The right-wing blogs and radio hosts have circled the wagons and spun into hysterical defense mode after real journalist Jim Rowen called out one of their lesser members for calling County Board Chairman Lee Holloway a "thug" last week. Rowen correctly pointed out the "race-baiting" use of the epithet and generally bemoaned the "heavily-racialized public debate that is endured here". In a follow-up, Rowen links to this helpful discussion of the modern use of "thug" to attack African-Americans from the Atlanta Constitution.
The talking-pointed responses from fellow-travelers of the offender – Steve Eggleston of No Runny Eggs – include predictable denials of the intended racist use of the word, predictably-inflated episodes trying to establish that Holloway really is a thug, a hilarious linguistic review of the origin of the term (from a murderous "Hindu cult" in India) and blah de blah blah.
Rowen is right. "Thug" is the new N-Word, usually trotted out by right-wingers only in the context of African-Americans who are doing something they don’t want them to do. [Eggleston tries to provide cover for himself after the fact by presenting people like Hitler and Stalin as examples of "thugs", which again makes one wonder how Holloway got in that catagory.] Unapologetic racists like Mark Belling brag about using the term and dare others (usually politicians) to do the same. The last time we heard the "thug" blather was after the late-night RiverSplash violence earlier this summer. There was no doubt Belling and the others who are always there to capitalize on racial divisiveness were talking about black people causing the incident, although that fact was suspiciously missing from any straight news. In the deliberately race-baiting atmosphere of what passes for right-wing "thought", "thug" is shorthand for blacks behaving badly.
[By the way, whatever happened to the other "thuggery" that the right-wingers predicted was going to happen at free festivals all summer after RiverSplash? I seem to recall Bastille Days being particularly at risk, but it went off without a hitch (with a wonderfully diverse crowd, at that). To say the least, this is not the first dire prediction made by the right that didn’t come true; it also is not surprising that none of them bothered to note how peaceful the rest of the summer festivals have been.]
It is one thing for right-wingers to call out-of-control kids on the street "thugs" – unfortunately, Mayor Tom Barrett has taken up their divisive challenge to name-call – but it is quite another to insert "thug" as the middle name of a strong, African-American elected official who has proposed something (a tax increase) they don’t like. As they always do, afraid that they will fail on the merits of their arguments, they conduct ad hominem personal attacks and, where possible, throw a little racist sentiment in there to boot.
One thing I never understood is why right-wingers play these race-baiting games and then act offended when someone calls them on it. They should be proud of their clever divisiveness. They should stop hiding behind code words – after all, their favorite black guy just loves to use his self-hating license to use the N-word whenever he can. Come on, right-wingers! Stop hiding behind the skirts of your pretended outrage. Show us how race-neutral the term "thug" really is – show us what racist thugs you can truly be.