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Cultural conversation delves into thug label, Bieber, Richard Sherman

Thug life. We hear this phrase being thrown around in the media, movies and music, but what exactly does it represent? 

At February's cultural conversation hour, the topic of "thug life" was brought up, and a comparison was made between Justin Beiber and Richard Sherman- both young adults who had been receiving a great deal of attention in the media recently.

Sherman is a successful NFL cornerback who graduated from Stanford with a 3.9 GPA. After making the winning play at a game and being pumped up with emotion, Sherman did some trash- talking in an interview. This was spread around very quickly, and people were quick to label him as a "thug." However, as some students pointed out, the media left out the fact that Sherman and Crabtree (an opponent) weren't on the very best of terms, and some rivalry between the two had taken place prior, which contributed to Sherman's trash talk.

On the other hand, Bieber was arrested for DUI, driving with an expired license and resisting arrest. It was also discovered that he had THC (a component of marijuana) in his system, as well as an anti-anxiety medication. However, the media labeled him as a "misguided teen."

In reality, a "thug" is defined as "a violent person, especially a criminal." But Sherman didn't break any laws—and Bieber did. 

So what comes to mind when you hear "thug life?" Is it Tupac Shakur, the 'hardcore' rapper, or Jesse James, the American outlaw? Considering this, it may very well be that Bieber wants to be called a "thug" because he believes it portrays a certain image. But what image is that?

Sherman believes that "thug" is just a more deceptive way of calling a black person the N-word. On the other hand, Shakur saw it as representative of someone with nothing who overcame obstacles to get to where they are. And then you have those who think it's 'cool.'

In a news segment on the topic, psychologist and media personality Jeff Gardere said that people are unfortunately being held to different standards based simply on the color of their skin or their religion.

One student in attendance felt that "[The media] take[s] our black celebrities and smear[s] their name for the littlest thing they do."

As LaShonda Gurley, director of multicultural development, pointed out, many students can relate to the in-your-face bias that we currently see in the media, and how it greatly impacts our perceptions. 

It seems that instances involving minority groups are more frequently reported, with outlets often blowing up the situation in the media, she said.

Nowadays, you can instantaneously react to something posted, and so more voices can be heard, said Gurley. It's good that we're more informed, but negative in the fact that individuals can allow their emotions to affect the situation, and many incorrect of hurtful things can be said.

In terms of the media, Gurley feels that the responsibility lies on both parties. News stations should try to ensure that they have all of the information and represent it in an objective manner, and the viewers need to do their own research and not just accept everything at face value. 

But, oftentimes, being neutral is difficult. And these judgments and misrepresentations not only impact our communities, but the global world as well. 

It's not as much getting angry at the situation, said Gurley. It's more of "how can we fix this?"

Studies have come out saying that by 2050, the minority in America will be the new majority, she said. We have to make progress if we're ever going to make it work.

"The discussion needs to be continued, but action needs to be behind the discussion," she said.

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