Dare I Say the “R-word?”

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By John Pawlak


More and more news articles are addressing bullying in the workplace, including sports. Ritchie Incognito (whose true nature is anything but incognito) was recently accused of bullying a teammate, harassing him with racial slurs.

 Miami Dolphins (very) offensive lineman Incognito was suspended for using the N-word against Jonathan Martin. This isn’t the first time Ritchie has been noted for bullying others.

 Ritchie defended himself, saying “I’m not a racist and to judge me by that one word is wrong!”

 Really? Then I can call you an idiot and not be judged for saying that?

 How about three or four words? How about you’re a moronic xenophobic bigoted donkey’s behind?

 Is it reasonable to judge a person by “one word that is wrong?”

 Well, there can be a lot of power and hurt, in the use of a single word. I learned this a long time ago.

 One day, my father sat me down and shared a story with me. The story he told me was so powerful, it changed my life.

 He related how back in 1973, he was at work eating lunch with several co-workers. The news stations were reporting that Israel had shot down a Libyan passenger plane, killing more than 100 people. The plane strayed into Israeli airspace and was intercepted by fighter jets demanding that the plane land. The pilot ignored the request, the fighter jets fired upon the plane and it crashed.

 Despite the United States condemning the action, Muslim nations complained that the United States was again protecting Israel. My father went into a tirade.

 “Why is it that every time those damn Jews do something, we’re the ones who get blamed for it!”

 OK, that statement alone would have been bad enough, but Dad told me, “I didn’t use the word Jews. I said those K***s.”

 The K-word.

 Dad paused and I could see this was hard for him. He continued, “Sitting at the lunch table with me was Marc, a guy I’ve worked with for over a decade. Marc is Jewish and the instant that word came out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong. I told Marc I was sorry and he said it was OK.”

 But it wasn’t OK. As Dad explained, that single utterance had thrown up a wall that could never be dismantled.


 Truth be told, my father was in fact a bigot and using that word proved it to Marc. But to Dad’s credit, he took ownership for being wrong and felt it necessary to help me understand how powerful and dangerous words can be.

 And so I learned from his mistake that some words are like bullets that can pierce emotional armor like butter. And once “out there,” you can’t un-ring the bell. His telling me that story was a great gift.

 The K-word. The N-word. The C-word. There’s a long list of words, all of which are designed specifically to hurt, to destroy, to purposely wound and afflict pain.

 Despite what “moral compass” Incognito claims to follow, a single word can in fact reveal one’s character.

 Apparently, Ritchie is well known for bullying others by intimidation, racial slurs, and vulgar threats. And what does Ritchie have to say about this?

 “I just want to clear the air by saying that I’m a good person.”

 Then he did what all bullies do. He blamed the victim and said, “I’d like Martin to explain to me why he didn’t tell me to my face that he had a problem with what I said.”

 Well golly gee, Ritchie, why would a black man have a problem with a “good person” like you calling him the N-word?

 Of course, being a 320-pound guard in the NFL (making $4 million a year) excuses his harassment of others and his foul mouth.

 Unlike my father, Ritchie sees nothing wrong with using words as weapons.

 So dare I use the R-word to describe Ritchie? Revolting? Repulsive? Rancid? Racist? Repugnant?

 Take your pick, Incognito. A good person like you will understand that I’m not judging you.