November 04, 2009
Tennessee running back Chris Johnson broke a 52-yard touchdown run on Sunday, which is the kind of thing you can't do without excellent foot speed. That kind of speed, Gus Johnson calls "Gettin' away from the cops" speed.
As you might imagine, Gus took some criticism for the comment. Consequently, he has apologized:
"If there is a perception of racism in this analogy, it is not coming from me. People of all races have run from the law. However, to those who are offended, I apologize."
Gus is right, I guess. Have you ever seen "Cops"? There are black people, white people, Latino people, all running from the police. Unfortunately for them, it seems that very few have "Gettin' away from the cops" speed. Or shirts.
True or not, though, the issue isn't that cut and dry. I accept that Gus Johnson made the remark without ill will for anyone, but that's not the point. The point is that remarks like that one, or "He's running like he stole something" are often used in a harmful way, implying that a black man has stolen something and/or has developed his speed while evading the police. Regardless of the intent behind it, it's not something that's completely harmless to say about a fast black man.
Clouding the issue, though, is that I think the expression is used differently in some parts of the black community. One guy might say about a fast guy, "He's got speed like he's running from the cops," not implying that the guy stole something, but that, you know, cops chase black people, whether they've stolen something or not.
It's not a simple thing that I can sort out myself. Context matters. Culture matters. This particular issue will vanish soon, but we'll have to deal with about a million more like it in the future. It's not going to get any easier.
Posted Jul 2 2012
Posted Jul 3 2012
Posted Jun 21 2012