The N-Word

May 30, 2007 at 7:58 pm Leave a comment

 My grand-daughter Charley is a bright, beautiful, blonde young lady who is almost twelve. She impressed me one evening last fall when we were sitting around the supper table and the n-word word came out. She spoke up in an indignant voice and said, “We don’t use that word!” In the silence that followed, my heart swelled with pride. She has learned at school that words akin to the n-word are degrading and are not to be used. Charley’s parents enforce this attitude at home too. Certainly a good step forward against racism. As the gospel song says, “And the beast from the wild/ Will be led by a child.”

The n-word issue simmers in a pot on a back burner of my mind. I can accept being told not to use it because it is degrading but I cannot understand why the hip-hop community is allowed to use it (and other degrading words like “ho” and “bitch”) with abandon. I hope the debate on this topic that was sparked by the firing of Don Imus brings the issue to a boil. Imus was fired for referring to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed ho’s” on his radio program. This statement caused a furor in the hip-hop community.

On one side is Rev. Al Sharpton (who led the crusade to have Imus fired). Sharpton wants the degrading words mentioned above to be included in the standards that record labels use to send out the message that “We are not going to put out this product.” NAACP President Dennis Hayes says, “These denigrating words hurt our communities, hurt our children, hurt our women – I don’t know that there is any redeeming value to the n-word.” He goes on to say that record companies push rappers to use these words to sell records. Russell Simmons of Def Jam records has bleeped out offensive words in the past and agrees with Sharpton that corporations should say that they won’t allow such offensive words to be delivered.

On the other hand we have Snoop Dogg. He stated, “We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls, that are relevant to what we feel.” Later he added that Simmons and Sharpton are irrelevant because they are not players, they are owners. Mims, a New York MC uses the offensive words and says, “We can’t use the words on the radio, but when we put ‘Parental Advisory’ on CDs, it means there’s content you might not like – it’s like R-rated films.” A possible sign that the shock value of the n-word is declining is that rapper Chamillionaire has dropped the word from his act after the audience started chanting it back to him.

As I see it, the hip-hop community insisting that I not use certain words because they are degrading yet retaining their freedom to use them freely, is hypocritical and wrong. People should insist that it is wrong for anyone, including rappers, to use those words. If you doubt that, ask my grand-daughter.

(The above information and quotes are from the RollingStone article “Hip-Hop’s War of Words by Evan Serpick in issue 1027, May 31.2007)

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Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

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