Jan 6, 2008

Let it go, already!

I had an interesting online discussion about this article:

ESPN - Slur incident at VMI sets WVU's Stewart on defensive - College Football

In case you chose not to read it, here is the gist: over 10 years ago, Bill Stewart, then a coach at Virginia Military Institute, used a racial slur (the N word) while talking to a student.

Today, he has been hired as a coach for a new school yet the school still has to defend their choice.

The incident occurred more than 10 years ago, Stewart explained what happened, apologized, resigned. What, does he have to sacrifice his first born on TV for people to just let it go and move on? Please!

We've all done idiotic things in our past, and we will continue making mistakes in the future. Very seldom should people be castigated for life because of their mistakes.

There is a larger issue here, which is that of language. The use of the N word is highly emotional, and can skewer one's perception of the message. This can often lead to miscommunication because we fixate on that single word instead of look at the bigger picture.

In this case, Stewart's intent was clear: he wanted to teach the young man that his antics could draw the ire of people in his community. His choice of words left to be desired.

One of my cousins told me something that sounds like this: "A n..... is the one that steals, does drugs and otherwise acts the fool."

No doubt you will be faced with situations where someone uses a word or phrase that you find highly offensive. What can you do?
  • Before dismissing that person's comments outright, take a moment. Breathe.
  • Unless the person is displaying an oft-repeated behaviour pattern, assume the best intentions. It's amazing how much less stressful life can be if you don't expect the worst from people.
  • Then ask the person to clarify his/her intent. A simple question like "What do you mean by that?" can go a long way.
If after those simple steps, it becomes clear to you that the person had ill intentions, then walk away.

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