Standards have been lowered

Friday, September 25, 2009

The disconnect between the words Tyshawn Taylor used on his Facebook page and the ones he had used when speaking in public sent my constant companion — a headache that beats down from the top — to new levels of discomfort, so I just had to talk to him to see which was the real Tyshawn Taylor.

A day later than he should have been and a lifetime better than never, Taylor finally was made available Thursday to discuss his dislocated thumb, an injury incurred in a basketball vs. football fracas, and more importantly, his offensive Internet language that made him sound like he never had sounded or acted like in the past.

I had to know, did he find the word offensive and by the word I mean the N-word (in this case the hip-hop spelling)?

“Do I find it offensive?” Taylor repeated.

Sherron Collins interjected with candor: “I mean, it’s just like second-nature to us.”

Taylor: “It’s a word we use on a regular basis. We probably shouldn’t, but when I’m talking to Sherron, I might say it to him. I might not say it to you, but I might say it to him. It’s accepted when we’re talking to each other. Me putting it on Facebook made it out to be a huge thing. When it’s just me and my friends, it’s not really.”

It was nice to see Taylor blame himself for putting it on Facebook, not others for misconstruing its meaning.

Hearing Taylor and Collins talk about the word was, to borrow a phrase President Obama likes to use, a teachable moment. And a sad one for me. I was raised by parents at home and nuns at school in such a way as to consider it the most offensive word in the language. Now it’s trivialized, which from the viewpoint of this 50-year-old, square white guy, represents an unfortunate lowering of standards, no matter who uses it or what they mean by it.

I asked Collins for his opinion: Is it a bad thing that the word has become accepted?

“I mean, Jay-Z uses it, Lil Wayne uses it,” he said. “I mean, these rappers, we actually look up to and listen to the music. ... But like coach said, we shouldn’t use the word, especially with all the history that’s been brought with it.”

When I saw the word all over Taylor’s Facebook page, I flipped out, thinking he had duped us, hidden his true personality. Armed with knowledge learned Tuesday night at the Lawrence Public Library, where speaker Mark Bouton, an FBI agent shopping a book entitled, “How to Spot Lies Like the FBI,” shared his secrets, I studied Taylor closely. Not a single sign of insincerity.

We might never know his role in the fight with teammates against members of the football team — the fact he was the only one known to be treated at the hospital not-entirely fairly made him the face of it — but I’d be surprised if this is a kid who ever turns the wrong way in life. He’s no thug, which is why he should reconsider using a word thugs use.

It’d be nice if the younger generation — starting with every KU athlete involved in the football-basketball skirmish — challenged itself never again to utter the N-word. To test the degree of difficulty on that, I’m challenging myself never to drop an F-bomb again, not even on the golf course. It won’t be any easier than golf itself, but don’t bet against me.