The N-Word

Yesterday, Sherri Shepherd, co-host of The View,  brought something to the limelight that has been nagging at me for a few weeks. In the above video, Shepherd takes issue with co-host and boss, Barbara Walters, while the women discussed the pseudo-controversy surrounding 2012 U.S. presidential candidate Rick Perry, who has been under fire over the former name of his hunting club (it was called Niggerhead).

Sherri Shepherd took issue with Walters for using “nigger” in a sentence, while discussing Perry’s club. You can see for yourself that Walters was merely reporting on the Perry story, therefore the use of the word was in context to the story.

Shepherd didn’t care about context, insisting that just hearing the word from the mouth of a white person was too much and made her feel uncomfortable. She went on to insist that Whoopi Goldberg, her fellow black co-host could use the word but not Walters.

Recently,  Alec Baldwin got into a Twitter argument after his thirteen-year-old daughter, Ireland Baldwin, tweet the title to the rap song “Niggers in Paris” by Jay-Z/Kanye West. Ireland got called out by black Twitter followers, prompting her to apologize and prompting Baldwin to go on the defensive, satirically, to defend Ireland’s use of the word.

Both Shepherd’s and Ireland Baldwin’s cases demonstrate what I call misguided offense . It’s offense that lacks common sense and false assumes there is offense.

In Ireland Baldwin’s case, “Niggers in Paris” isn’t just a lyric in the song, it is the title of the song. Jay-Z and Kanye West, despite what they say, share a fanbase with Britney Spears and Katy Perry. It’s irresponsible of them to liberally use the word “nigger” in their songs, only to have misguided blacks then criticize their fans, whichever race they are, for using the words in the same context, also.
It’s Shepherd’s belief is that whites should not say nigger at all, not even in context, scripted or reporting. I suppose Shepherd should also get angry at the non-black actors who appear in the Nas song “Nigger,” for simply uttering the words like instructed. How about non-black actors in scripted shows and movies? Should they be penalized even if they’re simply saying the word in a scripted context? Apparently, the offense lies in the white person saying the word, regardless of context.

Now, I am not defending the right of whites to use nigger, liberally. What I am criticizing is the belief among some blacks, like Sherri Shepherd, that whites using the nigger in context is unacceptable.  I do understand that some whites, naive, ignorant or racist, do believe that all black people call themselves nigger, and it’s important to show this is not the case;  I also understand there is fear that a white person will call you nigger, believing it’s okay because their favorite black comedian or rapper call themselves that and it’s important to let non-blacks know this is not so. No black person I know has ever called me nigger and I, in turn, have never called another black person nigger. However, I find it counterproductive not to criticize blacks who use the word, especially those who influence the young, such as Jay-Z and Kanye West.
 Now, if Shepherd actually takes issue with Jay-Z and West, I’d think more highly of her and give her credit, but she’s hasn’t. She’s speaking out of both sides of her mouth.  Sure, I’d get offended if a white person called me  nigger, but the reality is that blacks who call each other nigger  are not noble either. Nigger is not a term of endearment, even when it’s being used by blacks. In fact, It’s actually used to keep blacks in their place, during slavery and now. When blacks use it, it’s used the same way–to degrade other blacks. So, I’d be offended by blacks calling me nigger, too.

About TCDH

Blogger with an opinion.
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One Response to The N-Word

  1. Hi Mel, this is an excellent post. Context is important and often gets forgotten. Would Shephard expect someone to work into a record shop and ask for a copy of “N-words in Paris”? What about “*Cough* in Paris”?
    The irony is that hip-hop culture has probably done more to promote the use of the n-word around the world than racist white people ever have.

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