If the English language had an equivalent of the endangered species list, it would be growing exponentially. This year, for example, the use of gender identifying pronouns such as he, her, his, and him are strongly being discouraged by the censors and administrators on college campuses. Now the speech police are playing a new game in which words that were previously considered perfectly acceptable for all to use are now only allowed to be spoken by certain races and ethnicities when used in certain contexts.
To explain this phenomenon allow me to introduce you to two basketball legends, LeBron James and Phil Jackson and the word posse.
A quick study of the internet shows that the word posse goes back to the 17th century and derives from the Latin, roughly meaning to be able. To most Americans, it means a force with legal authority, such as in the old Wild West the local sheriff would form a posse to round up the bad guys. It is certainly no secret that in contemporary times, the term posse is a word used by many young African Americans to denote the people who they hang out with, a term that to my observation is interchangeable with the word crew.
The fireworks started when Jackson was critiquing Lebron’s diva reputation and said the following, “You can’t hold up the whole team because you and your mom and your posse want to spend an extra night in Cleveland.”
Amazingly it wasn’t the criticism of LeBron’s selfish behavior that got James upset, but the use of the term posse that drew his ire. In response to this James said, “We see the success that we have, but then there is always someone that lets you know how far we still have to go as African Americans.”
And with that, many in the media and NBA took the opportunity to trash Phil Jackson as being either a racist or someone who had just committed a racist act. Although Jackson does have supporters in this made up controversy they seemed to be in the minority as many big name players and coaches in the NBA lined up against him. Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks called the word posse as used by Jackson a “loaded term.” Superstar Kevin Durant said, “I see why LeBron took offense to it.” Detroit Pistons head coach Steve Van Gundy who last week went on a childish anti-Trump rant lamented that he has used the word posse before as a way to describe a group of friends of an African American, but now sees the error of his ways and “felt guilty about it.”
The most remarkable thing about this controversy is what is unspoken. Let’s say Charles Barkley, who is African American, had used the same words to describe LeBron James’ friends. No one would have thought anything of it, including James. Why can’t a non-African American use the word posse in the same context as African Americans? Have we now sunk this low that we are to have words that are only OK to be used if you are of the approved ethnic group? Isn’t this type of thinking building bigger walls in America than Donald Trump ever promised during the campaign?
Jackson, to show how silly people are being, fired back with a tweet supporting the Posse Foundation, an organization that helps high school students of all races find college scholarships and is supported by President Obama. This response by Jackson had little effect on the politically correct set, as the new meme by the sports writers is that time has passed Jackson by. You know, he is just another old white man, whose thoughts and contributions are no longer wanted by society. Talk about your stereotyping.
As frustrating as all this is, we know the drill. Phil Jackson, despite having won 11 NBA rings and considered one of the great gurus and philosophers the sport of basketball has ever seen, who has been the mentor, friend, and teacher to countless in the NBA, a majority of whom have been African American, now and forever will be falsely labeled as a racist. Why? Because he used a word that we are told that only African Americans are allowed to use in a certain context? If nothing else, this controversy shows who is really being racist.