Is thug the new n*gger?
Did Michael Dunn kill Jordan Davis because he was playing "thug" music? Did this white 47-year-old man believe his "privileged" place in American society gave him the right to tell a car full of black teens to turn off music he found offensive? And when Davis, a few days shy of his 19th birthday, cursed him out because he didn't believe this white man could demand he turn off his music, Dunn killed him.
Can you believe a predominately white jury in Florida couldn't decide whether Dunn had committed first-degree murder?
Across the country, a police union in Omaha, Neb., was on the same page as Dunn. It reposted a video of a 2-year-old black boy cursing like a sailor and even flipping the bird at black people in the room who were provoking him and encouraging his bad behavior with the caption: "The Thug Cycle Continues." The video went viral.
Would the union have captioned a similar video starring white folk? Hell no. Would they have handled this differently if the little boy were white? I'm sure.
The third "thug" case to capture national attention kicked off when Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman said in the adrenaline- and testosterone-fueled, passion-filled aftermath of his making a championship game-saving play that he was "the best corner in the game" and that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree was "mediocre." All hell broke loose.
Athletes trash talk all the time, but why did Sherman's comments provoke such overt racism on social media? Why did sports journalists call a man who has no criminal record, is a summa cum laude graduate of Stanford and was playing great football like he was hired to do a "thug"?
"The only reason (the word 'thug') bothers me," Sherman said at the press conference after the uncalled-for mess, "is that it seems to be the accepted way of calling somebody the n-word now."
He's right. Thug is not just being thrown around in a few instances, it is the new politically correct code word whites use to n*ggerize blacks, or put them in their place.
It's a way for whites to say, especially to black males: "This is our world and if you don't behave the way we say you should, we will handle you any way we see fit. With impunity. Because you are not privileged like we are.
"If you are talented and smart, you're exceptional and worthy of our celebration. But if you get uppity or arrogant, we will try to take you down. Thug is our new word of choice to criminalize you. N*gger is so passe.
"If you're 2 years old and black and already cursing, you will turn out to be a 19-year-old who will curse us out if we tell you to turn down your 'thug' music, and we can say that your cursing was so threatening that we could exterminate you—even if police can't find the gun we claim you had. Because you are a 'thug.' You are not privileged. You are disposable."
Now if this were 1844 or even 1944, it wouldn't be so surreal, and so damn disturbing. But this is 2014, and a man who doesn't look like Michael Dunn is the most powerful leader in the world.
Having a black president has made some white folk act just like they did after Reconstruction when blacks began to make unimaginable strides—including being elected to Congress. Whites burned their businesses and lynched mostly men and boys to "dehumanize" and terrorize them into their place.
So white folk: Don't try to play us. Don't try to nggerize thug; it's not a potent enough word. Have the ovaries to say ngger when you mean ngger. That word has a despicable racist history in this country that you conjure when you call black Americans ngger.
And black folk: Remember that ngger is not only the most dangerous word in the American English language, it also is a constitutionally protected "fighting" word. So when you hear thug masquerading as ngger, go on and do whatever the hell you need to do to respond.
Carole Cannon is a southern woman who hopes someday to be a Vodou Priestess. In the meantime, she is a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who writes to fight - most regularly for her blog, MAMMY X. She also cooks up communication strategies and coaches writing.