Recently, a video featuring actor Chad L Coleman from The Walking Dead and The Wire captured his angry response to two passengers on a NYC subway who, allegedly, had referred to him as a 'nigga'. Mr. Coleman stated he overheard a man and woman talking amongst themselves, trying to work out how they knew him and the man said to the woman, "No, we don't know that n*gga", which proved to be the catalyst for his fury.
Given current events (the homicide of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the racist chants of the SAE fraternity of University of Oklahoma), you shouldn't flippantly ignore this man's demand for respect and aghast on how he was addressed. The word 'n*gga' is a bullet in a loaded gun and I empathize with the frustration of Mr. Coleman. Every day we participate in small battles in the fight for respect.
Allow me to give you a glimpse into my own small battle.
I train at very well-known Boot Camp facility in both the States and Europe. Numerous times I have asked the staff at their European facility to refrain from playing tracks with the word 'n*gga'. The receptionist had always apologized profusely for their inclusion on the playlists. Time would go by without incident and then it would happen again and I would receive another apology. The final straw came a couple of weeks ago when I was changing in the ladies room and heard a song with the lyrics "my bitches, my n*ggas" being repeated over and over again, making me feel very uncomfortable; especially when two female clients (both Caucasian) had silently acknowledged the words and stared at me with awkward sympathy.
I discovered a staff member in the employee room, who turned out to be the Manager, and when I told him about my numerous requests for omissions of songs of this nature, his response was: "Well it's not my playlist but I'll consider it", claiming he didn't interfere with music that the trainers or desk staff chose to play. I was livid.
Despite its frequent use in hip hop/R'n'B songs, I personally find this word highly offensive, even though the magnitude of its offense towards those it is directed divides the opinion of the community. If I'm paying to enter a premise, I expect to be respected on all counts.
I sent an email to the studio venting my frustration. My case was that if this word sits on the fragile fence of what is and is not acceptable to use as part of daily vocabulary, especially in a European city where it's not as fully embraced as it is in America, why play it at all? For a respectable, commercial business, it was completely inappropriate.
This was part of his response:
I have thought about what we can do and in all honesty I can't promise that our staff will never again play tracks with offensive language. For one thing, they have many other jobs that require their concentration so more often than not they probably aren't aware of the lyrics.....
..... Our deskers have many other important roles to undertake and do not have the same sort of time to vet each song for lyrics [like radio stations].
....In response to our chat earlier and your email we will remind all of our staff to be considerate of our clients and play appropriate songs. If they do hear something inappropriate, they will change it. If it continues to be a problem then we can consider alternatives, but for now I'm reluctant to do anything like prescribing strict playlists.
In turn, I replied that music that motivates clientele to train in the studio and socialize in the communal areas plays just as an integral role in their business model as the additional responsibilities of their staff. As a manager (which made the situation even more jaw-dropping) his duty is to ensure the staff's playlist does not include racially divisive language; as much as it my responsibility as a Vice President to ensure clientele who come onto my premise of business are comfortable in said environment. There should be consistency in the approach to streaming songs of this nature given that a client has raised a red flag around this issue numerous times. Taking no accountability is just as bad as saying the word yourself.
I'm glad to say that their US counterpart took my complaint more seriously when I informed them about the response I had received from their sister studio.
The important lesson here is to not be indifferent or ignorant to the sensitivity of this issue.
We battle for respect in all walks of life but I shouldn't have to fight for respect whilst running on a treadmill and Mr. Coleman shouldn't have his body of work and characteristics summed up by being referred to as just another 'n*gga'.