Applied to Terry, what “intent is irrelevant” means is that he is not a virulent, hateful, pitchfork-toting racist who wishes all black Americans were dead and/or on a boat headed to West Africa. No evidence need be supplied to combat that accusation (he sits right next to Curt Menefee! He gave the ball to Franco Harris so many times!), because there’s nothing to suggest that it’s true. I am not worried about Terry’s soul.
But that doesn’t mean everything this sweet man says is automatically harmless. An absence of vitriol from Terry Bradshaw does not equate to an absence of harm from his words. Words still have meaning. Words can still hurt, even if they came from the mouth of a simple, good-natured southern man who means no harm.
Why do these particular words hurt? Why is it bad, because after all, you’re white and you love fried chicken? Because of history. Because once upon a time, this happened:
And this happened:
And then, a few years later, this happened:
And so did this:
So many we’re not totally out of the woods on the black people/fried chicken thing yet. Which, again, doesn’t mean that Terry Bradshaw is a bad person or should be fired or labeled a white devil. But it does mean that he shouldn’t have said what he said, and he should apologize. Not even to Reggie Bush, necessarily, but to black Americans, for perpetuating a stereotype that has been and continues to be used against them.