I find myself agreeing with commentator Keli Goff: Now that we’re a decade into the 21st century, it’s time for all of us–especially black folks–to retire the N-word. And I have to admit: I don’t mind hearing it used by Mos Def or even Netic of Game Rebellion, whereas I do mind hearing it used by Kanye or Jay-Z. The only difference is that, in the case of the first two, I trust that they’re using it to make a point, not just as a crutch.
Keli wrote an incredibly thoughtful piece on the N-word rant by Dr. Laura Schlessinger (above) to a black caller to her show. The piece was then was subsequently picked up by the Huffington Post. Here’s an excerpt:
By no means am I a fan of Dr. Laura, (as she’s known), but I’m even less of a fan of the n-word, which I find more offensive, more harmful, and more poisonous to our community than Dr. Laura will ever be. So the reason I’d like to thank her is because I’m hoping that her recent on air meltdown will finally help settle a philosophical debate over the n-word that has raged for years. On one side of the debate are those of us who believe that no one should say the n-word — not a white racist and not a black comedian — ever. On the other side are those who believe that if you’re black, you essentially get an n-word lifetime free pass. (I don’t recall ever receiving mine in the mail, but I am black so I must have one lying around somewhere.) But Dr. Laura reminds us why such logic is not just flawed, but dangerous.
She goes on to say the following:
But the fact that she felt justified saying what she did confirms a fundamental reality: Arbitrary rules about who can say the n-word and who cannot simply do not work. Dr. Laura felt justified saying what she did because a host of rappers and comedians continue to validate her perspective.
Keli’s point should be well taken. Don Imus even put forth the same argument as justification for his “nappy headed hoes” comment. And be clear: I’m not trying to stir up another witch hunt on hip hop, as happened in the wake of Imus’s comments. However, when the use of the N-word becomes normalized, one starts to wonder why anyone shouldn’t feel free to use it. Now, I know the answer to that, but it becomes harder to justify when performers with global platforms use it out of course.
Like Uncle Ben (Parker) said to Peter Parker: “With power comes responsibility.” We all need to keep that in mind.
Anyway, check out Keli’s piece here, and let me know what you think.