the N word

Kramer – or Michael Richards in real life – professionally committed suicide.  His blunder will follow him to his grave, I’m sure.  You know the incident… the one in which he “lost it” in the middle of his comedy stand when 2 African American guys taunted him from the seats.  He lashed out and verbally punished those two black guys a couple of weeks ago, repeatedly calling them the N word… and clearly was enraged in his response.   To me this demonstrated a deep issue for him.  My take on the deal is this; I saw the clip, and I saw the apology.  He’s a comedian!  I believe he got mad, I believe he was truly enraged by whatever they did to taunt him.  In his response, it seriously seemed a little over-dramatic. 

Oh, I really do think he was mad.  And I think he probably didn’t mean to start the N-word thing, but he did.  It was absolutely cruel, out of line, and certainly sociably and morally unacceptable.  As for me, I think his apology was sincere.  His body language and total control and downtrodden nature on Letterman seemed legitimate.  Talk show and TV show hosts for the last 2 weeks have raved about this, and debated the situational use of the N-word to determine all manner of things; is there a double-standard by African Americans using it to describe one another, versus a Caucasian person saying it.

I have a mixed perspective on the thing.  Not that I approve of Richards, or approve of EVER saying “nigger” at all.  It’s an ugly, derogatory term that has never done anything but harm.  But I will share the other perspective as well.  My wife and I adopted a healthy baby boy in 2000.  We prayed and prayed for him, and when God sent him, he was a little boy of African American descent.  We rejoiced and learned, and prayed, and tearfully embraced our little boy of 3 weeks.  I never dreamed what I’m about to say would have ever happened.

One day after work at FedEx, when we first moved to Memphis, I was taking a young black guy home to the inner city.  I had been warned by my (also African American) boss, “don’t take that N home, man… it’ll never stop!”  I frequently heard the N word from one black guy to another, and never in any way felt it was being used in a derogatory way.  Well, I took the guy home.  I continued taking him home.  After he learned more about me, that I had “color” in my family, and that my sister-in-law was black as well, things really opened up.

The day came that he was cracking jokes, and we were talking very comfortably with one another.  Somehow we got into the discussion of what he would do if he saw me getting beat up (how I don’t remember).  I’ll never forget when he said, “I’d go to bat for you brah…”  -to which I responded, “why, man?”  His response was, “’cause you’re my N…” 

Jesse Jackson and many others are probably right for calling for all people – black or white – to cease using the N-word.  It’s use started in a derogatory way, and never has meant anything good.  But slang changes with the times…  How could I be a N?  I’m as Caucasian as they come!  The point is that when Gavin used that word toward me, the word meant friend.  Although… I still don’t think Jesus would ever use it… 


One thought on “the N word

  1. As an African-American I strive not to say the N word at all. That doesn’t mean I’ve never said it though. I’m rather conflicted on the subject. I hate the word because of its derisive and derogatory history. However in certain limited situations I must say I find the word’s usage appropriate.

    Some African Americans say that we use the word as a way to reclaim and re-appropriate it for use in a more positive manner. It’s used as a form of empowerment. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that because that’s not always the aim but that’s the claim.

    My conflict arises because while I don’t like the word and strive not to use it, I passively support its use by consuming some of the music I enjoy and viewing some of the movies, TV shows, and comedians that I find entertaining.


    Shoot me another reply Drew. I deleted your reply to my last comment by mistake and can’t find your email address. I want to write you back so we can catch up.

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