Longtime New York Post sportswriter, Phil Mushnick, stepped into the fire this week by suggesting, jokingly or otherwise, that when the New York Nets, a team that is partially owned by hip-hop artist Jay-Z, upon moving to their new arena in Brooklyn should change their name to the “New York Niggas” as a nod to their owners lyrical tendencies. He then took it a step further on by coming up with the “Brooklyn Bitches” as a possible name for the teams cheer squad.
I don’t suppose I need to illustrate for you, my intelligent and logical readers, the pure shitstorm that this is stirring up in NYC, one of the largest African-American communities in the country, at the moment.
But here’s the thing….
While this was obviously not the wisest, nor the most effective way to win friends and influence people in the black community, at the end of the day what it was was a fairly ham-handed way of making a fairly valid point.
Jay-Z, as well as many of his contemporaries, have used words like niggas, bitches, hoes and a variety of other disparaging descriptives in his music throughout his career, and made millions upon millions of dollars doing so.
Would his career have not reached the heights it has without that? Almost certainly yes, it would’ve. There is a certain acceptance and ‘street cred’ in the hip-hop world of that sort of dialogue, but JayZ is a super talented guy and a super-talented business man, and he would’ve “happened” with or without that vocabulary.
But the fact, and therein the problem, is that many of the people that are going to call for Phil Mushnicks job, as well as his head, for utilizing these words are the very same people that have spent their hard earned money buying music by Jay-Z that contained the same words they claim they find offensive and insulting.
On its best day, that is blatant, textbook hypocrisy.
On its worst, its another log on the fire of racial tension, which is already burning nearly out of control in this country.
Words are important. Words are my religion and they have impact.
But when all is said and done, words only have the power you allow them to have.
If you find the words that Jay-Z uses in his music acceptable as lyrics, then you cannot with any level of credibility condemn Phil Mushnick for using those same words in a similar context in his work.
And if you find Phil Mushnicks use of these words offensive, then you cannot in good faith accept them from Jay-Z as entertainment.
This was a stupid and ill-conceived move by Phil Mushnick. It may have been a funny joke at the bar, even amongst a racially mixed group of friends. But putting it out in the press would be a career-breaker for most journalists. Mushnick has been on the NY sports beat forever, so maybe he survives this. That will play itself out for us over the next few days.
I dont believe these comments were published with malicious intent. I believe they were put out there to illustrate a point, and perhaps Mushnick, as a sportswriter, has no business making that point.
But from a personal standpoint, I find hypocrisy and manufactured racial tension way more offensive than any ‘word’ I’ve ever heard.