Lately I’ve been challenging people when they use the word “thug” when referring to black protestors. There’s a reason for that. Dr. John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, explains:

[T]he truth is that thug today is a nominally polite way of using the N-word. Many people suspect it, and they are correct. When somebody talks about thugs ruining a place, it is almost impossible today that they are referring to somebody with blond hair. It is a sly way of saying there go those black people ruining things again. And so anybody who wonders whether thug is becoming the new N-word doesn’t need to. It’s [sic] most certainly is.1)

In other words, the word “thug” has become the new “N-” word. It’s derogatory. It’s demeaning. It diminishes people’s suffering. It refuses to see them as a person and instead makes assumptions based on the color of their skin.

Is that something Christ would do?

One question I ask people is, “When is the last time you used the word ‘thug’ to describe a white protestor?” Nobody has yet given me a reply. The truth is that they don’t use that word to describe white protestors; they use it to describe black protestors.

Why is that? People protest all the time. It’s one of our fundamental rights under the Constitution. We have a right to peaceful assembly (and no, peaceful assembly doesn’t mean that you have to stand silently and not make any noise). If a white person protests then they are exercising their first amendment rights; if a black person protests then they’re a thug.

Many people repeat what they hear without understanding where it came from. If you’re one of those people, then now you know what “thug” means. So what will you do about it? Will you continue to use the word, or will you look beyond a person’s skin color, stop making assumptions about them, and view them as a person?

The choice is yours.

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