Paula Deen And Our N-word Paradox
[Pardon My Rant]
Paula Deen a Caucasian celebrity becomes unemployed for using racial slurs.
But we have seen this before. Paula is not the first to have been caught candidly in such a negative light. In fact, we get news report like this almost every year.
Remember comedian Michael Richards, the actor who played Kramer on Seinfeld? In 2006 he had a complete melt down on stage at the Laugh Factory screaming the n-word to members in the audience after they thought his performance was below par.
How about Duane “Dog” Chapman? In 2007 he lost his reality TV show after a tape surfaced of him using the n-word while explaining the disdain he felt over his son having an African American girlfriend.
Don Imus was fired by CBS in 2009 for referring to the players on Rutgers' Women's Basketball team as “nappy headed hoes”. In 2010 John Mayer declared ownership of a “N-word card” in a Playboy interview. He followed up by saying that he was allowed to use the word because African Americans loved him, even though he was not attracted to African American women. He later apologized on stage at one of his concerts. That was the same year Mel Gibson made headlines: he fought with an ex-girlfriend and left her a phone message, captured on tape, using the n-word as well.
But African Americans, let’s face it. We do not make the n-word rules really clear and forthright with the public. In a 2009 interview with Jay-Z, Oprah agreed to disagree with the rapper about the use of the n-word by African Americans. Jay-Z believes he takes the power out of the word every time he or someone like him uses it. However, Oprah ties the word back to the struggle of many African Americans through the Civil Rights Movement and believes the word will always be rooted in hatred and bigotry. Two heavy weights of the African American community were on opposite ends of this debate.
However, based on a posting on her website, she may have had a change of heart after reading Jay-Z’s book, Decoded.
It gets more complicated. In 2009 Nas received backlash from the public and even his own label, Def Jam, for wishing to call his ninth studio recorded album the N-word. It was later released as an untitled album with Nas saying that the public will know what the title should have been. Here is an excerpt from his title track:
“They say we N-I-double G-E-R
We are much more, still we choose to ignore the obvious
Man this history don't acknowledge us
We was scholars long before colleges”
However, fast forward to 2011 and Jay-Z and Kanye release a single from their album Watch the Throne called “N-word in Paris” winning not one, but two Grammy awards.
Apparently, n-word songs are okay. N-word albums are not. And in this utter contradiction exists the folly of our society. Gwyneth Paltrow and Alec Baldwin both created firestorms for tweets using the name of the Jay-Z/Kanye song. You see, it is racist when non-African Americans say or use the n-word even when an African American uses the same word in the name of the song. Here is an excerpt from this Grammy award winning song:
“So I ball so hard mother****** wanna find me
first n****** gotta find me
What’s 50 grand to a mother****** like me
Can you please remind me?”
Trying to take the power out of a word is a strategy right out of the Jeff Foxworthy/Chris Rock playbook. They have both made lucrative careers from their respective "You Might Be a Redneck" and "Black People vs. N-words" jokes. However, the term “redneck” is not known as the “r-word” is it? Outside of Jeff Foxworthy, who else even uses the word?
This author believes no one, regardless of race, should participate in any actions that keep a word predicated on so much bigotry, hate and ignorance consistently in the public eye. Once we can hold ourselves to that standard, we can demand others follow suit.
Errol Pierre is a writer, political junkie, and social commentator with a passion for Healthcare Policy. He can be reached at www.errolpierre.com