Baltimore City Councilman Points Out to CNN that Calling Protesters "Thugs" Is Just Thinly Veiled Code

Human Rights

A Baltimore city councilman criticized the use of the word “thug” to describe angry youth in his city, saying those who say it might as well “just call them niggers.”


Councilman Carl Stokes was responding to questions about the unrest in Baltimore during a live interview last night with CNN’s Erin Burnett when she mentioned that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and President Barack Obama called the young people causing property damage “thugs.”

“Isn’t it the right word?,” Burnett asked Stokes.

"Of course it's not the right word to call our children thugs," Stokes said. "These are children who have been set aside, marginalized who have not been engaged by us."

Then Burnett interjected with, "But how does that justify what they did? That's a sense of right and wrong. They know it's wrong to steal and burn down a CVS and an old person's home. I mean, come on."

"Come on? Calling them thugs?," Stokes shot back. “Just call them niggers. Just call them niggers. No, we don't have to call them by names such as that. We don't have to do that."

The councilman then asked Burnett if she would use the same language towards her own children.

"You wouldn't call your child a thug if they should do something that would not be what you would want them to do," Stokes said.

Burnett replied: "I would hope I would call my son a thug if he ever did such a thing."

The segment then switched over to former NAACP president Kweisi Nfume, who didn’t engage the use of the word thug and instead focused more on the causes of the unrest that is taking place in Baltimore.

Many have long accused those of saying “thug” of wanting to say the n-word in its place. NFL star Richard Sherman said when people referred to him a thug during his teams Superbowl run in 2014, they really wanted to say the n-word.

Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard Young, who also called the frustrated young people thugs, apologized for using the word.

The city has been in a state of unrest since 25-year-old Freddie Gray died after sustaining fatal injuries during his arrest on April 12. He went into coma April 16 and died April 19. A few has been set for juveniles under the age of 17 and dozens of arrests have been made over the past few days.

Watch video of Stokes’ and Burnett’s exchange here.

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