Does saying the N-word make you racist?
Southern television chef and personality Paula Deen has been in hot water recently after she admitted to using racial slurs in a court disposition. Since the incident her television show been dropped from the Food Network, her cookbooks dropped by Random House Publishing, and today it was announced retailers such as Kmart, Sears and Walgreens have decided to pull all of her products off the shelves.
According to a transcript of Deen’s deposition, an attorney asked Deen if she has ever used the N-word.
“Yes, of course,” Deen replied, though she added: “It’s been a very long time.” When asked to elaborate on the context she used the word she remarked it happened once when a black male held a gun to her head during a bank robbery.
Comedian Deon Cole brings about a good point: “Isn’t that when you’re supposed to say it?”
Deen’s assumed downfall has brought race back into the forefront of public discussion and reminds many of past, poor, race relations in the South. However the connotation and use of the word “nigger” seems to have changed since the time of U.S. slavery.
Originally the word was meant to refer to black slaves – human beings that were only considered to be 3/5ths of a person. Now the word is used differently. African Americans often use the word as a term of endearment to each other, usually pronounced “nigga.” White people often use the word to refer to a black person who commits crime, is considered dangerous or harmful to society.
When used in this context – by white people- it is often considered racist. However the word’s meaning is universally understood. To contrast, the term “white trash” is used to describe white people who commit crime, do drugs or are considered harmful to society. Other races in American that use the term would not be considered racist. Maybe the difference between the two terms is that one word takes its root from slavery, however there is still a discrepancy.
The big debate here is why is this word so taboo and why does it automatically mark its user as a racist? Paula Deen later apologized to the public but how much harm can a word really create? By many accounts, Deen is regarded as a good person who employees (and is friends with) many members of the black race. Do actions outweigh words? There is no universal way to measure how racist someone is.
Maybe the public should make a “Deen’s List” of every racist and non – racist act Paula Deen has ever committed. Then the public could somehow weight how racist or non racist a person is. Alas, even if we could there is no way to know how a person feels in their heart.
The N-word may be the ultimate curse word of our generation, which is part of its appeal. If they NSA ever decides to listen into an Xbox live session of “Call of Duty” they could expect to hear the word shouted every time a gamer dies within the game. Sometimes the goal of saying “nigger” aloud is simply the gratifying shock value it brings as the most taboo word in our culture.
My final question is why does anyone care what Paula Deen says? She is a celebrity chef on the Food Network – famous for her doughnut burgers and ample use of butter. We aren’t discussing someone that actually has a sway over public opinion or politics. If you don’t agree with Paula Deen’s views, like her television show or even the way she talks – people can change the channel.
If anything it is rare to see a celebrity such as Deen answer a question of this type honestly. We don’t have to agree with her actions but she should be commended for telling the truth. Last time I checked America still has freedom of speech. Her partners and fans certainly have the right to stop supporting Deen, but let’s not condemn someone solely for using a word we don’t agree with.