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When Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whom I don't know anything about, and could even care less about, went on a rant about the N-word, the standard firestorm of controversy ensued.

We're all familiar with the arguments on each side-- free speech vs. despicable epithet, but it got me to thinking about how genuinely odd it is to have a word that is generally verboten in the English language.

I mean every possible cuss word reigns on cable t.v., especially HBO, and they are used as well on network television, but bleeped and pixilated. No one goes close to even using the euphemism, N-word, in jest. Look at what the full-fledged version of the N-word did to Michael Richards.

Is the term, N-word, useful, appropriate?  

Yes. To use the term, N-word, is to be continually reminded of a rotten part of American history, and it allows us to remain sensitive to ongoing prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination.

We have African-American history month, Martin Luther King's birthday. I substitute taught five sections of a seventh grade class during that time last year. We spent the day discussing Emmett Till, the fourteen year old African-American, who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955. It was effective to persuade 7th graders to think of themselves as Emmett Till because they were nearly the same age. However, I wonder how many quickly dismissed the episode after leaving class.

Not using the N-word on a daily basis, or objecting to its use should you hear it, serves as a living memorial in the English language for something that was really bad that happened.

The ancient Israelites couldn't utter the name of Yahweh in deference to their non-representational belief in God. In fact, I think only the high priest was allowed to say God's name once a year in the holy of holies in the temple.

We appear to be moving in that direction through the use of the term, N-word, not for religious reasons, but we do seem to be instituting it as acceptable usage. Why can't we have the equivalent of a Holocaust Museum right within the English language, ready for use and remembrance at any time? I'm okay with that. We need to remember and, hopefully, do better down the road. Oh, much better.

Originally posted to ronlysc on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:43 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There are other similar words... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paulitics
    for Jews, for whites, for Italians, for Germans, for Native Americans.

    Why pretend that this is the one instance where it is completely inappropriate to use an epithet to refer to a huge group of people, based on the color of their skin, their nationality, or their religion?

    Losing the word would not be venerating it.

    "The joy of activity is the activity itself, not some arbitrary goal which, if not achieved, steals the joy." ~John "the Penguin" Bingham

    by sheddhead on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:48:37 AM PDT

    •  (And Irish).....n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sheddhead

      "Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?" -- Declan Patrick MacManus

      by paulitics on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:49:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  no other word carries the weight of the N-word (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robinswing

      no other word is soaked in such a history of slavery and  violence

      Yes there are other epothets and they should be abandoned also but please..

      "....while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Eugene V. Debs

      by soothsayer99 on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:22:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed - BUT (0+ / 0-)

        they are all simply proof of bigotry, of hate.  Why stand up for one (which I'll agree is the worst) when we should just drop all of them.

        And, add in calling people by words for sexual organs.

        The pretense of the diary was that getting rid of the word was making it holy/sacred.  BS.  All of these words should be removed because they are the opposite of holy or sacred.

        "The joy of activity is the activity itself, not some arbitrary goal which, if not achieved, steals the joy." ~John "the Penguin" Bingham

        by sheddhead on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:26:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And please note... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pozzo
        I selected "similar" rather than "equally offensive" to describe these words.

        They ARE similar, in that they describe a large group of people on a limited shared (or supposedly shared) characteristic.  In that, they are equally offensive, though most - if not all - do not share the violent history of 'the N word.'

        "The joy of activity is the activity itself, not some arbitrary goal which, if not achieved, steals the joy." ~John "the Penguin" Bingham

        by sheddhead on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 06:30:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I hear "Fa@%ot" a lot. (0+ / 0-)
    I could not care less. I'm, so to speak, tired of being admired........."

    I don't want my friends on kos; I come here to get the hell away from them.--Citizenx

    by commonmass on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 05:53:32 AM PDT

  •  It has been made perfectly clear (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robinswing, soothsayer99

    by members on this site that the n word is painful, ugly and extreme offensive to African Americans.  It is not acceptable under any circumstances.  I will HR whenever I see it, no exceptions  n...., n**** will be included.

    •  I am a little confused here. (0+ / 0-)

      Like Laura Schleesinger (of whom I had never heard of before), it seems to me bizarre that a word which is in current use by a group to describe themselves should be banned in all circumstances. As an example, the rap group of the 90's NWA used it in their name. Am I supposed to refer to them as Nwords with attitude?

      I remember the OJ trial where Furmann's evidence was thrown out primarily becuase he said under oath that he never used the Nword, and other people testified having heard him say that. Had he replied that he had used it on occassion, for example in giving evidence and quoting what a suspect said, would OJ have been convicted?

      As someone in their fifties, (probably the same age as Furmann) I remeber a time when there was not this quasi religious shunning of a WORD, and I would be open to saying under oath that I have in the past used the word. Does that make me a racist? Ihope not.

      Surely, what is important is the intent, not the word itself. It is extremely easy to express racist views using everyday all vanilla words.  

      "Mama, takes these guns off of me, I don't need them anymore"

      by senilebiker on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 07:55:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why include (0+ / 0-)
      n....., and n***?

      Aren't these essentially the same as "N-word"?

  •  Well, there's kind of a perfect storm (0+ / 0-)

    between the "mainstreaming" of black culture through the media, music, television, film, etc., and the ubiquity of the use of that term within black culture. I rarely heard the word growing up at all, and reacted pretty negatively when I did. Now, it seems to be everywhere, but white kids are still not supposed to use it. Mexican and Asian kids can, but amongst themselves, mostly, but maybe not. The lines are blurring, some people are going to get beat up because they had no idea of the history. Then, the taboo will start to fade . . .

  •  For some it is a fetish (0+ / 0-)

    Just sayin'.

    "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

    by Angela Quattrano on Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 09:29:14 AM PDT

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