The Big Ragu’s N-Word Snafu Was Taboo, But He Was Only 14 At The Time

Whenever black culture intersects with the mainstream there will inevitably be some controversy regarding language and wording. However, intent does matter. Recently, there was a great deal of angst and consternation regarding the language used by a then-14-year-old Donte DiVincenzo on his Twitter account, one that reportedly had not been active in two years.  

DiVincenzo says he doesn’t remember using the account to post Meek Mills lyrics nor making gay slurs.  The account in question hadn’t been active since June 2016 and was deleted upon these revelations. Whether you believe him or not, is it this a reflection of the person he is today?

I know its easy to say now, but two years ago, when Villanova was playing in the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden against the Seton Hall Pirates, I saw the young man who was yet to be named The Big Ragu make several big defensive plays in helping his team, who would go on to lose in a close one. I turned to a gentleman in press row who asked which player I believed would be NBA ready in two years and calmly said The white boy. 

He, being a sportswriter and white, didnt flinch. You see, in basketball circles, it used to be the common language to refer to players in such terms. That Irish kid, that Italian kid, that Jewish kid and, of course, that Black kid. 

From its infancy up until relatively recently, basketball was looked upon as a game of the poor, of the working class, and the urban denizen. Larry Bird was said to have used basketball to get out of his own white ghetto.  

That sentence always struck me as being so poetic and beautiful. Perhaps its because it humanizes one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, or maybe its that it romanticizes the tumultuous experiences that drive a young boy or girl to strive for greatness on the court.

Donte DiVincenzo, with awkwardly long appendages and uncommon athleticism, had a certain confidence that I thought belied his years when I saw him as a freshman at The Mecca. His performance in this years NCAA Tournament Championship game only further solidified him as a good player in my mind.

As is often the case in the digital age, a young man got tripped up on something he stated when he was a child.  At 21 years old, you could argue that he still has a bunch of growing up to do. Instead of deleting the account he could have used it as a learning experience for others. But, hey, he’s still growing up.

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This goes a great deal toward highlighting a paradigm that was revealed with the recent disrespect and disdain C-list actor and writer Michael Rapaport exhibited in an Instagram post meant to disparage reality television star Kenya Moore.   To be certain, these two situations are only similar in that two white dudes are both being accused of being disrespectful or ambiguous toward black sensibilities. Thats it. 

While Rapaport was intentional and meant to demean a black woman, The Big Ragu was simply reciting lyrics from a rapper that he just happened to be a big fan of at the time. Every young person can relate to reciting lyrics without fully comprehending the impact of whats being said.  However, it is his youthful age and apparent ignorance to the weight of his words that separate DiVincenzo from Rapaport or the Virginia Womens Lacrosse team. Rapaport knows better because of his lifelong proximity to black cultural norms, while Virginia Tech’s women LAX did what it did when they thought no black people were around. Thus, further solidifying that they knew they were doing something wrong, sneaky, in fact.

Playing basketball doesnt automatically make a white dude sensitive to the black experience. However, playing basketball puts one in close proximity to black people more often than not.  In these settings cultural offerings naturally cross-pollinate.  For example, relative to your average white American, black people cook and eat more spaghetti than anybody I know outside of the Italian diaspora.  

Thats how the cultural exchanges work on a natural level. Sometimes, as when people put sugar in their marinara sauce, mistakes are made.

Eminem once famously stated that he would never use the N-word in his music, and was applauded for that. But he eventually was taken to task for using the term black chicks“, in a song that also states white girls are better, which came out a decade before he got put on by Dr. Dre. Nobodys perfect, and every utterance or misstep doesnt require a total dragging.  

Also, I really question the timing of how these years old tweets were revealed. As was the case when Eminem was taken to task in 2003 for a track he did in 1993, the individuals that go time traveling for dirt at the point when people are near the zenith of their goals are problematic in and of themselves. Like, seriously, who but a hater would do such a thing?

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