Thursday, July 20, 2006

Is 'white boy' a slur?

This was the subject of today's Mary Mitchell column. This is based on a story in the news earlier this week. A white 14 year old boy with a heart defect was beaten in a park in the Beverly neighborhood by three black teenage boys between 16 and 17 years old. The police are currently investigation this as a hate crime although it seems the state's attorney's office wants to look at this as a case of robbery.

So it is a slur check this out...

Until Roland Burris described his field of opponents as "unqualified white boys" during his Democratic primary race for governor in 1998, he was the front-runner. A day after making those comments before a predominantly black audience, Burris' political aspirations took a dive.

Despite the fact that he has always been labeled as "not black enough" for some black voters, white voters were absolutely outraged by his use of "white boy."
I guess that answers that question and I would have had no idea what blacks actually thought of Roland Burris, the first black in the state of Illinois to have attained a statewide office. But using that term pales in comparion to committing an assault. These teens referred to this victim as a "goofy looking white boy".

Mitchell notes...

But charging the teens with a hate crime reflects a community's outrage over intolerance, and I believe it has to be considered whenever race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation appear to be a motivation.
Then she goes to the perception of the use of white boy or n*gger...

In this instance, because the suspects are already charged with felonies, designating the attack as a hate crime wouldn't ratchet up the class of the crime. It would, however, give a judge more leeway in sentencing and would force these teens to deal with the underlying motivation for their purported attack.

It would also go a long way toward dispelling the perception that there is a double standard when it comes to police charging someone with a hate crime.

For example, there was little doubt that hate was the motivation when black youth Lenard Clark was brutally beaten in Bridgeport because the neighborhood already had the reputation of being hostile to blacks.

But the motivation wasn't as clear when Keith P. Radloff was tracked down and murdered by Matthew Givens, a black bicycle messenger with whom Radloff had had a confrontation a day earlier.

It also wasn't clear when Roy Trumblay, a 56-year-old White Sox fan, was beaten to death by 19-year-old Thomas D. Cooper, a black man who was determined to be mentally ill.

That's why figuring out whether "white boy" is a slur or just an insensitive or inappropriate description of white people will likely become part of the discussion about whether the teens in the Rusch case will be charged with a hate crime.

Here's some more scenarios. But she says there needs to be more clarity on the usage of the term...

Earlier this month, a black commissioner in Orlando, Fla., Daisy Lynum, stumbled into a fire storm when she said she didn't want "some white boy shooting my son or Tasing," as she argued that her son had been racially profiled by police. Despite fierce criticism, the commissioner stuck by her words, telling a local television station:

"In the last week, I've been called [expletive] more times than I have ever been called, probably in my life, for calling a white boy a white boy. Now when did that become a racial slur?"

Ironically, the taunts that sealed the fate of a Nicholas Minucci, the Howard Beach man who was found guilty of a hate crime in the baseball bat attack on a black man last summer (the man had admitted going to the all-white neighborhood to steal cars), included both racial descriptions:

"What's up, n-----s?" Minucci allegedly yelled at a group of would-be thieves before chasing them. "We'll show you not to come and rob 'white boys.' "

In defending himself against the hate-crime allegation, a charge that could enhance his sentence, Minucci argued he used the n-word as a greeting rather than a slur. That argument didn't fly, and he was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

We need to be just as clear about "white boy."

When the pop group Wild Cherry sang the lyrics: "Play that Funky Music, White Boy" in 1976, it wasn't a putdown. But over the years, "white boy" has evolved into a subtle dig on white males. Black people know this.

White people are starting to figure it out.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

I haven't read the whole thing, I do that later, but of course its a slur...

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