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Scoot: Is St. Aug N-word chant offensive?

October 08, 2019 - 12:06 pm

Here is the pre-game chant by the St. Augustine Purple Knights football team that “shocked and embarrassed” school officials after video of the chant went viral.

“All I got is two hands,

Two pads,

Knockin’ that N***** S*** loose.

I got two hands,

Two pads,

This the Aug S***!

A statement from Dr. Kenneth St. Charles, President and CEO of St. Augustine, released this morning announced that the St. Aug coach, Nathaniel Jones, “will no longer coach at the school” and the football program will move in a “new direction.”

Assistant coach Kenneth Dorsey, Jr. was named interim head coach.

The school’s statement read, in part: “We are shocked and embarrassed that such blatantly offensive language would be used at any school event and directed toward our student-athletes and opponents.” The statement went on to say that the chant, which included the N-word, “does not represent the values that St. Augustine has embodied for more than six decades.”

St. Augustine High School is an all-boys Catholic high school in New Orleans that is overwhelmingly black and has played a part in educating and shaping young black males since 1951. For many years, St. Aug’s discipline included corporal punishment, and in 1965 Time magazine described the atmosphere at St. Aug was “warm but strict.” Misbehaving students could be “whacked with an oak paddle.”

The idea that a coach would lead the Purple Knights football team in a racially-charged chant before a game against an opponent with many white players contradicts the historic image of St. Aug.  The school deserves credit for taking swift action after the chant became public.

The N-word is prevalent in rap/hip-hop music, and some may argue that has led us to where we are today. Another argument is that black people using the N-word has a different meaning than when white people use the word.

Should black student-athletes at a traditionally black high school using the N-word in a pre-game chant against an opponent with white players cause any confusion about the use of the N-word?

Communications are often defined as much by the messenger as the message. While I oppose the use of the N-word by black people in entertainment, it is easy to argue that a black person using the N-word has a different context than a white person using that word because of America’s history with slavery and civil rights.

However, there should be no defense of a coach at a traditionally black high school leading a team chant with a racial slur. That is simply unacceptable.

The use of the N-word – in entertainment or on the street – does not equate to the sanctioned use of the N-word by an institution of learning.

It will be easy for some to use the myopic defense of “if they can use that word – then why can’t I?” But failing to understand the important role of the messenger in any communication and failing to understand the difference between street-use and school-sanctioned use of the N-word is a clear sign that logic will be lost.

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