Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The “P” Word

Phil Jackson’s description of LeBron James’s business partners as his “posse” in an interview published by ESPN on Monday drew an angry response from James, who took offense at the racial connotation of the word.

Jackson was referring to James’ business associates – who, by all indications, are tremendously successful and turning the LeBron James brand into wealth.

When I do a search for the word “posse” the results are as follows, in order:

o   a group of people who were gathered together by a sheriff in the past to help search for a criminal
o   a group of people who are together for a particular purpose
o   a group of friends

The second and third definitions are certainly applicable in the context of this event.  Nothing “racial” here.

The Posse Foundation (emphasis added):

The Posse Foundation has identified, recruited and trained 6,993 public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential to become Posse Scholars. Since 1989, these students—many of whom might have been overlooked by traditional college selection processes—have been receiving four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner institutions of higher education. Most important, Posse Scholars persist and graduate at a rate of 90 percent and make a visible difference on campus and throughout their professional careers.

Posse is one of the most comprehensive and renowned college access and youth leadership development programs in the United States. In fact, President Barack Obama said in an interview in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “One of this year’s MacArthur awardees—the ‘genius’ awards—is an innovator named Deborah Bial. She proposed a model to identify promising students from…urban backgrounds using an alternative set of qualities as predictors of success in college. …The students that are selected form a ‘Posse’ and are provided with extra supports, and end up graduating from selective colleges with a very high success rate.”

Nothing racial here unless one wants to make broad-brushed statements about either the individuals running the Foundation or recipients of the Foundation’s support.  I don’t.

Next is the above cited story regarding Phil Jackson and LeBron James.

Finally, Urban Dictionary:

your crew, your hommies, a group of friends, people who may or may not have your back
me an' my posse gonna hang tonite

Your crew, gang, set, team or group of friends.
"Hey fool, you ain't nothing without your posse."

It isn’t until one gets to the “Urban Dictionary” that one finds a usage that may or may not offer a racial connotation.  However, in order to conclude a racial connotation, one must conclude that a) only people of a specific race might use the term in a manner that might offer a racial connotation, and / or b) only people of a certain race are subject to the application of the term.

Is this what James assumes?  If so, I suggest he takes it up with President Obama regarding his praise of the Posse Foundation.


I find it helpful that “political correctness” and “safe spaces” are increasingly exposed in the mainstream – certainly Donald Trump has contributed greatly to this.  This episode between Jackson (on the political spectrum, pretty far left) and James has received significant media coverage. 

Much, but not all, of the commentary I have heard is questioning the sanity of the response by James (and the sanity of the support James has received by some members in the media.  “Who the he!! knew that ‘posse’ was a racial term?”

For the bigger picture, this is a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. Subjective racially prejudice "terms". In the words of the Church Lady from SNL..."How Convenient"!