There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

Malcolm X

The N-word will never die as long as there are young brothers out there who are willing to let it casually fall from their lips like so much manna for racists, basically ensuring that it will never go away. On Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats were bested by the faux underdog Wisconsin Badgers in a gritty game that the John Calipari coached squad was supposedly built to win.  The Kentucky Wildcats were the odds on favorites to go undefeated on their way to winning the 2015 NCAA Basketball Championship since October.  In the immortal words of Jay-Z and Too Short on their seminal collaboration hit “A Week Ago,” “It was all good just a week ago.”

You see, a week ago it was all about C Karl-Anthony Towns being better than C Jahlil Okafor of Duke, and too strong for Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky to successfully guard one-on-one. However, a funny thing happened on the way to cutting down the nets. John Calipari was outcoached by old school stalwart Bo Ryan, Frank Kaminsky successfully drew the Wildcat big men away from the basket with his ability to score from the perimeter, Sam Dekker played like KD-Lite, and the Harrison twins, who were applauded for their mental toughness and resolve all year, each made critical decision-making errors down the stretch. Each were forced to bare the pain of a loss for the first time this season.  As a matter of fact, the Kentucky program hasn’t experienced the agony of defeat much at all since Coach Cal grabbed the reigns of the program back in 2009. 

During the regular season there were plenty of prognosticators who felt that it would have been great if the Wildcats had, in fact, loss some of those close games. Perhaps a loss against the Georgia Bulldogs early this year would have done a world of good. The theorem is that sting of defeat could have steeled them against complacency in the long run. But that never happened and so their loss against the Wisconsin Badgers was all the more crushing.

The matchup of Kaminsky versus Towns had been forecast as one of great interest prior to the Elite 8 and both teams were well aware of that hype. When Towns was asked about his Wisconsin counterpart following defeat, Andrew Harrison expressed his disappointment in the same manner that many other individuals who share a similar background would have;  “Man, f**k that n***” mumbled the 20-year-old Kentucky sophomore.

Perhaps he didn’t realize the mic was hot, perhaps he didn’t care. In that moment, the bitter bile of disappointment led Harrison to express himself much in the same manner that many young Black males would have in a loss, by disparaging the individual who vanquished him. Not coincidentally, that phenomenon plays itself out in everything from rap music, to online gaming contests, and street interactions as well.  However, with this latest widely publicized usage of the N-word, a White male was the target of said disparaging. So now the entire nation is weighing in on its usage; is it really a racial slur when used against White people? Is it okay for White people to use against other White people? Against Black people? Is it okay with an “er” or with an “a’?

It’s all a bunch of bovine excreta.

Never mind the fact that Harrison’s reaction should reflect poorly on Coach John Calipari’s ability to assist in the rearing of conscientious, courteous and respectful young men. Instead, is being framed as reflecting poorly on the culture of Americans of African descent, and on a generation that is often blamed for its continued proliferation.

Neither are fair assessments in the mind of this writer.

I am twice the age of Harrison and have used the exact term multiple times in the midst of a heated basketball contest with far less prestige attached to it than a Final Four contest, and I’ve heard the term used repeatedly as well in these environs as well. And the term was certainly used in my father’s generation, his father’s generation and the generation prior to that. So, the outrage being expressed by many in the majority seems extremely disingenuous from a racial standpoint. The narrative of Andrew Harrison’s post-game composure, much like the Kentucky Wildcats’ loss, should be placed squarely on the shoulders of Coach Cal. It really isn’t about what he said, but when and why he said it in the first place. If I were his coach, and I had heard him say that, I would have immediately gotten up out of my seat, grabbed him by his collar, and personally escorted back to the locker room for a sit down. At that point, to hell with a press conference.

To his credit, Harrison called Big Frank to apologize, and went on Twitter to show contrition for having expressed himself in the manner he did.  Frank responded that he was “over it” when asked.



Perhaps we can learn something from these kids after all. But just getting “over it” is something that is difficult to do when the very racism that spawned the advent of the N-word stubbornly haunts society, while even the wretched word it birthed somewhat evolves past its hateful beginnings of racial segregation and degradation.