Friday, July 18, 2008

N is for Nada

It is finally revealed!

Not all the secrets that the Bush Administration has been burying, about how they have started unnecessary wars, embraced torture as a policy, and subverted our constitutional rights all these many years -- no, we have now learned the rest of the Jesse Jackson faux pax from his Fox News (Fox News, Jesse, really?) appearance.

Here's the other thing the Rev. Jesse Jackson said on Fox News two weeks ago about Barack Obama: "He's talking down to black people ... telling n-----s how to behave" . . . .
See Fox News: Jesse used n-word. As the Huffington Post reports, Jesse Jackson Used N-Word In Controversial Fox News Tape:
The longtime civil rights leader already came under fire this month for crude off-air comments he made against Obama in what he thought was a private conversation during a taping of a 'Fox & Friends' news show.

In additional comments from that same conversation, first reported by TVNewser, Jackson is reported to have said Obama was 'talking down to black people,' and referred to blacks with the N-word when he said Obama was telling them 'how to behave.'
Referring to Jesse's newest gaffe, The Field Negro wrote an essay on the dust up, White people please just say no to the "N" word, and threw out an inquiry:
No, tonight I want to ask my white friends who are regulars to the fields to give me a little insight into the white psyche. Here is my question: Why do some white folks get upset because black folks can use the word "nigger" to each other, and they can't? (At least not in public) Honestly, what's up with that shit?
His question got me thinking (can you tell I'm getting into vacation mode, I don't want to deal with the serious issues of the day) about the double standard that exists with respect to some words, like Nada.

I think it is part of the anti-affirmative action/reverse racism chip on the shoulder burden that many whites are forced to bear. Using the word is merely a means to overcome that heavy burden.

Sarcasm aside, I was an English major in college, so I have an affinity for words (all kinds of words) and their usage. I agree that there are some words that are just charged. When my daughter was little, I taught her that "shut up" was a curse, because I thought that was such an offensive phrase to use to anyone. Likewise, stupid -- and even worse, retarded, which is much like the word under discussion. Then, of course, are the racial/ethnic slurs.

Truthfully, I believe the difference is in the intent behind the use of any word. If the teller is using a word as an endearment or in jest, no offense is (should be) taken. "Honey" is a good example. Feminists object to that word as demeaning, yet isn't the real problem with the word the intentions of the speaker? Let's fact it, there are times that someone calling a woman "honey" is a good thing, if that person is your parent or sweetheart, for example. One the other hand, a boss snidely dismissing a woman with the term "honey" is one of those Nada moments.

The problem arises because it is often difficult to discern the true intent behind the person uttering the word (especially in the pc world we now live in) that some words have become off limits. Misunderstandings can easily arise over the tone of voice in ordinary communication (and even more so with virtual messages), and so it's not unusual for the underlying intent to be wrongly interpreted. And then there are the mean-spirited bigots, who pretend to be "joking" when they get caught expressing their true feelings. Figuring out those nuances isn't necessary when the people speaking already have that trait or characteristic, whether its race, sex, religion or ethnic background.

In the end, it's really an issue of respect. Yes, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That is, why not just avoid something that we know is offensive, and instead be considerate of others' feelings, when we are aware that it is hurtful to say something that has negative connotations. It's not a law, it's just being cognizant and sensitive to others -- you know, a part of human kindness. Isn't that what it really comes down to?

And, now we're back to the beginning. Some people resent even the slightest infringement on their right to express themselves. If "they" can say it, so can I!! Forget compassionate or considerate. Some people just want the right to be obnoxious -- and bigoted.

Of course, that's not to say that things can't be taken too far. Such as the poor guy who lost his job several years ago over the use of the word "niggardly," which term has no racial connotation (it just sounds like it might) or the term "black hole" (ironically, in science terms, a "white hole" is much worse).

Then there's the issue of whether Nada is a word that should be totally excised from polite discourse? Or is it OK when it's used by members of the same clan (NOT Klan, OK?) or sex or religion? The other Jesse Jackson (not the evil twin Jesse) didn't think so. Not so long ago he said Nay to Nada:
Jackson has called on the entertainment industry, including rappers, actors and studios, to stop using the N-Word. He also urged the public to boycott purchasing DVD copies of the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" after co-star Michael Richards was taped using the word during a rant at a Los Angeles comedy club in 2006.
That may be a good thing, but I should point out that I do believe that there should be one exception to the rule of No Nada. That is in comedy.

The best humor is premised upon being able to laugh at our foibles. And, let's face it -- poking fun at stereotypes is, in the mouth (words) of a true comedian, hysterical. (And note to Michael Richards, that means funny stuff during comedy routine, not racist rant after.) Philosopher and funny guy Steve Gimbel of Philosophers' Playground pondered this topic recently, discussing the brouhaha over Bernie Mac's jokes at an Obama fundraiser.

Think of the best comedians ever. Richard Pryor. Lenny Bruce. George Carlin. They were irreverent, vulgar -- and supremely funny.

We wouldn't want to stifle that. Right?

(cartoon via Bob Englehart, The Courant)

1 comment:

dbrowsers said...

There are not too many of us in this country that have never referred to blacks in our day to day conversation with one another as "Niggers". As demeaning as the word is, according to the dictionary term, it has been ingrained in the American psyche with an indelible mark that is literally a brand on our foreheads. Those who react to its emotional impact must realize that since the call to stop using this word, more attention has been given to its controversial origin and its applicable usage.

I wonder if Mr. Obama has ever been called a "nigger". If so, how did he react to it? Have you ever been called a "nigger"? How did you react to it? I have been called a "nigger" many of times, by both blacks and whites. As a result, I have been angry and I have laughed and gave the person some "dap" for its descriptive adjective connotation that has taken on a solidarity ritual within the black community since God knows when. Nowadays, white boys are calling each other "nigger". Nigger, please! Nigger please! Nigger please! Everywhere blacks and whites assemble and gather you hear the word! Is it a cuss word? Is it a fuss word? Is it ony an "us" word? What kind of word is it?

With its double standard usage in today's American society and as other races and cultures embraces its slang interpretation while making it their own, I doubt if White America cares a great deal about the Media's divide and conquer exploitatives on this matter. The best thing we can do as a people is to move on and quit focusing on how it has diminished the reputation of Mr. Jackson or hurt Mr. Obama! For every finger pointing at anyone, there are multiples pointing back at you. "If God were counting errors, none of us could stand." "He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone." Get my point? Forgiveness is divine, to remember is only natural, but to let go will heal your mind!

Does the so-called Reverend need to wash his mouth out with soap? Maybe so, but so does the FCC and the airwaves of American Media, Film and Print, then maybe, the word "nigger" will gradually dissapear from our minds. Until then, brother can you spare a dime?