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"Niggas" in Practice
June 12, 2012 12:31 PM   Subscribe

"Niggas" in Practice Jay-Z, Gwyneth Paltrow, and when white people can say the word.

Last week... a message was published on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Twitter account that included the word “ni**a” (asterisks hers), prompting a small controversy. Paltrow, who is friends with Jay-Z, had attended a concert in Paris given by Jay-Z and Kanye West. The MCs have taken to playing their hit song “Niggas in Paris” over and over to close out their concerts, and in Paris they did it 11 times straight. The part of the Paltrow tweet that scandalized people read: “Ni**as in paris for real.”

...

The case is significant because “Niggas in Paris” is the most popular piece of Western culture to ever feature the word nigga so prominently. The song is a huge crossover hit with no combative, polarizing agenda, and this, along with its era, makes it distinct from, say, N.W.A’s Niggaz4Life or 2Pac’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. albums, both of which came out right around the time of the Rodney King beating and the Los Angeles riots. The song’s success means that more people than ever are puzzling out the rules of engagement with the word, and you don’t need to claim that we are in (or even nearing) a post-racial moment in order to argue that the meaning and radioactive stature of the word nigga is, to a noticeable degree, in a state of flux. “Niggas in Paris” puts a magnifying glass to this phenomenon.
posted by modernnomad (297 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The case is significant because “Niggas in Paris” is the most popular piece of Western culture to ever feature the word nigga so prominently.

[citation needed]
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:33 PM on June 12, 2012 [18 favorites]


The case is significant because “Niggas in Paris” is the most popular piece of Western culture to ever feature the word nigga so prominently.

Nigga please.
posted by Jairus at 12:34 PM on June 12, 2012 [28 favorites]


How about "never"? Because I think "never" works really well. It's not like white people's vocabulary is horribly limited by refraining from using the word, and Jonah Weiner has done nothing in that article to convince me otherwise.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:34 PM on June 12, 2012 [32 favorites]


The part of the Paltrow tweet that scandalized people read: “Ni**as in paris for real.”

A fine reminder that people are far, far too easily scandalized by Words these days.
posted by critzer at 12:35 PM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


[citation needed]

Do you have a counterexample?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:35 PM on June 12, 2012


Isn't her tweet essentially a quotation, and a partially bowlderized one at that? Doesn't that make this a non-controversy?
posted by OmieWise at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


When you say "the N word"... very NSFW Louis CK
posted by King Bee at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


How about "never"? Because I think "never" works really well. It's not like white people's vocabulary is horribly limited by refraining from using the word, and Jonah Weiner has done nothing in that article to convince me otherwise.

So you think it should have been called "N-Words in Practice?"
posted by Hoopo at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


So now we can't accurately represent the titles of artistic works if they have ostensibly verboten words in them and we are the wrong race to be referencing them?
posted by Aquaman at 12:37 PM on June 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


Do you have a counterexample?

"It is Christie's best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date"
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


How about "never"? Because I think "never" works really well.

So a white person can never, ever discuss this song? Or can they only do so using code words to refer to the title? Do white people need to refer to the song as [Informal and potentially offensive term for African Americans] in Paris? I think that's ridiculous.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Do you have a counterexample?

NWA?

So you think it should have been called "N-Words in Practice?"

I don't know modern_nomad's racial/ethnic self-identification.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:38 PM on June 12, 2012


Well there's white and then there's Gwyneth Paltrow white.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [27 favorites]


ninjas in paris? really, katy?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Using" and "quoting" are not the same thing. Paltrow wasn't quoting the song; she was using the word "niggas" to refer to the authors of the song.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:39 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


White people should not use this word casually. Even used with the best possible intentions, it just makes you look like you're trying to sound cool by including yourself in something that you're not really included in. It's like when somebody's mom says "The Pink Floyd" or something; it's just embarrassing for everyone.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2012 [26 favorites]


Oh, this is precious.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2012


I was really excited about making a Ninjas in Paris joke, but someone beat me to it :(
posted by fbo at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


See, look at me quoting the word! It's amazingly not the same as using it to describe someone, which is not respectful of me as a white lady to do, even where the people in question frequently use the word to describe themselves.

This is not rocket science, Gwyneth.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2012


Didn't Chris Rock already cover this?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wish the song wasn't so awesome because as a hip hop loving white nerd, I don't know how to act around this song when other people are present. It was stuck in my head the other day and my wife caught me saying, "This shit cray", over and over again as I walked around the house. What am I even saying? We both love the song but have never said the title to each other.

This needs a #firstworldproblem Meme.
posted by dogbusonline at 12:41 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


So a white person can never, ever discuss this song? Or can they only do so using code words to refer to the title? Do white people need to refer to the song as [Informal and potentially offensive term for African Americans] in Paris? I think that's ridiculous.

What's so ridiculous about referring to the song as "N-bombs in Paris"?
posted by BigSky at 12:42 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This Jay-z song was pretty popular back in the day, although I don't think that it really crossed over into the pop charts...
posted by beisny at 12:42 PM on June 12, 2012


You cannot use Nigga or faggot, unless you are yourself one. You can use brotha, uncle, or son. Not boy though. And be careful if you sound like Foghorn Leghorn you might not want to use son either, unless he really is your son...
posted by fisolani at 12:43 PM on June 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Never" doesn't work. Mrs. VTX had to read the book "Nigger" for an assignment in college. It was tough because we somehow couldn't find the book in the bookstore even though it was a best seller at the time. We couldn't just ask for a book called "The N-Word" as that's a different book.
posted by VTX at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's fascinating because JayZ was encouraging everyone to say the word, so socially it was ok (not just because he was black). But when the word was repeated in a description of the event, which was outside of the social context, so it was not a ok.

Words, their meanings and social appropriateness are indeed tricky, confusing and rarely make any logical sense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is the Rule:

If you're white you are only allowed to rap along with Kanye and Jay-Z to "Nigga's in Paris" in the privacy of your own home.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


You cannot use Nigga or faggot, unless you are yourself one.

So it is safe to assume you are a gay black man.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


...or your car.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2012


What do we do when artists object to having the content or name of their work bowlderized?

Didn't we just get all fed up when someone tried to posthumously correct Mark Twain?
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a fan of the "in your home or car while rapping along to a song" exemption (aka the Chris Rock rule)
posted by nathancaswell at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2012


At a party once, a friend of mine decided to put on "Amerikaz Most Wanted" by 2Pac and Snoop. This friend and I were sufficiently lubricated, so we did a faux karaoke to the song. I was Pac, he was Snoop. It was fun, whatever, I like that song. For reference, this friend and I are both white dudes.

The next day, a black friend of mine who was also at the party called me and wanted to tell me how uncomfortable us doing that song made her. It hadn't even entered my mind that I had uttered the word "nigga" multiple times while doing my part. I of course wasn't in the business of trying to offend anyone, I just wanted to sing along with 2Pac and my drunk friend.

I apologized, citing ignorance if nothing else. I would never use the word "nigger" as an epithet toward someone. I didn't try to defend my actions, though. I just apologized and promised her I would be more mindful of what I say in the presence of others, even if I'm just singing along with something.

On preview, just take gagglezoomer's advice.
posted by King Bee at 12:46 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Didn't Chris Rock already cover this?

Yes, but that was in his 1996 HBO special. Kids born that year are in high school and driving cars now.

Feel old? I do.
posted by The World Famous at 12:47 PM on June 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


Jay Smooth called “Niggas in Paris” “a resisting-the-n-word endurance test for white people.”

*grips arms of chair as single bead of sweat slowly slides down forehead*

"COOL... DUDES... IN PARIS"

*begins vibrating so hard the sweat starts shooting off face like the sides of a Slip n' Slide*
posted by Greg Nog at 12:47 PM on June 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


It occurred to me the other day that "ginger" is an anagram of the n-word. I am a redhead with a few freckles, and I hereby forbid everyone from using that word unless you also are a redhead with some freckles.
posted by jbickers at 12:48 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: a resisting-the-n-word endurance test for white people.

I'm so sorry.
posted by atbash at 12:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a white guy (sometimes referred to as an OLD white guy, which probably doubles the problem). I used to work in an environment where young, African American's used the word frequently, referring to each other, and, amusingly, sometimes me. I didn't like it, but none of them were bothered by it.

Once or twice I watched as white adult used the word (white kids, from the right neighborhood, could get away with it)... without fail one of two things would happen... less frequently someone would be offended, more frequently, the white adult got stared on like they were a very odd looking, large, smelly fish laying in the middle of a living room, and then people would laugh.

Don't use it, white folks, you'll look like a large, smelly, fish.
posted by HuronBob at 12:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The next day, a black friend of mine who was also at the party called me and wanted to tell me how uncomfortable us doing that song made her.

Sounds like your friend was asking you to respect her perspective while putting no thought into understanding yours.
posted by critzer at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2012


It occurred to me the other day that "ginger" is an anagram of the n-word. I am a redhead with a few freckles, and I hereby forbid everyone from using that word unless you also are a redhead with some freckles.

Been done.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


gagglezoomer:
"If you're white you are only allowed to rap along with Kanye and Jay-Z to "Nigga's in Paris" in the privacy of your own home..."
...under your bed with the lights out while flagellating yourself with a scourge.
I kid, I kid. The original quote is mostly correct.
posted by charred husk at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2012


Isn't she the one with the G**p newsletter?
posted by tommasz at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't she the one with the G**p newsletter?

Yes. That part in Pulp Fiction is her only uncredited film role.
posted by The World Famous at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


So you think it should have been called "N-Words in Practice?"

I don't know modern_nomad's racial/ethnic self-identification.


Does this mean that if I am Asian, Hispanic, white, etc I should have altered my reporting of the title of the article, but if I am black it's ok to just cut and paste it the way that I did?
posted by modernnomad at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sing Or Swim: It's like when somebody's mom says "The Pink Floyd" or something

"Oh, by the way - which one's pink?"
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:54 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm, maybe I should check that I still have my reactionary card, because I agree with Sidhedevil in principle: quoting is usually OK, and using seldom is.

But Paltrow's is sort of an odd in-between thing. Sort of using but also mostly a quote. Worthy of mild scolding, perhaps, but not anger.
posted by tyllwin at 12:54 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like your friend was asking you to respect her perspective while putting no thought into understanding yours.

Maybe, but I hadn't considered hers from the start anyway.
posted by King Bee at 12:56 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's so ridiculous about referring to the song as "N-bombs in Paris"?

Besides referring to the song as "N-Bombs in Paris?"
posted by chunking express at 12:56 PM on June 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


It's like when somebody's mom says "The Pink Floyd" or something; it's just embarrassing for everyone.

Somebody's grandmom. Mom's young enough to know better because she probably listened to The Wall one too many times. Or God help me (because someone who listened to it when it first came out would be old enough to be a mom now) The Division Bell.
posted by blucevalo at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


But Paltrow's is sort of an odd in-between thing. Sort of using but also mostly a quote. Worthy of mild scolding, perhaps, but not anger.

Is there such a thing as kinda-racist?
posted by Fizz at 1:00 PM on June 12, 2012


"The Pink Floyd" isn't really that bad, considering that it was apparently an early iteration of the band's name. "The Nine Inch Nails" or "The Dead Mouse," on the other hand . . .
posted by The World Famous at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Daft Punks.
posted by The World Famous at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I refuse to put asterisks in "nigger" or refer to it as the "the n-word" or the "n-bomb." Of course this only ever comes up in conversations like this where the topic is the word itself. I don't think I've ever said or typed it in any other context.

Why?

Omitting the full word is akin to calling Lord Voldemort "He Who Shall Not Be Named." It gives full legitimacy to the hate that made the word so repulsive to begin with.

I refuse to give anyone that victory.
posted by Tevin at 1:02 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Omitting the full word is akin to calling Lord Voldemort "He Who Shall Not Be Named."

Who to the what, now?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know modern_nomad's racial/ethnic self-identification.

Jonah Weiner appears to be a white man. He is not quoting anyone with the title, despite the use of quotations marks. Was it inappropriate? I don't think anyone would disagree with you that generally speaking, white people should not use the word. "Never", however, is clearly an oversimplification, and would in fact hinder a discussion about, for example, the word itself. And frankly Gwyneth Paltrow's is a clear reference to the title of a song those guys perform, where the title refers to themselves, and they're actually in Paris. I don't think your distinction between "quoting" and "using" is relevant here; it's not as though she tweeted "Jay-Z and Kanye are n**gas LOL"
posted by Hoopo at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2012


Sing or Swim, "The Pink Floyd Sound" and "The Pink Floyd" were early names of the band, so the (Atom Heart) mother in question here could be going all OG on the young people in question. And I really hope that your example is not itself an anachronism--that Pink Floyd is still a marker of cool for a certain type of young person--much like saying, "hey, this is just like all those moms who try to talk to their kids about paunch cards and how many bites they take."


(for my part, my mother referred to my favorite console as the Intendo)
posted by oneironaut at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Somebody's grandmom. Mom's young enough to know better because she probably listened to The Wall one too many times.

My mom was born in 1931. Get off my lawn.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think that Paltrow is some sort of horrible person but I don't understand why it's so onerous just to never say that word at all. It's not like excising the word "the" from your vocabulary.
posted by desjardins at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


On the one hand, I'm basically in the "never" camp.

On the other hand, if you put it in the title of your song, and in the lyrics a gazillion times, with the full knowledge that a huge portion of your audience is white, you bear a lot of the responsibility.

So, while Paltrow was in the wrong here, Jay-Z and Kanye West are about a million times deeper in.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


I agree with Sidhedevil in principle: quoting is usually OK, and using seldom is.

This seems like it should be the case, but what's interesting about slurs is that they are usually impermissible even when quoted. Which suggests that the problematic features of them don't have to do with the semantics.

Omitting the full word is akin to calling Lord Voldemort "He Who Shall Not Be Named." It gives full legitimacy to the hate that made the word so repulsive to begin with.

You might not like the reason that it became taboo, but you don't get to decide whether it's taboo. That's a social matter.
posted by painquale at 1:07 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there such a thing as kinda-racist?

None of it is desirable but should we respond to some minor linguistic faux pas as if she had led a klan rally?
posted by biffa at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2012


Omitting the full word is akin to calling Lord Voldemort "He Who Shall Not Be Named." It gives full legitimacy to the hate that made the word so repulsive to begin with.

I refuse to give anyone that victory.


How has that gone over with the black people you've discussed this issue with?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:10 PM on June 12, 2012


"Omitting the full word is akin to calling Lord Voldemort "He Who Shall Not Be Named."

Who to the what, now?"

I couldn't think of a better analogy. I don't mean to equate the horrible history of slavery and racism in the US to a children's book, but it was the best example I could think of that most people could relate to.

What I mean is: by refusing to call Voldemort by his name, the wizarding world was lending legitimacy to Voldemort's power.

"You might not like the reason that it became taboo, but you don't get to decide whether it's taboo. That's a social matter."

Certainly. And sometimes there is value in breaking taboos and taking another look at them and recontextualizing them. At the same time, it clearly didn't make any difference for ms Paltrow, whether or not she added the asterisks.
posted by Tevin at 1:10 PM on June 12, 2012


The problem with her tweet is that it's not just repeating the song's name, but instead focusing specifically on the use of that word to label those two individuals and, essentially, positing that their conduct in Paris is indicative of the applicability of that label to them for some reason.

It strikes me as equivalent to saying "An American in Paris indeed," and carries the same sort of implied significance - that the incident commented on somehow exemplifies the fact that the person in question is an Americans. When the label is "N**as" instead of "An American," raised eyebrows are to be expected.
posted by The World Famous at 1:11 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is there such a thing as kinda-racist?

No, but I think there's such a thing as being unintentionally offensive without racist intent. It's rare, and claiming it is often the last refuge of a racist, but it does happen occasionally.
posted by tyllwin at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2012


THE SONG IS CALLED NIGGAS IN PARIS.

THAT IS THE NAME OF THE SONG, AND BECAUSE I AM NOT A FUCKING SIX YEAR OLD, THAT IS HOW I WILL REFER TO THE NAME OF THE SONG. THE END.
posted by kbanas at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2012 [33 favorites]


As much as I usually disagree with a message delivered via ye olde CAPS LOCK key...
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:14 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I AM NOT A FUCKING SIX YEAR OLD

I know a certain six-year-old virgin who needs a time out!
posted by Sys Rq at 1:14 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


But she wasn't talking about the song. She was referring to their conduct as being aptly labeled as such, and referencing the song only as an appropriate label for those two gentlemen and their specific conduct in that location.
posted by The World Famous at 1:14 PM on June 12, 2012


"How has that gone over with the black people you've discussed this issue with?"

I dunno, I've only ever had these discussions online, and briefly. This is probably the most engaged I've ever been when talking about. Let's say it's an opinion I have developed but haven't really field-tested.

If any black MeFites have an opinion on what I have said I would really love to hear it. If I am totally off base I would love to hear your perspective.

"THE SONG IS CALLED NIGGAS IN PARIS.

THAT IS THE NAME OF THE SONG, AND BECAUSE I AM NOT A FUCKING SIX YEAR OLD, THAT IS HOW I WILL REFER TO THE NAME OF THE SONG. THE END."

Also, this. Again, putting in the asterisks just calls more attention to the hateful aspects of the word.
posted by Tevin at 1:15 PM on June 12, 2012


Is it OK to have a nuanced view of this? I would like to have a nuanced view
posted by mhoye at 1:15 PM on June 12, 2012 [21 favorites]


The Jay Smooth video in question is pretty good.
posted by nushustu at 1:16 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you're singing (alone or not) or discussing a song or other work that has the word in its title, then just say it. There's no reason to get all uptight or jump through verbal hoops trying find another way to say it.
For pretty much every other context, no.
posted by rocket88 at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2012


The word exists now to make it impossible for white people to do most rap songs in karaoke.

Brilliant move.
posted by inturnaround at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


All right, the song is on American Top 40 and for some reason they bring back Casey Kasem to host that week. How should Casey introduce the song?

Or better yet, Rick Dees.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:19 PM on June 12, 2012


Yeah, in retrospect I agree with The World Famous. She didn't say "Wow, I love the song 'Ni**as in Paris'" or eve "I love the song Niggas in Paris." She used the song title to refer to the singers, who are black men, as "Ni**as".

I recognize she didn't mean any offense but I think it's understandable of people did take offense to that.
posted by muddgirl at 1:19 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I were Casey, I'd say "and here is my old friend, Rick Dees."
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:19 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Certainly. And sometimes there is value in breaking taboos and taking another look at them and recontextualizing them. At the same time, it clearly didn't make any difference for ms Paltrow, whether or not she added the asterisks.

The word is being reclaimed in an interesting way right now. Members of an in-group are allowed to use it, and members of an out-group are not. The in-group can be reasonably confident that when they use it, it's not meant to have fangs. Repeated use of the word without fangs means that the word itself is gradually losing its fangs. If everyone was permitted to use the word, no one could be certain whether it was used in an injurious way, so it would always stay nasty and harmful.

The way for white people to reclaim the word is to let black people reclaim it. It's not your taboo to choose to break.
posted by painquale at 1:19 PM on June 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


THAT IS THE NAME OF THE SONG, AND BECAUSE I AM NOT A FUCKING SIX YEAR OLD, THAT IS HOW I WILL REFER TO THE NAME OF THE SONG. THE END.

I have been calling it "the Hov and Ye song about Paris" or "The song about Paris from Watch the Throne" and "In Paris" on second reference. Hasn't killed me yet.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:20 PM on June 12, 2012


Can we talk about how Gwyneth Paltrow went on a food tour of Spain with Mario Batalli even though she is/was a vegetarian?

Nothing against not eating animal proteins, but just say "no" to doing the show in that case.

This is the same thing-- she's trying to make sure the world knows how cool she is, and she thought this would be cool. It's not cool for a lot of different reasons.
posted by cell divide at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


When have I used it? Only when explicitly requested/made to by a black friend who happened to think it was especially funny in the specific context of our friendship. And it still made me uncomfortable (which I think is part of what tickled him in insisting on it.) This has happened with precisely one person.

Otherwise, only when using a proper name when incorporates it, or invoking the word in order to discuss it, such as in the examples given of book titles, classes, etc....

There aren't really any other contexts when I need to use it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2012


It strikes me as equivalent to saying "An American in Paris indeed," and carries the same sort of implied significance

If the American in question was in Paris doing a reading of his new poem "An American in Paris", sure.
posted by Hoopo at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nothing that emanates from Gwyneth Paltrow is worth considering for any length of time.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:23 PM on June 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


The way for white people to reclaim the word is to let black people reclaim it.

"let"?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


If the American in question was in Paris doing a reading of his new poem "An American in Paris", sure.

Yes, exactly. Which is why it's offensive for her to assert that these two gentlemen, who were performing the song "Niggas In Paris," are also "ni**as."
posted by The World Famous at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2012


Had she tweeted "Listening to 'Niggas in Paris.' In fucking Paris." I think most folks would have been OK with it.

Had she tweeted "These ni***s can fucking sing" nobody would have been OK with it.

She thought, I am sure, that she was making a clever little play on words, and it was OK because it was the song title. She was wrong, and she oughta say "sorry, didn't think about that," but she's more inept than racist, I'd bet.
posted by tyllwin at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


We won't know for sure what she meant until the person she fired who used to tweet for her gives a tell-all interview.
posted by The World Famous at 1:27 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


"let"?

"Not interfere," I mean.
posted by painquale at 1:27 PM on June 12, 2012


Do they still teach Flannery O'Connor's The Artifical Nigger in high school English class? I expect not.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:27 PM on June 12, 2012


"let"?

Oh Christ, whoever wrote that clearly means "let" as in "wait for" as in "let the potatos cool", not "permit."
posted by nathancaswell at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


I am surprised how little of this has focused on the fact that a lot of the uproar is because this came from Gwyneth "crazy white, ultra privileged, way out of touch, insanely annoying, increasingly disliked and I can understand why" Paltrow and not from someone like Justin "less white, generally well liked, not out of touch, not a woman" Timberlake.

If JT had tweeted those words from that situation I am guessing no reaction.
posted by Cosine at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"let"?

Oh Christ,...


Oh, double Christ, whoever commented on the appearance of the word 'let' clearly meant it as a sardonic use of wordplay regarding what is an oft contentious topic about a potentially inadvertent word usage.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:32 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was in the crowd at Coachella years ago during Kanye's set. He was actually annoyed at the audience's reluctance to say the word. In fact, he took time out from his normal lyrics to explicitly give us permission - "White people! Now's your chance! Come on now!"
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:33 PM on June 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


Whoops Roland you're probably totally right.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with Sidhedevil in principle: quoting is usually OK, and using seldom is.

Given the amount of trouble it cause cause someone, avoiding actually saying the word may be understandable. It would avoid there being some documented case of actual use that could be used out of context.
posted by MrGuilt at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2012


I was in the crowd at Coachella years ago during Kanye's set. He was actually annoyed at the audience's reluctance to say the word. In fact, he took time out from his normal lyrics to explicitly give us permission - "White people! Now's your chance! Come on now!"

I would posit that someone seeking guidance on wise social and cultural etiquette should look to some source other than Kanye.
posted by The World Famous at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is no possible utopian future in which racial injustice has been eradicated and white people can say “nigga” or “nigger” all day without any negative effect.

Not when my next door neighbor in 2012 still says to me "I'm glad they are not niggers" talking about our new neighbors across the street. And then, after seeing my expression, caps it with a "I'm not racist."

Racial justice seems still a long way off in the US..
posted by francesca too at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


She was referring to their conduct as being aptly labeled as such, and referencing the song only as an appropriate label for those two gentlemen and their specific conduct in that location.

I'm not sure why you're making a leap to the concept of conduct. What conduct do you think everyone who uses the word nigga automatically implies? In context of the way Jay-Z and Kanye West use it, I think it carries a connotation of something like "black dude" (or sometimes just "dude") without any strong assumptions about conduct, and I assume Paltrow meant it in the same way they do.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, they played the damned song 11 times? Subtlety is not a strong suit for Kanye and Jay-Z I guess.
posted by Hoopo at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


When any word is restricted to a particular populace I don't think that segment should be surprised when it is cooped by others (even in the event of a "reclaimed" word). If you don't like a word, don't use it and let others know you are offended when they do. If you are part of the offended populace and you want to continue to use it, more power to you, but you are perpetuating (and in this case popularizing) the very word(s) you believe others should not be allowed to use.

This said, I try not to take offense on behalf of other people.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:39 PM on June 12, 2012


Given the amount of trouble it cause cause someone, avoiding actually saying the word may be understandable

I would personally avoid it unless there's some real reason not to. If I were a DJ, or something, maybe. But I will forbear to comment on Paltrow's actual wisdom in this matter or any other.
posted by tyllwin at 1:41 PM on June 12, 2012


So... if I do a read-aloud of "Huckleberry Finn" in a high school American Lit class, Metafilter ain't gonna be cool with that, right?

I wind up having this conversation with students all the time. I have to stop them from dropping "N-bombs" on one another. Some say you can hear whether or not the word ends in an "r." Some say you can tell what is meant by the tone. Some even tell me they wouldn't care if they heard me say it.

I tell them I know better, because I live in the really real world, and it's just plain not okay with everybody. I tell them a lot of people would want to punch me, and I wouldn't blame them for it.

So no. I'm not gonna go throwing the term around. But two guys write a song and title it "Niggas in Paris," I'm gonna call it "Niggas in Paris," because at some point you've gotta accept that everything has its context.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:42 PM on June 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


News from 2001: it's not OK for Jennifer Lopez to refer to the "N-word" once, in her song "I'm Real" (Murder Remix), even if her lyrics were writter by Ja Rule for her, but it's OK for Ja Rule to refer to "pussy [N-word] and pussy hoes" in the same song.

In newer news: recently elected French President François Hollande used the song "Ni**as in Paris" (as spelled by Slate) during his election campaign.
posted by iviken at 1:46 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


As others have said up thread, the song is called Niggas in Paris. Referring to it as N****S in Paris is stupid because the person reading that is thinking in their brain, "Niggas in Paris". (Or do well intentioned White people also transform Niggas to N-Bombs in their heads?)

There are lots and lots of examples of people who aren't Black using the word Nigga in appropriately. I'm not sure this is the worse such example in the world.

I'm just a paki so I have no leg in this race.
posted by chunking express at 1:48 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone who's white (and probably anyone who's non-white and non-black) can't say it, ever, under any circumstances, if someone else is hearing you say it. (Yes, the "only if you're alone in your car" rule.) There is apparently no way whatsoever that a non-black person can say the word--and apparently saying "n*****" still counts even though she was trying not to--without everyone getting upset. Period. Even if that's the stupid name of the song and you literally cannot refer to the song if you're the wrong color without people getting mad at you.

That said, I hate the "we're reclaiming it but you can't" thing because it leads to well, awkward situations like this. I just want everyone, regardless of color, to drop this word already.* Kanye and Jay-Z are deliberately putting people in this awkward place by naming the song that, something that only their black fans can say with impunity, and then we get drama like this. Which is why I avoid listening to the rap songs with the n-bomb in them anyway. They're not intended for me anyway, right?

And hell, I am not a fan of Gwyneth in real life as opposed to her acting, but pointing out the joke that there are black dudes in Paris at a concert where the song is being sung (by her pals who wrote it) still doesn't strike me as trying to offend anyone. It's stupid, yes, but she wasn't trying to hurt those dudes.

* though Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle might get some leeway on that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:53 PM on June 12, 2012


That said, Jay Smooth's take on this whole scandal is great so you should just listen to him because what do I know really and he's the best.
posted by chunking express at 1:53 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


reaction by russell simmons.
the-dream discusses the issue.
posted by nadawi at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2012


White women should not be penalized for saying "nigger" in regards to black men because black men got to vote in the USA and enjoy full civil rights before they did.

On the other hand, a white women who uses "nigger" in regards to black women deserves to get her ass kicked, [preferably figuratively] since the black woman can claim to be even more oppressed than the white woman.

In fact, the only people who should be able to use any racial epithets without apology are the natives, the original [screwed] people of the Americas.
posted by Renoroc at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2012


Kanye and Jay-Z are deliberately putting people in this awkward place by naming the song that, something that only their black fans can say with impunity, and then we get drama like this.

It's provocative. Gets the people going.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


Which is why I avoid listening to the rap songs with the n-bomb in them anyway. They're not intended for me anyway, right?

I think it is highly, highly unlikely Jay-Z and Kanye songs aren't meant for you or anyone else of any color who's willing to buy their records.
posted by Hoopo at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


It occurred to me the other day that "ginger" is an anagram of the n-word. I am a redhead with a few freckles, and I hereby forbid everyone from using that word unless you also are a redhead with some freckles.

I encourage people to call me "Ginger" even though I don't have red hair. (But I'm not using the anagram.)
posted by immlass at 1:56 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are there not long, angry threads on MeFi every time a rapper denigrates women, calls her a bitch or whore or talks about beating, prostituting or killing one in a song? Isn't that considerably more insidious than a Gwyneth Paltrow gaffe?
posted by critzer at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


White women should not be penalized for saying "nigger" in regards to black men because black men got to vote in the USA and enjoy full civil rights before they did.

On the other hand, a white women who uses "nigger" in regards to black women deserves to get her ass kicked, [preferably figuratively] since the black woman can claim to be even more oppressed than the white woman.


Wait, what? White women should have carte blanche to say "nigger" because they have historically suffered from oppression too? But not as much as black women, so that's where the line is drawn?
posted by modernnomad at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


critzer, the short answer is because that would be *a lot* of threads. The longer answer is that many of the hip hop threads I've seen here do indeed contain comments to that effect.
posted by Hoopo at 2:04 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why are there not long, angry threads on MeFi every time a rapper denigrates women

I think this thread is pretty calm, all things considered. I mean, the fucking Car Talk thread was WAY more angry than this.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi guys. Here is a public service message from the Ground Rules department. Anyone can say anything they want. Anyone can call anyone out for anything they say. If you assert that people "can't" say something, you are being silly. If you assert that it's unfair that you "can't" say something, you are being silly. You are an adult; you can say what you like. You are an adult; you can take criticism if you say something someone else doesn't like. Thank you for your time.
posted by Errant at 2:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [22 favorites]


My (white) downstairs neighbor used to have a wireless network named "Chick With a Gun." Someone in the neighborhood (which is about 50% white and 25% black, but represents black, b/c you know, white people don't come out of their houses ...) must have asked her to change it, so she changed it to "NiggerNet."

So, of course, when I have a black friend over to my house and she is connecting to my wireless network, she see my neighbor's network and says, "Um, hey, can I talk to you about this ..."

When discussing that story (and only when discussing that story), am I allowed to use the word "nigger."

Is it OK to have a nuanced view of this? I would like to have a nuanced view

Having said all that, I think it's "OK" for white people to use the slang term "nigga" when referring to songs, lyrics, or other names of things (e.g. if some performer calls himself "Super Nigga" I'm not going to refer to him as Super N-Word.")

Nigg-ah and Nigger are two very different words. The latter is never used casually; Black people can say the former as a reclaimed identifier; everyone else is allowed to use it when referencing works or artists.

Edge case: singing along to lyrics with the word in it, e.g. the Kanye example above.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Eh, true. It just boils down to, are you willing to pay the price of lifelong, haunts-you-forever shitstorm for saying this word, that most people are going to get super pissed at?
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2012


Sorry, did not mean to refer to commenters here as angry. I meant the hip hop fans who blogged and tweeted so outspokenly about Gwyneth's crimes, but who always seem to remain suspiciously quiet about misogynist and violent content in so much of the music they love and support. Again, which is more worthy of outrage here?
posted by critzer at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2012


I really, really don't understand the confusion. It's not about the song title, it's about the fact that intentionally or not she called Jay-Z and Kanye niggas. It is inappropriate for a white person to use a slur (even if it's not intended as a slur) to describe anyone.

There's no taking it back crap, or letting someone use it. It's just straight up offensive for someone outside the minority group to a slur. There's no sliding scale of oppresion that will make it all right. Just don't fucking do it. How hard is that?
posted by teleri025 at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


What's so ridiculous about referring to the song as "N-bombs in Paris"?

Honestly, when I heard that I thought we were doing a math problem.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I asked this earlier in a way that was ham-fisted and snarky, but I realized that I actually am curious about this.

How should a non-black DJ refer to this song when introducing it on the radio? If I were a program director, I would be nervous about letting them call it by its title for fear that some of my morning drive guys might decide to try and find shock humor in it.

Some options, I suppose, include not saying the title at all but just saying "here's the new one by Jay Z and Kanye;" having the DJ specifically say "I can't say the full title of this song, but the last two words are 'In Paris'" (which might help folks who don't know the song title find it and download it if they wish); or not say anything about the title or the artists at all. The first and third option don't court controversy and the first probably successfully promotes the song while avoiding the controversy.

I'd also probably take care to screen and pre-record all request calls that are put on the air to avoid further controversy.

Every time a popular song or movie uses the word, I have a brand new group of high school students of multiple ethnic backgrounds who start using the word as a term of affection for each other because the word has become cool. I don't mind explaining to them again and again that its not an appropriate word to use and am glad to have a discussion about communication in different contexts with them, but I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle here.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2012


Either everyone should use it or no one should use it. I don't personally care which, as long as it's never used in a negative context. I don't think language should be race-restricted.
posted by Malice at 2:15 PM on June 12, 2012


A fine reminder that people are far, far too easily scandalized by Words these days.

A fine reminder that a culture's profanity is determined by its fault lines, and that race* has replaced sex and other bodily functions as the fault line in American culture.

(which is why you can say 'penis' in a tv show that airs at 8pm nowadays)

*also gender.
posted by thecaddy at 2:17 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


How should a non-black DJ refer to this song when introducing it on the radio?

The two stations I listen to that play this song just call it "In Paris."
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:19 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Am I allowed to sing Straight Outta Compton while driving, or should I just hum during the offensive parts? I am a middle-aged white guy with a white-collar job and I drive a truck. It is a cheap truck.

Sure you can. So long as you do it like this.
posted by slkinsey at 2:20 PM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't know, as a South Asian, why some whites insistent so heatedly on wanting to use the word. I grew up in the US and it's a really ugly word to me. I automatically just think anyone who uses that word (or the f-word for gay or k-word for Jewish people or calling people from the Middle East derogatory terms or calling anyone any kind of slur) just makes the person look really ignorant or just "off." See John Mayer, for instance.

I'm sure her musician/artistic friends will come to her defense because she's just a really stupid woman who doesn't relate to anybody but wealthy and over privileged people. She uses a lot of name dropping of Jay-Z and Beyonce to appear interesting and likeable. They, in turn, get connections to all the famous godparents and people she knows.

In the end, she's just ignorant and not self-aware, and she's proven it over and over and over again. I don't blame people for having to treat her like an especially slow and clueless child, because she acts like one despite having children of her own, and wonders why the other actresses who are in her financial and social class yet retain like-ability with female audiences. It's because the other actresses don't say dumb, ignorant, and cringeworthy shit all the time.
posted by discopolo at 2:20 PM on June 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't think language should be race-restricted.

i don't think society should be race-restricted. sadly, we live in the world as it is, not as we'd like it to be.
posted by nadawi at 2:21 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whenever something like this comes up, it seems like people think the greatest race crime of the modern era is that white people don't get to use the n word.

It's a word that hurts. A lot. I understand it. I wrote a play about a lynching, and once, in the entire play, a white character (played by a black man), says the n word. The lynching actually happened, and the quote is taken from history.

People in the audience still got upset. There are a lot of black people who just want that word dead and buried. I don't blame them. Many black people feel even black people shouldn't be saying it, and many argue that the word hasn't really been reclaimed, but instead quite a few rappers are using it in its historic context, as an expression of hate -- in this case, self-hate.

I'm not really in a position to tell black people whether or not they should use that word. It's a discussion that belongs in the black community, because they are the ones the word was used against, and I represent the word that used it against them. I know that I can comfortable tell white people that it is a very hurtful word, and they should exercise exceptional caution in using it, because even when used in a theatrical context, when describing and actual hate crime, and quoting from actual history, it still makes people incredibly hurt.

Imagine what it is like to use it casually.

Of course you can use it, if you like. If you really think it's terribly unfair that black people get to use the word and whites don't, go ahead and use it. Many people, including me, will think that you're blithely expressing privilege at the expense of history, civility, and compassion, but if it means that much to you, feel free to die on that hill. But don't be surprised if people think you're racist if you use a word that was invented by racists to express racism.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:26 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


why some whites insistent so heatedly on wanting to use the word.

There's a pretty easy answer to why people might: people they look up to use it. Their rap heroes like Jay-Z and Kanye use it. So they want to use it. It's not that hard to figure out.
posted by Hoopo at 2:28 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've heard people refer to the song just as "Paris", but if she'd just written "Paris, for real" people wouldn't have known she was referring to the song. "Jay-Z and Kanye's Paris, for real" would have sounded really stilted.

IMO, saying "Ni**as" isn't any different than saying "The n-word". The fact is, she did censor it in her tweet. So clearly she was making an effort to be sensitive to people who didn't want to see the word itself.

(I've also heard people say that "Nigga" is actually a different word then "Nigger" which I don't know if I buy entirely)

This is just some bullshit drummed by people looking to drum up some controversy in order to get some page views. There are plenty of examples of actual racism in the world and anyone who actually cared wouldn't spend their time chastising a hip-hop fan for talking about how much she enjoyed a particular song. In fact, this kind of hypersensitivity plays into the "Obsessively PC, looking to be offended" stereotypes that real racists use to promote the image of themselves as victims.
But she wasn't talking about the song. She was referring to their conduct as being aptly labeled as such, and referencing the song only as an appropriate label for those two gentlemen and their specific conduct in that location.
----
Yeah, in retrospect I agree with The World Famous. She didn't say "Wow, I love the song 'Ni**as in Paris'" or eve "I love the song Niggas in Paris." She used the song title to refer to the singers, who are black men, as "Ni**as".
This is probably the dumbest reaction to this I've seen. You really don't get that the expression "X, For real" just means "X is awesome"? It's amazing that anyone is dumb enough to think she was calling Jay and Kanye "niggas". I wouldn't believe anyone could be so dense if I didn't see it for myself.
Also, this. Again, putting in the asterisks just calls more attention to the hateful aspects of the word.
That's idiotic. Some people simply don't like to see or hear the word at all, so censoring it: using asterisks or calling it "The N-word" prevents that from happening. I've never heard a single black person complain about it. Only Louie CK, and random idiots referencing to him.
posted by delmoi at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Surprised that Jay Smooth's take on this doesn't appear to have been linked yet in this thread; but I'm probably just missing it. Anyway, as usual, a good dose of clarity on it can be had in Jay's video.
posted by koeselitz at 2:40 PM on June 12, 2012


You can go ahead and call me dumb, delmoi. You don't have to mince around your opinion that I'm dense.

For real:
(1) are you serious
(2) Say this to show that you're in agreement with a statement someone has made.
(3) I'm serious. I'm not kidding.
...
(5)1. Expression used in situations where you aren't "shitting" and are completely serious.
2. To agree.
(6) not for fake
These are the meanings I am most familiar with. "Awesome" is not a usage I commonly hear.
posted by muddgirl at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2012


" using asterisks or calling it "The N-word" prevents that from happening. "

How in the world does that make sense?

If anyone says, 'N-word' your mind automatically fills those blanks with 'nigger.' Dancing around it with censorship doesn't change that. Now, if I were having this conversation face-to-face with someone and they asked me to please say, 'n-word' I would capitulate because I'm not an asshole. But I'm not going to start there.

They are the exact same thing, except, when I say 'n-word' I'm calling attention the fact that the word has some intrinsic power that doesn't exist.
posted by Tevin at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2012


Actually, it's not a usage I've ever heard, but I don't usually hang out with Ms. Paltrow, so maybe I'm missing some rich white lady subtlety.
posted by muddgirl at 2:42 PM on June 12, 2012


CONTROL F JAY SMOOTH

(Seriously, though, y'all my — wait, never mind.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:44 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


koeselitz by my count, you're the 4th person to mention it, but it's still a good response.
posted by nadawi at 2:45 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


delmoi: I've never heard a single black person complain about [using asterisks]. Only Louie CK, and random idiots referencing to him.

But how do you really feel about me?
posted by King Bee at 2:46 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a pretty easy answer to why people might: people they look up to use it. Their rap heroes like Jay-Z and Kanye use it. So they want to use it. It's not that hard to figure out.

Honestly, I think it's because people love to think of themselves as transgressive and "real", even though they are being racist in a completely predictable and traditional way. The fact that black people use the word as well just gives those people an easy out when it turns out that being "trangressive and real" brings an uncomfortable amount of heat. Actually, like, respecting what black people say about how they want white people to behave would be transgressive, since like the past 400 years of Western history have been about not really doing that ever, but for some reason that hasn't caught on.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is probably the dumbest reaction to this I've seen. You really don't get that the expression "X, For real" just means "X is awesome"? It's amazing that anyone is dumb enough to think she was calling Jay and Kanye "niggas". I wouldn't believe anyone could be so dense if I didn't see it for myself.

Woohoo! I win for dumbest reaction delmoi has seen!

And since smart people are stupid, I can only assume that I'm extremely smart!

I can't believe I'm stupid enough to think that the words "for real" are used to indicate that something is, in fact, for real.
posted by The World Famous at 2:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just another example of clueless, unexamined, unchallenged privilege.

Yes, context matters. And for some of us, it may be easy to not fully comprehend just how racist American society still is. I'm a white chick who grew up in a very, very diverse neighborhood where calling something "ghetto" was common and accepted. When I was teaching in a likewise diverse public school, I off-handedly referred to something as ghetto, and one of my kids called me on it: "Ms. Smirkette, why did you call that ghetto? Did you really think about how that sounds?" (Seriously! Ninth grade girl. Awesome. So proud of her and I told her so.) She was totally right--she had no idea that I grew up in a context where that might be okay, and EVEN SO, my CURRENT context did not make that okay. I apologized and acknowledged just how troublesome my word choice was. Gwyneth needs to do some thinking about her word choices and the larger societal contexts of certain words and woman up to acknowledging lack of thought.

Sure, people can use whatever words they want, but they should be prepared for others to call them out on their word choices.
posted by smirkette at 2:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


If anyone says, 'N-word' your mind automatically fills those blanks with 'nigger.'
In my mind? What, are you psychic or something? I don't actually hear the word "Nigger" when I hear or read the phrase "N-word". Or even "Ni**as" (It sounds kind of like "knee as" in my head)

Again, I've never heard a single black person complain about censoring the N-word. So far, it's only been white people. Do you know of any?
posted by delmoi at 2:52 PM on June 12, 2012



Woohoo! I win for dumbest reaction delmoi has seen!

And since smart people are stupid, I can only assume that I'm extremely smart!
Actually I lied. The guy who said white women were free to use the N-word because they got the vote later is actually #1. You guys are actually #3. after the "The N-Word" is more offensive then "Nigger" people.
posted by delmoi at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


A productive response would be to cite your assertion that "for real" is commonly understood to mean "is awesome!"

A trollish response is to call me an idiot, twice.
posted by muddgirl at 2:58 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't actually hear the word "Nigger" when I hear or read the phrase "N-word".

Of course you don't. Provided your auditory nerve is functioning properly, you should hear "N-word" (or, if you're reading, you shouldn't hear anything at all).
posted by King Bee at 2:59 PM on June 12, 2012


Actually, I probably shouldn't even make that claim. Since I am not you and clearly can't have any idea what it is like to be you, I have no idea what you might perceive the sounds that make up "N-word" to be.

I'm such an idiot.
posted by King Bee at 3:00 PM on June 12, 2012


"In my mind? What, are you psychic or something? I don't actually hear the word "Nigger" when I hear or read the phrase "N-word". Or even "Ni**as" (It sounds kind of like "knee as" in my head"

So when you read or hear 'n-word' you draw absolutely no association at all to the word 'nigger?' I'll believe you if you insist, but I have a very difficult time believing that.

"Again, I've never heard a single black person complain about censoring the N-word. So far, it's only been white people. Do you know of any?"

My opinion is invalid because black people HAVEN'T done something?
posted by Tevin at 3:02 PM on June 12, 2012


I wouldn't worry about it, King Bee. I messed up in-page search, which is probably a little denser than just failing to take into account certain existential qualities of experiential data.
posted by koeselitz at 3:04 PM on June 12, 2012


Honestly, I think it's because people love to think of themselves as transgressive and "real"

That's awfully cynical, and it may be true for some people for all I know. I haven't actually encountered anyone who was "insisting heatedly" on using the word whenever they want. I'm saying this as a white guy that loved hip hop growing up. A lot of my favorite songs featured the word prominently. Kids sometimes develop affectations where they try to emulate how their heroes talk, I knew kids like that and you see them everywhere. Hell, as a teenager I threw around the odd "yo" and "DAMN!". And it's weird not being able to sing along to your favorite songs. Hip hop has only gotten more popular since I was a kid, I can't imagine any of this was unique to my high school because I see it all over the place.

Seems to be a lot of beating on strawmen in this thread. I'm not really seeing a lot of people saying "I should be able to use this word whenever I want and there's nothing wrong with it". I am seeing a lot of "N-WORD IS BAD HIGH FIVES AND FAVES ALL AROUND" like it's breaking news.
posted by Hoopo at 3:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Again, I've never heard a single black person complain about censoring the N-word. So far, it's only been white people. Do you know of any?"

My opinion is invalid because black people HAVEN'T done something?


Naw, dude, it's invalid because many, many black people have specifically said, over and over, that they prefer that white people not use the n-word, and that if white people must refer to it, they use the construction "the n-word." They have asked that you do the opposite of what you are doing.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:06 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't worry about it, King Bee. I messed up in-page search, which is probably a little denser than just failing to take into account certain existential qualities of experiential data.

I'm just a little sad, because while I've definitely admitted being a failure, I didn't think I'd ever be an idiot.
posted by King Bee at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2012


"Again, I've never heard a single black person complain about censoring the N-word. So far, it's only been white people. Do you know of any?"

I've known plenty, but maybe they just got tired of having to repeat themselves for a few hundred years.
posted by smirkette at 3:11 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would posit that someone seeking guidance on wise social and cultural etiquette should look to some source other than Kanye.

I find this to be pretty much the least hip-hop opinion you can hold. Kanye's been rapping insightful commentary about racial relations for years for real. In the case of Niggas In Paris, he's ironically comparing the historical connotations of the word 'nigga' to say basically "you" wouldn't expect (American) black people to be enjoying Paris but Jay and Ye ball so hard they're taking the city over. It's basically a continuation of the "we're black and we've made it so far" thread that runs through both of their collected lyrics.

But for real, true (hip-hop) heads don't give a FUCK about stuff like this. They're too busy, y'know, actually listening to rap.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 3:12 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


If any black MeFites have an opinion on what I have said I would really love to hear it.

It is with supreme effort and trepidation that this black Mefite (actually more of a butterscotch) writes "What sort of battle do you think you're winning by writing the word 'nigger' and not using asterisks?

I'm not sure I'll read your response and if I do, whether I'll respond to it. There is something profoundly distasteful about even engaging with someone who'd write that.

You really need a black Mefite to verify whether what you've written makes sense or is offensive? Really? Use your own damn head.

My shift as the Black Mefite Soundingboard In Residence is over in 10 minutes. There's a Switched at Birth marathon going on in the living room and that sounds much more interesting than this discussion.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:12 PM on June 12, 2012 [19 favorites]


Alright, now imagine Gwyneth and Jay-Z are touring a recreation of one of the sets from Alien...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2012


A productive response would be to cite your assertion that "for real" is commonly understood to mean "is awesome!"
You really believe that when Gweneth said "Ni**as in paris, for real" she meant that there were really black people in Paris?
Of course you don't. Provided your auditory nerve is functioning properly, you should hear "N-word" (or, if you're reading, you shouldn't hear anything at all).
Most people do hear what they read as they read.

Anyway, one of you people wrote:
If anyone says, 'N-word' your mind automatically fills those blanks with 'nigger.'
And if you'd actually watched the Louie CK that you'd linked too, he says the same thing. That the word is literally "put in his head" and it makes him "say it in his head"

So, are you saying that's incorrect? And that you disagree with Tevin and Louie CK? That seeing or hearing the phrase "The N-Word" doesn't actually cause someone to see or hear the word "Nigger"? Because if so, then you would be agreeing with me, and disagreeing with CK.

In which case, the fact that you seem so bitter about it indicates that you can't be too bright.
posted by delmoi at 3:15 PM on June 12, 2012


What a stupid, ugly thing to even try and stake ownership in. I've heard so much "BUT WE CAN USE THE WORD TOO BECAUSE IT'S IRONIC" bullshit from my fellow white people that it's enough to make me throw up. Win the battle, lose the war. Yeah, makes perfect sense.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 3:19 PM on June 12, 2012


Snarl Furillo OK, well, that makes sense.

Brandon Blatcher "I'm not sure I'll read your response and if I do, whether I'll respond to it. There is something profoundly distasteful about even engaging with someone who'd write that."

In all seriousness, thank you for your response. I really don't want to offend. Let me reiterate: the only time I would ever type it is when talking about it. I would never use it to refer to another person. I don't know if that changes your opinion of me.

As to why, I think it's OK?

I'm just tired of pretending like not-saying it makes it go away? When I censor myself by saying 'n-word' I feel like I'm giving some sort of approval to my entire wretched ancestry that made the word so abhorrent. I'm saying, 'you destroyed these two syllables, and I'm going to cover it all up for you.'

That's how I feel when I say 'n-word.' I feel like I'm covering up something horrible.
posted by Tevin at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2012


I like Louie C.K., but I look to him for how to address racism against black people to the same extent I look to George Carlin to tell me that rape can be funny.

Comedians tend to have strong opinions, and express them forcefully. That doesn't mean they are right, no matter how intelligent or sophisticated they may be. I think Louie C.K. was wrong in this case, and I think he was wrong because he didn't understand that there are a lot of white people looking for permission to say the n-word, and he accidentally gave it to him, in that he made it seem that it is somehow more honest, and if you are going to say "n-word" to might as well say that word. I don't blame him for not understanding how complicated this is. I only know it because Richard Pryor wrestled with it. He used the word very deliberately, and obviously he was black, but eventually he stopped because it just seemed to encourage white audience members to use the word.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:22 PM on June 12, 2012


That the word is literally "put in his head" and it makes him "say it in his head"

Which you're saying is the same as some sort of hallucination or something? Huh? I don't even.

What the hell are you even arguing?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:22 PM on June 12, 2012


I take back what I said about this thread not being fighty.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:24 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tevin: “That's how I feel when I say 'n-word.' I feel like I'm covering up something horrible.”

Indeed. If other people are bothered by something horrible, if they find it offensive, why would you want to cover it up?
posted by koeselitz at 3:28 PM on June 12, 2012


So when you read or hear 'n-word' you draw absolutely no association at all to the word 'nigger?' -- King Bee
No.
My opinion is invalid because black people HAVEN'T done something? -- King Bee
You're opinion about how offensive the word "Nigger" compared to "The N-Word" is to black people? Or do you think the important thing here is not offending white people?

Anyway, I do think that Writing "Ni**as in paris, for real" is actually different and not equivalent to writing "Niggas in paris, for real" in a tweet. However, I don't think her doing so is really very offensive at all.
That's how I feel when I say 'n-word.' I feel like I'm covering up something horrible. --Tevin
Here's the awesome thing: if you want you can say neither!
Which you're saying is the same as some sort of hallucination or something? Huh? I don't even.
Yes? I have no idea how else you would interpret those words. He says that when he hears "the N-Word" he literally says it in his own head, and is offended by being forced to do so. It's a very bizarre statement and seems to imply he literally does hear the word in his head, and is offended by it. And that therefore "The N-Word" is actually more offensive to him then the word "Nigger".

Which is completely idiotic. Not the least of which because the point of censoring it isn't to avoid offending white people.
posted by delmoi at 3:29 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I forget that sarcasm doesn't play well on the internet. The answer is: you cover up horrible things in order to avoid hurting people.
posted by koeselitz at 3:29 PM on June 12, 2012


(And, yeah – I like Louis CK, but he's flat wrong on this one.)
posted by koeselitz at 3:30 PM on June 12, 2012


I find this to be pretty much the least hip-hop opinion you can hold.

I pride myself on holding very few opinions that are quantifiably hip-hop.

Kanye's been rapping insightful commentary about racial relations for years for real.

Can someone please track down delmoi so we can get a call on whether or not this usage of "for real" is proper?

But for real, true (hip-hop) heads don't give a FUCK about stuff like this.

This one, too. Delmoi? I need an explanation, please.

You really believe that when Gweneth said "Ni**as in paris, for real" she meant that there were really black people in Paris?

I really believe that she was referring to the fact that Jay-Z and Kanye - the gentlemen to whom the song's title refers - were, in fact, in Paris, engaging in the very conduct contemplated by the song's content (see Michael Pemulis, supra: " In the case of Niggas In Paris, he's ironically comparing the historical connotations of the word 'nigga' to say basically "you" wouldn't expect (American) black people to be enjoying Paris but Jay and Ye ball so hard they're taking the city over.") She was noting the juxtaposition of the eponymous gentlemen in Paris performing their hit song "Niggas In Paris."
posted by The World Famous at 3:30 PM on June 12, 2012


delmoi, stop attributing quotes to users who are not me, please.
posted by King Bee at 3:31 PM on June 12, 2012


"Sorry, I forget that sarcasm doesn't play well on the internet. The answer is: you cover up horrible things in order to avoid hurting people."

I want to avoid hurting people! Absolutely!

But god, I don't want anyone to think, 'well, I can spread this horribly offensive epitaph because fifty years from now it'll just be neutered and everyone can pretend like I never did it.' Do you see what I mean? I don't want to perpetuate that and I feel like I am.

But I'm probably wrong. I am wrong?

God, I have to think about this some more.
posted by Tevin at 3:32 PM on June 12, 2012


Ugh, I mean, saying that I wrote those things that I didn't. I really am an idiot.
posted by King Bee at 3:32 PM on June 12, 2012


"Again, I've never heard a single black person complain about censoring the N-word."

Here you go.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:32 PM on June 12, 2012


I'm just tired of pretending like not-saying it makes it go away? When I censor myself by saying 'n-word' I feel like I'm giving some sort of approval to my entire wretched ancestry that made the word so abhorrent. I'm saying, 'you destroyed these two syllables, and I'm going to cover it all up for you.'

That's how I feel when I say 'n-word.' I feel like I'm covering up something horrible.


Well, one thing you could think about is that the word is not about how you, a white person, feels about it. It doesn't damage or injure you, even it makes you uncomfortable. It is about how black people feel about it, and many of them have said it makes them feel terrible and that the word has terrible associations, and they've told you how they want you to deal with it.

Trust me, black people have not forgotten that racism exists, and they do not think that by saying "the n-word" instead of using the word you are covering up racism and ignoring it. They might actually think that you are fighting racism by not using the word.

But I'm probably wrong. I am wrong?

God, I have to think about this some more


Yes, you are wrong, and this is kind of a derail, and it's honestly pretty rude to drag black Mefites into this discussion to make them validate or not your feelings on this word, so you can Memail me if you want to keep talking about it or better figure out your own position.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:35 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


>> Which you're saying is the same as some sort of hallucination or something? Huh? I don't even.

> Yes? I have no idea how else you would interpret those words. He says that when he hears "the N-Word" he literally says it in his own head, and is offended by being forced to do so. It's a very bizarre statement and seems to imply he literally does hear the word in his head, and is offended by it. And that therefore "The N-Word" is actually more offensive to him then the word "Nigger".

Wow. Okay.

So if I show you a picture of a horse, and say, "the h-word," you don't think to yourself, "the word in question beginning with the letter h is HORSE"?

And, if you do, you are literally hearing, with your ears, the word HORSE, as if it were actually being spoken aloud?

Seriously?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:35 PM on June 12, 2012


Nigger - The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall L. Kennedy, an American Law professor and author at Harvard University.
posted by ericb at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2012


You really believe that when Gweneth said "Ni**as in paris, for real" she meant that there were really black people in Paris?

No, I think she meant "Hey, my friends are singing "Niggas in Paris" while they are actually in Paris!" The meaning of "for real" meaning "the opposite of 'for pretend'".

But she didn't stop to think "Hey, maybe I shouldn't call my black friends "Niggas" on Twitter, where anyone can read and interpret how they like."

But of course, I am too dim-witted to interpret an attempt at punnery.
posted by muddgirl at 3:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who Can Say "Nigger"? And Other Considerations [PDF] by Randall L. Kennedy | The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education
posted by ericb at 3:39 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The meaning of 'for real' being 'not pretend' or 'not for play.'
posted by muddgirl at 3:39 PM on June 12, 2012


Also, apologies if I should be obscuring 'Ni**a'. It is rude of me.
posted by muddgirl at 3:40 PM on June 12, 2012


And, if you do, you are literally hearing, with your ears, the word HORSE, as if it were actually being spoken aloud?

Only on Metafilter could a discussion of a tweet by an airhead like Gwyneth Paltrow turn into a debate about the epistemology of written vs auditory symbols.

But, muddgirl, of course that's what she meant
posted by tyllwin at 3:40 PM on June 12, 2012


So now we can't accurately represent the titles of artistic works if they have ostensibly verboten words in them and we are the wrong race to be referencing them?

Hey, if you're white and you don't mind looking like a total, hopelessly unhip and insensitive clod, please, go ahead and use the N-word. It's a free wide world.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:42 PM on June 12, 2012


Where do we stand on "for real for real"
posted by nathancaswell at 3:42 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only an idiot would think she meant what I think she meant.
posted by muddgirl at 3:42 PM on June 12, 2012


Previous related FPP: The N-word: 1786 - 2007.
posted by ericb at 3:45 PM on June 12, 2012


If you can't understand the distinction between use and reference, this probably isn't a good thread for you.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:45 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, if you're white and you don't mind looking like a total, hopelessly unhip and insensitive clod, please, go ahead and use the N-word. It's a free wide world.

Cuz there's nothing hipper than a white guy saying "I really like that song "n-words in Paris""
posted by Hoopo at 3:49 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Only an idiot would think she meant what I think she meant.

Hey, make that "id**t," thank you very much.
posted by tyllwin at 3:50 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cuz there's nothing hipper than a white guy saying "I really like that song "n-words in Paris""

Datapoint: imagining this literally made me laugh out loud. Is it time to leave work yet?
posted by nathancaswell at 3:51 PM on June 12, 2012


Hey, make that "id**t," thank you very much.

For real.
posted by The World Famous at 3:52 PM on June 12, 2012


Here is a quote from the book mentioned by ericb above. The context is that he is calling the writing of something like "n*****" as opposed to "nigger" a misguided protest. The author is a black man, so I guess there is at least one black person who objects to this kind of censorship.
I am addressing eradicationists who, on grounds of racial indecency, would presumably want to bowdlerize or censor poems such as Carl Sandburg's “Nigger Lover,” stories such as Theodore Dreiser's “Nigger Jeff,” Claude McKay's “Nigger Lover,” or Henry Dumas’ “Double Nigger,” plays such as Ed Bullins’ “The Electronic Nigger,” and novels such as Gil Scott-Heron's The Nigger Factory.
But I'm an idiot, so if delmoi wants to attribute more quotes to me that I didn't write, I'll try to respond to them.

Also I can use the word idiot because I am one.
posted by King Bee at 3:59 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


For real.

I think you're awesome too!
posted by tyllwin at 3:59 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


We should probably not be calling other members idiots because we disagree with them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:04 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


delmoi: “"Again, I've never heard a single black person complain about censoring the N-word."

Bookhouse: Here you go.”

That is really, really not what that is, for what it's worth. People reclaiming a term that was used against them, and insisting to other people of their race that this is something they're allowed to do, is not the same thing as people insisting that it is never right for white people to avoid using the word.
posted by koeselitz at 4:04 PM on June 12, 2012


I'm curious about the racial makeup of the people commenting in this thread. A bunch of white people discussing this just feels like intellectual masturbation. (Note: I am white.) I posted a meta thread about diversity awhile back and this especially is the kind of discussion that needs more of it.
posted by desjardins at 4:22 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is really, really not what that is, for what it's worth. People reclaiming a term that was used against them, and insisting to other people of their race that this is something they're allowed to do, is not the same thing as people insisting that it is never right for white people to avoid using the word.

Sorta moving the goalposts, isn't that? I don't see where "other races" has to be a component of censorship.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:26 PM on June 12, 2012


My point was that the song wasn't about censorship at all. It's about the fact that, among black people, there has sometimes been concern about whether it's appropriate for black people to use that word. No censorship involved, and a different situation entirely.
posted by koeselitz at 4:36 PM on June 12, 2012


Also, they played the damned song 11 times? Subtlety is not a strong suit for Kanye and Jay-Z I guess.

It's a thing as David Samuels described in The Atlantic:
For an encore, the two men perform “Encore,” a huge hit that Jay wrote at exactly the right moment in his career, when his backlist was already so thick with hits that no one would question the need for a song with this title. “Is that all the noise you gonna make?” he inquires, after a couple more hits. As midnight strikes, the two rap heroes stand together on the same stage for a moment of shared adulation and glory, before heading off to Fort Lauderdale and then Miami.

“Peace and love, New York City,” Jay calls out, tipping his hat to the crowd. And then the lights come up, and they’re gone.

WATCH THE THRONE initially suffered as musical theater in that it failed to resolve the three-hour dialectic between the egos and back catalogs of rap’s two biggest stars. Ending the show with “Encore,” as the stars did on the first stretch of the tour, anointed Jay-Z as the winner by default. But a solution evolved that put both men on an equal footing, which in itself was a huge victory for Kanye: they ditched “Encore” and instead closed each show with “Niggas in Paris,” performed twice, three times in a row, and more, a practice that became the hallmark of the tour, the one moment when the interplay between the two men as artists rather than as mega gate attractions shone through. In Miami, they inaugurated the new ending by performing “Niggas in Paris” four times in a row, in front of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and an ebullient, hugely pregnant Beyoncé Knowles. In Boston, Kanye and Jay closed the show with “Niggas in Paris” six times in a row, shouting “Again!” after each rendition. In Detroit, they did it seven times. Pittsburgh and Kansas City merited a mere five “Niggas” each.

...by Vegas the two men have the act down pat.
...
“I think, th-th-th-th-th-think, they want to go home,” Kanye stutters, after the fifth rendition of “Niggas.” Jay demurs, but Kanye shakes his head. “Nah, Jay,” he says, teasing the crowd. “I think they ready to go.” The two men launch into the song again. Lightning flashes against simulated clouds, until the song fades out for the sixth and final time.
...
Kanye and Jay do “Niggas in Paris” eight times in a row in Los Angeles. With each new repetition, the song sounds more like a mantra. The more I think about the tour, the more remarkable Kanye’s accomplishment seems, as does the risk he takes by appearing onstage with Jay-Z so many nights in a row in such a tightly scripted setting. His demand for more lights before performing “All of the Lights” is a self-abnegating bit of theater, in which he makes fun of what is actually interesting about his artistic persona. Repeating “Niggas in Paris” over and over again is something else—expressive, emotive, and over-the-top. The impulse to turn a rap song with a good beat into something that actually feels like art is both abstract and liberating for Kanye, for Jay-Z, and for the audience. Anyone who can use Jay-Z as a prop and make him like it—and make the rest of us like it, too—can do anything he wants.

After the ninth and final, record-breaking rendition of “Niggas in Paris,” Jay-Z sees fit to apologize to the sweaty, exhausted L.A. crowd. “I’m sorry if this is your first concert,” he says before the lights come on. “It’s all downhill from here.”
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 4:39 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Gwyneth, next time please just tweet "Hot bitches in Paris for real." With capital letters.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:46 PM on June 12, 2012


“I think, th-th-th-th-th-think, they want to go home,” Kanye stutters, after the fifth rendition of “Niggas.”

I know I would have!
posted by Hoopo at 4:49 PM on June 12, 2012


I was under the impression they were doing it so many times to get footage for the video.

I confess, I put it on the jukebox 2-3 times a night at the bar. Nobody has complained yet.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2012


So, am I correct in my interpretation that playing the same song several times in a row is intended as a metacommentary on how stupid hip-hop concerts and audiences are and on the fact that the audience is not actually there for the music, but merely for the experience of being there and participating in the spectacle, regardless of what songs are performed? Because if that's what it is, they're brilliant. If not, well,
posted by The World Famous at 4:52 PM on June 12, 2012


Funny point one: I was walking around yesterday with my little girl and three 20-something black people walked behind me for about three blocks debating whether it was OK for the woman's white roommate to reference the title of the song at all, in any context, ever. The consensus was "no." Funny ha-ha aside: all three people involved in the conversation referred to the white roommate as a "bitch," with no trace of irony.

Fun fact two: when I was a public defender I represented many black clients, mostly young and male, and mostly from very rough neighborhoods. It always made me feel slightly odd when they'd greet me, a big ole' Jewish guy 10+ years their senior, with "my nigga!"
posted by 1adam12 at 4:54 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point was that the song wasn't about censorship at all. It's about the fact that, among black people, there has sometimes been concern about whether it's appropriate for black people to use that word. No censorship involved, and a different situation entirely.

Well, I'd argue that the word "censorship" isn't correct in any of the situations discussed in this thread, but that's a whole other kettle of fish. Obviously the song isn't about white people at all (and I never said it was), but other than that I think we'll just have to disagree.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:56 PM on June 12, 2012


Er. It sounds like maybe we agree more than we disagree. But I'm not sure.
posted by koeselitz at 5:10 PM on June 12, 2012


So, am I correct in my interpretation that playing the same song several times in a row is intended as a metacommentary on how stupid hip-hop concerts and audiences are and on the fact that the audience is not actually there for the music, but merely for the experience of being there and participating in the spectacle, regardless of what songs are performed?

Have you never liked a song so much that you kept listening to it over and over again?
posted by burnmp3s at 5:17 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you never liked a song so much that you kept listening to it over and over again?

I have, yes. Are you suggesting that that is the reason they do this song over and over again live?
posted by The World Famous at 5:22 PM on June 12, 2012


Goddamnit now I'm watching the video over and over. Got to be some sort of Iluminati secret messages in there compelling me to watch over and over.

Kanye is the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human being I have ever met in my life.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:35 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


mhoye: "Is it OK to have a nuanced view of this? I would like to have a nuanced view"

White people (like me, say) probably shouldn't say the word in question here [with a probable exception of speaking of the word in academic contexts], and aren't harmed that much by avoiding it. The same reasons they can't say the word is the same reason they ought not have an opinion about black people saying the word one way or another, and provides a tacit understanding of why a black artist would choose to use said work toward some dramatic effect.

A white person can also enjoy the song in question a lot, play it a lot, and even sing along to almost all of it - they just have to learn how to let their own voice drop out. Which, when you've listened to it enough times like I have, turns out to be not so hard.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:38 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If anyone says, 'N-word' your mind automatically fills those blanks with 'nigger.' Dancing around it with censorship doesn't change that.

Definitely not true! While the phrase "the n-word" is of course born out of euphemism, the phrase works and is understood like any other widely accepted euphemism or acronym. If you say "the NAACP (Ndouble-ACP)," I understand immediately what you mean without my brain bothering to spell out "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People." If you say "I can't wear those white pants because I'm on the rag / on my period," I understand immediately what you mean without any mental substitution of "I can't wear those white pants because I'm bleeding from my vagina." Ditto "the n-word;" it works better for this than "n****r" or other asterisked variations, which do require mental fill-in-the-blank and can't really be said aloud to become a familiar phrase. (If you say "NAACP" without the "double-A," I will stare blankly for a second before I catch on.)
posted by nicebookrack at 5:40 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have, yes. Are you suggesting that that is the reason they do this song over and over again live?

I don't know why they do it over and over again live, I just think it's uncharitable to suggest that hip-hop concerts and fans are stupid and not actually there for the music. If a band I saw played a song I really liked over and over again I would think it was great and it would probably be one of my more memorable concert-going experiences.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:40 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


playing a song repeatedly live isn't really different from jam bands taking 30 minute solos or bands that keep singing the chorus over and over and over again during live performances.
posted by nadawi at 5:43 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just think it's uncharitable to suggest that hip-hop concerts and fans are stupid and not actually there for the music.

If it makes any difference, I'd make the same observation about virtually all pop music concerts of every genre. At least hip-hop concerts feature people with microphones that are actually turned on.

If a band I saw played a song I really liked over and over again I would think it was great and it would probably be one of my more memorable concert-going experiences.

I've seen shows where the band has played the same song twice and I enjoyed it. But eleven times? No, I think the artistic value of that is probably far greater than the enjoyment value.
posted by The World Famous at 5:48 PM on June 12, 2012


At least hip-hop concerts feature people with microphones that are actually turned on.

I don't even have a microphone and I get turned on!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:52 PM on June 12, 2012


For real.
posted by The World Famous at 5:54 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


CONTROL F JAY SMOOTH

I'm on a Mac, you insensitive bastard.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:00 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


like it or not, everyone seems to be having a fantastic time from beginning to end.

sometimes people like to make overarching statements about music, that if it's not played in the style they like, for the length they like, on the topics they like, with the right instruments and production than it must be for people who are dumb or not listening or it must be a bigger art piece, seemingly thinking that if it was good they'd like it. but, music, and hell art on a whole, doesn't work like that. it's fine to say "that's not for me" but to castigate and entire fanbase because it's not suited to your personal taste, well...
posted by nadawi at 6:15 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the song fine. And I don't doubt that the audience responds favorably to hearing the same song over and over again for half an hour or more.
posted by The World Famous at 6:17 PM on June 12, 2012


i don't like jam bands. i find them tedious to listen to. i wouldn't suggest that the only way jam bands can be enjoyable to their audience is if it's a meta commentary on how stoners are so out of touch that they can't even recognize when a song ends. i just chalk it up to another thing some people can enjoy but i don't, like skiing or horror movies.
posted by nadawi at 6:23 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've known plenty, but maybe they just got tired of having to repeat themselves for a few hundred years.

Jesus, how old are your friends anyway?
posted by Hoopo at 6:23 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


playing a song repeatedly live isn't really different from jam bands taking 30 minute solos or bands that keep singing the chorus over and over and over again during live performances.

Well, the word tiresome does comes to mind in each case.
posted by y2karl at 6:24 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


i wouldn't suggest that the only way jam bands can be enjoyable to their audience is if it's a meta commentary on how stoners are so out of touch that they can't even recognize when a song ends.

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I didn't mean to suggest that the metacommentary angle is the reason the audience enjoys it.
posted by The World Famous at 6:27 PM on June 12, 2012


I was hoping this would be an instructional video for elementary school children starring Jay-Z and Gwyneth Paltrow.
posted by chrominance at 6:31 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


you're right. you said the audience was stupid. my point still stands. people enjoying things in ways you don't enjoy doesn't make them stupid.
posted by nadawi at 6:33 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


It occurs to me now that it might actually be a hip-hop tribute to Kristen Schaal Is A Horse, which is even more brilliant than if it's metacommentary on the inanity of live pop music in the 21st Century.
posted by The World Famous at 6:34 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


people enjoying things in ways you don't enjoy doesn't make them stupid.

They're not stupid because they enjoy it. All people are stupid. People enjoy stupid things. It takes a great entertainer to tune in to just what a particular audience will enjoy and turn that into entertainment. They're doing that extremely well - recognizing that their audience wants a spectacle and that it is, in fact, possible to heighten that spectacle through repetition and increasing enthusiasm for the absurd act of playing the same song over and over again.

I do wonder whether 11 times in a row is enough to get all the way through the Kristen Schaal Is A Horse cycle where it starts being funny/awesome again after having become tedious. I'm sure there's a certain level of euphoria that sets in when the audience think there's no way they'll play it again this time and then they do.
posted by The World Famous at 6:39 PM on June 12, 2012


The idea that they played the song as a metacommentary about how stupid their fans are, I think, takes over as the new #3 stupidest comment in the thread, dropping the previous #3 to 4th position.

I would be honored to achieve such a distinction, except that that isn't actually what I said.
posted by The World Famous at 7:18 PM on June 12, 2012


So if I show you a picture of a horse, and say, "the h-word," you don't think to yourself, "the word in question beginning with the letter h is HORSE"?

And, if you do, you are literally hearing, with your ears, the word HORSE, as if it were actually being spoken aloud?
That would be a very unusual situation. But the equivalent would be seeing "the N-word" along with a picture of a black person. If I just saw "the H-word" by itself I would have no idea what they were talking about.

I don't hear the word 'Nigger' when I read or hear "the N-word", I only hear the literal expression "the" "en" "word", and then I move on to the next words. 'Nigger' is never subvocalized. I have no idea why this is so confusing for people.

The mental connection is "A word used by racists" (Unless the context is about rap music, which this is. So I wouldn't have had a problem if Gwyneth had used it uncensored, but arguing that censoring the word somehow makes it worse is completely moronic. Now obviously, actual racists might sarcastically or passive-aggressively use the excuse of talking about rap music to use the word, etc, etc, but that obviously isn't the case here)
posted by delmoi at 7:21 PM on June 12, 2012


I would be honored to achieve such a distinction, except that that isn't actually what I said.
You wrote:
So, am I correct in my interpretation that playing the same song several times in a row is intended as a metacommentary on how stupid hip-hop concerts and audiences are
Seems pretty straightforward to me. Feel free to explain the difference between "the audience" and "their fans"
posted by delmoi at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2012


[few comments removed - delmoi: no more calling people stupid/idiots, starting now and going through the end of 2012. Okay? Night off otherwise, we've asked you enough times already.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:33 PM on June 12, 2012


Feel free to explain the difference between "the audience" and "their fans"

Setting aside namecalling and all that, let me explain myself a bit better.

"The Audience" refers to the people who pay money to attend a hip-hop or other pop music concert - the people who are attending that particular event and who are there not for a sublime music experience but to be entertained. Jay-Z and Kanye understand as well as or better than anyone else working in the business today that the purpose of the show is not to present songs to the audience, but to entertain the audience. And they get that the nature of entertainment as a discourse between the audience and the performer in this decade has become, frankly, an extraordinary farce.

The audience - and I'm referring not just to the audience at a particular concert, but to the audience for "live" pop music as a whole - is stupid. It doesn't actually want live music. It doesn't go to a show to hear music it likes. It likes a song because that song has been marketed to death and because the audience takes its cues from the marketing machine on the stage, rather than the other way around. It helps that Jay-Z and Kanye and their respective teams of music creators are very good at the actual creation of music and that the two of them are very good at actual rapping.

But they are performing for an audience that is used to being able to consume entertainment on demand and rewind and re-watch over and over again at its whim. And they are performing for an audience that exemplifies the refrain "Here we are. Now entertain us!"

And maybe you're right, delmoi. Maybe I'm giving Jay-Z and Kanye too much credit and what's really going on is that they're just, I don't know, stupid or something and forgot the setlist? But I don't think that's the case. I think they're brilliant entertainers who have tapped into the extraordinary stupidity of the audience - not "their fans," but The Audience - and are doing something that works on the same level as Andy Kauffman.

It is simultaneously both pure entertainment and shocking performance art that operates both as actual entertainment for The Audience (as I discussed earlier) and as a metacommentary on the nature of what The Audience has become.

For real.
posted by The World Famous at 7:38 PM on June 12, 2012


huge difference in connotation between nigga and nigger, and i'm old and white.
posted by goutytophus at 7:55 PM on June 12, 2012


As a fairly old white guy, this thread is highly interesting and even a little enlightening for me. I personally will never use the actual word in question or any assterisked form. The intent behind that word when used by white people in those days of yore is why. I despised that intent then, and even more when I detect the same intent now. I reside in the southern usa, and it still walks the earth side by side with the modern urban intent. Racism is a weed that will probably take generations to eradicate, if it even can be eradicated. Music, sports and military service are three of the most effective constructs to get a little dialogue going with people of various levels of melatonin in their epidermises. Any word is a noise with some arbitrary meaning attached. Because of my background, I have to pull those weeds out of my soul all the time, but I'll be dead soon enough, as will many of the same timeline, but I'm quite sure I haven't planted those weeds in my replacements. Whatever they may pick up from today's society and their peers, I have done everything I could, by example and explanation, to help them to see people by actions rather than skin color. How or if they ever use the word in question remains to be seen, but this 200+ comment post shows that the evil intent this word carries may be losing some of it's charge, yet still is pretty hot to the touch. Well played, rappers, well played, purposely or otherwise.
posted by Redhush at 8:48 PM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


To those of you at a loss as to how to enjoy singing along to this song might I recommend the use of the word "neighbor". Seriously, it works.
posted by Saminal at 9:05 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My shift as the Black Mefite Soundingboard In Residence is over in 10 minutes.

My bad. I was at the library.
posted by cashman at 9:45 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


"So, am I correct in my interpretation that playing the same song several times in a row is intended as a metacommentary on how stupid hip-hop concerts and audiences are and on the fact that the audience is not actually there for the music, but merely for the experience of being there and participating in the spectacle, regardless of what songs are performed? Because if that's what it is, they're brilliant. If not, well,"

Another context for this is to think about the roots of one side of hip hop, with party rappers and DJs who focused on extending the break. If you think about this in terms of dance music, playing a three minute song eleven times is excessive, maybe, but there are plenty of disco albums that run a full 33 minute side with one beat held throughout.

(In a cheapo critical narrative, the excitement of a full Jay-Z/Kanye album is that Jay-Z's probably the most popular current rapper, coming out of the tradition that replaced party rap in popular consciousness, and Kanye is better at dance music than at rap, so it's got a foot in both streams of hip hop and is best understood in that context.)

Also, think about how stupid slam dancing would sound to someone who's never been to a punk show.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I was at a concert and the band played a song I liked 11 times in a row I'd think it was cool. But then the World Famous would jump from the shadows and accuse me of being an easily led degenerate idiot. Le sigh!
posted by ian1977 at 10:24 PM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is not directed at anyone in particular, but I would honestly like to know what the motivation is behind a person spending time and effort making multiple arguments defending their use of a word that no one can deny is extremely hurtful to a large number of people, no matter the context. People whose experience cannot be experienced by you if you are not a member of that group.

Even if you could conceivably come to some kind of conclusion that is true, what exactly are you defending? Why do you feel so strongly about it? Do you ever let anything go? Do you think you are being oppressed because your opinion isn't being heard this one time?

Can I please also ask that if you ever find yourself saying "they shouldn't be offended" ("they are too sensitive") in reference to anyone, anywhere...that you please stop yourself and admit it is not your place to dictate other people's feelings? There exist perspectives that you couldn't possibly understand without having lived them yourself. Deal with it.

If something I say has the potential to cause more pain (in others) than it is going to reduce pain (in myself or others), then I don't think it's worth saying. Not causing someone else pain is not really taking anything away from me. So if one person said "it makes me feel bad when you sing along to 'Dirt off your Shoulder'," I'd have to make damn sure no one was overhearing me singing that song ever again, as much as I love it (and I do, so much).
posted by butterteeth at 10:46 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I pride myself on holding very few opinions that are quantifiably hip-hop.

What does this even mean?

Also, maybe this is not the right thread for everyone to discuss their distaste for "In Paris" or the careers of Kanye and Jay-Z in general, because it's coming off a little, you know.

It doesn't actually want live music. It doesn't go to a show to hear music it likes.

Either you're saying that people don't care at all what music will be played at a concert, and the choice of songs is irrelevant (which is why people copy down set lists or why so many people express how they wish the performers had played A and not played B the moment they leave the venue, right?), or that people are not genuinely capable of liking hit songs. Or is it something else? I think this is reducing an age-old catharsis (singing and dancing along to music the individual already knows) to something much more socially self-conscious and cynical, and seems to defy most applications of Occam's Razor.

You seem to have a problem with hip hop in general though (I pride myself on holding very few opinions that are quantifiably hip-hop), so not sure you're the right person to judge why people go to hip hop concerts.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:46 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I was at a concert and the band played a song I liked 11 times in a row I'd think it was cool. But then the World Famous would jump from the shadows and accuse me of being an easily led degenerate idiot. Le sigh!

Oh for crying out loud.
posted by The World Famous at 10:50 PM on June 12, 2012


I think the problem is
1) Wanting to use a word that cool people use, to sound and feel cool, and
2) Not viscerally understanding the crushing effect of that word used incorrectly/not trying to understand.

... the blueprint for most abuses of privilege. It's a lack of empathy, when empathy means losing some kind of pleasure or advantage, and it's as simple and awful as that. If someone has never felt crushed by a word before it's seemingly impossible for them to get it through their skull.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:56 PM on June 12, 2012


So, am I correct in my interpretation that playing the same song several times in a row is intended as a metacommentary on how stupid hip-hop concerts and audiences are and on the fact that the audience is not actually there for the music, but merely for the experience of being there and participating in the spectacle, regardless of what songs are performed? Because if that's what it is, they're brilliant. If not, well,

F, no. It's about hearing a brilliant song done by two of the best rappers in the world, trying to one up each other, knowing full well, because the audience at the concert ain't stupid and knows how this has become a traditition, that this is the end of the show, but it's been amazing and nobody is ready to go home yet and besides, those pussies in Miami only got to hear it five times and here we are. It's about sex and drugs and sausage rolls, but if you're a stick in the mud enough you still thing doing metacommentary is anything other than played out, still valid rather than a cheap trick used by clapped out writers, you won't get it.

The same goes for rock solos of course, where a good artist can get to sustain the moment, keep the audience surfing along caught up in the rythm, wiping away everything but the here and now.

Drum solos otoh are there to give the audience a chance to buy some more beer.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:01 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Agree that Paltrow probably is more clueless and/or inept than racist, and that if the name of the song is "Niggas in Paris," people ought to be able to say and/or write the title of that song when discussing it without being called racist.

On the other hand, I'm another oldish white guy, who grew up and still spends a fair amount of time around black people. I was taught that "nigger" was a hateful word, used only by ignorant people, and that it should never be used to refer to a human being. The only times I've ever used it have been in discussions like this one, and to refer to certain works of art that use it in the title, like Dick Gregory's book (which, though a product of its time, still is worth reading for his thoughts about race in the USA.) In normal everyday conversation, I've never felt the need to use it, or any of its derivatives, in an effort to be "down" with black folks or for any other reason.

On the third hand, I think Lenny Bruce also had something of a valid point in his famous bit, "Are There Any Niggers here Tonight?" (A slightly different version can be found here.):

“Are there any niggers here tonight? Could you turn on the house lights, please, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving, just for a second? And turn off this spot. Now what did he say? “Are there any niggers here tonight?” I know there’s one nigger, because I see him back there working. Let’s see, there’s two niggers. And between those two niggers sits a kike. And there’s another kike— that’s two kikes and three niggers. And there’s a spic. Right? Hmm? There’s another spic. Ooh, there’s a wop; there’s a polack; and, oh, a couple of greaseballs. And there’s three lace-curtain Irish micks. And there’s one, hip, thick, hunky, funky, boogie. Boogie boogie. Mm-hmm. I got three kikes here, do I hear five kikes? I got five kikes, do I hear six spics, I got six spics, do I hear seven niggers? I got seven niggers. Sold American. I pass with seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kikes, three guineas, and one wop. Well, I was just trying to make a point, and that is that it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, “I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet,” and if he’d just say “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” to every nigger he saw, “boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie,” “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” ‘til nigger didn’t mean didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.”

Also, this is kind of interesting: http://undercoverblackman.blogspot.com/2007/03/nigger-top-10.html
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:02 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course Lenny Bruce is just another white guy trying to tell Black folk what they should do, so....

It doesn't really work that way, now does it, as we've seen with "gay", where a word that queer folk used for themselves ended up a playground insult: "kissing a girl? that's so gay".

Noogie is just an offensive word when used by white folk like me, with one or two possible exceptions, like when you're a white suburbanite fourteen year old kid who wants nothing more than to be like Jay-Z and hasn't yet encountered any real life Black people, or when you're an academic talking about the word and its history; rest of the time? Not so much.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:10 AM on June 13, 2012


F, no.

See, you threw me off a little bit when you led off with that and then just expounded on the exact point that I was making. But it is nice to see that we agree.
posted by The World Famous at 12:46 AM on June 13, 2012


As an outside observer (Italian living in Italy, very interested in all things American), the n-word debate is the most baffling thing to me about America. My (certainly privileged, probably ignorant) view is that it's just the wrong answer to banish a word or restrict it to certain groups. I understand how hurtful it can be for its history, I understand that many racist use it, but it WON'T GO AWAY if you treat it like a taboo. It isn't going away, can you see it? It isn't getting better with time. Surely you're slowly getting better about racism (mixed-race president! And the Tea Party blazes are just that, blazes, fighting a war they're losing more and more each day), but I feel the language thing is just stuck, because you're fighting on that hill. The Jay Smooth video (and I loved his 'the thing you said sounded racist' thing) sounded like a very intelligent guy reasoning beautifully around an immovable stupid concept, decorating it with many nuances and reasonable statements, but it's still stupid. Words like that go away (or become innocuous) by being used and abused. First they hurt you, then they unnerve you, then you mock them, then you win. Again, sorry if I offended you, and tell me where I got it wrong.
posted by Baldons at 2:39 AM on June 13, 2012


I understand how hurtful it can be for its history, I understand that many racist use it, but it WON'T GO AWAY if you treat it like a taboo.

Whenever a word upsets someone, you can always say, "eh, the more we use the word, the less it'll hurt you, so suck it up," but that's not very gracious.

Words can hurt people even when divorced from their meaning. A certain word or name might remind a friend of a past abuser and past trauma. You'd be a real jerk to keep using it around her when you could avoid it, telling her that you're trying to help depower it in her eyes. "If you keep treating it as a taboo, it'll always be a taboo! Let me say it to you as much as possible!" That's a terrible strategy.

Diluting a word among everyone is not the only way to depower a word. The people who propose this strategy are almost always white people who dislike that some segment of language is cut off from them (eg Lenny Bruce). Here's another way: wait for the people who are most injured by it to reclaim it on their own terms. That's what we'd do in the abuse scenario above, and I think it's what we should do here.
posted by painquale at 3:21 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


, those pussies in Miami only got to hear it five times and here we are.

Using "pussy" as a perjorative in this thread is pretty ironic, but I'm not sure that was the intent. Blech.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:39 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not directed at anyone in particular, but I would honestly like to know what the motivation is behind a person spending time and effort making multiple arguments defending their use of a word that no one can deny is extremely hurtful to a large number of people, no matter the context. People whose experience cannot be experienced by you if you are not a member of that group.


Because the word is *everywhere*. Our popular culture is slathered in it, it's constantly repeated in the catchiest of contexts. To have the word be totally ubiquitous, yet not be allowed to say it, is like some kind of weird psychological experiment. "Don't think of an elephant while I flash pictures of elephants at you!"

If something I say has the potential to cause more pain (in others) than it is going to reduce pain (in myself or others), then I don't think it's worth saying. Not causing someone else pain is not really taking anything away from me. So if one person said "it makes me feel bad when you sing along to 'Dirt off your Shoulder'," I'd have to make damn sure no one was overhearing me singing that song ever again, as much as I love it (and I do, so much).

So all anyone has to do to make you stop something is tell you that it makes them feel bad? And you have no criteria for determining if their feeling bad is more legitimate than your desire to do whatever? This could go all kinds of crazy.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:41 AM on June 13, 2012


So all anyone has to do to make you stop something is tell you that it makes them feel bad? And you have no criteria for determining if their feeling bad is more legitimate than your desire to do whatever? This could go all kinds of crazy.

Yeah, I don't quite think that's what they said, now was it. In the real world situations that this comes up, no harm is being done if somebody asks you not to use noogie because it offends them as a Black person, even though you're not using it as a racial slur, while it's quite unlikely that somebody will ask you to stop using the word kitten because they're a dog lover.

The crazyness tends to come when people get all bothered about being censored and keep wanting to use that word. Mainly because the kind of people who are that bothered are usually either a) immature douchecopters using it for shock value b) just out and out racists or c) the type of person who wants to argue everything from first principles and is clueless about context and history; in none of those cases is a debate about whether or not their use of noogie is okay or not a profitable one and you're better off just sticking to the rule of never using it.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:40 AM on June 13, 2012


Words like that go away (or become innocuous) by being used and abused. First they hurt you, then they unnerve you, then you mock them, then you win. Again, sorry if I offended you, and tell me where I got it wrong.

For me, what you say might be true if the prejudices involved no longer existed. I think that in the US, we play this game where we pretend a certain prejudice doesn't exist (any more) and that therefore we can use words connected to it harmlessly or at least ironically. There's a kind of double-think about it, and has been for a long time. In the 70s (right?) there was a show about a guy called Archie Bunker who uttered all sorts of prejudiced things. People said they were watching the show to laugh at Archie, but I suspect some were watching it because they enjoyed hearing those things said with seeming impunity. As far back as that, there was already a backlash against what the backlashers like to call "political correctness." In my opinion, when you demand the right to use language that puts down another group-- and god, that whole thing about "Now I'm not allowed to say so-and-so?" is absolutely emblematic-- you're feeding into that whole dynamic. As long as there still are people who discriminate, and there certainly are now, you can't use those words and then be surprised when someone thinks you're actually prejudiced.

I'm pretty sure someone like Paltrow is using the word-- if she is using it deliberately-- to try to identify with Jay-Z because of his success and prestige, and not because she wants to sound like a member of the Tea Party. In a way that almost makes it ickier, to me.
posted by BibiRose at 6:55 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Douchecopter. Had not seen that one before. Like others, I really don't get why for some the desire to say the word around other people is so strong that it consumes their being.

"Why can't anyone see that the real victims here are whites like me?"
posted by cashman at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2012


Because the word is *everywhere*.

Really? Before this thread, I guarantee you I haven't run across the word in weeks, maybe months. The last time I heard it spoken out loud was by my grandmother (with the -er ending, not the -a, of course). I rarely see her, partly for that reason.

Again, I don't understand why some people regard not saying the word as some sort of painful sacrifice they're making. Grow the fuck up. You can complain when someone asks you to stop using pronouns.
posted by desjardins at 7:23 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: “So all anyone has to do to make you stop something is tell you that it makes them feel bad? And you have no criteria for determining if their feeling bad is more legitimate than your desire to do whatever? This could go all kinds of crazy.”

No criteria? Of course there are criteria. If somebody says "please don't tell anyone about this secret massacre that the military covered up that killed thousands that people need to know about, because it would hurt my feelings to hear about it again," good lord, there is a very good reason to tell people about that, and you're going to have to have a talk with them about the fact that their feelings are not as important as informing people about this thing that happened.

When somebody says "please don't just casually use this word that everybody is aware of that has been used constantly over the past hundred years as a verbal weapon against millions of people, because it hurts my feelings to hear it again" – guess what? Your desire to be able to say two syllables instead of three because it's just easier and more lexically straightforward to you – as far as I can tell, that's the only reason anybody's put forward here to spell the word out or say it directly – might actually have to take a back seat to the well-being of others.
posted by koeselitz at 7:34 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not directed at anyone in particular, but I would honestly like to know what the motivation is behind a person spending time and effort making multiple arguments defending their use of a word that no one can deny is extremely hurtful to a large number of people, no matter the context.

For one thing, maybe someone wrote an article about it after an incident involving famous people and then someone else posted it to a site for comment and discussion.
posted by Hoopo at 7:43 AM on June 13, 2012


When Katy Perry covered “Niggas in Paris” during a BBC television performance in March, she replaced the word nigga, which appears several times in the verses, with ninja. When I saw a video of Perry’s cover, I wondered what it would have meant if she had covered the song without this modification. It certainly would have been imprudent from a public-relations standpoint, and it may have run her afoul of broadcasting regulations.

It wouldn't have been broadcast. On specialist shows (like the late ones on 1Xtra) you'll get the odd n-word, and on mainstream music shows they'll mask it out, but it's still considered by Ofcom to be far, far too offensive to get on the television. There's a list somewhere of the most offensive words considered to be so by television viewers, and that's right up on the top. (In advertising there are certain words which will not ever get on the telly, up to and including acronyms which involve 'fuck'. Which made the popularity of LMFAO a bit of a pain in the arse.)

I've never worked in film compliance for TV (only advertising and BBC radio) so I'm not sure how things would be different if they showed a Spike Lee film, say. But on a mainstream music show, where they couldn't efficiently mask out the offending word, it wouldn;t be on there.
posted by mippy at 7:49 AM on June 13, 2012


Although, thinking about it, Oliver's Army. No.2 in the charts, Top of the Pops, the lyric 'one more winner one less white nigger' in the final verse. Were we less sensitive to it in the 70s, or is it thanks to Elvis Costello's poor diction?
posted by mippy at 7:51 AM on June 13, 2012


It occurred to me the other day that "ginger" is an anagram of the n-word. I am a redhead with a few freckles, and I hereby forbid everyone from using that word unless you also are a redhead with some freckles.

I'm a fake redhead, does that make me a gypsy cream?
posted by mippy at 7:55 AM on June 13, 2012


"I'm just a paki so I have no leg in this race.

Growing up in Northern England, 'paki' to me feels almost more hateful and taboo than 'nigga'. To the point where Asian kids aren't even trying to reclaim it, because [insert strong taboo swearword of your choice] like the EDL still spit it at them. I feel uncomfortable just typing it to be honest."
posted by mippy at 7:59 AM on June 13, 2012


The last time I heard it spoken out loud was by my grandmother (with the -er ending, not the -a, of course). I rarely see her, partly for that reason.

I think that's part of why it's such a problematic word. There are many people of all races who only know it as a hateful slur. And there are many other people who know it as both a hateful slur and a completely common and friendly informal form of address. Hip hop becoming one of the most popular forms of music is a big force in popularizing the friendly version of it, but the problems that cause the hateful version to still sting still exist and to many people it's still going to mean that no matter who uses the word in a different way.

You can complain when someone asks you to stop using pronouns.

Heh, that was a sticking point in some of the threads here about zie/hir. (singular they for life)
posted by burnmp3s at 8:16 AM on June 13, 2012


I understand that many racist use it, but it WON'T GO AWAY if you treat it like a taboo. It isn't going away, can you see it?

Baldron, but that's the thing, it is going away. This conversation wouldn't have happened ten years ago. As a child, it was a word I heard pretty regularly. As an adult, the only time I hear the word is in rap music or in an academic setting. No one I know uses it in conversation, and I can clearly remember the last time I heard someone use it in person.

An aquaintance at a party was telling an off-color joke and slipped the word in and the entire party went quiet. Everybody just stared at him. And then someone said quietly, "Well, you're cut off." He went home shortly after and no one invites him to parties.

The thing is, making the word taboo has done a lot of good. It's created a generation of white people that are extremely aware that language can be harmful and the casual slurs of the past are just not okay.

Side note: one of my favorite Civil Rights activists, Anne Braden, said that as a young woman from Mississippi she was so very happy when the polite term for African Americans changed from Negro to Black. Because with her deep south accent it was very, very hard to say Negro in a way that didn't sound like a slur.
posted by teleri025 at 8:21 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Growing up in Northern England, 'paki' to me feels almost more hateful and taboo than 'nigga'.

Yep, that's just one of those words, like "spic" or "wop" or "heeb" that I just do not say ever for any reason.

Like others, I really don't get why for some the desire to say the word around other people is so strong that it consumes their being.

I suppose I am lucky to have a nuanced view here.

I am not one of those persons who cares so much whether or not I am "allowed" to say ni%%er, but I can certainly understand the strong reaction against someone telling you what you can or cannot say, especially when other people are using the same word.

In my experience, people who argue vehemently for the right to say the word ni%%er like all the rappers don't actually want to say the word or ever use it (outside of the argument). They want the other side to admit that they have the right to say it wherever and whenever they want (i.e. the first amendment thing). Which the other side will not do.

Add nauseam and stir. Whatcha gonna do? Contrarians gonna be contrary.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:25 AM on June 13, 2012


"The next song is one of those many songs of ours that gets banned. It's something Yoko said to me in 1968, and it took me to 1970 to dig it."

- John Lennon, "Woman is The Nigger of The World"

"You know how many hot bitches I own?"

- Kanye West, "Niggas in Paris"
posted by mrgrimm at 8:32 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Because the word is *everywhere*. Our popular culture is slathered in it, it's constantly repeated in the catchiest of contexts. To have the word be totally ubiquitous, yet not be allowed to say it, is like some kind of weird psychological experiment.

Huh. Aside from hip-hop songs, old Quentin Tarantino movies, and movies starring hip-hop stars in acting roles, I can't think of a context where I've heard it at all in the last ten years. It's not on television at all, for example. I'm not sure you can accurately say that our popular culture is "slathered" in something that is not on television. But maybe when you say "our popular culture," you're referring to the popular culture of some narrower community than what I'm assuming. I guess "the catchiest of settings" is a subjective enough phrase to allow you to define it to make the assertion true.

Nevertheless, I don't think there's any reasonable way to defend the assertion that the word is everywhere, particularly given the fact that its use in the workplace, for example, can lead to enormous legal problems for an employer and employees. If you're hearing it everywhere in your life, I suspect it has more to do with your life and your personal choices than it does with the prevalence of the word in broader culture.
posted by The World Famous at 8:34 AM on June 13, 2012


Last comment, but what I find the most wonderful about this entire story is apparently this ridiculous song has been around for a year, and I've never heard it, ... and I like hip-hop (though I still call it rap).

God bless the Internet and the (still imminent) death of the recording industry and TV.

Cool Calm Pete - "Over You"

On preview: I'm not sure you can accurately say that our popular culture is "slathered" in something that is not on television.

That "Niggas in Paris" YT link above is from CBS' Victoria Secret TV show. That's about as slathered in mainstream culture as you can get.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2012


In my experience, people who argue vehemently for the right to say the word ni%%er like all the rappers don't actually want to say the word or ever use it (outside of the argument). They want the other side to admit that they have the right to say it wherever and whenever they want (i.e. the first amendment thing). Which the other side will not do.

Who are these people on "the other side"? The ones telling you you don't have first amendment rights, I mean, as opposed to the ones telling you, "Sure, you have the right to say that, we're not going to fine you or lock you up, but other people have the right to tell you you sound like a jerk"?
posted by BibiRose at 8:48 AM on June 13, 2012


Because the word is *everywhere*.

Really? Before this thread, I guarantee you I haven't run across the word in weeks, maybe months.


So you never listen to hip-hop (or if you prefer, "rap") music, listen to interviews with rappers, or spend time around poor black people? Well, I guess that would give you a different perspective, though hardly a more enlightened one.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:49 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


That "Niggas in Paris" YT link above is from CBS' Victoria Secret TV show. That's about as slathered in mainstream culture as you can get.

Indeed. But the word appears nowhere in the broadcast. Like you, I had never heard the song or even heard of the song until this post - and I like hip-hop and participate actively in the world of pop music production. I just never listen to the radio.

So you never listen to hip-hop (or if you prefer, "rap") music, listen to interviews with rappers, or spend time around poor black people?

That's not exactly "everywhere," is it? I listen to hip-hop, but I tend not to listen to tracks with that word more than a couple of times before it annoys me and I start skipping the track. I don't consciously avoid interviews with rappers, but I don't even know what media I'd have to be consuming to come across one, other than television, where the word is censored. If I did somehow stumble upon an interview with a rapper where said rapper gratuitously used that word, it would take some very compelling content to persuade me from turning it off based on that aspect alone.
posted by The World Famous at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2012


Because the word is *everywhere*.

Really? Before this thread, I guarantee you I haven't run across the word in weeks, maybe months.

So you never listen to hip-hop (or if you prefer, "rap") music, listen to interviews with rappers, or spend time around poor black people? Well, I guess that would give you a different perspective, though hardly a more enlightened one.


As a rock DJ, this one was always problematic for me. Got requests to play it, but never had the nerve.
posted by jbickers at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Growing up in Northern England, 'paki' to me feels almost more hateful and taboo than 'nigga'.

Funny enough, I don't think anyones called me a paki since I left England. (And I'm not trying to reclaim that. It's the stupidest slur. I don't know any brown kids who refer to themselves as pakis.)
posted by chunking express at 12:00 PM on June 13, 2012


Also, how has no one posted Mos Def (now called Yasiin Bey) awesome response to this Kanye / Jay-Z song? MetaFilter why you so lame? ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)

Niggas in Poorest.
posted by chunking express at 12:05 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Paki really isn't used anywhere outside of the UK, is it, certainly not as a slur (seen Americans use it in all innocence), but it became painfully clear how bad a word it is when I used it (not knowing about it) in front of my English girlfriend - she really let me know in no uncertain terms.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:06 PM on June 13, 2012


Paki really isn't used anywhere outside of the UK, is it...

No, i'm pretty sure it is.
posted by chunking express at 12:07 PM on June 13, 2012


An aquaintance at a party was telling an off-color joke and slipped the word in and the entire party went quiet. Everybody just stared at him. And then someone said quietly, "Well, you're cut off." He went home shortly after and no one invites him to parties.


I support social banishment for incoregible racism. But a slip of the tongue in the middle of a dubious joke?

Has anything changed since this MeFi thread eleven years ago?

http://www.metafilter.com/comments.mefi/9029
posted by Baldons at 12:44 PM on June 13, 2012


I like the artist formerly known as Mos Def's take
posted by klangklangston at 1:09 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, i'm pretty sure it is.

And how. Wherever there are South Asian people, especially new arrivals, that word is thrown around a lot. It's really the only racial slur I've ever heard in the wild in Canada. And, boy, did I hear it growing up in the '80s and '90s. Used openly, with malicious abandon, many times a day.

Those days seem to be mostly over, but it could be that I don't hear it anymore simply because the vast majority of the Indian folks wisely got out of this suburban hellhole as soon as humanly possible.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:35 PM on June 13, 2012


klangklangston: “I like the artist formerly known as Mos Def's take”

CONTROL F MOS DEF
posted by koeselitz at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: “So all anyone has to do to make you stop something is tell you that it makes them feel bad? And you have no criteria for determining if their feeling bad is more legitimate than your desire to do whatever? This could go all kinds of crazy.”

Nope, you didn't really understand what I said (or chose not too). If I really truly believe that I have a good reason for saying whatever I'm saying (aka it is going to reduce more pain than it is going to cause) than I'm going to say it. Sometimes I'm going to inadvertently offend people, but I do make an effort to correct myself if that happens. If i'm not sure (because I can't measure), then, yeah, I see no problem with keeping my mouth shut. Why should I need criteria for determining how "legitimate" someone's feelings are? I am in no place to judge something like that, and neither are you. In this case we are talking about millions of rational human beings. I am not being kept from having an awesome life because one or two words are off limits to me (my own limits, that I set). This is not an injustice. Not every thought I have needs to be heard by other people.

"To have the word be totally ubiquitous, yet not be allowed to say it, is like some kind of weird psychological experiment."

Ok...so you are implying it is totally unfair that you don't get to say something even if you hear it often? Because you know what I hear often, but never repeat? Myself shitting and pissing. Man, I hear that like 6 or 7 times a day, yet somehow I don't feel the need to duplicate the noises for others. You know why? Because nobody cares and, more importantly, it would be disrespectful.

Under what circumstances are you hearing it? In music? People talking on the street? The occasional movie? Do any of those instances really require a response from you?

I guess I just really don't understand why you and others would get worked up about not being "able" (and you are still totally able to say whatever you want, no one is actually suggesting impinging on your 1st amendment rights, there is just no guarantee that people won't judge you for it) to say one word that has nothing to do with you.
posted by butterteeth at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2012


Also, for a bit of perspective, I live on a busy street in a majority black neighborhood and I hear this word used literally every day (assuming I leave the house or leave a window open). Never saying it has not reduced my quality of life in any way.
posted by butterteeth at 5:45 PM on June 13, 2012


It occurred to me the other day that "ginger" is an anagram of the n-word. I am a redhead with a few freckles, and I hereby forbid everyone from using that word unless you also are a redhead with some freckles.

This song might be your new theme song then: Prejudice
posted by to recite so charmingly at 7:41 PM on June 13, 2012


I like the artist formerly known as Mos Def's take

Holy shit that was good.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:22 PM on June 13, 2012


"CONTROL F MOS DEF"

WHAT WAS THAT JAY SMOOTH? ;)
posted by klangklangston at 11:29 PM on June 13, 2012


Has anything changed since this MeFi thread eleven years ago?

http://www.metafilter.com/comments.mefi/9029


Oh my. Metafilter has come a very long way.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:39 AM on June 14, 2012


Oh my. Metafilter has come a very long way.

Wow. No kidding.
posted by painquale at 6:47 AM on June 14, 2012


Faint of Butt: "[citation needed]"

The case is significant because “Niggas in Paris” is probably the most popular piece of Western culture to ever feature the word nigga so prominently.

Fixed.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:36 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil: ""Using" and "quoting" are not the same thing. Paltrow wasn't quoting the song; she was using the word "niggas" to refer to the authors of the song."

But she wasn't even doing that; she was using the referential code "ni**as". And that still created controversy, so the questions are still in play: is it ever OK to use the word, and if so, how and when?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2012


she was using the referential code "ni**as". And that still created controversy

Well of course it still created controversy. Nobody would be less offended if I told them to f**k off, just because I used a "referential code," now, would they?
posted by The World Famous at 8:56 AM on June 14, 2012


Also, Lenny Bruce had the most powerful statement I've ever heard on the subject, back in the early 60s or so. The man used humor like an M-80 thrown in your bedroom.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:57 AM on June 14, 2012


The World Famous, I agree. I was rebutting Sidhedevil's statement.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:58 AM on June 14, 2012


Ah. Sorry 'bout that. I'll step aside, then.
posted by The World Famous at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2012


The case is significant because “Niggas in Paris” is probably the most popular piece of Western culture to ever feature the word nigga so prominently.

As I understand it, NWA was not originally expressed as an abbreviation.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:38 AM on June 14, 2012


I like the artist formerly known as Mos Def's take

You mean his take that "Allah is in control"? Yeah, no thanks.
posted by Cosine at 11:30 AM on June 14, 2012


You mean his take that "Allah is in control"? Yeah, no thanks.

C'mon, though... I know it sucks to find out that an artist you admire believes in god, but you have to admit that "Fake Gucci, my ni**a / Fake Louis, my killa / Real drugs, my dealer" is fucking brilliant.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:28 PM on June 14, 2012


Yeah, I like ole Mossy, I do, but the Allah part, and his delivery of it, really killed the message for me.
posted by Cosine at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2012


As I understand it, NWA was not originally expressed as an abbreviation.

Eh, by the time they earned any sort of coverage, they were an acronym, and to be fair (and ridiculously pedantic) the N in NWA stood for "niggaz" not "niggas."
posted by mrgrimm at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2012


even if you don't believe in god/allah/thor that take is awesome - replace it with nature or life force or gravity or whatever - basically, that people striving to be in power are generally corrupt and out of touch and maybe down right evil - even people you support, even people who seem good at heart - it's another take on absolute power corrupts absolutely. those people don't care about the poor, don't care about the struggles, they're just looking for more power, more wealth, more chances to command a crowd.
posted by nadawi at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Mos Def wants to pray 5 times a day that's his business. He raps like a mother fucker gangstarr.
posted by chunking express at 12:58 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the message in the Mos Def response. The actual rapping leaves me a bit meh. But that's not really the point with this track....
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:07 PM on June 14, 2012


and to be fair (and ridiculously pedantic) the N in NWA stood for "niggaz" not "niggas."

Well, I agree with the pedantic part, anyway.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:10 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I almost forgot about this. When I was 16, I worked in the mailroom of the daily paper. I regularly delivered mail to reporters in the newsroom.* Anyway, the music critic had an NWA poster at his desk. I wasn't offended by the "N" part of it, but I was really offended by how their lyrics demeaned women. So I wrote the critic a polite note and left it on his desk. He took it down the next day and personally apologized to me. Having the bigshot music critic apologize to my teenage self was really awesome.

*Twenty years later, this is still the best job I've ever had. I loved talking to the reporters and being in the middle of the action. I loved seeing how the sausage was made. I was there when the Jeffrey Dahmer story broke (the paper was in Milwaukee) and I remember how the reporters scattered around the newsroom like ants to make their deadlines.
posted by desjardins at 8:46 AM on June 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: “So all anyone has to do to make you stop something is tell you that it makes them feel bad? And you have no criteria for determining if their feeling bad is more legitimate than your desire to do whatever? This could go all kinds of crazy.”

Nope, you didn't really understand what I said (or chose not too). If I really truly believe that I have a good reason for saying whatever I'm saying (aka it is going to reduce more pain than it is going to cause) than I'm going to say it. Sometimes I'm going to inadvertently offend people, but I do make an effort to correct myself if that happens.


Well, that's something. It still means that your ability to speak is dependent on other's pain---do you refrain from criticizing religion because it might be read by someone who kicked heroin with the help of faith?---but at least you have some criteria.

"To have the word be totally ubiquitous, yet not be allowed to say it, is like some kind of weird psychological experiment."

Ok...so you are implying it is totally unfair that you don't get to say something even if you hear it often? Because you know what I hear often, but never repeat? Myself shitting and pissing. Man, I hear that like 6 or 7 times a day, yet somehow I don't feel the need to duplicate the noises for others. You know why? Because nobody cares and, more importantly, it would be disrespectful.


Do you refrain from shitting and pissing when you're in a public bathroom? Because that is what we're talking about here. Paltrow was in a space where The Word was being sung, over and over. Where (if previous Jay-Z/Kanye shows are any guide), the whole crowd was being urged to sing along. But if you're so dainty that you don't do those things even when everyone else is, well, that's... fine. But of course, that is the opposite of how most people understand social codes.

Under what circumstances are you hearing it? In music? People talking on the street? The occasional movie? Do any of those instances really require a response from you?

I guess I just really don't understand why you and others would get worked up about not being "able" (and you are still totally able to say whatever you want, no one is actually suggesting impinging on your 1st amendment rights, there is just no guarantee that people won't judge you for it) to say one word that has nothing to do with you.


Well, I can't speak for any "others". And I would certainly not use The Word in daily life. But to get mad at Paltrow for using The Word when *everyone around her is seems to me to misunderstand the whole way language works. Once a word is normalized, even celebrated, it cannot remain private property for long.

Jay Smooth, it seems to me, gets the "trap" aspect a bit wrong. It's not a rapper saying "C'mon, you know you wanna say The Word. C'mon, you know you wanna!" It's more like a rapper saying "Alright everybody, raise your hands in the air! Wave 'em! Sing along with me! Woah---were *you* singing along?" When hip-hop was an underground form, copious use of The Word was explicitly a way of preventing white people from singing along. But once it went mainstream---and once you're Jay-Z and Kanye, you're definitely mainstream---that can't be done any more. People are gonna sing along. If you don't like what they're singing, that's your fault, not theirs.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:24 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


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