Archive for Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blacks must give up n-word

October 9, 2008


Dear Chris Rock:

I apologize in advance for the language that will shortly follow. And yes, there is a certain irony there, given that you are one of the most profane men on the planet.

Also one of the funniest. That's why I eagerly anticipated your new HBO special, "Kill The Messenger," which premiered a few days ago, even though I knew there would inevitably come a moment that made me embarrassed for you.

And sure enough, it came. During your routine, you noted how, last year, the NAACP held a symbolic "burial" of the n-word. "Well," you said, through that evil Cheshire cat grin of yours, "tonight is Easter." There followed a long and sometimes labored deconstruction of when, according to you, the word is permissible, all in illustration of your thesis that it is "context" that determines whether or not a word is offensive.

I was reminded of a quote that appears in the afterword of "The Slaves' War" by Andrew Ward, about the Civil War as seen through the eyes of black women and men. The speaker is an old woman, an escaped slave who had been reprimanded by a missionary for calling her fellow slaves "niggers."

She replied, "We ARE niggers. We always was niggers and we always shall be. Nigger here, and nigger there. Nigger do this and nigger do that. We've got no souls. We's animals. We's black and so is the Evil One."

The Bible doesn't say the devil is black, protested the missionary. "Well," the old woman said, "white folks say so and we's bound to believe them, 'cause we's nothing but animals and niggers. Yes, we's niggers! Niggers! Niggers!"

Chris, this column runs in upward of 200 papers and I won't be surprised if some editors regard the above as too raw for print, if they seek to soften it by replacing the offending letters with dashes. But if I had my druthers, it would run dash-free in large red type and be required reading for every black person in America. You will seldom read more vivid evidence of the psychological maiming to which white people subjected black ones in this country and of the profound self-loathing that infected us as a result.

You find that loathing in the preference some of us still profess for light skin and lank - or so-called "good" - hair, in the belief some of us still hold that to be intellectually excellent and speak standard English is to "act white," in the conviction some of us still harbor that only a white professional truly knows what he or she is doing. And you see it, too, in the addiction some of us still suffer to the soul-killing language of our oppressors.

White people - the majority of them at least - understand how grotesque and dehumanizing that language is. Meanwhile, black folks run around making lame excuses and lamer justifications.

I mean really, Chris, "context?" Negro, please.

I was, as I'm sure you were, a big fan of Richard Pryor. But I never admired him more than when he renounced his use of that word. Pryor understood, I think, that his art was a social construct and as such, carried social responsibilities. He acknowledged, in other words, a need to be intentional in, and accountable for, the things he said.

Compare that to Kanye West, who told Time magazine three years ago that he doesn't like the n-word and has tried substitutes but can't find anything with the same "impact." Or, compare it to you, smart, canny observer of human foibles, universally recognized as one of the most talented men in show business, yet still addicted to the same self-delimiting language a slave woman once used.

I'm not mad at her. She was just days removed from a system which had spent a lifetime teaching her, in every interaction of every day of every year, that she was a soulless thing little different from hogs and dogs. But Chris, that was 150 years ago.

What's your excuse?

- Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on


Mixolydian 9 years, 8 months ago

Pitts will have to pry my 25th anniversary edition DVD of Blazing Saddles from my dead cold fingers before I give that up. "What'd he say?""He said the Sheriff is near"

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 8 months ago

mpch: "Yes, the "N" word is vile, and I don't think ANY of us should use it."Repeat the word, out loud, over and over again, until all meaning of it falls from your mind. Then you will understand the word.Now, try to understand that connotation, independent of the word.

Stephen Roberts 9 years, 8 months ago

I find this whole forum funny. Some of the most racist people I know are black church going people. They talk about black power and black pride and the devil is the white man.

gl0ckUser 9 years, 8 months ago

speaking about calling black people names anyone notice how fast this story was hidden !?

teachandlearn 9 years, 8 months ago

Wow! It is unbelievable how much hate is spewed on this blog! Are you all (barrypenders, ese, tom, otc) as racist in person as you are on an anonymous blog? I sure hope none of you have any contact with my children!

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 8 months ago

Utterances. Phonemes strung end-to-end. Profane! Obscene!Ridiculous.Humanity... preoccupied with fluff... overpowered by werds.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 8 months ago

That has to rank as one of the stupidest of all the countless stupid (and thinly veiled racist) comments you've made, Tom.

Matt Schwartz 9 years, 8 months ago

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll,I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.that's how he justifies thinking like that

cthulhu_4_president 9 years, 8 months ago

Ok column. Pitts makes some good points about the historical relevance of the word, but to symbolicly "bury" the word and hope that it, and all the things it stood for, are now dead is an excercise in self-dilution. The fact that I can't even type out the word I'm talking about without most likely getting booted from this forum speaks volumes to my point: We as a society have taken all of the injustice and horror that is relevant to the African American civl rights struggle and bottled it up into this one word, and now we have "buried" that word (in a televised ceremony, no less!). So that means that all of that hate and ill-will is gone too right? Sorry, but no. Publicly "burying" the word is not a way to learn from the past: it is a way to try to ignore it, to try to pretend it never happened. On the discussion for the article about the KU football chant, one wise poster said "the f-word never hurt anybody". I also sumbit that the n-word has never hurt anybody: the actions and thoughts of those who utlize the word in malice have hurt people. Rev. Jackson and the others who "buried" the word last year had their hearts in the right place, but cencorship will change people's vocabulary, not their minds.

acg 9 years, 8 months ago

.....(and thinly veiled racist) comments you've made, Tom.Yeah, thinly veiled in that white sheet! Tom doesn't want to admit that the biggest problem he has with Obama is that he's black. Over time his posts have become more and more racist in nature and it's only a matter of time before he pulls a Kramer-like rant on the boards because the inner pig in him won't be able to take it anymore. It's okay, Tom. We all know you're a d-bag. You can go ahead and let it out.

bad_dog 9 years, 8 months ago

"I also sumbit that the n-word has never hurt anybody..."-cthulhu.I beg to differ due to personal experience. I ignorantly called out to a young black male in that manner when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I honestly didn't know any better, as that was the only way I'd heard certain other family members refer to African-Americans. Needless to say, this person took offense and proceeded to pop me several times. His older brother laughingly pulled him off when he realized I just didn't know better and didn't state it maliciously. Live and learn, eh? ;-)

gr 9 years, 8 months ago

"Tom doesn't want to admit that the biggest problem he has with Obama is that he's black."Oh, is Tom a democrat?

Confrontation 9 years, 8 months ago

Ahh, how sweet! Invictus and Tom are in their own little black-hating world together. I suppose we should at least give Invictus credit for being more honest about his racist beliefs. Tom just tries to shield his beliefs, but more and more, his keyboard keeps spilling the beans.

Jennifer Forth 9 years, 8 months ago

The timing? According to the article, this is about Chris Rock and his latest HBO special. Obama isn't mentioned once.

cthulhu_4_president 9 years, 8 months ago

bad_dog: That is a sad story, and I'm sorry that it happened to you. However, it doesn't seem that the n-word did not hurt you. The man's fist did.

Matt Schwartz 9 years, 8 months ago

invictus flies stars and bars, guitars and cadillacs

Jaylee 9 years, 8 months ago

"invictus (Anonymous) says:What is there to respect? How they treat their women? 70% illegitimacy rate? Their contribution to this country?The problem is Americans treat blacks as equals. ...Most African Americans prefer to be judged on a different scale simply because they cannot compete. ...with white America. It should be noted that I am speaking in generalities""It should be noted that I am speaking in generalities"noted.i just never get used to hearing/seeing racism today. it just has never made sense to me. a person is a person. we're all susceptible to cancers and gunshots and addictions and heartbreak just the same as anyone else and any faction of debilitation to one human is a debilitation to us all, whether you compassionate towards that individual's qualm or pissed off that your money, energy, or what have you is in any way, shape, or form helping someone other than you."A poor man shames us all" -Japanese proverbi think this proverb applies to monetary situations, but mostly to the wealth of one's well-being. we are all connected.some of us need to start acting like it.

Jaylee 9 years, 8 months ago

tom, you fall on your head recently or has your mild mental disability to perceive your own racism been a life-long problem?you are racist dude. i dont know how else to say it.

kidicarus 9 years, 8 months ago

"invictus (Anonymous) says: What is there to respect? How they treat their women? 70% illegitimacy rate? Their contribution to this country?The problem is Americans treat blacks as equals. And all things being equal most are not measuring up to standard we place on all human beings. Most African Americans prefer to be judged on a different scale simply because they cannot compete. They aren't just unable to compete with white America but with Asians, Hispanics, Indians, Arabs and even black African immigrants. It should be noted that I am speaking in generalities, there are many African Americans I admire."And I thought Tom Shewmon's posts would be the dumbest rants on this board. This post displays a new level of stupidity.

Chris Ogle 9 years, 8 months ago

ese (Anonymous) says: Bill Cosby: "A word to the wise ain't necessary, it's the stupid ones who need the advice".!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I agree

Matt Schwartz 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

bangaranggerg 9 years, 8 months ago

it's definitely time that women give up the c-word.

kidicarus 9 years, 8 months ago

"invictus (Anonymous) says: Confrontation move to Newark for a year or two, and report back to me."Ah, right. Because that makes your racism okay.

applebottom 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 8 months ago

"I think we should have a white guy writing articles about how white guys should and shouldn't talk."George Will and Cal Thomas aren't enough for you?

Jaylee 9 years, 8 months ago

Tom Shewmon (Tom Shewmon) says: "He may have overheard some rap music or some local talk. He then thought "My god, we may be about to elect an African-American""dude.... nothing about pitts' article suggests this. this is YOUR mind at work, my you at the very least see how this sounds bad? the overtones are stinky and lingering. for starters, you can quit generalizing "the thoughts of the african-american people" as according to you or whatever you've read or been told over time.and in addition to that, i personally would cease to mention the fact that we are voting for a black or white person and refer to him as obama. if his name makes you shiver, it should be due to his greatness and what he has done/is trying to do. not because youre disgusted.and lastly, don't change the subject of the article you comment on superimposing upon the author the notion that he/she is pissed at/afraid of a black president.thats all.

Jaylee 9 years, 8 months ago

Tom Shewmon (Tom Shewmon) says:"I may be reading between the lines, but I'd almost say some of leftist LJW neighbors are OK with, if not even in support of the continuance of the use of the "n-word" amongst the black community??"i would have used the word my whole life if society would have allowed it. i was raised at a grade school that was very mixed and i knew the word at a very young age as a word like dude or hombre or bro. obviously teachers and parents didnt put up with that from a white kid because it would be percieved as racist, which i learned more about in high school when the other mostly white schools integrated with ours, even though all my friends were black and hispanic and didnt care or mind its casual use ("what's up, my N-word?" and "shiiiiiiiiiiit, N-word!" being the two most common).it is VERY interesting though to think that left to their own devices a child would go on believing something is harmless if not for the culture taboo created by the adult population.

kidicarus 9 years, 8 months ago

"ese says...From my experience if you offer help to them you are called a racist, unless that help is money of course.Wouldn't it be more effective if Pitts wandered the inner city streets with a bull horn?"Unbelievable.

applebottom 9 years, 8 months ago

Wait, I say the n-word in an article about the n-word, that says the n-word several times, including one "Negro, please" and my comment gets removed. Okay, I understand.

tvc 9 years, 8 months ago

Marion, if you watched "Kill The Messenger," then you would know Chris Rock did give it power. He talked about when/how white people can use it. If he didn't feel it had power, there would be no rules.

jaywalker 9 years, 8 months ago

Coinsecutive solid columns from Pitts. Keep it up.

kidicarus 9 years, 8 months ago

"invictus (Anonymous) says: Here is some simple advice: Work hard everyday, only conceive children when in a committed relationship, love, feed, educate and cloth those children with the product of you labor. It has worked for every other race in America. Give it a try!!"What America do you live in? There is nothing true about this statement whatsoever.

applebottom 9 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 8 months ago

Judging by the reaction of many of the posters on this thread, it could be that Pitts was just trying to all the extra-chromosomal racists on this forum, such as you, ese.

Confrontation 9 years, 8 months ago

I still give you credit, Invictus, for being honest about your pathetic view of non-whites.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 8 months ago

You weren't offering advice, you were merely offering your very thinly veiled racism, ese. I was merely calling it for what it is.

justforfun 9 years, 8 months ago

Many didnt think it was too cool when ole boy from Steinfeld used "the WORD"

Left_handed 9 years, 8 months ago

Chris Rock and millions of blacks give the n-word no power? They sure do when a non-black uses it. That sounds like racism to me.

Christine Anderson 9 years, 8 months ago

I have a question. Yes, I admit to being ignorant. Someone please tell me why it is okay for black persons to call each other the "N" word, but if I used it, I would be a racist? Yes, the "N" word is vile, and I don't think ANY of us should use it.So then, I am puzzled when I overhear the following type of conversation between the neighbors in the apt. below mine. It's something like this, "Damn, n!@*?" "Man, that "n@-! came over here like a futha f-*!#@", etc, etc.Why? My eight-yr. old overheard this and asked, "Mommy, I thought we weren't supposed to call people that?" What do I tell him? I have no answer.

Satirical 9 years, 8 months ago

ese....I don't think Pitts target market for this column is the "inner city" African American. I think his target is African American entertainers, whose audience is the individuals using this word. He is hoping to have a trickle down effect with this article.

craigers 9 years, 8 months ago

I know this is a Pitts article about race and instead of wondering when or why to use the N-word, why not just not use it and get over it. The only behavior you can control is your own. I have met people of various backgrounds that have had chips on their shoulders. Granted their background shapes who they are, but generally people are too uptight in public. Even in the office anymore, people just walk by and don't say hi. Seriously, it is an attitude and arrogance problem in my opinion.

teachandlearn 9 years, 8 months ago

barrypenders (Anonymous) says: Thanks for your input brainwashandfollow.I would love to brainwash you, but that would require you having a brain.

jhawks1234 9 years, 8 months ago

"If Michael Richards can say the n-word in front of some black people and get away, then lucky for him."-Katt Williams

Satirical 9 years, 8 months ago

Misplacedcheesehead:Let me attempt to answer your question about why many individuals believe it is acceptable for African Americans to use the N word, but not for other groups.First, words only have meanings we give to them. "Blacks" are from the Negroid race (or Negro). "Whites" are from the Caucasoid race (or Caucasian). The N word is derived from the term Negro. The N word has a historical use as a socially pejorative term used by American Caucasians toward African Americans. Understandably this word evokes strong emotions in many people because of its historically contextual use that social inequality is acceptable. Second, when many African Americans use the N word it is assumed to not have the same meaning, or if it does have the same meaning it does not carry the same historically racist context (being racist against one's own race is oxymoronic).Third, today when a Caucasian uses this word it is assumed it is used in the pejorative manner (given its historical use), however this assumption can be overcome if the listener knows no offense was intended. Even though some Caucasians want to use the N word, and have no intention of being offensive it is typically unwise, since you can't always control who is listening. In time this assumption may be overcome, it is not the case today because some caucasians still use the word in the pejoritive context.

Satirical 9 years, 8 months ago

Ese:I am not sure if liberals think the "trickle down" model doesn't work, they just believe it doesn't work in the context of an economic philosophy (which I agree does seem contradictory).I cannot completely agree with your statement about the target for this article. I still think it was for African American entertainers.

te4491 9 years, 8 months ago

INVICTUSWhen you say that blacks need to stop having babies before they gey married, I completly agree, but I think you also need to say that whites need to stop getting pregnate and having abortions. There would be just as many white women with babies who aren't married if they didn't go have the babies killed because they made a mistake. And when you say blacks haven't contributed to society, heres a few things that they've done. There would be very few crops that would have flourished because the nation was built on a slave-supported system.There are no cities with tall skyscrapers becauseAlexander Miles, a black man, invented the elevator,and without it one finds great difficulty reaching high floors.There are few if any cars because Richard Spikes, a black man, invented the automatic gear shift, Joseph Gammel, also black, invented the supercharge system for internal combustion engines, and Garret A. Morgan invented the traffic signals Furthermore, one could not use the rapid transit system because its precursor was the electric trolley, which was invented by another black man, Elbert R. Robinson. Even if there were streets on which cars and a rapid transit system could operate,they were cluttered with paper because an African American,Charles Brooks, invented the street sweeper. There were few if any newspapers, magazines and books becauseJohn Love invented the pencil sharpener, William Purvis invented the fountain pen, Lee Burridge invented the type writing machine and W A. Lovette invented the advanced printing press.They were all black.I'm sure that most black people would want to work if they were given a fair chance. Most of the unemployed blacks have tried to find work but can't get any because there are so many racist out in the world, including yourself, that don't want to give blacks jobs because they feel inferior to blacks.You are an ignorant man.

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