Entertainment

01.23.14

Justin Bieber or Richard Sherman, Who’s the ‘Thug’?

Whose behavior is worse, Justin Bieber or NFL player Richard Sherman? Sadly, race is the deciding factor for whom to label a ‘thug.’ Plus: read Justin Bieber's arrest report.

Which person would you call a “thug:”

A. The guy caught on camera screaming at and physically threatening a photographer? The person arrested for drag racing and admittedly driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol? The guy being sued for assaulting a photographer?  Or,

B. An NFL football player who gave a very animated interview moments after making the game winning play in the biggest game of his career? The graduate of Stanford University who started a foundation to raise money to buy supplies for impoverished inner city schools?

Simple question, right? The answer would be A. except I forget to mention one fact: A is white and B is black. And that’s all the difference some people need in deciding whom to label a “thug.”

I’m, of course, talking about Justin Bieber and Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman.  This week we saw an ugly display of racist slurs directed at Sherman simply because of the overly excited comments he made after the Seahawks won the NFC championship game.

To be brutally honest, the reason so many white people had an issue with Sherman’s interview was because in their view he was being an “uppity” black man. He wasn’t giving the cliché:  “I want to thank God and my teammates” post-game speech that they wanted from him. Instead, he was speaking his mind, which at that moment was focused upon his on field war with San Francisco 49er receiver Michael Crabtree.

The backlash against Sherman was vicious and despicable. Some unleashed a flurry of racial slurs on social media. Others chose to label Sherman a “thug.”

So what exactly does “thug” mean? It is far from settled. Some believe it’s a criminal or violent person. The late rapper Tupac described a “thug” as a person who is born with nothing and overcomes numerous obstacles on their way to success.  While Sherman stated that “thug” is just a more acceptable form of calling a black person the “N word.”

Read Justin Bieber’s Arrest Report: “What the Fuck Did I Do?”

In case of Justin Bieber, does any one doubt hat he would love to be called a thug?  He clearly has been trying be seen as a bad boy for the past few years. He has reportedly threatened paparazzi and his neighbor with physical violence. Bieber is being sued by a photographer who claims Bieber beat him up. (Why anyone would admit to being beaten up by Bieber is beyond me?) And Bieber has done his best to convey the image on social media that he smokes marijuana.

Earlier this week Bieber was again seen trying to cultivate his “thug” image. Bieber was reportedly in a Miami Strip club, “making it rain”—translation: throwing money at strippers as often depicted in rap videos.

And, of course, he was just arrested yesterday for high speed drag racing and driving under the influence of alcohol. Bieber even admitted to the police he had been smoking marijuana and taking pills. What celebrity would admit to the police he took drugs unless you wanted the public to know?!

GALLERY: Celebrity Mug Shots (PHOTOS)

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Miami-Dade Police Department

In contrast, Sherman was a straight-A student at Compton’s Dominguez High School. He became the first person in that school’s history to earn a football scholarship to Stanford University. Sherman has not only become an all Pro cornerback, but off the field he has established a foundation, Blanket Coverage, to raise funds for inner city schools to buy supplies for students.

Can there be a silver lining from these incidents? I’d love to be able to give you the BS, feel good take way that maybe it can prompt a discussion on race that helps bridge the racial divide. But I won’t. It’s not going to happen any time soon.

So who really is the thug: Richard Sherman or Justin Bieber? Neither. Although if you follow Tupac’s definition, Sherman would indeed exemplify one.

How can I say that? Opinion polls taken after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin made it clear we aren’t ready for that discussion. This eye-opening survey found that while 78 percent of black Americans thought the trial should spark a discussion on race, only 28 percent of white people agreed.

And an even more recent example of the knee jerk reaction of many white people to avoid discussing race occurred earlier this week. On Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Sarah Palin urged President Obama to follow the example of MLK and commit to ending the “racial divide” by stop playing the “race card.”  Translation: Stop talking about race.

Love or hate Sarah Palin, she represents the sentiments of many white Americans who believe the best way to end racial division is to ignore, not discuss, the issue.

So who really is the thug: Richard Sherman or Justin Bieber? Neither. Although if you follow Tupac’s definition, Sherman would indeed exemplify one. He has overcome struggles and challenges to make it big. But we know that wasn’t the definition being employed by those calling Sherman a “thug.”

And Justin Bieber doesn’t deserve to be called anything but a spoiled, immature idiot. “Thug” is too good for him.