Fear of a Name

I do not use it. At least not casually. In the following post, I use the word more than I ever have in my entire life up until this point.

I learned the history. I knew what it meant. It was an insult. A horrible insult. And because I knew that there were names which others found just as insulting, I have always done my best to be considerate with my words. I do my best to use words which convey my meaning. And I knew exactly what I would convey with that word or with words which had similar emotional charge to the people around me.

The word of which I write is nigger, but it could just as well be fag, spic, nip, wop, or any of thousands of other words whose only meaning is derogatory towards a particular group of people.

There are black people (usually urban African-Americans to my knowledge) who have decided to claim the word and use it in reference to each other. I understand that desire but I do not agree with it, so I do not partake in that practice.

I know people (usually caucasian Americans) who are confounded by the fact that the above occurs. They feel that it is unfair that the word can only be used by black people in such a friendly fashion. I have on occasion been singled out by these people and told, “it’s not fair! Yes, I know that you do not use it, but you could if you wanted to!

And to me, that seems to come to the root of their issue. Pointing out that not every black person in America does not use the word, and that it is a controversial practice does not help. The fact that there are any people who can use it without reprisal is not completely what gets them. It is that that they feel left out. Discriminated against.

But I am not in that group. So I really want to stop writing about that. I want to write about what I know best. Me. And where I stand.

I do not mind reading or hearing the word when it is in a story or movie. I do not feel like the word needs to be eliminated. It is a word. A very charged and powerful word, but in the end, it is just a word. And so, it should be used when appropriate. When is that? When you want to insult someone’s race and to infer certain things about their intelligence and abilities. Or when you are watching or reading a story which involves characters from certain points in history or who were raised with certain societal influences.

So, when I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it does not bother me to see that word at all. I have not watched Django Unchained but if I had, I suspect that it would be used correctly there. If I were to watch the television show “Quantum Leap” and they used it in an episode about civil rights in the 60s or something like that, I would think that was fine. If I watched a show taking place today, and I saw a person using it as an insult, I would think that was fine as long as the reactions around it were realistic.

But if a person uses it in my presence, in real life without it being a part of a story, they can expect a very different reaction from me. Especially if they are using it in reference to me, my family, or my friends.

I do not believe in banning words. But I do believe in letting people know where I stand.

I will not tolerate being called a nigger. And if you call anyone in my family that around me, I will let you know of my disapproval. I will tell you that if you respect me, you will not use that word in that fashion. And that a lack of respect from you will have consequences.

I do not care if you and your friends have some special understanding where it is OK between you. I am not in that group.

If I do anything which makes you feel a similar lack of respect, I expect you to tell me and I will address it.

And as for the Paula Deen scandal?

I do not watch her show. I do not read her books. I have nothing against her beyond a general distaste for her cuisine. I do not boycott her. Boycotting would imply that I want to buy her books or watch her shows, but do not for some political reason. No. Her products simply do not appeal to me.

So what about her use of the word, nigger? What about her desire to throw a plantation style wedding with waiters dressed as slaves? What about her being dropped from Food Network and her products from Walmart?

Read the above paragraphs again. I have already said it all. Walmart and Food Network have made their stances clear. I am not a representative of either corporation. I just stand for me.


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