Cleaning out some backlogged stories, this discussion came up on Rush about ten days ago:
RUSH: Now we’re getting into this televised discussion of who can and who can’t use the N-word and how. Let me just give you three examples of this — and, frankly, this is just reprehensible to me. Call me a fuddy-duddy if you want, but I will not sit around and watch this kind of stuff.
I’m not gonna get caught up in it, and I’m certainly not gonna weigh in and have an opinion on it. First, TNT, Inside the NBA, the anchor Ernie Johnson speaking with Charles Barkley about Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes having to apologize after he was fined for using the N-word in a tweet after he was ejected from a game Wednesday night. Ernie Johnson says, “Charles, what do you want to get off your chest about this?”
BARKLEY: I’m a black man. I use the N-word. I’m going to continue to use the N-word with my black friends, with my white friends. They are my friends. What I do with my black friends is not up to white America to dictate to me what’s appropriate and inappropriate. What we say in the locker room, the language we use sometime(s) it’s homophobic, sometime(s) it’s sexist, and a lot of times it’s racist. White America don’t get to dictate how me and Shaq talk to each other. And they have been trying to infiltrate (sic) themselves saying, “Well, you guys use it. It’s in rap music.” No, no, no, no, no. That’s not the same.
RUSH: Of course it’s not the same, but Chuck — and I can call you Chuck because I know you. It’s what his friends call him. Chuck, it’s not “white America” trying to insinuate themselves into what you can and can’t say. It’s your good buddies on the left who are doing this. It’s your good buddy liberal Democrats who are trying to force you to speak the way they think you should, not white America.
Shaquille O’Neal then had this to say.
O’NEAL: Chuck makes a good point. In the Ebonic culture we have programmed ourselves to use the word positive. We have G14 classification to stay it to each other. But when we say it to each other, believe it or not, it’s in the positive sense.
RUSH: There you go. It has a G14 classification. G14 classification. So when the brothers use it, when the brothers are talking to each other and using the N-word, do you know it matters whether or not there’s an A on the end of it or an E-R? If you pronounce it with E-R it’s worse than if you say it with an A, cause because if you use an A on the end of it you’re talking to a brother in a positive way, and these guys getting all bent out of the shape now that people are trying to take their word away from them.
Kornheiser says to Wilbon, “What do you say about the issue of the use of the inflammatory N-word there, Michael?”
WILBON: People can be upset with me if they want. I, like a whole lot of people, use the N-word all day every day my whole life. Publicly I wouldn’t do that, but I have no issue with it. I have a problem with — and excuse me, here — white people framing the discussion for the use of the N-word. They better not sit there like plantation owners and tell black people how to use the language that was forced on us!
I can see the “positive sense” Shaq means: take what once hurt and adopt it as your own. A word can’t injure if you’ve declawed it. If your closest friends are ni**ers to you, and you’re a ni**er to them, what’s the big deal? But can I just ask you to show good manners and taste and not use so commonly in front of the rest of us not sanctioned to use it? How long before I hear about this ni**er and that ni**er and use it myself, either accidentally or cautiously on purpose; and what will happen?
Anyhow, the listeners got in on the act:
CALLER: I’m just so sickened. As a black woman, I’m so sickened and angered by those clips that you played of those black sports figures and sportscasters just rallying for the right to use the N-word, this vile, disgusting word, this despicable word. These men, and I can’t even call them men with a straight face, who are so happy to use the word that was used when their great-great-grandparents were sold on auction blocks as cattle. You know, there is no other group of people in this country that have embraced a vile word to describe their own people, to describe themselves.
CALLER: — these people don’t even have the intelligence, they can’t even tell you why this is something that they want to use every day. But I will say this and I have to say this. For any black man who wants to sanitize this word and make it something that has laudatory value, let me just say this. This is the word that virtually every black male child, every black male teen, just before he’s shot on the streets by another black teen, that’s the last word that he hears, “I’m gonna kill you, blank.” And that’s the word that’s instilled into that blank. So you tell me what there is positive about this word.
RUSH: I don’t know.
CALLER: This is the word that’s been yelled at your children as they’re being shot dead on the streets of America.
I hadn’t thought about that. Though, of course, it’s the shooting that’s the real problem, not name calling. But maybe ni**er is still dehumanizing in this usage. You’re not my buddy, my brother, the ni**ger, you’re the about-to-be-dead ni**er.
Anyway, one caller begat another:
CALLER: Well, good to talk to you, Rush. I was so glad to hear you talk to the black woman before, ’cause I was afraid I was gonna finally get through to you and call to disagree with you. And I’ve been listening you since the Clinton years. But here you talked to her and you clarified that. I thought you might have thought that Wilbon and Shaq and Charles Barkley should — it was okay for them — to use the N-word as long as they (garbled) like to use the N-word.
I thought you might have insinuated that they’re right to say it, they had the right to say it, that it was some kind of right for them to say it ’cause they’re black. But I heard you talk to the other caller clearly and I said, “Okay, now I understand.” After all these years of listening to you, I didn’t want to call and disagree. I tell you one thing, though, Rush. I wouldn’t mind everybody using the N-word to get free from it, ’cause we tried to insult you white people over the years, Rush. We tried. But you know why we can’t? Because you won’t let us. Because won’t get offended! Well, we can’t insult you if you won’t get offended. That’s freedom for you all. I would love that freedom for black people, where we don’t get offended and that word no longer has a hold on us.
RUSH: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. My hearing is an obstacle. Who is the “you” won’t let us use the…?
CALLER: White people won’t get offended when black people try to come up with racial slurs against you. You won’t get offended, and that gives you all freedom over yourselves.
RUSH: Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh.
CALLER: Yeah. I would love for black people to have freedom from the N-word, but the only way to get freedom from it, Rush, is if we don’t get offended.
RUSH: In other words, is what you’re saying that you wish you didn’t have to be offended when you heard it but everybody’s making you think you ought to be offended so you act like you are?
CALLER: Exactly, Rush, and the only way to get freedom is if you say everyone use it. ‘It’s not offensive; everybody use it.” It’s like you said before, Rush: If you’re gonna say that white people can’t use it? Then it can’t be okay for black people to use it.
CALLER: The rebel flag! The rebel flag is a classic example. Blacks used to love watching the show the Dukes of Hazzard, Rush, with that big General Lee and that big rebel flag on there in the ’70s.
RUSH: Is that right?
RUSH: You liked the Dukes of Hazzard?
CALLER: We loved it! Blacks in the South loved it as much as everybody else.
RUSH: Well, that was Daisy, though. Let’s be honest.
CALLER: (laughing) Well, part of it. It didn’t offend us in the ’70s. It wasn’t until the politically correct crowd told us, “Well, you should be offended by that rebel flag.”
RUSH: That’s right.
CALLER: Well, I didn’t know I should have been offended! (laughing)
RUSH: He’s exactly right. He’s exactly right about this, folks. It’s just like if somebody walks down the street whistling Dixie, you’re supposed to get livid about it, and you don’t want to care, right?
CALLER: Exactly. I want the freedom from it. I want to be as free as you white people are when it comes to words, ’cause we’ve tried to offend you (laughing), but you won’t let us by getting offended, and it’s so much freedom.
Enlightened? Me neither. But I think that Rush is right that the Balkanization of language is the first step to becoming the Balkans themselves.