Former NFL player Nathan Jackson makes a full-throated defense of Richie Incognito over at New York. It's worth focusing on Jackson's notion that Richie Incognito was well within his rights to call a black man a half-nigger:
Through the TV screen, Richie Incognito looks like the big jerk. But we don’t understand the context, intent, or perception of the joking that goes on in that locker room, or whether it was perceived as joking in the first place. The voice-mail in question sure sounds like a joke, albeit a bad one: It allegedly involves Incognito using the N-word and offering to poop in the dude’s mouth.
Of course, no one but ESPN’s Adam Schefter takes the mouth-defecation threats seriously. I mean, imagine the logistics there. But that Incognito called Martin a half-N-word is worth discussing. Out in society, the word nigger still excites and appalls, and a white man who is unlucky enough to utter it, even in jest, is forever labeled a racist. But inside an NFL locker room, the meaning of the word has washed out. There are white men who are so close to their black brothers that their lexicon is identical, and they communicate with the same phrases, jokes, and nicknames.
Some in the media were quick to label Incognito a racist, but some of his black teammates defended him. Every NFL locker room is full of proud black men who have a keen eye for the intentions of their white peers. If Richie Incognito said the N-word in a malicious way, those teammates would have taken care of the problem.
The thinking here is unfortunate. If I am found on camera inveighing against "hook-nosed Jews," to call myself "unlucky" would be deflection and self-serving understatement. The word "unlucky" presumes that virtually all adult white men can be found, at some point, in full-on Michael Richards-mode and those of us who would shame them for it are the real culprits.
This is accidental racism, which is to say white innocence, at its finest. Richie Incognito did not choose to employ the most incendiary slur in the American lexicon, so much as he was caught by some peeping Tom (who happened to be the victim.) Riley Cooper didn't physically threaten a black security guard with a phrase that has accompanied some of the worst acts of terrorism in our country's history; some rude voyeur videoed Cooper relieving himself in public.