So I'm sure you've all read the story about that guy from the Philadelphia Eagles who went to a Kenny Chesney concert (why?) and said something like "I will fight every nigger in here." (I'm not going to say "the N-word," because it's childish, dishonest, and there are like 25 words that start with "N," if not more.) This little who-gives-a-fuck event has brought out the absolute worst in everyone.
Now, I'm not saying that people shouldn't be offended by the use of the word "nigger," because it's a fucking repugnant, vile, demeaning term. The word is loaded by hundreds of years of bad history, and I couldn't possibly fathom the spine-chilling effect that word has on people of African descent. I'm sure it's like opening up a wound.
Having said that .... I have a feeling that the guy who said it (Cooper? Is that his name?) is probably not an out-and-out racist. Sure, he said he would "fight any nigger in here," but considering that he's been hanging out with black teammates for most of his life, do you really think he hates black people? And his career is probably over, not because he's a bad player (although maybe he is, I don't know. He's a white wide receiver), and not because of anything he did, but because of words that came out of his mouth. He will be ostracized pretty much for the rest of his public life. (He should be ostracized for attending a fucking Kenny Chesney concert, but that's for another time.)
The word is so loaded, that simply saying it is like evoking some kind of Candyman/Beetlejuice like spell that cannot be undone. The genie ain't going back in the bottle, the bell can't be unrung, and the toothpaste can't go back in the tube. While yes, the word "nigger" is awful, and makes me feel like shit just typing it, do we have to relegate anyone who utters it complete pariahs for the rest of their lives? Paula Deen, who I could give two halves of a fuck about, is basically done for a while because she used the term. Now, I'm not saying that she shouldn't be fired from whatever who-cares tv show she's on: her employers have the right to do with her what they want. But the idea that somehow just evoking the word -- devoid of context, in the Cooper case -- is a career death sentence.
What Cooper said was stupid and ridiculous, but let's put it in context: he said "I'll fight every nigger in here." So yes, he addressed "niggers" specifically. But ... well, so what? I mean, he didn't say that these so-called "niggers" (his words, not mine!) were inferior, or dumb, or lazy, or any of the other countless bullshit arguments that ACTUAL racists use against black people whilst sitting in their own filth and anonymously making misspelled comments on message boards. He didn't pull an Al Campanis or Jimmy the Greek and try and make some simpleminded "Bell Curve" arguments about the mental inferiority of blacks. In fact, I wonder if, had Cooper said something, "I will take on any of you black motherfuckers," that he would have gotten as much flak. He might have, but I don't know if he would have, because he didn't use the loaded word.
[Side note: I often wonder when it's okay for me to use it, and I'll explain what I mean by that. I don't think it would be ever okay to use it to refer to someone or say it to someone, because it's just a terrible thing to do. Plus, I'd get my ass kicked. But like what if I'm rapping along with some of my favorite rap songs, like Wu-Tang's "Shame on a Nigga," Ice Cube's "The Wrong Nigga to Fuck With," or A Tribe Called Quest's "Sucka Nigga." (Forget the fact that they are using the "-a" version and not the "-er" version.) In this case, I am singing along with songs I enjoy, so should I be able to partake in the integrity of the artists' intents? Or should I self-censor so that I say "NNNN" or "aggiN" (radio-edit style), or just cough. I think I should be able to say it when it comes on a song if I'm rapping along with it, but I'm still not sure if that'll get my ass kicked or not.]
So we have one side of the fence that absolutely has to crucify anyone who uses this word: it's not just black folks either. Although Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson might take their megaphones to the streets to protest any use of the word, they are relatively irrelevant at this point (see Tawana Brawley and "Hymietown" for evidence of their charlatanism). But a lot of it comes from whites. Some people call this "white guilt," and while I think there is definitely some of that (we were pretty fucking awful for a couple hundred years), I think a lot of it is "trying to be down-ism," or white folks grandstanding to show how tolerant and caring and loving they are to all people.
(To wit: click this Deadspin link and read the peacocking, holier-than-thou commenter QqqQ, as he deconstructs a silly meme into his humor vaccuum. If you can't laugh at a Reddit meme about a guy named Tyrone, you have no place in this society. Go find something to be ACTUALLY angry about instead of some silly caption. If QqqQ has a single friend in this world I'll eat my fucking hat.)
I think we are going down a dangerous path when simply saying words -- in a vaccuum, completely devoid of context -- are enough to irrevocably, irreparably change your life. Contrition is never enough, only banishment to leper status will suffice. I'm not saying the guy should have said the word "nigger," but take that word out of the sentence and what do you have. There have been people who have said things much, much more inflammatory about people of African descent, but since they didn't use that nuclear word (the other "N" word), they got away with it. Where is the middle ground? I don't know.
I'll tell you where the middle ground isn't, and that is with the mouthbreathing, self-victimizing white person who says something to the effect of "IF A BLACK KIN SAY IT, HOWS COME I CANT SAYS IT?" The argument is this: rappers and young black men throw the word "nigger" around like white people throw around "dude." Is that a great thing? I mean, I don't think so, but I also don't think it's the most egregious thing ever either. The black community -- TO THEIR CREDIT, I believe -- have reappropriated that word to be a term of friendship and camaraderie.
The word "motherfucker" is pretty vulgar, when you think about it. If you call someone a motherfucker, you're basically saying they had sex with their mother. Not nice. But I can't even count on two hands the number of times a week that I call people -- my friends -- motherfuckers. At face value, them's fighting words. But IN CONTEXT -- the key to all human interpersonal communications -- it's not really that bad. I can call my friend that and he'll laugh and he'll call me that too. In college, we used that word more than we used each other's names. We took a bad word and made it our own, and it's cool.
Now here's the difference, if we were in mixed company, and some stranger tried to step to my friends and start calling them "motherfuckers," we might have had some problems. You aren't us, so you can't use our internal terminology around us. Dig?
But the false-equivalency white asshole will say something like, "Hey, I walk through the ghetto (Ed. note: no you don't, you liar) and I hear these thugs say it to each other all the time. If they can say it then I should be able to say it." Bullshit. First of all, you aren't "one of them." The stigma and the emotional reaction of the word is not something you nor your ancestors ever had to go through. You didn't earn it, you don't have the right to appropriate it. And furthermore, I'm PRET-TY sure you wouldn't be using it as a term of endearment. You would be using it to say something like "Look at these NIGGERS," and then a grin would come across your face, like the cat that at the fucking canary, because aren't you so edgy? And don't you just speak your mind??!? And isn't it refreshing when people can be politically incorrect??!?!
No, you're an asshole who wants to get away with swearing in front of mom. One time when I was a kid, I had a friend over and I wanted to impress him, so I went to my mom and said "Hey mom, isn't ________ an ASS?!" See what I did? I said a naughty word. Holy shit, my friend must have been impressed! This is the same thing: white people want to take the short cut to things; they want to be able to use the word, even though they didn't grow up with it, they didn't have to deal with any history of it, and frankly they haven't fucking EARNED IT.
So how about this, white folk, I'll make a deal with you on behalf of my African-American brethren: you can start saying "nigger" if:
- I can call your mother, daughter, sister or wife a "cunt" or a "whore." After all, if you can call women those words, we should be able to too, right? RIGHT?
- You get racially profiled at airports
- You get pulled over when you're just minding your own business because of what you look like
- You -- and only you -- get asked for your id, even though you're with like a half-dozen other whites
- I can use words about your particular European ethnicity, like Dago, Mick, Kike, etc. If I can throw the worst fucking stereotype that exists about your ethnic background, we can make a deal, you filthy Italian greaseball fuck. Or you southern redneck sister-fucking inbred shit-kicking hick? We're cool with all that now, right?
One more rule: you can't say it on a message board, or in a chat room, or in the comfort of your own home or other whites who will guffaw and slap you on the knee when you do it. You have to do it in the middle of a non-gentrified urban neighborhood, with no police or firearms around to protect you. Then we'll really see how fucking brave you really are.
And if you have gone out to purchase a Riley Cooper jersey to "show him support" or to "stop being politically correct," take it one step further. Go to a gun shop, wait for the background check to come back, take your firearm home, take a good long look in the mirror, look at what a victim you've become and what's happened to your life. Put a plastic bag over your head (to alleviate some of the forthcoming mess), put the gun to your temple, and pull the fucking trigger. If you didn't own a Riley Cooper jersey and you're going out to buy one now because he said the word "nigger," you have proven to have zero value in our polite society. Happy trails.