A brouhaha ensued recently over celebrity chef Paula Deen’s use of the N-word decades ago which caused her subsequent fall from grace. Her reputation sullied, she lost millions of dollars and her cooking show because of her honesty about using the word and her Southern upbringing in the 1960s. Last week, we witnessed the annihilation of Riley Cooper, football player for the Philadelphia Eagles, for using the same word.
While their actions required apologies and forgiveness, I began to notice a double standard by the politically correct talking heads who have more than a vested interest in stirring the race pot. Some have made their living doing so while attacking other ethnic and orientation groups themselves. This is too short of a forum to explore that angle, but the evidence is out there for consumption, if you choose to look for it.
This isn’t the only offensive word referred to by a single letter. As I explored the dynamics involved in which words are offensive and which ones aren’t, a few things became apparent. So I thought I’d discuss the PC alphabet today in reverse order.
Obviously, the N-word pretty much speaks for itself. What troubles me is the resurgence of this word in modern society. Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s in a rural Southern town, we didn’t use this word. We were taught it was offensive and disrespectful. But what I’ve discovered behind this current resurgence is the use of a slight variation of the N-word. Change the –er at the end to –a, and it no longer is considered offensive by some of the younger generation.
Case in point: I discovered a teenage relative had used this variation on a social media website in reference to her young African-American male friend. Shocked and hurt, I began to reflect on the fact that my family has been friends with this young man’s family for four generations. I wondered what the fallout would be. Would our friendship be damaged over this bonehead teenage mistake? In expressing my outrage, I was quickly "straightened out" that this new N-word doesn’t carry racial connotations, rather it’s like calling each other "homey" or some other slang reference to a friend.
I’d heard from media and other high school kids that some African-American kids do indeed call each other this, which is shocking enough, but I was surprised by its blasé use between the races. And the friend in question didn’t appear to have a problem with it.
No harm, no foul. Right?
It’s no wonder when Paula Deen was asked by Today show host Matt Lauer if she thought the African-American community still found the word offensive, she said she didn’t know. After all, her young black kitchen employees call each other that.
When researching songs by popular rappers like Jay-Z, it turned my stomach to read the foul language, which includes this word, our youth listen to and emulate. And yet our nation’s leader readily welcomes this rapper into the White House then laments race relations out the other side of his mouth.
One thing I found interesting, though, as I talked to folks, is the lack of acceptance for this new fangled N-word among some who use other slang-offensive words. That tells me some racial connotation, despite the insistence otherwise, is still attached to the word.
But the use of this word made me think. Is it a reflection of race relations further progressed than some purport or representative of our degrading society? If I were a betting person, I’d put money on the latter.
So it’s not a huge leap that a young adult like Riley Cooper, only a few years removed from the college scene, would allow the “wrong” N-word to roll off his tongue so easily. Especially while intoxicated.
The same could be said for the F-word. When I was a teen, it was the MF-word and only the “bad” kids used it. If caught saying it, you’d be suspended from school or your parents would give you a whipping—or both. Now it’s shortened to just the F-word and used for all parts of speech. One of the many reasons I don’t watch R-rated movies is the repeated use of the word. I’d like to send this generation of kids and the movie producers to the chalkboard like in the old days and ask them to diagram their sentences. It’d be interesting.
Then there’s the C-word. Actually, I never hear anyone refer to it this way. People just say “cracker.” Yes, for some reason, this word is politically correct to just say. Recently, in the George Zimmerman trial in Florida where he was accused of killing a black teenager, a witness for the prosecution used the term very casually in referring to Mr. Zimmerman. When some cried foul, the PC pundits defended her, stating that within the context of her life and culture, the use of the word was authentic.
Am I the only one who found this explanation incredulous? I must be in the minority because New York Democrat Charlie Rangel also felt free to use the C-word recently:
Rangel made the "cracker" comment in an interview last week with the Daily Beast, referring to the tea party as "the same group we faced in the South with those white crackers and the dogs and the police." (Newsmax.com)
Not a single PC pundit, that I know of, took Rangel to task for his language. The race activists and those who typically have loud viewpoints on this subject were eerily quiet.
Then there’s the B-word. It’s been around as long as the others but for some reason seems to still be socially acceptable. I mused aloud one day in the presence of a male (not my husband, in case you’re wondering) that if Riley Cooper had used the B-word instead of the N-word, would he be in as much trouble? The response: No, because women haven’t been as oppressed as blacks.
If my head had been anatomically able to spin on my shoulders, it would’ve. It’s only been in the last hundred years that American women have gained the right to vote and married women could own property. And we’ve still not achieved equal pay for equal work.
Consider these additional facts:
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. (DomesticViolenceStatistics.Org)
In many third world countries, females are considered property, receive less education than males, are forced into pre-adolescent marriage, and have virtually no rights of their own.
More than 70% of human trafficking victims worldwide are female. The average cost of a slave is $90. (DoSomething.Org)
According to UNAIDS, young women ages 15 to 24 in sub-Saharan Africa, the region hardest hit by the epidemic, are up to 8 times more likely than young men to be living with HIV…In various regions of the world, rural women often tend to crops that are used to nourish their families or sell in the marketplace. Yet just 1 percent of the world’s women own land.
Physical, sexual and psychological violence strikes women in epidemic proportions worldwide. It crosses every social and economic class, every religion, race and ethnicity. From domestic abuse to rape as a weapon of war, violence against women is a gross violation of their human rights. Not only does it threaten women's health and their social and economic well-being, violence also thwarts global efforts to reduce poverty. (ICRW.Org)
No doubt, standards are hypocritically applied to certain words in our culture. In the future, before the PC pundits decide which alphabet violators should be punished and to what degree, perhaps they’d be wise to look inside their own hearts and lives and consider Jesus’ philosophy:
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” John 8:7b
Because real change in any culture begins in the heart of the individual and in the willingness to confront the true underlying reasons for disenfranchisement. Not in dissecting each other’s language.
My two cents, for what it’s worth.
© Laura Hodges Poole