I am sure most of you have heard or read about Dr Laura's (Schlessinger) melt down on the air, on August 10th, where she broke into a rant about how it isn't fair White people can't use the 'N' word while Black people use it all the time (such as comedians during routines or between two friends). She proceeded to go on a rant about the caller being hypersensitive and claiming this type of 'unfairness' causes for more discrimination and racism in western society (towards Whites). She emphasized her point by saying the 'n' word 11 times during her rant. She has since apologize for this uncalled for display, and actually, has announced the end of her 30 year old radio show. Depending who you talk to, she either quit or was fired, but there is no arguing it was this issue that spurred it.
I know very little about Dr. Laura other than she is a socially conservative commentator, and that when I do hear her views, I quickly recognize we have very different outlook on things. Though I do agree with Dr. Laura that subjects like race are something that we need to talk about and that we can't ignore the impact it plays in our society. What I don't condone is almost everything else in her misguided rant, especially her spewing of the 'n' word and the complaint it isn't fair only Black people can use it. It reminds me of a three year old complaining to her parents that it is 'no fair' Charlie gets to be injected by an insulin needle all day while she only gets to inhale sugar by the pound full.
Despite Dr. Laura's apology, I got the feeling she still believes she should be able to use it. This whole mess has also been used by members of the Tea Party and other right wing pundits as an excuse to complain about the discrimination towards Whites (especially those poor, downtrodden, millionaire CEOs). There has been several blogs or web sites that have spouted out their opinions, with some groups agreeing it is discrimination that one group can use a word while another can't. At the same time, there is also a large portion that realize it is rather insensitive and misguided to fight for the right to use a racist slang.
The major issue is that the 'N' word is not just a word. It has a long and hurtful history behind it. This was a word that was used by rich, white slave owners to address their 'property'. This was a word used by Whites to describe the people who couldn't go to their schools or clubs or stores during the segregation. It was the Whites' way of showing that Blacks were beneath them. It was and is a word filled with contempt and derision. When it was used by a White person, it was their way of making it clear that Blacks knew they were the inferior race. When it comes from the lips of a Caucasian, it is filled with venom and hatred.
This is the exact reason that a Black person can say it to another Black person. They aren't holding the same meaning behind it. They aren't describing the other as the inferior race, because they are the same. There isn't that same history. There isn't that same venom coating around the word, because it is being shared by two people of the same race.
On paper, it might be unfair that it is considered racist by some to use a word, and completely fine by another group. But then you're suffering from a bad case of ignoring history. You are ignoring the entire reason the word is bad to begin with. The fact is, it is a word that only carries hate when used by a certain group. A group that brought the word into existence and used it to categorize a race in a disgustingly, vile manner. I know many people condemn the past of slavery and segregation, but it is still far too soon to think the word doesn't carry the feelings of discrimination and hatred or the sentiments of that awful past.
I want things like equality and fairness, but history and society also demands that we be aware of the realities. The fact is equality and fairness still does not exist, and mostly likely, will not fully exist for a very long time. Thus it is our responsibility to take the actions necessary to continue to push towards a world of fairness and true equality. One day it would be nice to live in a place that a word doesn't contain a horde of painful pasts and evil emotions.
This is the same reason that I am a supporter of at least some form of affirmative action. This is why I believe there needs to be programs that aid and support certain groups. Because due to events of the past, many people still aren't starting out on an even playing field. People from certain groups are still being born into areas that are under funded or under supported. Years of discrimination and a clear pecking order have firmly entrenched families for a life of poverty. This isn't to say that people aren't able to rise above this and succeed. It is to say that it is a harder road for some than others. The reality is, discrimination still exists.
It may not be as blatant as a hundred years ago or even the 50s and 60s, but it still is hovering over us all like a threatening storm cloud. You know it still exists when a White woman clutches her purse a little tighter when passing a Black man. It still exists when a family is hesitant to move into a neighbourhood because a Black family already lives there. You know it still exists when someone utters, 'Why can't they just adopt our customs, because this is my country afterall.' You know it still exist when people complain 'they' are taking 'our' jobs. You know it still exists when a person complains a city has gone downhill ever since it has got more diverse. You know it still exists when the straight As Black student is called an 'exception'. I don't want it to exist. But I can't ignore that it is here. As long as it is here, then there needs to be rules and programs and understandings in place that help create an even playing field. On paper you can be 'fair' to everyone, but that actually isn't really fair to many.
This is why if you're not black, you have no right ever uttering the 'n' word. It is a word that discriminates, not in just its meaning, but in who can actually use it.