Challenging Convention: Examining Bias

Posted on 29 January 2014 by admin

Writer Billy Gardner weighs in on the Sherman rant.

Billy Gardner

Billy Gardner

Staff Writer

With sunday night’s Super Bowl XLVIII around the corner, much of the talk has been centered around postgame comments of Seattle Seahawks cornerback, Richard Sherman.

After effectively ending the game with a great play in the end zone, Sherman had emotional, arrogant and insulting comments directed at the opposing receiver. While the egotism displayed by Sherman was almost universally unlikable, the responses to his comments were quite varied.

Richard Sherman, who has since apologized for his comments, addressed being called “thug” saying that it is “the accepted way of calling somebody the n-word.” Is the word “thug” a code meant as a racial slur, knowingly or not?

When something occurs that allows people to question their beliefs, perspective and potential biases, it is important that it is examined so that growth can occur.

Race, gender, sexuality, attire, age and numerous other traits play a role in how individuals perceive themselves and others. It is not a stretch to say that had Sherman been white, he would not have received the same backlash, though there may have been a response, and would have almost certainly not been called a thug. (His actions weren’t thuggish, but sophomoric and immature.)

To illustrate this point, examine an incident that occurred in a Marlins-Braves game in September of 2013. Jose Fernandez, a Marlins pitcher, hit his first career home run. He flipped his bat, and strutted around the bases with all ego and swagger that you would expect from a 21-year-old rookie. Brian McCann, the Brave’s catcher proceeded to stand in the baseline and would not allow Fernandez to touch home plate.  This act led to the benches clearing, though no punches were thrown. While reactions to this incident varied, there was no mainstream use of the word “thug” or similar terms in regards to McCann, who is white. Instead, he was regarded as an “old school” baseball guy … Whatever that means.

It happens frequently that someone’s outward appearance affects the way they are perceived by others. Most everyone has done this at some point in their life. But, by being honest with themselves and being aware of this tendency, people should attempt to view everybody through the same lens.


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