Much ado about “nigger”

Bill Maher controversy proves the N-word still divides us

Comedian Bill Maher jokingly calls himself a house nigger and those outraged are calling for the cancellation of his long-running HBO show. For the record, I am not one of them; nor am I someone who thinks it should be culturally taboo for white folk to utter the word nigger (or nigga).

Free speech, but you can’t say the following!

I was once an 18-year-old black boy who was so hurt the first time a white person called me nigger, I transferred schools and change the entire trajectory of my life.

Today, I’m a 55-year-old black man who feels very differently about the words nigger and faggot—two words, which, when hurled at me in my youth, had the ability to cut deep and propel changes in my behavior.

Now nobody can call me nigger or faggot and get an emotional rise out of me. So how did I get here? Empowerment. Learning to love and accept myself for who I am. Realizing that letters in the alphabet put together to form words have absolutely no meaning save the ones we collectively and individually assigned to them.

Once I got my head in order, like many people, I embraced the words nigger and faggot as a way of diminishing the power of others to hold domain over me with those words. Instead, I now hold domain over those words for myself.

www.I_am_a_faggot_and_a_nigger.com

But to hold domain over other people’s use of those words? WTF?

That’s just plain wrong in America, where free speech more or less means you can utter almost anything, except threats, libel and “fire!” in a theater.

Even then, one can still use the word fire outside a theater. You can talk about a fire. You still can say, “Someone yelled fire!” You can even yell “fire!” in a theater—if there’s an actual fire!

Saying to an entire group of people in this country: “you can’t use this word because [fill in the blank]” is antithetical to all the things every patriot supposedly ever lived and died for. As with the word fire, it’s the context and intent that matters.

Black people holding domain over white people’s ability to say the word nigger is also counterproductive to the racial reconciliation that we, as Americans, still need to experience. We can’t do that if certain groups have domain over certain words and whether or not other groups can use them.

For some, the word nigger still possesses the power to cut deep. All the more reason we need to hear the word, use it, examine it, talk about it, say it as often as possible, even … everybody .. until it becomes as meaningless as words like (whatever they used to call various immigrants back in the day.)

After all, anyone in this country can utter the phrase, “he called him a dago,” without the world coming down on them.

Until we get there with the word nigger, we’re not going to get very far with the race relations in America.

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