I’ll get it for you, if you’re a good boy


Senior Member
Hi everyone!
I've been watching this talk by Tom Mesereau and there was a phrase that I didn't quite understand.
Tom is describing a scene of the cross-examination of Chris Tucker, a witness on the defense side, by the DA Tom Sneddon in the trial of Michael Jackson.
<< YouTube link removed. >>

Since the link to the video I'm talking about has been deleted, I try to specify the video in question otherwise for future reference. The title is "Tom Mesereau - Speech at Harvard Law School Nov 2005 (full version)" posted by FluffyOz. You can find this on youtube. The part in question starts at 31:14 through 32:10.
(I don't know how I can infringe on anyone's intellectual property rights by citing a publicly available video in a way that you can specify the source and who it is copyrighted to, I'm showing my citizenry submissiveness nonetheless...)

Someone has kindly written down the transcript of this lecture (http://vindicatemj.wordpress.com/20...r-on-race-and-justice-part-1-thomas-mesereau/). The part in question is the following:

And Chris, rather humorously, said “I like that picture. Do you know where I can get it?” And everyone kind of chuckled in the courtroom, and the DA said “I’ll get it for you, if you’re a good boy.”

What does the DA mean by this? Does this sound derogatory for black people? Is there any racial innuendo in this that Tom Mesereau could have picked up on if he had wanted to make race an issue?

Thank you :)
Last edited:
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    If Chris is not white, there can be no discussion about the inappropriateness of this comment. "Boy" is a word that was always used by white people—mostly, but not entirely in the south—in addressing adult black men derogatorily. What else the DA may mean would require more knowledge about his character.


    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Cyberpedant has correctly identified and explained the possibly offensive word, "boy", especially "in addressing" black men, i.e. as a vocative.
    Giorgio Spizzi has observed, correctly, that "be a good boy" means "to behave" or "to be on good behavior"—
    in language that we might apply to a child seriously, or possibly to an adult jokingly.
    I would add that prosodically (i.e. with regard to voice stress), "good boy" acts like a single word, with stress on its first syllable, not on "boy".
    In my opinion this fact—the unstressed nature of "boy" in the phrase—makes it an additional step removed from the vocative "boy" that is so offensive.
    So—without "more knowledge about his character"—I imagine it is possible that his only intention was to treat Tucker, in a momentary attempt at humor, as a child,
    without remembering, at the moment, the racial reverberations of the word "boy".
    But this is easy for me to say because, unlike Chris Tucker, I'm not African American. People who look like me haven't been on the receiving end of "boy".
    It would seem that both "humorous" comments—Tucker's and Sneddon's—since they are between adversaries in the courtroom (defense witness and prosecutor),
    would have to be understood as in some degree sarcastic.
    Tom Mesereau, the speaker in the YouTube video cited above, reports the line about "if you're a good boy",
    and then (31:40) pauses, raises his eyebrows, and makes a gesture with his hand—
    all of which I interpret (since he's speaking in the context of a conference on "Race and Justice") to mean "here's an obvious racial slur in the courtroom."


    Senior Member
    So what I understood so far is that
    a) the phrase in question sounds like the DA is treating Chris Tucker as a child being scolded by an adult
    b) especially by the word "boy", which is used by white people to address black people derogatorily.

    Thank you guys! All of your comments are helpful.
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