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To Phil Valentine: Shut Up About Race, Jeremy Lin, and Political Correctness

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In a recent article in the Murfreesboro Pulse shock jock and local conservative talk radio personality Phil Valentine ignorantly discussed the issue of the racist headline that showed up on ESPN about Jeremy Lin, a basketball player for the New York Knicks.

Yes, once again a white man has decided to teach people of color about race and how they are not Chinese or Black, but American. Literally white-washing race out of the picture only satisfies those people who would rather not think about race. Mister Valentine is refusing to see what many people of color -- and potentially Jeremy Lin himself -- consider an important aspect of themselves, simply because it makes him more comfortable to not have to deal with the issue.

It is not, as Valentine asserts, being politically correct to call out a racist headline. Those who shout political correctness every time someone points out an oppressive or hurtful statement, are simply trying to dismiss and ignore the issue at hand, while also ignoring their own power and privilege.

In his article, Valentine wonders if media types would rather call Black athletes African. A good question if you are completely ignorant to race, I suppose. Here's the answer: Black people are Black and Africans are African.

Within this argument, Valentine also refers to "African American" as a "PC term." Refusing to understand that different Black people may want to be referred to by different words or phrases is like refusing to understand that different people have different names. Anyone who, like Phil Valentine, gets upset that they "just don't know what word to use" is, to borrow a phrase commonly used by conservatives against others, looking for something to be upset about.

If obnoxious, privileged folks like Valentine would stop ruining words, then we wouldn't have to rely on more "PC terms" like African American. Just think about it, how many words are there for people of color versus those folks of fairer complexion. The only reason the "acceptable" words for marginalized groups change so often is because the people in power come along and attach all sorts of baggage to them.

The point also stands that Lin is one of the first Asian-American basketball players to become a real celebrity. The fact that Valentine thinks this is comparable to the African lineage of other basketball players is ridiculous. The first Taiwanese-born basketball player, Joe Alexander, joined the NBA in 2008, and both his parents are American. The first Nigerian-born basketball player joined the NBA in 1994, so I'd imagine the novelty has worn off for Nigerians.

On a slightly unrelated note, it's a good rule of thumb to be skeptical of anyone who uses an argument that compares the entire continent of Africa to a single country, like China.

And one must also be skeptical of anyone defending a headline that makes no sense, and also defending a word that doubles as a racial slur.

So a general rule for Mister Valentine: stop talking about race. Because in your attempt to just see Americans you inevitably gloss over people of color's lived experiences and why certain things, like the type of words that have been historically used against them, are offensive. I know this means that you can no long use thinly veiled racism on your program when discussing the President of the United States, the issue of immigration, or voter ID laws -- who am I kidding, you wouldn't know the difference anyways. Mister Valentine, check your privilege.