Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Defending the n-word "double standard"

According to a post on Gawker some crazy pastors from Florida have posted a video on YouTube to make a point about the “double standard” of rappers and comedians being able to use the n-word while Dr. Laura can’t.

Rather than me pretending that there is not a “double standard” when it comes to the use of the N-word I would rather defend it.

As an African American male, do I sometimes use the n-word in private amongst close friends?

Do I laugh when Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle and other comedians use it?
Hell yes, to be correct I normally laugh my entire unruly light skinned Black ass off.

Do I listen to rap songs that use it?

Do I take offense when folks who are not Black use it?
Yes, with a few exceptions relating to context.

Am I a hypocrite? I think not.
Here is the deal and I am only speaking for myself, not other Black folk:

Slurs used against identity groups have long been appropriated by those groups as a means by which to take the power from those who would use it against them in a derogatory manner. In some cases it's just sheer defiance against the dominant culture.

I have been fortunate enough to be close to people who belong to many different identity groups. Some of these friends have felt comfortable enough with me to let their hair down and in conversation use some of the slurs directed towards their respective groups in my presence.

Not once did I take their use of these words as permission for me to use them. Nor do I think that my lack of permission to use these words negatively impacts my quality of life or First Amendment rights.

This is not about political correctness, it is about common decency. Why would anyone think its alright to use words that might be offensive to a particular group?

Hell, given my “light, bright and damn near. . .” complexion I don’t even feel comfortable using the n-word around other Black folks who don’t know me and might think that I am white, even if they are using the word themselves.

The responsibility to determine whether or not my use of a slur is offensive doesn’t lie with those who may be offended, the responsibility is on me not to offend.

While the use of the b-word seems to be acceptable in pop-culture and appears to have shed some of the misogynistic stigma that has been associated with it for years, I’m still loathed to use it publicly.

I once considered using it in a Facebook/FourSquare/Twitter update announcing my taking a Yoga class by posting "Namaste, 'b-words'!" But then I thought, while it would probably be received in a humorous way by some of my social network, it wasn't worth offending the ones who would not. Those who might think it was funny wouldn't remember it a day later, but those offended probably wouldn't ever forget about it.

My life has not suffered one bit because I chose not to offend.

This “double standard” that the Florida pastors worry about does not only apply to the n-word, it would apply to many other slurs that have been appropriated by the identity groups they were meant to demean.

Rather than worrying why certain folks can use certain words that others can’t, lets worry about doing on to others as you would have them do unto you.

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