Mr. Tresaugue, you don't get it ("Despite all the recognition, Richardson still complains," April 5). White America doesn't get it. Ultimately what Nolan Richardson was talking about was not gaining respect for himself or his Arkansas basketball team. It is the failure of white America to recognize and/or respect the cognitive ability of people of color. Mozart and Beethoven were "geniuses." John Coltrane and Miles Davis had "inherent musicality." Jerry West and Larry Bird were "heady" and "intelligent" basketball players, while Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan were "great athletes." Dean Smith is the "Michelangelo of coaching." Bobby Knight is the "General." And Nolan Richardson. He is a "great recruiter."

These are code words used in society today. No one would explicitly say that Nolan Richardson cannot coach because he is black, unless that person wants to have the same fate as Jimmy the Greek or Al Campanis. However, if a speaker continuously uses these words to differentiate people who are on the same plane, it says something about the way that person thinks.

I have a friend who is interning at a law firm through a program for minorities, and she was introduced to a client as "our minority intern." I could give you example after example of these code words/actions that give an indication of what society thinks about people of color, but I will leave with this. I was at the bank the other day, and a 4- or 5-year-old blond-haired boy was staring at me and pointing. He thought I was a basketball player. His mother said, "Your dad is 6' 3" and he doesn't play basketball. Why do you think this man plays basketball?" The little boy replied, " 'Cause he's black." A misguided mind in training.

Do you get it now?

Cecil Smart Jr.

Environmental Science Graduate Student Read Next Article