April 18, 2012
The (G)n-word: Heresy Hunters of the N****r Mafia
Great. That means America’s late night college bull session about the “n-word” is now in its third decade.
At least, that’s when I was — thanks to the rise of rap music — dragged into this idiotic conversation. (Or more accurately, forced to listen to it from the room next door.)
Three Presidents later, the clock is stopped at four in the morning, and you still haven’t agreed on who gets to say “n*gger.”
Don’t any of you people have jobs?
Now look: words are my profession. Set Hustler’s in-house style guide in front of me and I’m like a cat with an empty box – or, come to think of it, a boy with a copy of Hustler. (Hmmmm… I’m pretty sure we switched from “porno” to “porn” around the turn of the century, no? When somebody still says “porno,” you know they haven’t watched any in a while, if ever…)
See? I’ve let countless sunny summer days slip away while pondering crap like this at my desk. And even I’m sick of this “n-word” business.
Maybe I’m the only one.
CNN was forced to apologize last week after a reporter “used the ‘n-word’ unbleeped” on the air. Now, that does sound pretty shocking, but (white) correspondent Susan Candiotti was merely reading aloud what a (black) murder suspect had written on his Facebook page, and she apologized profusely to viewers before doing so.
Back at the CNN newsroom, the anchor apologized again, after the fact. Then Candiotti apologized again, too.
This came one month after (white) CNN reporter Drew Griffin had also read a suspect’s own words – “nIgger” included — during a live broadcast. This time, the offending words were part of a cell phone recording being used as evidence in a white-on-black “hate crime.”
But wait, there’s more.
After (black) CNN anchor – jeez, Atlanta, test your tap water! – opined that journalists should be allowed to say “n*gger” unbleeped when it’s part of a news story, Whoopi Goldberg seconded him on her morning show The View – and was bleeped for her troubles.
Goldberg recalled the NAACP’s mock “funeral” for “n*gger,” and argued that using the “n-word” euphemism reduced the original nasty epitaph to something “cute.” (In effect, taking the curse off it.)
This isn’t the first time the supposedly unspeakable word’s been bounced around on The View between cooking segments.
Last year (after Herman Cain criticized Rick Perry for formerly frequenting a hunting camp called “Niggerhead”) all the gals around the table tried it on for size.
(Black) panelist Sherri Shepherd’s contribution was particularly unhelpful:
It was here that Shepherd cut in. “When I heard you say it, it was fine,” she told Goldberg. Turning to [Barbara] Walters, she continued, “I didn’t like the way you said it.” In explaining this, Shepherd used the word several more times.
Note that in most of these instances, the word was initially employed by an African-American, who was then quoted by a white broadcaster. And each time, the incident made national headlines.
In other news: cancer remains uncured.
Maybe this is a “Canadian thing,” but I have never said the word “n*gger” in my life, and I’m not sure I could if I had to. When obliged to try – during high school classes on Huck Finn – I came off sounding like the Governor in Blazing Saddles: “Can’t you see that that man is a ni–?”
From what I can make out, the current consensus stands about where it did thirty years ago: black entertainers and academics alike roughly agree that blacks are allowed to say “n*gger” but whites are not.
So, Chris Rock gets an enthusiastic pass, but his former staff writer, Nick DiPaolo, probably shouldn’t have gone there. (Amusingly, DiPaolo – “my nipples are darker than Obama” — has said the other kids called him “n*gger” when he showed up at school every September a few shades darker. Maybe he and his seemingly unlikely boss bonded over that…)
Like the original heresy, this secular “n-word” Gnosticism maintains that only one self-selected group of extra-special people are permitted to wield this most powerful of incantations.
Alas, every heretic’s desperate urge to transform the profane into the sacred is one apparently carved into the human heart. I doubt either mockery or respectful engagement with these linguistic Gnostics will budge them a single jot, tittle or dash.
And so the tiresome “n-word” controversy will never be resolved. At this point, it doesn’t even qualify for lofty designations like “debate” or “dialogue” or “national conversation.” It’s more like that famous production of The Mousetrap, repeated word for word, night after night, on the same West End stage since 1952.
Actors have succeeded actors over time, and costumes and props replaced, but the play’s “surprise” ending always stays the same — and hasn’t been a surprise for a very long time:
The white man did it.