Monday, November 27, 2006

Give it a name

(I know I’m biting the Glenn Greenwald's style, but I cannot help myself at the moment)

Can someone please tell me why, for the love of holy pete, there is still so much frenzied and grandstanding rhetoric surrounding Michael Richards and his breakdown on stage?

(NOTE: YouTube insists you to login to watch so the delicate children can’t view the “horrific” scene)

From earlier today on CNN:

At the press conference, comedian Paul Mooney said he has used the "n-word" numerous times during stand-up performances but will no longer do so after watching Richards' rant.

"He's my Dr. Phil," the black comedian said. "He's cured me."

This is sad news and I will miss you, Negrodamus.

I will miss you in this cosmopolitan age when we love our bread and circuses every bit as much as the societies that rose and fell before we came along. In a time when every day brings its own special brand of depressing insanity and inanity, this day stands out as interminably sad among them.


The word nigger is being unofficially and unequivocally outlawed. Look at that, I didn’t even use stars to blot out the “power” of the word. Such is the depravity of my innate inconsideration of others and their massive sensitivity.

Earl Hutchinson is the kind of guy who (now, this is a guess) would disagree with my sentiments. I never heard of the man before today, but his statements deserve a response.

“During a panel discussion at the Summer Television Critics Association tour in 2005, Aaron McGruder, creator of the popular comic strip Boondocks[*], defiantly told the audience that he'd use the N-word as much as he pleased. If folks didn't like it, well, tough.

N-word users and apologists serve up the lame rationale that the more an African American person uses the word, the less-offensive it becomes. They claim that they are cleansing the word of its negative connotations so that racists can no longer use it to hurt African Americans.

The apologists tick off an endless storehouse of defenses to justify use of the word. Some claim it's a term of endearment or affection. Others use it to convey anger or disdain. Still others are defiant. They say they don't care what a white person calls them because words can't harm them.

They forget, ignore or distort one thing: Words are not value-neutral. They express concepts and ideas. Often, words reflect society's standards. If color-phobia is a deep-rooted standard in American life, then something as emotionally charged as the N-word will always reinforce and perpetuate stereotypes. It can't be sanitized, cleansed, inverted or redeemed as a culturally liberating word. It can't be made acceptable, no matter whose mouth it comes out of or what the excuse is for using it.”

*The Boondocks is a fantastic cartoon. Thank you, Aaron, for not being an idiot.

Mr. Hutchinson would have us all believe that it’s a given that the word nigger is now, and has always been, the most offensive word imaginable. He adopts the phrasing “N-word users and apologists” as though any association with that word should be frowned upon and reviled in any and all curcumstances. Using the word “apologists” yet again in the very next paragraph, he is tireless in his attempts to make sure that we all realize just what bad people we are should we decide to say something (in anger, or otherwise) that might offend someone else.

Mr. Hutchinson rolls on.

He admonishes us that “Words are not value-neutral”, preceding this admonishment with the sentiment that if anyone thinks otherwise “they” are forgetting, ignoring, or distorting—if someone is of any other opinion, they are automatically to be associated with these less than desirable qualities.

“They express concepts and ideas.”

Yes, and they also cannot be taken in a vacuum. They must be taken in context along with tone and a host of other smaller variables that most people don’t take the time to consider anymore, including you. It is generally not in dispute that Michael Richards used that word in the most hateful and ugly way time and again during his tirade. We can all say that we know this by not only his words but by taking into account (whether we realize it or not) the tone with which he used them and the circumstances involved. People react when that word is spoken not due to the word itself, but because of the easily perceived hate that, unfortunately, often lies behind it.

I’m going to skip Mr. Hutchinson's next sentence for now and be back to it in a moment. Continuing on...

“If color-phobia is a deep-rooted standard in American life, then something as emotionally charged as the N-word will always reinforce and perpetuate stereotypes. It can't be sanitized, cleansed, inverted or redeemed as a culturally liberating word. It can't be made acceptable, no matter whose mouth it comes out of or what the excuse is for using it.”

It is so emotionally charged due to the fact that you and all of the other broken record media mouthpieces hype it as such and look to promulgate the irrational hate that is many times along for the ride. If you had expended even the slightest bit of effort to be complete or harbored even a bit of true intent to help “heal the racial divide”, you would have peeked into the history of the word and its use in our past and made sure that everyone who might hear you is reminded of these facts. You fail to consider a subject before you begin parroting the thoughts of others who have failed to do the same. Such ill-informed rhetoric is the embodiment of GroupThink, the triumph of baseless assertion over reason.

“It can't be made acceptable, no matter whose mouth it comes out of or what the excuse is for using it.”

(From the Wikipedia article under Usage)

“A striking example is in televised coverage of a march in Birmingham, Alabama, when protesters, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, were met with attacks from dogs and fire hoses. A white woman from another Alabama county was interviewed. Visibly upset, she said, "It's not right. We don't treat niggers like that here."

Pat Buchanan has made past reference to the fact that if you would have called a black person in the 60’s “African-American” you would have just as likely been punched as not. While I certainly can’t speak from personal experience given I wasn’t alive at the time, I’m inclined to believe him when taking in his statement with some history.

There is a massive unnoticed horror in the eye of this media-officiated storm--we are now expected to self-police en masse, and indeed we are promoting the concept amongst ourselves. Any use of the word nigger should now be vilified to the extreme, regardless. It, alongside other unpleasantness has been expunged in favor of the kinder, gentler Newspeak, and Zero Tolerance is back on the scene with a pretty new dress. All we need to go with that is a side of ‘pain compliance’.

It does well to note here that all of it—all. of. it.--is so someone, somewhere won’t get their increasingly sensitive feelers hurt. Someone somewhere might get their “dignity” taken away. Dignity is what a person makes it. Is it so difficult to imagine that it is possible to be dignified when confronted with what may oftentimes be the polar opposite? Dignity is a characteristic that is visible only in those who truly value themselves—if it can be taken away by a word used in a hateful manner then perhaps not enough dignity exists there in the first place.

Crackers and niggers everywhere! It’s time to play Crabs in a Bucket! This time tested media-sponsored game show has reached the height of ridiculousness and it’s about time we begin to sit out instead of clamoring to play. Michael Richards is surely not undeserving of a public rake through the muck for his temporarily unmitigated bile, but to have the issue drawn out in such an extended and blatantly stage-directed manner is beyond the pale.

Now what about the sentence I skipped earlier? Hutchinson says, “Often, words reflect society's standards.” These five words contain a measure of ironic truth that I am sure was unintended because I read the rest of the article. Words (always, not often) do reflect our standards. The problem is that we don’t like what we see and instead of having the courage to face it, we tacitly ignore it—We seek the help of government in outlawing the very words that afford us the opportunity to reflect on who and what we are as an American people.

In a recent interview, Gore Vidal brings up Tiberius—

“Tiberius, when he became Emperor, the Senate sent him a message saying that whatever he wanted enacted would become law. And he sent it back to them and he said, 'Now don't be stupid. Suppose the Emperor has gone mad. Suppose he's ill. Suppose he's been replaced secretly. You can't give such powers.' And they sent it back to him, and he sent back a message, 'How eager you are to be slaves.'”

If words are taken or given up, the standards are forgotten as there are no more reflections to remind us of who we are. If we forget who we are we cannot define who we will be. If we cannot define who we will be, someone will define it for us and dignity will no longer be part of the equation because it has effectively ceased to exist.

Political correctness makes niggers of us all.