Save the word “nigger”

By Marc J. Randazza

A few weeks ago, someone who I despise, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, used the taboo “n-word” on her radio show. She didn’t say it to be mean, nasty, or racist. She was quoting someone else.

And that turned into a shit storm.

Apparently, now the word “nigger” has become so taboo, that even uttering it means that you’re a racist. Despite Dr. Laura’s protestations that “context matters,” the hysterical boob on the phone with Schlesinger decided that since she lost the argument, she would just focus on the fact that Laura allowed “nigger” to pass through her lips.

Dr. Laura was forced to apologize. And now, she’s leaving radio. (source) Personally, I say “good riddance,” because Dr. Laura is a retard, and her show makes its listeners dumber with every minute that they tune in.

Nevertheless, I am with Dr. Laura on this one.

Lenny Bruce said:

it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, “I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet,” and if he’d just say “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” to every nigger he saw, “boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie,” “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” ’til nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.

Just in that quote alone, Lenny Bruce said “nigger” 14 times, yet nobody could credibly say that Lenny Bruce was a bigot.

Of course, context is everything.  Lenny Bruce can say it 14 times, and he’s not a bigot. But, you can whisper it under your breath at someone, and that makes it a pretty nasty verbal barb.

That seems pretty simple to me. Context matters.

I went to law school with a guy who wasn’t the least racist guy I have ever met. He didn’t ever use the word “nigger.” However, he explained to me that he called black people “Canadians.” Why? “So when you see some black person acting like a dumb nigger, you can roll your eyes and say ‘Canadians,’ and nobody knows that you’re being racist.”

Context is everything.

This kind of thing gives critical crybaby theorists and every other kind of “victim studies” blowhard a raging boner. But, for those of us who actually contribute something to society, all it does is get us to a place where the message gets lost in endless quibbling over words. The Newspeak police are so damned hypersensitive that innocent use of the word “niggardly,” a word derived from Old Norse (which means “cheap” or “miserly” can create a national freak out, and even “Water Buffalo” (a Hebrew translation) can be perceived as racist, thus labeling the user as a thinker of racist thoughts, ergo someone who needs re-education sensitivity training.

More times than I care to remember, I meet idiots who quote from the movie “True Romance,” after they ask if “Randazza” is a Sicilian name. I don’t like being called a “nigger” either. I don’t like being called a daygo, a wop, a guinea, a greaseball, or anything of the sort.

But, the words are not magic words that I will not tolerate being uttered by others. There’s a country called “New Guinea.” I take no offense. I don’t insist that we change the name of the Guinea Pig to something less racist.

If we’re going to have words that are so magical, so blasphemous that we can’t use them — EVER — not to quote someone else, not to demonstrate a point, not to use them in any way at all, because some useless bag of shit might feel “offended” at the mere sound of the word, then I want to submit my list of words to the thought police as well.

Or, we could just go with Plan A: Take the power from the word and think about the real issues underlying the discussion. That’s why I will never say “n-word” when “nigger” is what I really mean. Because if I want to be an asshole, I can just as easily say “fuckin’ Canadian,” and it means the same damn thing in a nasty, racist context.

Dr. Laura Schelsinger is objectionable, nasty, and stupid. She should be off the air. But, she should be off the air because the marketplace of ideas rejects her views so resoundingly that listeners would rather listen to a microphone stuck in the ass of a sumo wrestler who eats nothing but Taco Bell. Personally, I think you could learn more from the sumo farting network than you could learn from Dr. Laura.

Nevertheless, the marketplace of ideas did not reject Dr. Laura. The PC police drove her from the marketplace with the torches and pitchforks of “sensitivity”. The fact that the marketplace did not reject her means that either:

a) Dr. Laura’s ideas had validity; or,
b) Dr. Laura’s ideas were bad, but they had not yet run through the crucible enough to be proven so.

Either way, the PC police took something away from all of us when they drove Dr. Laura off the air. Either we lost her correct ideas or we lost the benefit of throwing our own ideas into the marketplace to compete with hers and probably triumph over them.

Don’t let them win.

Please don’t say “nigger” as an insult. It makes you an asshole. It might even get you a much-deserved ass kicking. But, no matter what the word, there is a time and a place for it, and context matters. If we let these fuckheads take ONE word and put it in the “magic words” bin, then the process of linguistic devolution is already complete. Don’t give them that power.

Save the word “nigger.” Even if you save it just so that we can kill it, Lenny Bruce style, by finally making it not mean anything anymore.

31 Responses to Save the word “nigger”

  1. Sahri says:

    I totally agree with you. I just want to point out that having Dr. Laura removed because of this incident could very well create a backlash about how lefty liberal crybabies can’t compete in a battle of ideas. Consequently, they resort to excessive politcal correctness to silence opposition (aka, liberal fascism.)

    You also reminded me of a friend who worked at Easter Seals for years. The word “retard” would send people into fits of apoplexy. I told her the next she was late for a meeting, she should appologize for being “tardy.” You know people would flinch.

  2. Actually, I thought the most prejudicial thing she said in the radio piece was when she told her black bodyguard that white men can’t jump.

    On the other hand, Schlessinger is a business person, and she made a stupid PR move, which impacted her revenue stream. It’s important to realize that there isn’t much more to the story than that. She will move on to other distribution channels that don’t require her to be civil. Glad I won’t be there.

    • Actually, I thought the most prejudicial thing she said in the radio piece was when she told her black bodyguard that white men can’t jump.

      True. I found that to be pretty stupid and ignorant.

  3. blueollie says:

    You might find this to be interesting. Her offense isn’t so much as using the word “nigger” but rather this:

    “See, I’d argue the most offensive thing about Schlessinger’s gaffe wasn’t her use of the N-word, but the air of smug entitlement with which she did so. Conversing with a woman who lives a reality about which she can only theorize, Dr. Laura brushed away Jade’s every effort to dissent or explain. She was not there to engage. She already knew all she needed to.”

    In short, when it comes to dealing with people who aren’t “like them”, too many just assume what isn’t so and refuse to challenge their already held beliefs.

    Yes, that cuts in many ways, and liberals are sometimes guilty of this too.

  4. DMG says:

    “I want to regain my First Amendment rights,” she said. “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.”

    I don’t think she’s being driven away. She’s choosing to leave because she doesn’t want to be criticized when exercising her First Amendment rights.

  5. Justin T. says:

    The most objectionable thing about Dr. Laura is that she holds herself out as “Doctor” on a radio therapy talk show despite the fact that her doctorate is in physiology. It’s deceptive, not to mention that the advice she gives is terrible.

  6. ChadKnowslaw says:

    Did a government body take her show off the air? No?? Sounds like a termination for cause, and in today’s world she can stream a web show on her own if she really wants to spread her whack-a-doodle message. I guess it sucks not having a union to keep you from getting fired for poor behavior. Oh, the Irony!

  7. Justin T. says:

    I saw this over on BoingBoing and I thought it made the point quite well:

    “Laura believes her use of the term illustrates an important point about semantics: that its offensiveness is rooted in context and history, and that we’ll be happier if we look beyond our reactive sensitivitities to better understand our interlocutors’ motives.

    But that “philosphical” point was never really the problem. Context does matter, and the context here was a caller suffering from daily encounters with racial discrimination in her family life. Schlessinger denied the reality of her caller’s problem so she could veer off into a rant about political correctness and language.

    Laura’s not quitting because her constitutional rights are under threat, but because she said the N-Word eleven times in an act of childish transgressive spite and can’t take the heat. People get the criticism of our racial double-standards, but also get that she used that as a specious excuse to turn a caller’s personal problems into an inane tirade about something else entirely.”

  8. Ken says:

    I don’t know, Marc. Though your point about the use and power of language is perfectly arguable, I think it’s an odd direction for a First Amendment hero like you to take when faced with this story. Dr. Laura is retreating into the classic Rightist “political correctness” whinefest, which amounts to “boo hoo, I can’t act like a dick without someone calling me a dick.” As DMG’s quote, above, illustrates, she’s also using it as an opportunity to misconstrue the First Amendment.

    I’ve heard the exchange. I think she acted like an asshole throughout. I don’t think her use of the word “nigger” was the most pungent part of it — that’s probably reserved for her tip-my-hand-of-cards comment about marrying “outside your race” — but I sure thought she was using the words at least in part to wound, while maintaining a thin scrim of an excuse that she was using them contextually. That would be entirely consistent with a lifetime of bad character on her part.

    Dr. Laura has a right not to be imprisoned or sued for acting like a douche. She doesn’t have a right not to be reviled. Sometimes Dr. Laura will be unfair. Sometimes the criticism of her will be unfair. But I find it difficult to muster anything resembling sympathy for her.

  9. Dr. Laura is retreating into the classic Rightist “political correctness” whinefest, which amounts to “boo hoo, I can’t act like a dick without someone calling me a dick.” As DMG’s quote, above, illustrates, she’s also using it as an opportunity to misconstrue the First Amendment.

    Agreed. But, just because she sucks, it doesn’t change my point.

    I’ve heard the exchange. I think she acted like an asshole throughout. I don’t think her use of the word “nigger” was the most pungent part of it — that’s probably reserved for her tip-my-hand-of-cards comment about marrying “outside your race”

    Agreed again.

    I sure thought she was using the words at least in part to wound, while maintaining a thin scrim of an excuse that she was using them contextually.

    Disagree. It didn’t sound that way to me. Nevertheless, its not entirely relevant to my point.

    My point is not that we should feel badly for her. Shit, I think she should have been driven off the air years ago. I won’t miss her bullshit, and I don’t really care if she falls into a vat of toxic waste.

    My point, which perhaps was lost on most readers, was that after a “lifetime of bad character on her part” as you aptly put it, none of her really “bad character” issues got her tossed. It was the utterance of the magic word, “nigger” that did her in.

    I have to reluctantly stand up for her — even though she doesn’t deserve it overall — because she deserves it here. And, I don’t stand up for her because I give a shit about her — I give a shit about how the PC police can shut down debate, and even drive the debater off the stage, if the debater dares utter a single word.

    This really isn’t a First Amendment issue — and that’s why I didn’t tag it as “First Amendment.”

    • DMG says:

      Is she being driven from the stage when she’s choosing to leave? Her contract was up. My impression is that she chose not to sign a new one. I haven’t seen anything that says she was “fired”. It’s not like her employer was going to have any problems with her going forward after this. Limbaugh still gets ratings, too.

      • Thats not really the point. The point is far larger than Dr. Laura. The point is that nobody owns the word “nigger,” and nobody should own it or any other word.

        If you wanna drive someone from the marketplace of ideas, do it by showing that their wares are junk — not by screaming about them using a word.

  10. Linda S says:

    I suspect that this caller was a plant. Think about it.

  11. Kathleen Casey says:

    I always spelled it “dago.” I must have been wrong.

  12. Bob says:

    What ever happened to “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names…..”?

    To me, the only offensive word in the English language is “republican”. Call me a “republican” and you have made a life time enemy.

  13. [...] a fantastic expression of words like “fuck you” and “nigga”.  Context is everything.  An aquaintence of mine called this ‘clever’.  Excellent description.   [...]

  14. [...] Useless Twat played the “nigger card.” Mind you, its not that she used the word, as I said last week, but what a card to play in this round of poker! Professor Useless Twat’s point was to accuse [...]

  15. the american (not clooney) says:

    marc: don’t you think that there is something unamerican about using ethnic and racial slurs to antagonize others? context does matter. it’s not that using the words make a person a bigot; it reflects mean-spiritedness, which is less innocent than pure, ignorant bigotry.

    you seem to bask in your own use of the n-word lately. is it because you understand that there is enough resentment toward blacks in this country that many will rally behind you and your right to use the word? are you going to start calling jews names and explain how much it is your right? no, because that would end your career and your blog. you’re not being courageous with your commentary; you’re being typical and shameful. try standing up for those who have less power than you. that would be courageous.

    • “unamerican” ??? Really???

      THAT is your criticism?

      Unamerican?

      You came here to bring a challenge, and THAT is what you brought?

      you write “there is enough resentment toward blacks in this country” What the fuck is that supposed to mean? I am unaware of “resentment toward blacks” in this country. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a guy with an awful lot of melanin in the White House. I think that the resented-group-du-jour is actually Hispanic / Latino or you would likely get full credit for answering “Arabs.”

      As far as your challenge to me to stand up for those with less power than me … you check out my career history, then I might let you shine my shoes or carry my briefcase.

    • Ernie Menard says:

      I would disagree that the use of the word ‘nigger’ to antagonize a black person is without exception merely mean spirited. Sometimes it’s about teaching the Canadian the lesson that political correctness does not bar the use of responsive in-kind derogatory epithets.

  16. dworkinlite says:

    c’mon, marc. most americans are aware of the presence of racial discrimination against blacks, although they won’t openly acknowledge it. to do so would immediately throw into question their own individual stations in life and that’s something humans are not apt to do – destroy the mechanism for advancement upon which they rely for advancement. you’re clearly no exception – despite your expletives and watch word responses. your responses are as typical as they are intellectually dishonest. but those flaws didn’t prevent the myth of racial inferiority from taking hold in the new world, so i understand why you can feign discombobulation before your complicit american audience. it sells papers, ads, and soothes the feeling that a contemptible regime of systematic racial discrimination has been undone by a civil rights act and the election of a black president. everyone white can take solace in the fact that blacks failure to recover is based upon some inborn cultural defect that makes them not pursue human comforts; that is, self actualization.

    let’s just be honest about two things: starting with the premise that human behavior is influenced by environment or genetics or, more likely, some combination of the two (1) you can’t describe honestly the current state of black folks without referring to the historical discrimination and its very entrenched descendant, institutional discrimination. and (2) the only alternative explanation for the state of human beings with “an awful lot of melanin” is that there is some innate quality or lack thereof that makes them shun success in a society abundant with economic opportunities. the latter proposition is inherently racist and represents the type of thinking that underpins that resentment i referred to. and your denial of this construction only perpetuates it and curries favor with the elements in our society that either don’t know it or don’t want to admit it at the expense of the fragile bigoted ego.

    hello american you’ve been duped about race. you’re gullible enough to believe it exists and you’re selfish enough to pretend that it only makes a difference when it inconveniences you. you can thank me later for holding up that mirror.

    • Okay, now this is funny. What? Did you just finish a “critical race theory” class and needed somewhere to post your Richard Delgado notes? Jesus christ, I can’t believe you wasted the pixels to type this drivel and tripe. Go read the fucking pussies over at Concurring Opinions, those pussies love this kind of shit.

      And honestly, there’s a part of me that thinks that this is just one of my friends pranking me. If so, well played. (Seriously, is this Steve?)

      • dworkinlite says:

        respond to the arguments if they are typical and easily foiled. i haven’t taken any of those crit classes because i don’t believe in those theories. i could critique them for you if you like. but, in the meantime, educate your readers and tell me why you disagree with me. /s/ your friend, steve….

  17. dworkinlite says:

    and by the way, i withdraw for now the unamerican comment. that was a construction of MLK’s argument about americans overcoming discrimination because of our aspirations re liberty and justice. the fact that it fell flat with randazza is a symptom of the sensationalized misuse of the term unamerican in recent years. i should have expected a hack to seize upon that contortionist acceptation of the word for a two-point punt conversion of a topic that requires much more thought than this forum will command.

  18. [...] asshole that neither he, nor the African American community at large gets to own any word – not even “nigger.” Lets take a look at his legal arguments: The school district violated the state Elliott-Larsen [...]

  19. [...] readers of the LS know how we feel about thought control through the implementation of Newspeak.  Apparently, there are at least [...]

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