Monday, November 18, 2013

Things People Should Know: Context Does Matter, But

Context matters.  The nature of developing news stories often makes this clear.  I have been following the story of the bullying allegations going on the the NFL and caught a clip of accused bullier saying, well, things that seem to make it clear that he does not quite understand.  Now, yes, this story is still in the developing phase, and I imagine the ongoing investigation plus the lawsuit means the people who are talking to reporters are, well, people who are trying to squash or reduce trouble.  So...further developments may change how I (and since, it turns out my opinion matters very little in this - that of investigators, prosecutors, and future jurors) view this thing. 
But, here's the thing.  No matter how many texts you and your teammate exchanged - if you used racial epithets and threatened to rape his family members it doesn't sound racist or violent out of context.  It is racist. You did threaten to commit violent sexual acts.  If you think those kinds of things are hilarious, um, well, I guess that's a choice.  But, it's actually still racist and threatening.  If you don't wish to be perceived as racist, don't use racial epithets.  (Yes, not being racist is bigger than what you say, but nonetheless.)  And the teammates who are saying (for now, a this moment) oh that's just how we talk here, well, again I say the same thing.  See, freedom of speech does in fact mean (with some exceptions) that you can say what you want, including threats of violence, including the use of racial epithets.  But, that doesn't absolve you from any consequences of saying things.  If I say that the moon is made of cheese, my freedom of speech does not mean that no one can worry about my ability to understand how the moon works.  They can.