As Kyrie Irving made abundantly clear this weekend, the n-word isn’t for everybody.
While there are people like myself who can’t recall the last time they didn’t deploy it as a term of endearment, a convenient expression of excitement or confusion, or a final warning before violence ensues, there are also people like our former Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton who want no parts of the same word that keeps my teeth white.
This weekend, Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schröder learned which side of the fence Irving falls on when this unfortunate exchange took place, leading to both Schröder and Irving being ejected:
Surely, the Nets getting their asses handed to them by a short-handed Lakers squad couldn’t have made the Duke product this mad. So what the hell did you say to him, Schröder? Did you insult the mother of his child? Did you bag on his infatuation with JNCO Jeans? Did you tell him the Earth is round?
Nope. He apparently called him a—wait. Are we sure he called him a—
“The n-word is a derogatory racial slur!” the seven-time All-Star tweeted on Sunday. “Never forget its foul and true history! Throw that n-word out the window, right alongside all the of those other racist words used to describe my people. We are not slaves or N’s.”
Naturally, social media had plenty to say about the topic, and were kind enough to bring receipts as they challenged the polarizing 29-year-old on his stance:
Now obviously, we all grow and evolve over time—in a past life, I used to indulge in stale pepper from a shaker instead of having it freshly cracked—and Irving has been very vocal about his path to enlightenment for some time now. So while Don Lemon has changed his stance on niggas in general, it’s evident that Irving has changed his stance on “nigga” specifically.
And that’s perfectly fine.
Clearly, the word has a complicated history that many of us—both Black and white—would prefer to leave in the past; which is exactly why so many Black folks want no parts of it. It’s also why I’m of the opinion that Black folks should be allowed to have whatever relationship they want with it. It sure as hell won’t stop me from getting these “niggas” off in my group chats, but I completely understand and respect other people’s decision to do otherwise.
We are not a monolith, y’all.
Now, what concerns me is that as a premier player in a sport where infinitely worse is said every damn day on the court, that Irving would allow something so trivial to set him off and get him ejected. You mean to tell me that one of the best players on the entire planet is so emotionally fragile that he can’t stay his ass in the game because somebody called him a “nigga”?
What happens in the playoffs when somebody starts reciting rap lyrics on the court? You really think other players won’t use this as a golden opportunity to get inside Kyrie’s head and knock him off of his game?
As he is prone to do, Mr. Irving will be missing Monday’s game against the Timberwolves due to “personal reasons”—which means he could miss one game or the next 37. But whenever he returns to the hardwood, hopefully he’s learned to handle these type of situations differently moving forward. Because not only could it cost him a championship, but something far more valuable: his peace of mind.