The N-Word: An Open Letter to ESPN’s Skip Bayless

ESPN’s Skip Bayless wrote a passionate plea last week titled, It’s Time to let the N-Word Die. Bayless starts his passionate piece by stating, “This is strictly one man’s opinion – one white man’s. Take it or leave it. But know from the start this opinion of an impossibly complex issue comes from the most real and raw depth of my being.”

Knowing there is a problem is not enough. Rallying around a common goal to produce the desired result is the way to go. While Bayless’s passion is clearly evident it’s not enough to solve complex problems. Information by way of truth marred to a well coordinated plan proves to breed results.

Allow me to deliver a message to Bayless.

Dear Skip,

As an artist who consistently pushes the pen for justice I appreciate you using your platform on ESPN’s First Take to speak out. While your mind is open and your heart is sincere one critical thing is missing from your commentary and that’s a solution to the problem.

From one journalist to another allow me to help.

Skip, if there is racism in society it will ultimately rear its ugly head in realm of American sports. This summer it started with Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper’s racist rant at a Kenny Chesney concert in the city of “Brotherly Love.”

When Cooper was caught on camera angrily using the N-Word he surely wasn’t expressing love.

The Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin fiasco in Miami has been the talk of the town for weeks. Incognito’s has displayed a level of ignorance that that’s rarely witnessed.

Recently Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes, expressing his discontent with him teammates, sent out a Tweet using the N-Word.

Last week in a game between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles the N-Word was allegedly being hurled by both African-American and white players.

John Wooten, who heads the Fritz Pollard Alliance which helps to enforce the “Rooney Rule” in the NFL, is calling for the N-Word to be banned in the NFL.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on these matters but there aren’t any viable solutions being set forth.

That is until now.

To solve any problem one must detect its origin, understand the circumstances surrounding the situation and create a plan to ultimately eradicate it.

First, a constructive examination of history is needed. For the purposes of this commentary I will focus on the most salient points.

History suggests Africans were formerly kings, queens and scholars in the ancient world. Africans erected sophisticated dynasties in Africa, built castles and kingdoms in Europe while ultimately shaping helping to shape what we now know today as America.

It was during the European voyages from the shores of West Africa, to the Caribbean Islands and eventually to the Americas where Africans were brutalized, tortured and killed by oppressors. Throughout the course of this enslavement process Africans were being called the N-Word among other things.

Mind you English wasn’t a native language in Africa. The N-Word was created by descendants of Europe during the rise of American slavery. The word was utilized to degrade, demean and torture imported Africans who were forced into indentured servitude in the early 1600’s. Years later legislation was enacted to strip imported Africans of any potential rights a human would receive thus making them slaves for life.

Next, authorities that are responsible for designing curricula in the various rungs of the education system should diversify along racial lines and collectively disperse truth. Changing the curricula creates a system will provide a reliable tool to thwart ignorance and replace it with fact.

Finally, the media needs a serious dose of diversity. Many in the media depend on disseminated information for their education Skip. Often the media is wrong and biased. To combat the latter constructive dialogue such as this is needed.

You see Skip, the media, particularly sports media, should have voices that better reflects the population they cover. There are enough qualified African-Americans to tell our own stories but often their collective voices are being muted.

Personally I’ve written extensively about the need to diversify sports media. As it stands today its lily-white institution where views are skewed and diverse vantage points are often discouraged.

Somewhere along the line African-Americans who seek to bring light from a vantage that’s lacking are often viewed as militant and divisive. Yet for you Skip you are viewed as noble, open and forthcoming for helping to ignite a discussion.

As an African-American I’ve been fixed with an array of racial comments from readers over the years. In 2011 I wrote a commentary titled, In Response to a Racial Slur: I’m Nobody’s Ni*g*r. I wrote about my personal experience in being called the N-Word and other expletives stemming from a piece I wrote.

The outlet refused to publish my content yet those same editors allowed bigots to call me out my name. Had there been more diversity at the outlet constructive dialogue and resolution could have manifested.

I personally spoke on this very topic in a CNN interview several years ago urging outlets to diversify and why.

For the past six-years Dr. Richard Lapchick, who is white, has supported my various efforts to champion causes in sports media and beyond. He also heads the center for The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports.http://www.tidesport. org/RGRC/2012/2012_APSE_RGRC. pdf They publish an annual report which tracks the racial makeup of sports media. The latest numbers are as follows.

The percentages for African-Americans in the positions of editor, columnist and reporter are at 4.3, 12.6, and 6.9.

For white males in the same positions the percentages are 83.2 83.9, 86.3 respectively.

Can you consider the latter parity Skip?

Birds of a feather typically flock together. If the vast majority of the media has a strong white influence that often means issues such as race will be handled from a predominate white perspective. If African-Americans were in positions of influence in the media there would be more voices of reason to help inform, awaken then educate the masses properly on complex issues like race.

In conclusion, the answer lies with understanding. Understand the need to change the educational curricula, understanding the need to diversify the media and committing to a comprehensive plan about the true development of this country will help to kill the N-Word.

Perhaps if Riley Cooper truly respected humanity he likely doesn’t freely hurl the N-Word around in anger. If his heart was in the right place he would not utter such hateful words

If the Miami Dolphins locker room had better leadership a Richie Incognito wouldn’t be viewed as an honorary African-American because the African-American players would understand there is no such thing.

If a Matt Barnes is properly informed about the historical development of this country he would not tweet the N-Word in any form. Instead, he would understand African-Americans like himself could use the platform for change instead of instigating antagonists.

If John Wooten reflects back to his days as a Cleveland Brown in the 1960’s during the height of the Civil Rights movement and realize that simply calling for a ban on the N-Word is not enough. The walls of segregation ultimately fell during Wooten’s day because a carefully orchestrated plan in the 1950’s and 1960’s was implemented with strong leadership that attained a desired result

More importantly, if more African-Americans were present in the media we all would be better equipped to engage in constructive dialogue.

Skip, the dissemination of truth from our schools and through the media stemming from diverse vantage points encourages harmony; the masses rallying around a common goal will meticulously slay the N-Word but more importantly slay the ugliness of racism.


Dexter Rogers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 − = two