As noted here parenthetically, the president of the Baltimore City Council, Jack Young, apologized a day after calling the looters in his city “thugs,” suggesting that “misdirected youth” was a more appropriate label. God knows you wouldn’t want to offend a teenager whose instinctive reaction to the death of a black man in police custody is to smash store windows and steal whatever merchandise he can carry off.
A colleague of Young took the lunacy a step further. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Councilman Carl Stokes chastised host Erin Burnett for asking whether thug wasn’t in fact the right word, telling her that calling a young black man a thug is akin to calling him a n**ger. And, yes, Stokes “went there,” using the unvarnished racial slur on air.
The transcript follows the video clip.
BURNETT: Isn’t it [thug] the right word?
STOKES: No, it’s not the right word to call our children ‘thugs.’ These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us.
BURNETT: But how does that justify what they did? That’s a sense of right and wrong. They know it’s wrong to steal and burn down a CVS and an old persons’ home. I mean, come on.
STOKES: Come on? Just call them n*ggers. Just call them n*ggers. No, we don’t have to call them by names such as that. We don’t have to do that. That is exactly what we’ve sent them to. When you say, ‘Come on,’ come on what? You wouldn’t call your child a thug if they should do something that would not be what you expect them to do.
BURNETT: Look, I respect your point of view. I would hope that I would call my son a thug if he ever did such a thing.
At this point, a third panelist, former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, weighed in, saying that the debate had lost its focus, which he claimed resides in the question “How do we take back our streets?” A question that might be posed in response to his question is “Take them back from whom?”
Meanwhile, as to what to call the looters, how about “criminals”? That’s what one outside observer said, dismissing them as “a handful of people taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes.” That observer was Barack Obama.
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