Banning “the N-word”

From NoGodBlog:

This is stupid, and totally off topic (and my opinion), but I’m going to vent about it anyway.

Nigger is a word. Like kike and chink and faggot, it’s a word of hate and ignorance. But it’s just a word.

I’m just sickened by the concept that some people are trying to “wipe the word out” by stopping people from using it. It’s a stupid idea that will never succeed. And it shouldn’t.

Listen, world, banning a word won’t defeat prejudice, it will worsen it. It will send it underground and breed a segregationistic attitude. If people use it in a hateful context (a la Michael Richards), you learn something about that person, an improtant detail about the user’s attitude. If people censor the word, you lose that identifier.

18 Comments

  1. I agree that words shouldn’t be censored. Here in Scandinavia there have never any kind of bleeping of “offensive” words on TV so to us, the idea of that kind of censorship is very hard to understand. We see it as a kind of 1984 thing and people might refer to it if they should overhear the old line about land of the free, etc… as an example of how the opposite is the actual case. Which is what a lot of people in Europe tend to believe.

    If someone goes too far on a talk show or wherever, he is the one who is making an ass of himself. Whoever he attacked will probably not suffer for it if the attack was of an unprofessional or irrelevant nature, such as through a profanic tirade.

    Btw, since you brought up Michael Richards, I don’t see how he used any words in a hateful context at all. He was merely trying to be a bad boy of comedy out there on the edge kind of person. He was basically trying to be Lenny Bruce. The problem is that he isn’t nearly that good and when you get into the wrong lane it is difficult to get back out. Going further and further just makes it worse and then walking off destroys all credibility whatsoever.

    It was just a case of bad judgement and character acting on the rampage. The idea however of an entire nation turning it’s back on him and everybody having to leave the room because of the deeply offensive things going on there is just silly overreacting.

  2. Yeah, didn’t Bruce say that once you give Nigger the power to offend, it will. But, by repeated use and using it in random circumstances it just becomes a word? As offensive as jerk?
    Also, I think Richards used isn’t a racist. I think he’s got a HUGE ego and someone stomped on it and when bruised, he used the hardest attack he could think of.
    If it was a couple of fat people he would have went into a “fat fuck” rant and nobody would have heard about it.
    There’s a difference between being a racist and just a plain dickhead.
    Check out the commentary on Seinfeld and you can identify Richards as an ego-driven asshole. Pompous even.

  3. As a black person, I take no offense to someone using, saying or even calling me a nigger. I feel sorry for their ignorance. To me words have meaning but no power. Only you can give words power through your reaction.

  4. I used to live in Alabama. Some of my co-workers, but by no means many of them, would still use the term nigger in referring to a black person. I had a car then that needed a new timing belt installed on it, which is a little more than my shade-tree mechanic skills are up to. One of the good-ole-boys at work heard me mention this and said the following. “I know this nigger that does his own private mechanic work out of his house. He’s worked on my cars a few times and he’s damned good. He works a lot cheaper than the mechanic shops and he’ll even loan you one of his cars to use while he’s working on yours. Here’s his number.”
    Now, what had I just heard? Was that hate speach?? He referred business to this man, who did turn out to be as good as was claimed. He gave me his contact information, spoke highly of the guy’s work and pricing, and even offered his personal referral as one of the man’s own customers. I can’t see how his referring to James (the mechanic) as a nigger in any way was done in a hateful or hurtful manner. Use of the word does automatically constitute racism. And, if the black community is so dead set that it does, there should be more blacks speaking out against their own, often frequent, usage of the word to one another. I have never heard the word nigger used so much in my life as when I was in the army and a group of black guys would get together for a game of cards. If you really think the word is so offensive yourself, stop using it when talking to each other. To me, it’s just a word. Racism is actions, not words.

  5. It is interesting that the word nigger is quite often used by people that want to offend, but aren’t really racist. If a white wants to offend a black person, the use of the word nigger is unmatched. I find it very entertaining that rappers are rethinking their usage of the word because of its racial history, but refuse to address their sexist vocabulary and content. Just another case of entertainers trying to grab some media time. And when did Jesse Jackson become the spokesman for back America? If you offend blacks, you have to answer to Jesse. If you are a large corporation, you have to answer to Jesse.

  6. Now, what had I just heard? Was that hate speach??

    No, but it very likely indicates racist attitudes. So what if he was recommending the guy as a mechanic? That doesn’t rule out a racist attitude any more than liking the music of Ray Charles does. If he had been suggesting the guy as a good person to look after your 12-year-old daughter or to handle your share portfolio, your example might mean something. But as it is? No sale on that one (oh, and ‘racisam is actions, not words’? No sale there, either – racism is an attitude – and attitudes can be evinced through both words and actions).

    Secondly, in-group use of a word is irrelevant to its appropriateness in out-group communication. I’ll cheerfully call my mate a cunt, for example, but that does not make it an acceptable word for me to use in general – still less with reference to someone unknown to me. Similarly black in-group use of the word nigger does not legitimize the word in other contexts.

    One thing commenters here seem to be doing in conflating censorship with censure. Nigger is an insulting and derogatory word with a very loaded history; like all words, it derives its meaning from that history and unless and until it becomes (re?)normalized it will remain a nasty racist epithet.

    No one’s stopping you using the word. As with any offensive word, it can be legitimately used in ironic, referential, and other such ways if you have a really good sense of when and how you can do so. In general, though, by using it you clearly indicate that you’re at best an ignorant, insensitive twat with no feel for language and at worst a bigot. And it’s not censorship to say so.

  7. None of the above, incidentally, is to say the word should be censored or stamped out – fanning away the smoke will not extinguish the fire.

  8. The word has painful connotations associated with it. It is deliberately harmful and contributes nothing productive to society. Note that even under the protections of the First Amendment of the Constitutions, there are exceptions for those forms of expression that contribute nothing to society.

    This word is one of those instances. As far as the argument that banning this word from public use will drive it underground to “breed a segrogationistic attitude,” such has been said about almost everything considered vulgar in our culture and banned for the protection of our children. If the word is never introduced into modern conciousness, then neither is are the vile concepts associated with this horrible tag.

  9. If the word is never introduced into modern conciousness, then neither is are the vile concepts associated with this horrible tag.

    I don’t buy this at all either. Racial sentiments exist independently of the word nigger: eliminating the word will not eliminate the sentiments any more than racism can be said not to exist in countries whose language does not contain the word.

    It’s not a question of ‘driving it underground’, though: if the word nigger were expunged from the popular consciousness some other term would simply be coopted. We see this kind of shift in language all the time… For example, in Britain at least the word ‘Spastic’ has become taboo to the extent that the Spastic Society was rebranded Scope. The result? Little children in playgrounds now diss each other as ‘Scopers’:)

  10. This is a case where we don’t have to twist ourself into linguistic knots (like with gender neutral third person pronouns.) If a word gives offense and there are perfectly good alternatives, it’s simple civility not to use it. It’s not hard, really.

  11. Mom was wrong’sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’.She never met all of the experts on this subject. I guess some kids mothers may not of taught their kids this and how to get along with others.

  12. We use many words today that have had very offensive meanings in the past. Consider the referance to negros as blacks. In the 1950s and earlier, negro was the perfectly normal and accepted polite term for persons of that ethnicity. If you called a negro “black” in that time frame you would certainly have offended them and possibly incited a fight. Black was a “bad” word then. Negro is a racial description, much as caucasion is. African American is horribly confused because millions of people who live in Africa are caucasian. Isn’t a white guy living in America but who’s parents are from Johanesburg, S. Africa an African American?? The one area where I see a beneficial simplification of the whole thing is when in the 60s and 70s we stopped being caucasians and the negros and started being just white and black. Not particularly true descriptions but comfortable and non-clinical (like negro and caucasian). As we continue to become a more mixed race population even those milder and more acceptable words will fade from meaning as well.

    Despite it’s negative associations, referring to a person as a nigger is not a sign that they are truly a racist, as outeast asserts. Also, outeast’s referrence to “in-group” and “out-group” usage of words is plain preposterous. It shows deliberate distinction of the groups to begin with (remember, those army card games I described happened in the middle of open barracks, not in closed rooms). In effect, to attempt to be anti-racist, outeast has used racial segregation as a tool. In other words gone so far left that he has reached the right.

    I am a firm believer in the words of the great humorist/philosopher George Carlin when it comes to words. “There are no bad words. There are bad actions and bad people but then there are just words.” He applied that to the famous “7 words you can’t say on television” and he showed how rediculous the concept of a ‘bad’ word was. I feel the same thing. Stop looking under stones for racism. It’s not hidden in people’s words it’s broadcast like a beacon in their actions, from law enforcement to legislators. There’s the enemy. Stop being word police or believing you can tell everything in a person’s heart from their use of a word!

  13. I bet if someone were to ask that mechanic how he felt about it, his reaction would be very telling. I don’t think he’d think it was “okay” as long as someone was giving him business. I bet he’d say that person was a racist. And he’d be right.

  14. Hopefully this hifalutin psychological definition of the N word will set things straight.

    In this freedom loving age when the right to bear arms or bear with harmful words is sacrosanct, there are naturally a few limits. We are free to hunt game and perform target practice with any kind of weapon, save for those devices that are a bit more radioactive in nature. Similarly, we can take verbal target practice at whomever we choose, except that we cannot use words that are similarly radioactive. Take the N word for instance, an utterance whose fallout is so great it can only be mentioned miles away from earshot or snapshot, preferably in desert locations that are far from comedy clubs or the office.

    N words can be defined as words that don’t just insult their target, but everybody who is close to or shares something in common with that target. Thus an N word does not insult a few, but thousands, and without limits can insult the very human race! Of course, we as a civilized people cannot abide by such things, and we impose sanctions against those who develop or use such deadly malapropisms. Given the fact that N words are so dangerous, we keep their usage in check by mutually assured destruction, of the ‘same to you mutha’ variety. Nonetheless, N words do have some value if they are properly constructed. A special class of N words, or tactical N words, keep their destructive range to a reasonable level, and are Ok in special circumstances. Catch phrases like ‘you SOB’, or ‘your mother wears combat boots’ keep fallout to a minimal level of friends and family, but are still used too often as a rather overcompensating retaliation to the more primitive slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Tactical N words have the same destructive power as F words, except that the latter is not radioactive. It is also worth noting that used indiscriminately, N and F words cause their subjects to mutate, and become immune to such repetitive taunts. Ironically, these mutated creatures develop a keen defense mechanism towards all this verbal explosiveness. Some call it a sense of humor.

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