A Kansas professor is “under investigation” because the word “nigger” touched her lips, and this supposedly left a student “in tears.” (source)
The professor was teaching a seminar about how to address racial issues. She admitted her view that she didn’t experience racism, so it was hard for her to fully understand it. Here is what she allegedly said:
“As a white woman I just never have seen the racism…It’s not like I see ‘Nigger’ spray painted on walls…”
When I read that, I don’t see someone saying “racism doesn’t happen.” I see someone saying, “when I come out of my house, there isn’t going to be a slur spray painted on the wall that is aimed at me. But, black folks sure have dealt with that in their lives.”
“I tried to preface everything I said with, ‘I don’t experience racial discrimination so it’s hard for me to understand the challenges that other people face, because I don’t often see those,” (source)
But that wasn’t good enough. Five students wrote a letter calling for her termination. The letter reads like someone trying to parody dipshit millennial crybaby language.
But ultimately, the most offensive part of all of this, is everyone writing about it is afraid to use the damn word.
Look, the word she said was “nigger.” Not “n-word.” When quoting her, its ok to use it.
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.
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.