Cultural Anthropologist Jason Whitlock Finally Explains Street Culture To KC

jasonwhitlockissmoothwiththeladiesRegular readers of this site know that we are no fans of Jason Whitlock, the Star‘s painfully unfunny sports race columnist. His commendable reporting skills have slipped in recent years, replaced by tired rants, pitiable reliance on allegedly hip slang, and odd digressions about the female body. But at long last, Jason has turned his sights to his true passion: explaining street culture to staid white people. Finally! The city has long awaited a professional anthropologist who could delve into the minds of black youth and plumb the depths of their upbringing, bringing shallow and pithy analysis to the pages of a once-great paper. And now Jason has his chance with the little donnybrook over in Lawrence. So prepare yourself, for Dr. Whitlock is about to begin.

Jason decides to kick things off with a little example of just how insanely popular he is. See, he knows famous people!

If you read my columns, you know I like rap music. I use some of the slang in my writing.

If you know me personally, you know I’m friends or friendly with many of this city’s rap artists. You may have seen me out socializing with Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Big Scoob, Skatterman, Snug Brim and the Rogue Dogg Villians. Rich the Factor and I hang out at the same spot before we hit the casino. I’ve never met him, but I think Ron Ron might be Kansas City’s breakout mainstream rapper.

See, this is what we’re talking about. First of all, we don’t need an enumeration of your circle of friends. Second, what’s the point of this phrase: “Rich the Factor and I hang out at the same spot before we hit the casino”? It has exactly one purpose, and that is to promote the interests of one Jason Whitlock, Locally Famous Person. Awful. This should have been struck by an editor immediately. It doesn’t add context, sir — it adds self-aggrandizement.

I’m a grown man. I was raised by two street-smart, employed parents with strong values. I had the support of an older brother, two grandmothers, two uncles, a college-educated stepsister and countless others. As a kid, we moved from the ghetto into a suburban apartment complex. I lived there for nine straight years. My upbringing — except for my senior year of high school — was stable, and then I moved to a college campus.

What is this, a personal ad? All you’re doing in this section is illustrating that, despite your contention, you have exactly no authority or expertise in street culture.

A typical college brawl transpires at a bar or a party and alcohol is usually involved. When groups collide at 10 a.m. in the middle of campus, that sounds like gang activity. I’m not calling the basketball and football teams gangs. I’m saying some of the kids are mimicking the behavior of gangs.

Ah, the classic logic cop-out — almost as bad as the “slippery slope” argument. See what Jason did there? “X has all the characteristics of Y. But X is not Y. X simply exhibits the traits of Y.” This is a stunningly disingenuous argument whose only purpose is to spare the writer the criticism that would come if he said what he really means, which is “X is definitely Y.” Jason, we suspect, would not do well on the LSAT.

Jason then decides to just translate things for all the old, white squares reading this column.

Let me translate these ramblings. Taylor is saying N-words are staring at him in a menacing fashion (muggin) and he’s returning the mean glares. Taylor also is saying he’s always a gangster (G) about it. Morris’ use of the word “cuz” is interesting. As far as we know, Taylor and Morris are not related. Young people now refer to their closest friends as “fam” (short for family). About the only people still using the slang “cuz,” which was popular in the ’80s, are the Crips, a popular street gang. I’m not calling Morris a Crip. I’m saying he might be mimicking the behavior of Crips.

Ah, there it is again! Morris is not a Crip — but he does mimic the behavior. But I only said mimic, so you can’t get mad at me!

They’re kids. They’re swept up in a culture that preaches to them on their iPods that the way to handle any dispute is with violence. Rep your ’hood (team). Never hesitate to put a N-word on his back. Bitches ain’t (spit).

This is a sad, sad day for the local paper of record. You think William Rockhill Nelson ever envisioned the phrases “put a N-word on his back” or “Bitches ain’t (spit)” in his paper? Yeah, probably not. And not because the phrases didn’t exist, but because he likely never thought such blatant self-promotion and purposeful controversy-generation could find its way into his publication.

There’s a fine line between writing insightful, thought-provoking columns which spark debate and writing poorly reasoned columns strictly designed to spark debate. Jason Whitlock crossed that line long ago, and his current work does a disservice to both sports journalism and cultural analysis.


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Filed under Crime, Education, In the News, Jason Whitlock, Media, Race & Ethnicity

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