An AP story via the San Jose Mercury News says that, as a result of Michael Richards’ raging madness onstage earlier this month (earlier post here), they’re calling upon the entertainment industry to ban the “n-word”:
Black leaders on Monday challenged the entertainment industry, including rap artists, actors and major studios, to stop use of the racial slur that triggered the Michael Richards scandal.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and others said they will meet with TV networks, film companies and musicians to discuss the “n-word.”
“We want to give our ancestors a present,” Jackson said at a news conference. “Dignity over degradation.”
I’m not sure the word itself was Richards’ problem. Yes, he used it — again and again, provocatively — but he went wayyyyyy beyond a word. There’s a world of difference between using the “n-word”, and talking about pitchforks in someone’s upside-down (read: lynched) backside.
Or is there? His rage exposed something vile and ugly… but did it also expose something more pervasive?
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, charged that only situations such as the Richards incident turn mainstream media attention to issues involving the black community.
“This is not simply about whether or not the black community forgives or forgets, this is about understanding that this is pervasive, that this happens in all of our institutions, one way or the other,” Waters said.
So — when someone uses the “n-word”, is there an underlying, understood inclusion of the rest of Richards’ madness?
The word itself is indeed pervasive in our society, and while I don’t ever use it (it always offends me regardless of who said it), whites and blacks use it differently… and there’s a deliberate, provocative hostility when used by a white person.
Does its use include the rest of Richards’ tirade? Because if it does, then our societal problem is far larger than a word. In fact, if the “n-word” includes all the poison that poured out of Richards’ mouth, banning it –even if such a thing were possible — won’t fix anything.
Are we truly this sick?