Richard Sherman debate shows our refusal to accept new information about race

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (Courtesy of SportsPickle.com)
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (Courtesy of SportsPickle.com)

I know people are getting tired of hearing about Richard Sherman, but most of those people are probably the ones that view Sherman as a thug or nigger.

However, I’m not necessarily here to harp on race (even though this is a factor because white and black people do have strong feelings toward the recent event). I’m here to discuss the Internet and how it’s changing our view of the world and possibly narrowing it.

More specifically, I want to talk a little about how the Internet gives people an outlet to reinforce their not-so-true realities — realities that may be true to them, but not true to others.

The whole controversy behind Richard Sherman barking into Erin Andrews’ face and into the homes of holier-than-thou Americans after an astonishing in-game performance gets me to think about how the more access we have to differing points of view, the more fragmented our society becomes. This phenomenon makes it that much more difficult for us to come together and move forward on important issues like those that involve race, corruption and fairness.

The people who saw Richard’s interview with Fox’s Erin Andrews saw an aggressive, dreadlock-wearing, loud-mouthed black male from Compton and a pretty white woman asking for his take just minutes after a rivalry and Super Bowl-implicating game ended (Sherman also took shots at Michael Crabtree, but I’ll get to that point later).

To many blacks, we laughed it off and likened the interview to Bart Scott’s infamous “can’t wait!” line a few years ago after another emotional playoff win.

However, for some whites, they were shocked and even repulsed. Tweets called Sherman various racial epithets, radio hosts called him a thug and other viewers said he was classless.

For those who harbored strong emotions against Richard Sherman, you have to wonder why, especially if it had nothing to do with race (as the detractors claim). When the NFL’s  white, bad boy Richie Icognito bullied teammates, dropped the n-bomb and threatened to fight ESPN journalists, many NFL fans thought little of it. They said the bullied teammates needed to “man up” because football is a man’s game.

So why is it when someone like Sherman goes on TV, displays his raw emotion without cursing, gesturing gang signs or even threatening people, so many football fans consider him a gangster?

More than likely, these people saw their perception of black males reinforced and went with their negative, knee-jerk responses. A similar situation arose when Florida State University’s black quarterback Jameis Winston won the college football national championship. After his on-the-field interview ended, AJ McCarron’s (AJ was Alabama University’s 2013 quarterback) mom quickly jumped to Twitter to say “Am I listening to English?”

Winston spoke with a bit of southern drawl, but it was still understandable. But there again this whole perception thing comes up and at times we place an unfair standard on black males when a microphone and camera is shoved into their faces not long after participating in a violent, ego-driven game.

Even Ray Lewis was called a murderer and a thug despite praising God first after a win or a loss. Back in 2000, Lewis had to undergo public scrutiny. Some 13 years later, people brought back up his case (as if it were something new) despite him not being charged in the Atlanta murder incident. He made a mistake being around the wrong people, but as a black male, our mistakes are rarely forgiven. We’re rarely afforded an opportunity to grow.

Going back to Sherman, even if we give his haters the benefit of the doubt and truly believe the only reason they despise him is because he was a bad sport, those people would still be extremely biased and wrong in their views.

Why would they see Sherman to be a thug when many of us have only seen the one 30-second clip of him? Again, this goes back to perception because recently more footage of Sherman’s post-game behavior was released to the public and Sherman is seen immediately congratulating Michael Crabtree (the wideout he taunted while talking to Andrews). Crabtree then shoves Sherman in his face, but people just assumed that Sherman had it coming. The Seahawks’ cornerback is also seen hugging and congratulating the opposing team’s players asking if they were alright?

Does a mean-spirited gangster ask if someone is alright?

It’s the same story though. A black male who grew up in an environment that was not conducive to his growth, makes it out of the hood to attend a prestigious college, but is still considered of low class because of his skin tone. I’m sure Sherman gets that under-the-breath chuckle when people find out he attended Stanford. Those people are thinking “Oh, he must have gotten in just because he was black” or “how the hell did that happen?”

Regardless, the damage is done and the people saw what they wanted to see. To them, there’s no room for new information that may be contradictory to the way they were raised.

It’s just redundant and tiresome as a young black male to constantly be stressed out about our image. Consistently conducting ourselves in a manner that is not threatening to white culture becomes detrimental to our psyche and health, especially when at times it feels as though whatever we do we’ll still be viewed as niggers.

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