A Tokyo breakfast like none you have ever seen.
May 26, 2001 11:43 AM   Subscribe

A Tokyo breakfast like none you have ever seen. I saw this and laughed as I watched it. Warning, some people may find it offensive as the basic premise is the over use of a common racial slur. But it brings up a bigger question. Have we really moved to the point where racial slurs have become an acceptable part of pop culture?
posted by summer1971 (32 comments total)
 
Coincidentally MTV had a special on the other night regarding this sort of thing. They spoke to various rap artists and members of the black community regarding their feelings about the "N" word. Have we become so desensitized that it no longer matters? A lot of the people interviewed expressed the fact that they feel the word "nigga" when used in rap and amongst themselves has a different connotation then the word "nigger". I'm interested in hearing what people think about this.
posted by summer1971 at 11:46 AM on May 26, 2001


im with summer1971 on this -

I saw this a little while ago - and although midly amusing - (first ten sec's or so..) i was left wondering *why*???.
It certanly has two meanings, the discrimative racist view and the "street - Gangsta rap" view.
- I want to comment more on this but i'll leave it for a while and come back and read what others have posted.. but at the end of the day - i feel its dam right racist and shouldnt have been made.......
posted by monkeyJuice at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2001


I was sent this from a friend 2 months ago. My jaw dropped. I didn't think I'd be offended; boy, was I wrong! After the initial "nigga" I found myself IMing my friend with comments like "wtf" and "damn!" This shit ain't funny - at least to me - my asian buds though seem to be drawn to it more than myself. What's up with that? If we have moved to the point where racial slurs have become an acceptable part of pop culture I'm blissfully living in the past.
posted by wantwit at 12:18 PM on May 26, 2001


Well, it is how they view our pop culture. Just take a look at our shows and how they portray other countries. South park is a good example.
posted by crackheadmatt at 1:20 PM on May 26, 2001


The last time this was discussed it was suggested that this wasn't a product of Japanese culture.
posted by muta at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2001


Maybe we can turn the MeFi Investigation Squad on this and find out where it really came from. Here's a comment from the originating page (at hypnotic.com):
this is not japanese. it is taiwanese. three ways to tell, the first is beyond obvious--the japanese subtitles. second, these people's facial characteristics scream chinese. third, the news broadcast in the very beginning is in chinese. fourth, the japanese in this show is horrible!!! they are obviously not native speakers. i couldn't see the credits, so i couldn't tell you anything about them. too bad. they could have said a lot.

So, is this the work of some Taiwanese filmmaker mocking Asian racism?
posted by darukaru at 3:16 PM on May 26, 2001


I can't see how you can justify a word as a slur while those who it supposedly insults use it habitually. Nigga and nigger's, or whatever alternative spelling you can come up, connotation only matters to whom is saying it to whom.

From my experience other racial slurs are considered slurs by the offended race and simple aren't used. Worse yet, nigger is now part of the hip-hop culture which includes white kids calling themselves niggers. This little film takes it a step further and out of the trailer park and into a conservative japanese household which is pretty damn funny.
posted by skallas at 3:57 PM on May 26, 2001


Actually skallas you are wrong. The word "Nigga" is used in rap songs, the word "nigger" is not. And they are two very different words with two very different connotations. Ask any black person you know (myself included as I am black) and they will tell you that we look at the two words differently. The word "nigga" has been adopted as a term of familiarity between blacks. The word nigger still carries its very racist connotations.
posted by summer1971 at 4:54 PM on May 26, 2001


Nigger (approximately)= Nigga

Its a simple matter of context, not pronunciation. It all depends on who is saying it, and how he or she intends for it to be interpreted (or how it actually is interpreted).
posted by howa2396 at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2001


i think the word nigger has taken on a different connotation then it used to have whereas in the past it was used as a blanket term for all blacks(by ignorant white people). now the word seems to be used more to refer to ignorant black people as in, "those black people are acting like a bunch of niggers." of course this this doesn't hold true everywhere and is just my perspective on the matter. btw, I think chris rock talks about this in his latest HBO stadup act when he does about 5 minutes of his act and says something like, "i hate niggers."

for most people i think this is a taboo topic and even discussing this in the open seems to term you as being racist. the bottomline is that some people are good and some people are bad no matter what your color. racism to me is when people make judgements solely based on color, gender, clothes whatever. every single person has preconceptions but that's ok as long as you can be open minded enough to listen and think about other possibilities. just my 3 cents...
posted by suprfli at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2001


Not sure, but should you all be typing the N-word so liberally? I mean, it's still a slur...
posted by zebra_monkey at 7:59 PM on May 26, 2001


Use-mention distinction. If someone was actually using it to insult someone, then it would be out of line. But this thread seems to be mostly talking *about* it, and how forms of the word differ in meaning. I don't think any of us are jumping up and down with glee about how we can use the word in public.
posted by darukaru at 8:21 PM on May 26, 2001


Before this conversation of usage of the word "nigger" begins, I would like to start with a modest plea.

Please, please, don't anyone say "'Nigger' isn't a colour, it's a state of mind" like every white kid who calls themself "nigger" says.

Please.
posted by Succa at 8:22 PM on May 26, 2001


Chris Rock, NWA, every other rapper on the earth all say NIGGA and not NIGGER. They are two different words entirely and especially within our ethnic race. They don't mean the same, don't feel the same and don't act the same.

That's my argument and I'm sticking to it.
posted by summer1971 at 10:14 PM on May 26, 2001


I have always felt that the use of "niggah" (spelling notwithstanding) in either rap or as a term of familiarity was on par with calling up a friend and saying "How are ya, you old son of a bitch?!" That is, it's a male insult-as-term-of-endearment convention. Obviously this doesn't mean you can go around calling other people sons of bitches, certainly not (for example) co-workers or perfect strangers, but it's something that derives its power strictly from the getting-away-with-something mockery of social conventions.

That said, whether you're talking about Japan or Taiwan, those people aren't Americans. No American could get away with that kind of depiction for obvious reasons, but I don't think that something produced privately for the Asian audience is something that Americans need to get worked up over. 'Sides, I think most niggahs would find it funny as hell ... sort of an extreme version of the Budweiser ad mocking its own campaign, with the square white (and Asian) guys saying "What are YOU doing?"

Final note: god, I wish people would realize that when Mark Twain wrote about "niggers", he was very close to being the least racist living American. And Huck Finn is the Great American Novel, hands down.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 PM on May 26, 2001


I hate that this word is part of "hip hop culture" now, should have left it behind a long time ago.

But I must confess Chris Rock's routine distinguishing between "Niggas" and "black people" is quite dead-on and funny.

The funniest side effect is when the word is part of a newscast and they use the phrase "the n-word" it sounds so weird...
posted by owillis at 11:22 PM on May 26, 2001


I found this once, (I apologize if it was a MF link before, I dont remember) and I think it is relevant. It is a very interesting test to find out your degree of racial preference, either black or white. It uses your first instincts and reactions.
posted by Espoo2 at 11:37 PM on May 26, 2001


Espoo2: excellent link.

Results:
Your data suggest a moderate preference for White American relative to Black American

Your data suggest a moderate identity with Black American relative to White American

Your data suggest a moderate preference for Self relative to Other
posted by owillis at 12:31 AM on May 27, 2001


(raising my hand)
summer1971? I'm a black person. I don't think the words have separate meanings. I think they're equally insulting, no matter who utters them. While it's your argument and you're entitled to stick to it, please don't assume that your feelings (and the feelings of a few hip-hop artists and Chris Rock) speak for the feelings of all African Americans.

Actually, if you listen to the Chris Rock monologue in question, (I assume you're referring to the one from "Bigger and Blacker"), he says there's a difference between Black people and N****RS, not between the alternate spellings.

And while I'd like not to buy skallas' argument ("I can't see how you can justify a word as a slur while those who it supposedly insults use it habitually."), more often than not I see that he/she shares the opinion of lots of folks outside the African American community. We can say that we're taking the word back, that we're defusing it, that if we say it as much as we want it's a testament to our pride as a people... I just don't buy it. I don't think it's equivalent to the way gay people have reclaimed queer, largely because the gay people who have reclaimed the word are non-minorities who have the luxury of getting away with referring to themselves in this matter without it reflecting negatively on them (the Religious Right notwithstanding).

Don't let the example of hip-hop artists (who are largely bankrolled by non-minority owned record companies), comedians, and other popular culture workers determine your self-identification. If you can come up with other reasons why you so fiercely cling to those words, then I'm open to hearing them. But I'd rather hear YOUR reasons for continuing to use a slur as a means of self-identification, not those of a few celebrities.
posted by likorish at 9:22 AM on May 27, 2001


I don't think it's equivalent to the way gay people have reclaimed queer, largely because the gay people who have reclaimed the word are non-minorities who have the luxury of getting away with referring to themselves in this matter without it reflecting negatively on them (the Religious Right notwithstanding).

You would think, of all people, black people would understand. Non-minorities? The last socially accepted form of discrimination. Yeah we just run around throwing fag and queer all over the place, kissing whoever we choose and hell maybe even marrying whoever we love. It truly is luxurious.
posted by brian at 11:02 AM on May 27, 2001


Brian, if it makes you feel any better, I place myself squarely in both communities. As a person of color who has spent lots of time in the "queer" community, I know all too well about how discrimination works on BOTH sides of the coin. I also know that while discrimination is discrimination, the experiences of a non-black/latino/asian queer person are completely different from same-gender loving people of color.

Not that I'd advocate such a thing, but if a white gay man or white lesbian decided for whatever reason to remain silent about his or her sexual orientation, he or she could blend in with the minority. It wouldn't be comfortable, nor would it be easy. It certainly isn't a truthful way to live. But it's an option that they have that I as an African American woman don't have the luxury of. I can't take off my skin.
posted by likorish at 11:57 AM on May 27, 2001


I really should edit things before I post them. I meant to say that if a GWM or GWF decided to be silent, he or she could easily blend in with the majority.
posted by likorish at 12:00 PM on May 27, 2001


Likorish-

No where in my comments did I say that "I" use that term as a form of self-identification because hip hop artists use it. I was simply defining the difference between the way blacks use it and the way other races use it. When's the last time you heard two black guys walk up to each other and say "Whassup my nigger?" Nope. It always comes out "whassup my Nigga". I don't think I speak for all black people and I never said nor meant to imply that I do. All I pointed out was the way it is said within the race and outside of it.

I also never said said that Chris Rock differentiated between nigger and nigga. I said he used the word NIGGA and not nigger. Listen to the way it comes out of his mouth.

And I NEVER said I was letting anyone determine my self identification. I don't think of myself as a nigger, nigga or any other such racial slur. My self identification is not even based on the fact that I am black. My identification is based on me but that's a whole other topic.

I think you assumed a lot and misinterpreted my comments. I only meant to point out that a lot of blacks in popular culture use this word (rappers, Chris rock, Richard Pryor many other black comedians) and it has become accepted by the masses as being ok.

I appreciate your views but they are your views. I never expressed my views on whether I think it's appropriate or not. You assumed that I had. Please don't do that either. I never stated that I identified with this word or that it's a word I use. You assumed that also.

To me both of the words are stupid but they are just WORDS. Have I used the word nigga? Yes I have. Maybe one day that word will drop out of my vocabulary but it is just a word. It doesn't define the person or object that I am using it toward. Much like gay, straight, homo, bi it's just a label. Don't let YOUR identity become all wrapped up in trying to defend yourself against words. They are just words, kind of like bitch, hell, shit, Jesus Christ and damn. All words that started out meaning one thing and turned into something else entirely somewhere down the road.
posted by summer1971 at 2:06 PM on May 27, 2001


eww, I just reread that after I posted and I sound like a biyatch but I really don't mean to so don't take offense cecily.
posted by summer1971 at 2:11 PM on May 27, 2001


Your data suggest a moderate identity with Black American relative to White American

Your data suggest a moderate preference for Self relative to Other

Your data suggest a slight preference for Black American relative to White American

Long test but worth it.
posted by summer1971 at 2:36 PM on May 27, 2001


No big deal. It's Japanese poking fun at/satiring their own culture's embracing of "American subculture". I'm thinking of Chris Farley (I didn't see the special last night actually) on the Japanese game show as a tourist and contestant. If you get a question wrong you have to chop off one of your fingers etc. Doubtless, that might be offensive and falsely stereotyping as well. Only we're not part of the culture to witness the insult.

Just as to the Japanese, I doubt they differentiate between black and white Americans. . .perhaps they see only Americans.

At least that's what I gathered from it.
posted by crasspastor at 2:53 PM on May 27, 2001


No offense taken, summer1971. I don't really know you, so it's hard for me to feel any particular offense.

Still I wonder -- if they're just words, why do you specifically choose to use the word "nigga" or any derivation of it (because to my ears, they sound exactly the same, especially in the part of the US were I hail from)? Why not simply choose to use another word, like 'Whassup my brutha?" or for that matter, "Whassup, my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?"

When you said:

Ask any black person you know (myself included as I am black) and they will tell you that we look at the two words differently.

I assumed you meant that you use the word, you identify with it, and you think -- based on your comments -- that all black people use/identify with the same word. I'm just here to say that that's not true. Fallacy of numbers, or some such stuff.
posted by likorish at 3:01 PM on May 27, 2001


And you know what Likorish? That could be a big part of it too, the fact that we are from different parts of the country. You grew up in the South I'm assuming and I grew up in sunny southern california in an interracial household (black mother, white father). I lived in the south for 5 years (North Carolina) and I noticed that while there were *some* blacks that used the word, there were more that didn't. In California I heard it a lot more so maybe I'm desensitized or something.

As far as choosing the word nigga over nigger I suppose it has to do with the fact that I hear nigga more than I hear nigger. I don't know it's hard to explain here without writing an essay.

And the statement that you quoted - that was a poor choice of words on my part. I should have said that where I am from, more blacks use nigga than nigger. In fact, I can't name one black person I know right now that uses the word nigger over nigga. That's all.

:)
posted by summer1971 at 3:18 PM on May 27, 2001


Another point: one of America's biggest exports is pop culture. This is why young Japanese kids in Osaka are buying Jay-Z albums along with Britney Spears. America exports what it can sell, and the U.S. is not the only place where Gangsta rap will sell. Even so, sometimes people in other countries develop a somewhat limited perspective on America because whatever pop culture we choose to export there is by no means a well-balanced reflection of America.

For example, the mediocre sitcom "ALF" was very popular in Japan. And the 15-year-old old son of some Korean family friends comes to the U.S. with his Korn and Marilyn Manson albums in tow.

In this light, the "Good Morning Tokyo" clip looks like a warped, over-the-top view of black U.S. Gansta rap culture.
posted by 4midori at 10:25 AM on May 28, 2001


Another point: one of America's biggest exports is pop culture. This is why young Japanese kids in Osaka are buying Jay-Z albums along with Britney Spears. America exports what it can sell, and the U.S. is not the only place where Gangsta rap will sell. Even so, sometimes people in other countries develop a somewhat limited perspective on America because whatever pop culture we choose to export there is by no means a well-balanced reflection of America.

For example, the mediocre sitcom "ALF" was very popular in Japan. And the 15-year-old old son of some Korean family friends comes to the U.S. with his Korn and Marilyn Manson albums in tow.

In this light, the "Good Morning Tokyo" clip looks like a warped, over-the-top view of black U.S. Gansta rap culture.
posted by 4midori at 10:26 AM on May 28, 2001


summer1971: you repeat this assertion that "nigga" and "nigger" are not the same word, as though that somehow makes "nigga" not a racial slur. I think you're being silly - the pronunciation of the word may have drifted, but that doesn't make it suddenly a new word. The reason people utter that pair of syllables is that it has a long heritage as a derogatory term for descendants of African slaves (or for people with dark skin in general). It's not as though a new word sprang into existence one day that just happened to sound almost exactly the same and refer to the same group of people as an old "bad" word.

Yew kun pleigh gaymes wif thuh spehlink, but the words still mean the same thing.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:02 AM on May 29, 2001


The words still mean the same thing? So when Jay-Z says "Where all my niggas at?" he's saying "Where are all my shiftless, lazy, ignorant, illiterate, welfare-receiving, bastard-making, fried-chicken and watermelon-eating, nappy-headed, etc. (insert your stereotyped negative connotation of black people here) at?"

I don't think so. No more so than when the chant of "We're here, we're queer, get over it." goes up at gay pride it means "we're here and we're deviant sodomite perverts who are hellbound and proud of it, so get over it."

I don't like the word. I don't like it when I see young black people of colour who cannot find any other of greeting or referring to one another. But I can promise you that when my cousin says "Oh, Gary, he's my nigga." he's not insulting Gary one bit. Just the opposite, in fact.
posted by Dreama at 9:39 AM on May 29, 2001


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