A Facebook post by a top-level Guilford County Sheriff’s Department administrator, and a subsequent article on that post in the Rhino Times, has caused quite a bit of reaction and debate in Guilford County and elsewhere and has even created a lively discussion on social media and internet sites in other areas.
In that Facebook post, Sheriff’s Department Executive Administrative Assistant Catherine Netter argued that the game of Eight-ball is racist because, among other things, victory is achieved by the white ball, the cue ball, knocking the balls of color off the table – culminating with the crowning achievement: getting rid of the eight-ball, the black ball.
It was not long after the article in the Rhino Times appeared earlier this week that a great many comments were posted in response, and the article was linked to by discussion groups elsewhere.
In many cases, those commenting on the claim expressed that they considered Netter’s claims extremely dubious.
On one discussion group dedicated to NC State University sports, one member of that group linked to the Rhino Times article and started the discussion thread, “Now Pool is Racist.” One poster wrote of the theory, “This is THE highest order nincompoopery known to man, not even deserving of a participation ribbon.” Another claimed, “Chess is racist. White goes first,” and that comment drew the response, “Yeah… but black goes first in checkers.”
One commenter on the article called the theory “Straight out of ‘Boomerang.’” In that 1992 hit movie starring Eddie Murphy, one of the characters, played by Martin Lawrence, offers comic relief by seeing racism in virtually everything – and he promotes the “Eight-ball is racist” theory while he, Eddie Murphy and another character play a game of Eight-ball. Others online commented that it was a theory from the Nat X character on Saturday Night Live. That was a running Chris Rock bit in which Rock’s character also at one point makes the claim that Eight-ball is racist.
Some said the posting was obvious internet trolling; however, Netter stated explicitly last week that this was a sincerely held belief. She said at that time that she was not saying that everyone who played the game of Eight-ball was racist because some people were simply unaware of the games racist themes – however, she said in her Facebook post that she’d better not see any black people playing the game of Eight-ball in the traditional way.
Netter suggested changing up the game so that the Eight-ball is used as the cue ball and the game is won when the white ball is knocked off the table. (This could prove problematic on coin-operated pool tables where the white cue ball, a slightly different size than the other balls, is returned to the players when sunk, but the colored balls including the black ball are not.)
Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston is one county official who’s pointed out racism everywhere he’s seen it for decades – and when he was told of the theory last week Alston said he didn’t consider the popular pool game racist at all.
“I have a pool table,” he said. “I play Eight-ball. I don’t think it is racist.”
Another high-ranking Guilford County official who said he didn’t wish to be named said he thought one could make the case that the game of Eight-ball aggrandized the black eight-ball rather than diminished it.
“The whole game revolves around the eight-ball,” he said. “It is the most powerful ball on the table. It controls all the action.”