Or, "No, There's No Reason For You To Use The N-Word."
This is one of those posts that I write in a rage, using only my middle fingers to type, whipped up by recent current events. So in order to totally get it, read this. Go ahead, it's not too long, just get the gist of it. Make it a new tab. This will be here when you're done.
Okay, fine, I'll do the customary introductory paragraph with summary. So, Dr. Laura is a radio show host, where she answers questions on the phone relating to farm equipment and sometimes relationship advice. A black woman called up to ask how to deal with the weird race-based questions and stereotypes she gets from the white side of the family she married into, how to bring up that she is not always comfortable with questions like, "Do black people like this?" or, "What do black people think about that?" or even using the infamous N-word.
So, obviously, Dr. Laura says the caller is being too sensitive and drops the N-word a bunch of times and is generally the least helpful advice show host in the world.
I don't like you, Dr. Laura. I don't like you and the whole mindset that entitled people of all colors have with the N-word. Here is when people should use the N-word: Ideally, never.
"But black people use it all the time!" you say. "I hear it in rap lyrics every other word!" To this, I say, tough shit. I know black people who hate that, and I know black people who embrace it to reappropriate the word, and I know black people who don't even bother to think about the politics of using the word. The point is, if certain black people and African Americans (there can be a difference) want to use the word but refuse to let you, a non-black person, use the word, PERHAPS THAT IS A MINOR DOUBLE STANDARD THAT DOESN'T UNDO OUR DEMOCRACY. Perhaps that is the least we could do after the decimation of a culture through five hundred years of slavery. Perhaps! I dunno guys, just riffing here.
Here is what is so infuriating about people like Dr. Laura, who feel like the N-word is okay for everyone and that everyone should lighten up: the abhorrent sense of entitlement. People like Dr. Laura feel like they're being oppressed by society's so-called hypersensitivity and political correctness. Because they can't use hateful words attached to a massive history of dehumanization. I am somehow unsympathetic to the pain they feel from the push-back of their decision to not give a shit about the people around them.
I know they want to use the word in a non-hateful context. But that doesn't matter. Racism is not as simple as hating someone solely for their skin color. In fact, I doubt that it ever was. Racism has always attached something to skin color. It wasn't that these Chinese were yellow, it's that they were sneaky and deceptive, and so we associate those qualities to their skin. It wasn't that these Africans were black, it's that they were savage and unintelligent. So we associate those qualities to their skin. Today, it's not that these Africans are black, it's that they're always decrying racism and get all uppity and boy what's with this hippity hoppity music blah blah agh
Racism is not dead because Barack Obama is in office. All that happened is that a whole lot of white people breathed a sigh of relief because now they have something demonstrative to point to when someone calls them out on their racist bullshit. "I'm not racist, I voted for Obama!" they might say with their misguided liberal pride. To be truly not racist, you have to let go of things such as using the n-word when it might offend people, like when you meet someone new, or when you're having dinner with your new sister-in-law, or when you have a radio show.
This has many names you already know: Politeness. Respecting other people's humanity. Putting other people's comfort over your own entitled chest beating.
People get this weird sense of entitlement when they have determined themselves to be not-racist. They think that, because they don't hate you because of your skin color, they're correct about everything in regards to racial politics! And if it offends you, that's your problem! Because they have decided not to hate you based on your ethnicity, they no longer have to consider your boundaries, your sensitivities, and your basic fucking humanity. But it's not political correctness. It's just being polite.
If someone has just lost their child, you don't go around making dead baby jokes in their face. Well, you do if you're a total asshole. So if you want to keep dropping the N-word like Dr. Laura because you feel like it's within your rights, you're an asshole, and, yes, being called a racist is fair game too. You're not racist in the sense that you think white hoods are fashionable, no. You're a racist in the sense that you don't care about respecting other people.
"Oh!" you cry. "But how will I know when it is okay and when it is not okay to use this word? It is complicated!" That is the hard labor of being in society with other people. You talk to people, you get to know them, you find out what they are cool with and what they are not. You will have black people that are okay with your use of the n-word, and you will have some that are not. But you cannot assume that one rule fits all, and that if some black people are okay with it, all of them will, so it's their fault.
A rule of thumb just to be safe if this is all too complicated for you: Don't spew it on your nationally syndicated talk radio show. Just care about other people. Put other people above your sense of entitlement to an ugly word with an ugly history.
I mean, ugh, fuck it. Just listen to Jay Smooth: