December 06, 2006
The N Game
I’m trying to figure out why the so-called N-word has become the one word you cannot say anywhere, under any circumstances.
Now, crawl off that high horse. I’m not defending Michael Richards’ rant, but if you’d seen it you certainly believe that this was a man who completely and indefensively lost it in public. He appeared to be dangerous, and not in the Michael O’Donoghue / Saturday Night Live sense of the word. Any audience member could have legitimately thought he or she was in physical danger.
So let me ask you this: would people be as upset about Richards’ performance had he merely used a different word?
And let me ask you another: is the word “nigger” worse than (wait for it) chink, spic, cunt, kike, jigaboo, or motherfucker?
What about context? How many books do we have to burn? Do we start with Dick Gregory’s ground-breaking autobiography? I’m assuming Mark Twain is already gone. Richard Pryor – you’re history. And take that routine you did with Chevy Chase with you. It ain’t funny no more.
Richards used the word six times and self-appointed spokespeople demanded he pay a fine of six million dollars. Oddly, Marlon Wayans said nigger roughly twice as many times on the very same stage a week later and was only fined $320.00. People demanded a boycott of the latest Seinfeld DVD release, as if Richards shared his Klan robes with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Michael Richards should be condemned for his obvious racism as well as for his sickening lack of control (even by my standards, which are pretty low). If, as he claims, he’s not racist then he needs some help. He needs help for his self-control issues no matter what.
And that, folks, is that. Leave free speech alone. At the very least, language serves as a red flag identifying the enemy.
With urban police departments continuing to gun down unarmed black people willy-nilly, with our nation’s public schools a living joke and our slow-lynching health care system the most evil form of segregation seen in a century, let’s not worry about this comparatively trivial symptom and instead deal with the root causes once and for all.