20 July, 2013

The N word

Crossposted yo 

There seems to be this confusion about when white people and black people can say the naughty n word. Oh nooo it's racist to only let black people say it.


Well actually white people say it a lot. Academics, writers, comedians, white people who genuinely speak AAVE and yokels amongst other yokels for instance. Also white people being funny and ironic.


The distinction is and always has been about intent and it is a bit bizarre to have to point this out. In Rachel Jentel's speech community 'nigger' really does just mean 'man', we did not need someone to tell us this but evidently pretended we did, and she genuinely can envisage any person in that speech community speaking that way, irrespective of their race. It does not follow that it is therefore not awful to insult blacks. It does not mean that we are forced to pretend that Limbaugh is also speaking AAVE.

What is the likelihood that any given white person is going to be saying it as a term of brotherhood and endearment? Thus the horrible burden of the whites: we are almost certainly going to be using it because we are racist and stupid, with few exceptions, and so when we use it because we are racist and stupid, we get called racist for it. Just saying that we are totally not saying it to insult black people while insulting black people is just not persuasive. It is the child saying 'niggardly' over and over again and thinking no one can tell them off for being mindlessly insulting. We see you, guys. We get what you're doing. It's still that thing. 

Our own intuitions about language should not need to be pointed out. If they are correct they should not be shied away from. 

In Limbaugh's exceptional, profound, bigoted ignorance he saw an opportunity to say a naughty word about black people and belittle a black person because she is black at the same time. All of us intuitively understand this is what he is doing. It is the source of his banal comedy and is the (incorrect) point he is trying to make. It is a very strange phenomenon that a group of people will sit around claiming differently. By all appearances some people are stupid and petty enough to claim he is not for no reason other than weird sense of what partisanship is, and some whites really, desperately want to use slurs without any social consequences. 

Lastly the way lots of white Americans, or at least lots of the most vocal, talk about black people as some kind of hostile and exotic creature glimpsed through trees is creepy as Hell guys, just FYI 

 -The Rev. Schmitt, FCD.

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