What did you mean by thug Mr President? : An Open letter to Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

As someone that voted for you both in 2008 & 2012, supported your campaigns financially, volunteered my time and even played key stroke warrior on your behalf when undue criticism ,insults and racist diatribes were lobbed at you and your family, I feel that I’ve earned the right to express how disappointed I am at what I see as one of the lowest moments of your presidency. At least as it portends to the uplift of African-Americans (particularly the most vulnerable) and the continued fight against white supremacy in America (particularly law enforcement).

Question(s) for you Mr President:

Did you call George Zimmerman a thug for stalking, attacking and then shooting dead that unarmed kid that you claimed would look so eerily similar to your son if you had one? How about Darren Wilson–did you call him a thug for shooting Mike Brown as he had his hands raised–the universal sign for surrender? Timothy Loehmann shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice within 2.5 seconds of arriving at a park where he innocently played with his TOY gun–was that not an act of thuggery? Did you call him a thug? Walter Scott was shot 5 times in the back by a thug in uniform that sits in a jail cell as we speak–did you label him a thug yet?

I get it, they are all law enforcement (minus the wannabe) and American law enforcement are sensitive creatures so for whatever reason you feel that you must coddle them so I will forgive (for the moment with a dash of sarcasm) your reluctance to call a spade a spade vis-a-vis law enforcement. What about the guy who stormed an elementary school and murdered in cold blood over 20 babies? Did you call Adam Lanza or any of the plethora mass shooters that thugged out on your watch thugs for any of their thuggery?

What is a thug in the first place?

   

Now that we have a baseline to work with in the form of definitive means, let’s examine exactly what you could have meant  by calling some of the poorest,most disaffected, and criminally mis-educated, boys from poorest end of one of the most impoverished cites in the country you lead a bunch of thugs. A thug is defined as a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer. Now I know they were rioting and throwing rocks but they did not kill anyone, nor were they particularly cruel. In fact one of those thugs even had his mom greet and beat his ass all the way home. Now I’ve listened to a lot of rap music in my life and at least according to the hip-hop doctrine that ain’t how a thug goes out.

Is this what you call a thug Mr. President?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that your flippant use of the term to describe these provoked, misguided and rightfully angry youth was more a generalization for what they were doing at the time (rioting) and not part of the American racial codec. Every year you host the winner of the Stanley Cup at the White House and almost every year that that cup in won and loss there’s rioting in the streets of the city that one or both teams represent. I never ever saw you or anyone in your administration or the mainstream media call them thugs or petition the team owner from the winning team to talk sense into their unruly (for no damn reason) fan base. Like everyone else in America you picked Kentucky to win the NCAA championship this year. There was a bunch of college students  in Kentucky that took that loss way harder than you, I and most other Americans–funny how you nor anyone else in media labeled them thugs. What gives Mr. President? Why does black America get the Angry Obama Alter ego in real life concerning real issues and white America only gets to see that guy in a stand up routine talking about a bucket lists?

For someone who normally has his ear to the street and stays connected to the realities faced by many you sure let your radar down with that one reference. Either your code switching skills are slipping or there is at least a modicum of truth to the widely held belief propagated by many in the black community that you take our feelings, worth and even intelligence for granted. It’s not necessarily a belief that I subscribe to in fact I vehemently disagree with that notion. I’m still however having trouble wrapping my mind around why you called those boys a thugs and what exactly did you mean by it.

 Your employ of such a dubious term to describe the Baltimore youth that rebelled at YOUR (I stress your because you have yet to denounce them)  armed and shielded agent provocateurs better known as the BCPD (as well as the rest of them in America) was nothing short of heart breaking.  While the totality of what you said was fair-minded and empathetic your use of the word thug to describe those kids does a great disservice to them and most black men in America. It over shadowed much of the good things that you said.

Baltimore councilman Carl Stokes perfectly summarized what the media and other irresponsible handlers of the bully pulpit (yourself included) mean when they call those disadvantaged kids thugs.

http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/embed/80773

Am I my brothers Keeper

In case the memo has not made its way to 1600 Penn, let me be the first to break the news to you that “Thug” is euphemistic speak for nigger–ask Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch and Fox News. Hell, you’ve been called a thug numerous times–how could you not know it’s contemporary meaning? The first black president codifying such racist code speak is akin to giving up on black youth. As much as your use of the term  thug disturbs me (and your lack of use of the word at other times) I know for a fact that that is not your aim so this letter is written with love. You established the My Brothers Keeper initiative and pledge to improve the lives and mitigate the hardships faced by black boys in urban America. One of the first steps in uplifting our black boys to manhood is to disabuse the notion that they are the embodiment of their worst acts–especially while mired in the doldrums of poverty.

My organization signed up to take your pledge. We are taking it very seriously and we aim to make a huge difference in the lives of some of Urban Americas least franchised. That would make us partners Mr President and as partners in this great and worthy endevor I hope you receive this letter of slight rebuke in love. Your words were disturbingly counter-productive. An apology and retraction of that very in-artful sound bite would be nice. A vow to never ascribe that term to the kind of kids that you did the other day would be even better. I’m not saying that you need to have a mock funeral for the word thug like that failed mock funeral they had for the word nigger a few years ago. We’d actually like to hear that word roll off your lips a little more often. First  it would be nice to hear you ascribe that term to cops that murder innocent unarmed individuals. Second and more importantly we’d like to hear you mention all of the good work that our organization is doing with the youth. THUGS Inc is the organization (Together Helping Unite Gods Sons) and we are our brothers keepers. The kids that you refereed to as thugs are actually sons of God. Help us help you help them.

Recap according to your words a logic

 

Thug

cop beats woman

Not a Thug

kid on cop car

Thug

Thugs not thugs

Not Thugs

  

Thugs

We gotta do better than this Mr President

Signed

T.H.U.G.S., Inc. Board of Directors

Shaka Berry, President

sberry@thugsinc.org

Stephanie N. Arrington, Treasurer

sarrington@thugsinc.org

Allen M. Graham, Founder

agraham@thugsinc.org

Carlton Ferguson, Co-Founder

cferguson@thugsinc.org

Diana Campbell

dcampbell@thugsinc.org

 

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