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This week, in Baltimore, we witnessed lawlessness and violence at levels not seen since the late ’60s. Freddie Gray protesters looted and burned down homes, businesses, and even a church’s 60-unit senior home and community center. Police were hurt by thrown rocks, bottles, and other projectiles. Shop owners were savagely beaten by mobs of rioters. Cars were burned en masse.
Out of this, as in the aftermath of other recent protests nationwide, have come calls for dialogues on policing, race relations, and problems faced by minority communities. All worthy discussions, to be sure. However, a controversy has also developed over the use of a word.
From The Hill:
Baltimore’s mayor is taking back her comments calling protestors in her city’s streets “thugs.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) tweeted on Wednesday that she wanted to clarify her comments, which were made after mass protests turned violent on Monday and resulted in the burning of buildings and cars.
“When you speak out of frustration and anger, one can say things in a way that you don’t mean,” she wrote in a new message on Twitter.
President Obama also stepped into the “thug” controversy, but to his credit (man, that is hard to type), he didn’t back down:
President Obama doesn’t regret using the term “thug” in describing the violent rioters in Baltimore this week, spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
“Whether it’s arson or, you know, the looting of a liquor store … those were thuggish acts,” Earnest said.
In discussing the riots Tuesday, Obama assailed the “criminals and thugs who tore up the place,” and described them as a distraction from the real issues of police brutality.
Instead of just discussing and dissecting the real issues behind what caused the Baltimore protests to get so wildly out of control, the press is wasting a lot of time and column inches on the use of the word “thug”
Just some of the many articles discussing “thug”:
- After Baltimore riots, some leaders slam ‘thug’ as the new n-word
- Baltimore mayor apologizes to rioters for using T-word
- Why Can’t Baltimore’s Black Female Mayor Stop Saying ‘Thug’?
Cable news channels have done segments on it:
And of course, many tweets, like this one, have been devoted to the subject:
— FOX 5 DC (@fox5dc) April 30, 2015
No, FOX 5 DC, the term “thug” is not inappropriate. It’s also not racist, nor offensive. Thugs destroyed large sections of Baltimore. Thugs hurt many people. Thugs caused untold financial harm. Thugs should not be protected from being offended, and they should be treated harshly by the justice system, like the criminals that they are.
Again, from Baltimore’s Mayor, in The Hill:
“That night we saw misguided young people who need to be held accountable, but who also need support,” Rawlings-Blake concluded. “And my comments then didn’t convey that.”
I have a humble suggestion: Worry less about the word “thugs” hurting peoples’ feelings, worry more about thugs actually hurting people.