I imagine that it was hot (isn’t it always hot in Memphis in April); yet, each man wore suit jackets or nice cardigans and long pants. Many wore hats. Their wives got up that morning, put on their housecoats, took the scarves off of their heads (but left the rollers in) ironed each item of their husband’s outfits perfectly. They then made their husbands some breakfast–something like eggs and toast with homemade peach preserves, set the plate on the table and muttered without directly looking at them, “wanna make sure you got somethin’ on yo stomach.” No one probably said much that morning: the kids could sense that their parents were tense and knew that they better keep their mouths shut to avoid a whippin; the wives were nervous that their men would end up in jail, without their sanitation job, beaten or dead; the husbands were resolute and ready to stand for justice. The men had a simple message
I am a man. I am a man.
How simple; how sad.
But, it was 1968, and these sanitation workers weren’t treated as men, but as disposable help (similar to slavery). Recently two of their colleagues had died in the unsafe conditions so they marched to fight to be treated better–to be treated as men.
Their fight was part of the long struggle for Black men to be seen, to be heard, to be respected and to be treated as MEN.
“Boy” was used by Southern White men and women during slavery and the days of Jim Crow, as a verbal weapon against Black men to illustrate their superiority and dominance over Black men. Black men weren’t equals, weren’t adults, they were boys — not worthy of respect. It was a term used to control; to rank the races.
Language is intricate. Who says what to whom, how it is said, and under what context all affects the message. When a White man calls a Black man a boy, it is always racist. It is greater than an insult. When a White man calls a Black man “boy” it carries the historical weight of slavery and Jim Crow.
Fighting is a crude sport. Insults fly as fast as fists and are meant to hurt as hard. But, in all arenas, there should be limits. Racist insults and behavior should be off-limits in any workplace, even on the court, on the field and in the ring. McGregor crossed the line when hurled racists insults. McGregor could have called Mayweather an asshole, a bitch or a motherfucker — but he can’t call him “boy.” And he certainly can’t tell him to “dance boy” as that statement invokes a similarly dark history. Slaves were literally forced to dance for their survival on slave ships, and later were expected to dance for the master’s entertainment at his bidding.
And this is not new territory for McGregor. He knew what he was doing. He has race-baited before. While promoting his fight against Nick Diaz in 2016, McGregor called him a “cholo gangster from the hood.”
McGregor’s race-baiting should not be tolerated. It harkens back to time and place where Black men had to stand together to declare: I AM A MAN.
While I have never been a huge Mayweather fan, I am looking forward to seeing him destroy McGregor on August 26th.