A Black Author Hurls That Word As a Challenge
December 3, 2001 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Nigger. A Black Author Hurls That Word as a Challenge. Revulsion began with the staff of his publisher over the new book by Randall Kennedy. Revulsion? Proving the book's point then...
posted by hellinskira (26 comments total)
And so the tortured issue of race in America goes on...
posted by Irontom at 1:39 PM on December 3, 2001

Oooh. I still grimace at my infamous j.Lo thread.
posted by jennak at 1:41 PM on December 3, 2001

So much for Dick Gregory's attempt to defuse the word-- the original cover had a note to his mother saying that whenever she heard the word from now on, people were just talking about his book.
posted by yerfatma at 2:11 PM on December 3, 2001

good article. Though, it is much ado about not much. There are plenty of books with that word in the title.

Still, it looks pretty interesting. Mr. Kennedy's book may be worth a read for us amateur wordsmiths.
posted by ColdChef at 2:13 PM on December 3, 2001

"It is a crude marketing technique"

Seem to me that's the book's point
posted by victors at 2:15 PM on December 3, 2001

When I first saw that headline on NYTimes.com I had no idea what it meant. But after I read the article, I realized I wasn't sure how I would to describe the book, either, if I had to write a headline for that article (or for a MeFi post about it, even).

Using that word more often won't necessarily de-fang it. I think even if most people were comfortable with the term and meant no disrespect by it, it would still be wrong to use it in any situation where someone who wasn't comfortable with their using it might hear. The word's history is too hateful to dismiss easily.
posted by mattpfeff at 2:17 PM on December 3, 2001

I am half Filipino... the left half. Ha-ha-ha! But seriously, I have been the (quote, unquote; with hand gestures) "victim" of racial slurs and discrimination my entire life. The really funny aspect (not "ha-ha" funny, but "hmmm" funny) of this is that for the most part I have been discriminated by folks with skin as dark, or darker, than mine (living in Guam was the worst, for some reason). Black, white, yellow, red, pink, purple, whatever... I've had it from just about every racial background that there is.

People often get me mixed up with being Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and a host of other races. I've been called everything you could think of: "half-breed", "wop", "chink", "gook", "slant", "spic", "ching-chong", "flip"... whatever you can think of, I'll bet I've been called it. I think some folks even made up new names just for me! When I was younger I was even beaten up just because my parents were a bi-racial couple (hello, Athens Georgia!), so I know something about racial predjudices; I have about 30 years of it under my belt. But something my mother told me years ago helped me live with the intolerance, idiocy, and bigotry of others:

"It's only words."

Of course, it took me a while to have that sentiment really sink in; fourth graders are not often easy to console when beaten up by a gang of 5 schoolyard bullies. But eventually time, parental love, and Bactine helped heal the wounds of predjudice. Now when I am confronted with a racist remark I can't help but think of how small of a mind that person has when they judge me by my skin.

Now to my point: I've never been called "nigger", but my advice to anyone who is offended by it is the same as my mother gave me. Don't let someone else's ignorance pain you... laugh it off and/or ignore it. They're obviously an idiot! Plus, what do you care about someone who doesn't care about you? Unfortunately racism is here to stay, IMHO; it would be great if we could wipe it out, but that's not a realistic goal.

My feeling is that the best that we can all do is to teach our own children to not judge others by their skin, religion, or anything of that nature. That way there's one more person in the world who isn't tied down with race issues. Then maybe one day we all truly will be able to get along.
posted by crankydoodle at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2001

N.W.A not only had the word in the group's name, but put it in almost every song they had and it launched the careers of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube who all became millionares.

Not only is it a fine marketing tool, but it's also a great way to make money.

although when white people say it, i still dont like it, which means that it still has a hidden power.
posted by tsarfan at 3:37 PM on December 3, 2001

My thought has always been, "Call me what you want. Chances are you don't know me anyway.
Touch me and I'll end you."
posted by black8 at 3:40 PM on December 3, 2001

Richard Delgado, a Mexican-American professor at the University of Colorado Law School, who has argued for restrictions on hate-speech, said that he, too, feared that Mr. Kennedy's defense of the term's novel uses would encourage racists. But Mr. Delgado also said that Mr. Kennedy risked slighting other ethnic groups by underestimating the power of other slurs. Calling "nigger" the "paradigmatic" ethnic slur was "parochial," Mr. Delgado said
Argued for restrictions on free speech if it included words deemed offensive! You are making Jesus cry now.
Warned black guy to stop cheap-shoting other 'ethnic slurs' which had more power...for the love of God, this whole damn story must have been written by someone on acid. By exposing the stupidity behind all that racial crap and the attached stereotypes, All in the family did more to improve this area than anything i'm aware of. Take it out of its box, shine the pure light of reason and truth on it and make it stand on its own.
posted by Mack Twain at 4:16 PM on December 3, 2001

I hate that word. I am uncomfortable when I hear black people use it, and I detest hearing white people use it.....I am from the South(i'm caucasian)and some of my earliest memories are hearing my parents yell at me when I didn't do a job up to their standards;"That's a NIGGER job".......first, even as a little kid i had enough sense to know that was so unfair to call black people bad names or to assume they were inferior-second, that word has a power quite like any other word used to hurt or wound.....I was wounded by it, and in a sense part of the wounding was the unfairness and wickedness of the very word itself.
If no one ever used it ever again it would be too soon in my book.
posted by bunnyfire at 4:35 PM on December 3, 2001

I found the following statements odd:

You are just giving a whole bunch of racists who love to use the word permission to use it even more, like, `I am not really using it, I am just talking about a book!' "


feared that Mr. Kennedy's defense of the term's novel uses would encourage racists.

Is Julianne Malveaux so stupid as to think racists are going to come crawling out of the woodwork because of Mr. Kennedy's book? The people who are sending her hate letters ARE ALREADY RACIST. They're not going to get MORE racist because a book title has the word "nigger" in it.

And Richard Delgado, geesh, I hope his comments were taken out of context because if those are truly his opinions, he's more racist than any of the people he could ever be worried about.
posted by billman at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2001

Just for an equal opportunity to be offended, here is the Racial Slur Database
posted by bregdan at 4:47 PM on December 3, 2001

Bunnyfire: You're like, Mongolian?
posted by Catch at 4:47 PM on December 3, 2001

Nigger is "the most offensive word in English" and they can prove it with math!
posted by Catch at 4:55 PM on December 3, 2001

Remember that tour guide at some museum or something who was fired and compelled to apologize for using the word "niggardly" because some people didn't know of its innocuous meaning? Refresh my memory on that?

There's a testament to the power of that word...
posted by vito90 at 5:51 PM on December 3, 2001

I've been called everything you could think of: "half-breed", "wop", "chink", "gook", "slant", "spic", "ching-chong", "flip"...

i never knew flip was derogatory. maybe i ought to stop using that one. i've gotten the discrimination from all angles too. blacks, whites, gangs of filipinos (which is kind of funny.)... i get confused for being all of those too, more often than not, mexican. but it's always taken more than words to really get at me. the few times i can recall anyone coming out and blatantly using racial slurs instead of actually coming at me, i dismissed it with a cool "whatever." ('cause i'm cool like dat.) i still don't understand how the word can't just be "let go." i once saw a kid get called a "halfrican" though... now that for some reason actually seemed like something worth fighting over.
posted by lotsofno at 6:01 PM on December 3, 2001

"i never knew flip was derogatory"

It's a derogatory term for a Filipino. Of course, I've been called that by Filipino's as well, so...

I'm usually cool about it, but I "should" 'fess up to getting my hackles up every now and again over it as well. But I'm trying to be better about it. :)
posted by crankydoodle at 6:18 PM on December 3, 2001

ah, i just called myself that because i thought it was a convenient shortening of "filipino." and i think some part of that was played by listening to busta rhymes constantly referring to his "flip-family ties."
posted by lotsofno at 6:28 PM on December 3, 2001

posted by quercus at 6:41 PM on December 3, 2001


I'm also a mixed person, half white, half black. I've been mistaken for mexican and Indian (hindi, not native american).

My experiance is the complete opposite of bunnyfire's though, I've never been called a racist term in my entire life (well, once I was called 'honkey' by some white friends of mine in texas who seemed to be 'adopting' the word in the same way black people were adopting 'nigger').

Anyway. One thing I've heard is that if you want to be innofensive, you should use the word "nigga" rather then "nigger". But who knows.
posted by delmoi at 6:45 PM on December 3, 2001

hmm... I wonder if I can start referring to people at MeFi as my "niggas".

"Yo.... I'd like to give shouts out to all my niggaz on MeFi...."

Has a nice ring.
posted by geoff. at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2001

and when they come here asking if we know you, we'll quickly deny any relation.

j/k. by the way, if you haven't seen it yet...
posted by lotsofno at 8:35 PM on December 3, 2001

There are books that have that word in the title....
Conrad's the ----- of the Narcissus
posted by Charmian at 8:57 PM on December 3, 2001

Argh, ignore me, I didn't completely read the article
posted by Charmian at 8:58 PM on December 3, 2001

it would still be wrong to use it in any situation where someone who wasn't comfortable with their using it might hear.

So pretty much everywhere, then. When can one ever be sure about who is or isn't within earshot?

although when white people say it, i still dont like it

You forgot the apostrophe, you fucking racist.

Whenever you give a word as much power as the word "nigger" has, everyone in the world should shout it, at the top of their lungs, from high hilltops, until it stops hurting and becomes commonplace. Black kids today understand this. The point of a racist comment is to inflict an emotional wound on the person of color. If the word no longer has the power to cause an emotional wound, then the racist is shooting blanks and will eventually stop using the word. But as long as the word retains its power, racists are armed to the hilt.

This is why the only people left in the world who you can make fun of and use racial slurs against, in a "PC" way, are white people. You know why? Because we don't give a fuck. Call me whitey, whitebread, white trash, honky, cracker, ahab, round eye, whatever... it reflects only on the person who said it, not on the person who just happened to get in the way. So if you hear it, why let it affect you? Why be offended at all? Sticks and stones, people.
posted by David Dark at 2:47 PM on December 4, 2001

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