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Chipster Donating Member (139 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 02:48 PM
Original message
Word? The N Word
I cringed. As soon as I read it. And now, I've read it again. Twice. On this site. A site devoted to peace, justice and impeachment, and by extension, human rights, rule of law, and all that jazz.

It's the word. No, don't be saying "word" not yet. I'm talking about the word. You know the one I mean the "N" word.

For years, we white folks perhaps I should say we honky folks? Or, should I say we northerners? - avoided using it, in polite company, in academia, in the workplace, among our friends and neighbors. It was offensive because it was historically pejorative and it separated us from "other" folks. At the very, very minimum, it was a sign of disrespect, with a historical origin of the ultimate disrespect: lynching.

Of course, we know the flip side, that it is used by African Americans among African Americans in various contexts from classicist scorn to hot sweet love but we northern honkies deem our use of it verboten. And rightly so.

Now, reading it twice there, I'm alarmed. Both usages were completely factual in their reports, but by objectively reporting the egregious slurs by McCain-Palin supporters, are we promoting racism by using the pejorative?

Why aren't we even considering its use as an issue?

When confronted with the pejorative usage, the customary honky format is to go with the "N word" or "n----r" which serves the purpose of both being instantly understood and politely, vaguely, and condemningly explicit.

We're doing away with that now, it seems. We just want to be upfront and all that, I suppose, as we move forward in the election process, toward electing what could be our first, second or sixth black president, depending on how you measure it. If precedence matters.

Just as racist shouts from political rally crowds should not allowed or condoned, so too, neither should racist language in their reporting be tolerated. In our quest to be accurate, are we also being inflammatory? Are we actually buying in to the racist jargon?

Many reasons for lynching violence have been cited: racism as a political tool, a permissive government, a racist environment, and economic factors (lynching rose and fell with cotton prices). Billie Holliday immortalized the lynching of blacks in her 1939 rendition of "Strange Fruit," a mournful ballad by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx who later set it to music. The lyrics she sang were haunting then, as now:

Strange Fruit: A Poem
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is the fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Now, will you say "Word?"
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 02:52 PM
Response to Original message
1. Opinions differ on that. Myself, I prefer to use it when reporting, rather than whitewash it...
Hiding the ugliness allows it to live, imo.

But opinions differ on that.
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 02:54 PM
Response to Original message
2. I think not using it gives it more power, in some ways, than using it
It's an ugly word, and there are two ways to go about de-fusing it: remove it from the English language altogether, or just spell it out and let it sit there.
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juno jones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 02:56 PM
Response to Original message
3. I wish I knew how to post pictures
I would post Chicago Surrealist Gertrude Abercrombie's painting 'Strange Fruit' renamed 'Charlie Parker's Favorite Painting' to accompany the poem.
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Betsy Ross Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 02:57 PM
Response to Original message
4. I'm with you.
But there are many on DU who feel there should not be any censorship on words used here.
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Idealism Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 03:00 PM
Response to Original message
5. Word?
I tend to agree with the need for it to be reported, not repeated. To fully understand just how inhumane some aspects of the McCain-Palin are, by the language their supporters use, and the language the candidates themselves use. We shouldn't be trying to cover up the lack of morals these people have, or the hypocrisy they engage in by claiming to be the family values side of the aisle.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 03:01 PM
Response to Original message
6. "honky"? Who's using the perjoratives now???
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Chipster Donating Member (139 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 03:22 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Put it in context
Using it was sarcasm: "Or should I say...".
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Joe Chi Minh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 03:35 PM
Response to Original message
8. I suspect the word will sound increasingly hollow before long, making no sense,
Edited on Wed Oct-29-08 03:58 PM by KCabotDullesMarxIII
even among those who use it now.

Pejorative words for continental Europeans are much less common in the UK now, for similar reasons. As people have become increasingly aware, we are not the "master-race" as dim recollections of empire persuaded older generations to believe. We get regularly thrashed at most sports, and cable television and the diminishing effect of the old post WWII propaganda have even stripped younger generations of the quaint notion that "we won the war" - virtually single-handed; with a bit of help form the Yanks and the Russians.

Empire endowed us with a particularly half-witted, brutish notion of ourselves. Brute strength was thought to be the thing, so our football managers took great pride in the "physical game" we played - "wot them continentals couldn't handle." Problem was they didn't need to, because they had the elementary sense to realise that skill was paramount, and ran rings round us. What's more, they were plenty physical enough to deal with us. It also happens that, if it turns into a physical battle, the best footballers are also the most accomplished at fouling, so the Italians, for example, were always able teach us a more skilled level of brutality. But then, their empire pre-dated ours by some centuries, and they knew politicians like the back of their hand, far too well to get excited about conquering other countries. They knew who profited and who paid the cost. Chomsky asserts that the West could have stopped WWII as late as 1938, but certainly earlier. Thing was, we (our monied classes) didn't want to. Hitler had brought about a significant rise in share-prices on our stockmarket. But I digress.

While our young school-boys were trained on the pitches used by the grown-ups, in Holland and elsewhere on the Continent, they created much smaller pitches to meet the children's actual needs. While winnning from the earliest age was everything here in the UK; on the Continent, the competitive side of it took a back seat to learning technical skills.

The received "wisdom" in the early days of West Indian immigration, was that they didn't "have the bottle" for the game. Never mind that they dominated at least the ranks of the heavier weights of world professional boxing champions, and of course, the World Heavy Weight title, itself. Now, black players are decidedly over-represented in our top "pro" footbal clubs. So, what's new? Their athleticism is now legendary, though it may not be mentioned a lot.

During the first game we played against the Mighty Magyars in the early fifties, which the Hungarians won 3-6 at Wembley (it was to be 7-1 in Budappest), as they were trooping off at half-time our captain, Billy Wright, murmured to our goalie, Gil Merrick, that he hadn't touched the ball yet! It could have been the first inkling that we had lost a teeny touch of the divine supremacy that was our birthright.

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darkism Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 03:37 PM
Response to Original message
9. Censoring it in reportage is never appropriate.
Edited on Wed Oct-29-08 03:38 PM by darkism
Let it out there. Take out the asterisks and let it be its full, hateful self.

Then people will see how ugly certain words - and, by extension, the people that use them - can be.
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MomOf4 Donating Member (13 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 03:51 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. I Agree.
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hay rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 05:24 PM
Response to Original message
11. The Nigger of the Narcissus- by Joseph Conrad
Hope I didn't offend anyone. Obviously, I come down on the side of context and intent. The word can be hateful and offensive, humorous, or merely innocuous depending on who is using it and when.

It never ceases to amaze me that this can be such a polarizing issue. One extreme: the word itself is invested with such power that it can not be uttered or written without causing offense. Another extreme which I encounter a lot: white people who consider themselves victims because black people can use the word without incident while if they use it they will be labeled racist.

Question: if the n-word is offensive because of the history it is associated with, why isn't "nazi" an n-word or worse?
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List left Donating Member (71 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 05:40 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Choice
Being a Nazi was a choice.
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hay rick Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 05:55 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. If you call somebody a nazi today
odds are you're not talking about or to an 80+ year old German. If you're talking about a contemporary, "nazi" is likely to be a slur.
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Seldona Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-29-08 05:51 PM
Response to Original message
13. Words don't offend me.
It's the thoughts behind them that count. There is no intrinsic danger in ANY words, only in the intent behind them. Two very, very, different things.
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