Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman demonstrated extremely intense behavior during his postgame interview last Sunday, following a tremendous victory over the 49ers.
His aggressive interview incited social media frenzy, provoking responses not only regarding his energized answers, understandable for any athlete following a great play and a victory, but something more salient: his behavior in context of his racial identity.
Some labeled Sherman as a “thug” and “monkey,” along with other derogatory terms. This use of deprecating terminology not only displays the intentional prejudice that still occurs, but it also reveals our society’s mass misconceptions regarding black men. More specifically, it expresses the idea that no matter how educated, intelligent or successful a black male is, he can still be a “thug.”
Terms like “thug” paint the picture of an uneducated, uncontrollable individual. It implies a gangster attitude and intrinsically violent behavior.
On the contrary, Sherman is from Compton, Calif. — a city with one of the nation’s highest murder rates — and he graduated from Stanford University with a 3.9 GPA. He’s also a good athlete. He’s far from a thug.
The misconception of the black male as a thug also applies to black male collegiate athletes. Black males make up 60 percent of the top 25 Bowl Championship Series schools yet make up only 3 percent of undergraduate students. These athletes, in addition to non-athlete black students, also graduate at substantially lower levels than those of their white counterparts. The University of Minnesota’s white football players had a graduation success rate of 90 percent, compared to 54 percent for black players, according to a December 2013 Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport assessment. However, the inclusion of black students in collegiate athletics gives hopes for reversing admissions and graduation gaps.
While we praise athletic achievement, we cannot forget to acknowledge an overall pursuit for greatness and the distinction between black college athletes and the majority of black males that will never walk a college campus.
Bettering ourselves requires discipline, and ignorance should never undermine, downplay or misconstrue this reality.