Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Speaking of Racism

This has caused a big uproar among the University students and administrators. I personally think it is funny... and appropriate. Maybe that makes me a racist? Regardless, it has been really interesting seeing the student newspaper point out the hypocrisy of the administration and some other student bodies. The administration of UF spoke out against the cartoon saying that it was inappropriate to use racial slurs and that it was a poor reflection on the University... however, that didn't stop them from bringing in comedian Charlie Murphy to Gator Growl last year who apparently dropped N-bomb after N-bomb. Nice going UF... way to blurt out a knee-jerk overly politically correct response.

5 Comments:

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Ricardo Grande said...

Wow...I have to admit, after reading your post I just assumed that I would feel the opposite way (habit, and all that). But when I looked at the cartoon, I couldn't even figure out at first what was offensive about it. That, to me, is good political cartooning. I wouldn't advocate using the N-word for no real purpose, but clearly it is an integral part of the joke/opinion of the cartoon. The followup editorial by the newspaper was brilliantly written and well-argued. I wish that they'd have stood up more for their right to use that word in the manner in which they did, but I love the way they turned it on the administration.

P.S. I also have no problem with black comedians using the N-word as much as they want. As one comedian said, "there's nothing wrong with the word, it's just that white people have abused their nigger privileges and had them taken away." Makes sense to me.

P.P.S. It's good to know that Charlie Murphy has work since Dave Chapelle screwed the pooch!

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger romeotheBT said...

I'm not sure I agree with the first P.S. I think that either you find the word offensive or you don't. I understand the whole "taking ownership" of a slur and using it as a source of pride. But what bothers me is that I "can't" say that word... and who really makes the rules on whether I "can" or "can't" say that word. A perfect example goes back to Kanye West. I was watching a special on the making of his new album. The clip was of him in the production booth with about five white people and they were playing a clip from one of his songs that featured "the N-Word" pretty prominently. Kanye made some sort of comment about how noone was going to sing chorus. So what exactly does that mean? Would a black person be offended if I were repeating a line from a rap song that used the word nigger? Would they be offended if I were to repeat a line from a movie that had the word nigger? What if that line had been spoken by a white person (say Quinten Tarintino)? What if I were reading Huck Finn out loud?

It seems absurd to me. I would avoid using any language to any group if I thought it offended them. But it seems ridiculous that a word would be "off-limits" to me, but perfectly acceptable in other contexts. And I think that absurdity is revealed with this whole affair over the political cartoon. I mean, is it acceptable for Kanye West to drop the N-bomb but not Condoleeza Rice? It seems more than a little hypocritical.

 
At 2:46 PM, Blogger Ricardo Grande said...

Well, to answer your questions, I think it's totally acceptable to quote the word "nigger" from art, literature, or rap. For instance, I don't mind using it in this text because I'm referring to it as an object, not using it to refer to people. Similarly, I don't have a problem with the cartoon because it is simply riffing on a common usage of the word.
But I don't buy the argument that the problem here is that white people can't use the word. It's not about who says it, but the context in which they say it. Two points on this:
1) I think it's inappropriate for black people to use the term to refer to other black people in a derogatory manner. (i.e., "there's black people and then there's niggas") That's harnessing the history of the word for ill intent, as it were. What I don't have a problem with is black people using as a sign of affection, like when white people call each other "bitch" out of affection.
2) Nigger is definitely a loaded word, and that's why context matters so much in how you use it. That's why I think white people can really only use it when quoting someone else. I have no problem with that. Society imposes a lot of rules like this: for instance, the word 'shit' is acceptable among peers but not between age groups. Nobody claims that they are oppressed by not being able to say 'shit' to old people. So it's not ridiculous that words should be off-limits in some contexts, we do that all the time.
But I think the cry of reverse racism is particularly loathsome when it comes to 'nigger'. The idea that, after all these decades of racial conflict, it is white people who are really put out by the use of the word 'nigger' seems ridiculous. If black people want to say 'nigger' and don't want white people to, I say we agree. It's a small price to pay for several hundred years of slavery and second-class citizenship. Besides, do I really feel put out by not being able to say 'nigger' all the time? No. The only time I want to say it is in an academic sense (like here), or when quoting someone else. If someone wants to argue my right to do that, they are welcome to try. But they won't win simply through intimidation, I promise you.
Of course, my whole argument is hindered by the silly people who took offense at the cartoon. The paranoia most white people have with even quoting 'nigger' is largely induced by the mob rule indicated in the UF article. It's a shame we can't all be adults about it and only crack down on the people (of both races) who use the term maliciously.

 
At 8:23 PM, Blogger romeotheBT said...

Whoa there kee-mo-sab-ee (speaking of racially... or ethincally offensive), I'm really not crying reverse racism here. The original intent of the comment was to point out the absurdly convoluted way the "rules" have been set up for the use of the word "nigger".

First, I wouldn't use any phrases or terms among a group of people that I thought would be genuinely offended by them. For instance I wouldn't (purposely) drop the word "fag" around a gay friend. Similarly I wouldn't drop the term "nigger" around a black friend. I wouldn't call someone a "hebe" or a "cheap jew" unless I was damn sure they wouldn't be offended by it. Just as you probably wouldn't comment on someone's mother's sexuality if you felt it would genuinely hurt their feelings.

What I find absurd about the term nigger is that I do feel that I would offend someone if they were to overhear me singing (or rapping) a line that had the word in it. Whether they should be or not is a different story, but I do think they would be offended it by it. People are offended by its use in literature even though the context behind the word was much different back then. There even seems to be a double standard among the black community about the use of the word. For instance, it's not okay to use in a political cartoon, but it's ok to use in the name of a student group (Niggas That Pledge) or rap lyrics. And how many times have you heard "there's a difference between a nigger and a nigga"? So I stick by what I said... the word is either offensive or it's not offensive. That is where I don't think the analogy to the word shit holds up. It may be a little shocking to hear my grandfather drop the word shit, but I would be a hypocrite if I said that his usage of it offended me... whereas a black person (according to the "rules") could use the word as much as he liked; however, could also be offended by a white person using it.

I think what was great about this cartoon (and the firestorm that followed it) is that it really pointed out the stupidity behind all this. To condemn the cartoon for the use of the word nigga, but then to condone it in other uses is just plain stupid.

The really unfortunate part of this is that the BSU made a very valid point in that the cartoon mocked the fact that race played a part in the federal governments response to hurricane Katrina. That is what they really should have focused on... not the use of the word "nigga".

 
At 9:03 PM, Blogger Ricardo Grande said...

I read what you are saying, and I dig it. I think I read into your comments some of the things that I hear other people say and I apologize. I guess I am just saying that you should be able to quote "nigger" and not get hassled for it, and if someone does have a problem with it, they should take it up with the person you're quoting. It seems like on that one we both agree.
For the record, sometimes a cheap Jew needs to be called that to their face (just kidding), and sometimes a slutty mother of your best friend who likes triple penetration with no lube needs to be identified as such, if just to save her the cost of advertising. :)

 

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