dishonesty and the illogic that fuels the popular sentiment within commercial rap music industry that states the embrace of the N-word is harmless because young people have redefined it and erased its dehumanizing power.
This popular mantra is every bit as intellectually dishonest as the mantra that slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, lynching and discrimination are issues that no longer affect modern American society.
Jay-Z and the other denigration rappers and comedians love to say they’ve taken the N-word from bigots and transformed it into a word of affection and respect. It’s a lie.
The N-word was given to/slapped on black people in America 300 years ago to justify our mistreatment. It was given to define us as less than human so that mentally slave owners would have no trouble treating us as animals.
You don’t change something built to destroy you into something that uplifts you. It’s the equivalent of thinking the slop/food fed to slaves can be transformed into raw fruits and vegetables. As bad as our diet is today (and it’s a direct descendant of what we were forced to eat 300 years ago), actually what we’re trying to do with the N-word is much worse.
The N-word is human feces. It’s not meant for consumption. Jay-Z and his defenders can sauté human waste in butter and garlic for a month and it’s still gonna taste like $**t and lead to poor health.
As long as we keep cooking and serving up the N-word to each other, we’re going to remain mentally comfortable hunting and executing each other like animals and throwing on baseball caps supporting the killers.
Regardless of the user, the N-word is still doing the exact job it was intended to do in the 1700s. Hell, it’s doing a better job.