Please be forewarned, what follows contains objectionable language some may find offensive.The fact I even felt compelled to write those words is an indicator of how far we have fallen as a society and a culture.
First a couple of questions – how many people do you know or have heard about having their career ended for using the words honky, cracker, spic, kyke, hymie, mick, beaner, hebe, greaser, greaseball, dago, guinea, wop, kraut, slope, chink or gook?
Now how many have had their careers ended for using the word “nigger”?Even though being called a honky or a cracker doesn’t really bother me, I don’t like to hear racial slurs used against other people. Even as I grew up in rural Mississippi in the mid to late 60’s, I rarely heard the word nigger used. I heard it more often used in the high school and college locker rooms by black athletes to other black athletes than I ever heard it used as a racial epithet coming from a white person. Even today, that word is the word that cannot be spoken – except in rap “music” or by blacks themselves, to the point the media uses the term “n-word” rather than say the word aloud.
“Nigger” is the Lord Voldemort of the American vernacular.
How about the same questions about the word “cunt” or “bitch”?
It seems that some words are reserved for the use of certain people and if the wrong people use them, there is Hell to pay.
Just look at the controversy just raised about Papa John’s founder John Schnatter using the Voldemort word. He resigned his position with the company. The University of Louisville, in true communist form, is erasing the company name from the football stadium (that was largely funded by a donation for Schnatter) after Schnatter resigned as a university trustee. Several major pro sports teams are cancelling promotions with Papa John’s.
Now look at Michelle Wolf. She insulted people to their faces at the Washington Correspondents Dinner and called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt”. She lost nothing – she was celebrated. Her standing increased within her community. Take Stephen Colbert who said Trump’s mouth was worthless for anything but Putin’s “cock holster”. Same treatment. He was celebrated. How about Jesse Jackson who back in 1984, called New York “Hymie-town”? Didn’t hurt him. Then you have the idiot DC city council member who claimed Jews controlled the weather. Listen to any rap “song” (not that I recommend it) – within 30 seconds you will hear more racial epithets and misogynist or sexually charged language than you will hear in a month in regular conversation.
And what happens?
Nothing. Brushed off. Never mind because shut up racist.
Well, the truth about Schnatter is that he used the term “nigger” in an example about how Colonel Sanders of KFC fame was alleged to have used the word to describe blacks and got away with it. According to the original Forbes story, it cites a source alleging that Schnatter was asked during a May conference call to role-play through scenarios to help him learn to respond to questions about racial issues. The report said Schnatter “also reflected on his early life in Indiana, where, he said, people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died.” The reference apparently was meant to show that he found racism deplorable, but the Forbes magazine source said that multiple people on the call were offended.
Get that? People were “offended” by the mere usage of the word by a white guy regardless of the context in which it was used. The mere vocalization of the word by someone not approved to use it started a cascade of destruction for John Schnatter and the company he founded even as sales (downloads) increased for Beyonce and Jay-Z’s hot new release, “Everything is Love”, on which every single track carries the “Explicit” warning.
For the use of a word to show how much he deplored racism, John Schnatter was professionally destroyed while the rest of the people in my examples were/are celebrated. Their transgressions flushed down the memory hole because those words were used against the “right people”. I mean, after all, Schnatter donated money to Trump and the GOP.
But beyond the political angle, these situations prove that speech is not free when it is weaponized against one group or another. When the mere utterance of a word, even as an example of how much one hates it, can bring an end to your professional life or damage to your personal reputation, this extra-legal weaponization has gone too far.
I don’t particularly like the word “nigger” and am not campaigning for its use – but I do oppose how it, or any other word, can be imbued with the power of a 50-megaton nuclear device with a hair trigger and be used as a mechanism for censorship.
2 thoughts on “Weaponized Language: The “N-word””
By the time I became a teenager, my family had moved from U.S. Army bases to L.A.—– lower Alabama, actually NW Florida, Panama City. Up until we moved to P.C., we had almost always lived on military bases and people of color were always equal to every other grouping of people. Once we moved to NW Florida we had it thrown into our faces the “difference” between the races. I always remember black people being referred to as “negroes”. I really don’t recall hearing them called “niggers” until I heard white locals in NWF refer to the “gangster” blacks by that name. I recall having a family discussion with my parents about this happening at the schools my brothers and I attended. Times have changed.
I have come to view Nigger as a very appropriate designation that encompasses both the attitude and actions of ‘niggers’ as well as the experience of being near ‘niggers’.