Friday, December 01, 2006

The N-Word in the Locker Room

Over on ESPN's Page 2, one of today's submissions dealt with the N-word in the locker room and the frequency with which athletes and rappers use the word. And of course Kramer's tirade was brought up. Essentially, the question was whether it is reasonable to expect people not to use the word when it is so easily brought into conversation by rappers in public and black athletes when the mic isn't in their faces. The author explained that the reason that blacks so freely use the word is because it was meant as a means to steel it from whites. Make it a harmless vernacular, and it loses its degradational ability. In the end, the author reasonably concludes that the only way for the word to go away is for rappers and athletes to stop using it.

The logic is mind boggling. If the goal is to steel the word from whites and diminish its power. Wouldn't the effect be that people would use the word without a second thought? In the greater scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. It falls under that double standard that we are told can't possibly know, the one that makes it OK for Michael Irvin to say whatever it is he says.

"They say black comedians use the word 'cracker' all of the time and nothing happens to them," says Carnie, who is white. "I think the attitude is a reflection of a much larger experience they don't understand, and that word is so powerful that there is no white derogatory word that is equivalent. They still don't understand the whole impact of slavery, and not being able to be educated, or vote, or the separation of families. They think the civil rights movement happened a hundred years ago, and I'm like no, it was less than 50 years ago."

And maybe that is part of the problem. All those things happened years ago and the rappers and athletes can't relate either. They don't remember those things. You really think rapper The Game feels the pain of slavery on a day to day basis? Or the use of the n-word conjures up visions of marches and stuggle for him? Please. If it did, he wouldn't use the word. Some blacks have adopted the word in their day to day vocab and use it interchangeably with "dude", "man" or whatever it is you choose to interject. In a world in which athletes and rappers make most of their bucks through marketing and through endorsements, and their images are shoved down our throats: Is it unreasonable to think that the slang they use will be adopted as well? "Buy our CD's, wear our clothes, buy the products we endorse, BE LIKE US". And anyone is surprised? Heck, one of Page 2's venerable writers prides himself on shoving hip hop lingo down our throats. Why feign surprise and indignation when the n-word is used?

The author rightly decides that the only way to curb the use of the word by society in general is for those with the high profiles to stop using it.

If they don't, they have no right to get mad when others do. After all, the goal was to devalue the word. Mission accomplished.


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