Richard Sherman, Race and Coded Language

Jan. 28, 2014 / By

Editor’s Note: Following the NFC Championship on January 19th, where the Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers, much attention was paid to Richard Sherman, a player from Seattle. A brief but passionate post-game interview with Sherman became national news. Framed as an angry rant, the continued usage of the word ‘thug’ to describe Sherman racialized the conversation.  In an interview days later, Sherman described the usage of ‘thug’ as code, a more socially acceptable form of the n-word. The We’Ced youth used this recent experience as a jumping off point to discuss the use of coded language, both in this very public incident with Sherman and in our own communities.

Do you agree with Richard Sherman? Can the word ‘thug’ be used as code for the n-word?

Fernando, 17

The word “thug” has a bad connotation. By using that word, it is indirectly stating that the individual is either Black or Hispanic, most likely from a ‘ghetto’ neighborhood and may possibly be involved in gangs or drugs. By using the word “thug” or “ghetto,” a person could be avoiding using the n-word, knowing that if that slur was used the reaction from others would not be good. In simple terms, ‘ghetto’ is okay but using the n-word is not.

Jesus, 18

I would have to agree with Richard Sherman. The word ‘thug’ is code for the n-word. People will find ways to express themselves the way they want to. The coded language that is used around race can make people feel more comfortable, at least in their minds, and feel like they are behaving with proper etiquette.

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WeCed Youth Media

Merced and its surrounding areas have always had a vibrant population of young people. Unfortunately, too often there is a disconnect between generations that can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of communication. WeCed's aim through its program and publication is to highlight and empower youth to tell their stories and that of their communities, while providing them with the guidance and skill-building necessary to foster the development of their strongest possible voice.