During a radio interview last week President Obama used the so-called “N-word” in a purely historical context while discussing the topic of race relations in America:
"Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public," said the President. “That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."
Judging by the public outcry from all directions immediately afterward, one would have thought he had committed a murder. That’s because in America today there exists a very large segment of the population terminally afflicted with a sickness in consciousness I call “N-word” hysteria.
These pitiful anal retentive neurotic souls simply do not tolerate any usage of that term by anyone anytime no matter what the context, historical or otherwise. Such use is strictly forbidden by the present day cultural word police. The mere utterance of that word sets their hair on fire. It renders them into a sorry state of irrational foaming at the mouth apoplexy.
The White House released a statement saying that this is not the first time the President has used the N-word. "Truth is he uses the term about a dozen times in Dreams from my Father," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz.
Why shouldn’t he? That word is part of our history.
Now, I’ll be one of the first to admit that the “N-word” has long ago been considered a pejorative term; a word most often used by racists as a derogatory label referring to blacks. At a minimum its use is impolite in the same way that words like “wetback,” “spic,” “chink,” or “kike,” are considered impolite; and downright racist if the speaker is employing them as a derogatory label intended to identify a specific person or group of people.
There are lots of impolite words in the English language. Yet no mere word is worthy of generating hysteria regardless of how or why it is used. After all, they are just words. Words alone cannot cause harm. When I say “N-word” everyone knows exactly what it means. No one becomes upset when “N-word” is said. But some people go ballistic when “n*****” is said; it’s irrational; it’s ridiculous.
The “N-word” originated in history a neutral term referring to black people. It was simply a colloquial derivation of the word Negro, which was a derivation of the Latin adjective “niger” meaning the color black. Just like the term “critter” is a colloquial derivation of the word “creature,” the N-word began as totally benign and non-pejorative.
The great British and American authors of the 19th century, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, for example, both created characters in books that used the colloquial “N-word” referring to blacks as it was commonly used then with no derogatory or pejorative intent whatsoever. Many blacks, even to this today, use the “N-word” to refer to each other with no offense intended.
When I was growing up during the late 1940’s and 1950’s, the “N-word” had become out of fashion largely because by this time it was mostly used by racists as a derogatory label referring to blacks. Racism was still quite prevalent in America then.
Polite folks used the words “Negro” and “colored” to refer to blacks. Blacks preferred those terms then. The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the greatest American civil rights leader of all time, used those terms liberally in every speech right up until the day he was assassinated. “Negro” and “colored” had absolutely no pejorative or derogatory connotation then. All the civil rights leaders used those words to refer to their people.
Eventually, during the 1960’s, the terms “Negro” and “colored” were considered offensive by some blacks. They preferred the term “blacks.” Today most blacks are offended by “Negro” and “colored.” In fact, most black people today would rather be referred to as “African American” than “black.”
The evolution of the “N-word” to “African American” is factually absurd. Why, for example aren’t white people referred to as European Americans? Why can’t we just all be Americans without any regard to color or ethnicity?
I can confidently predict that one day, perhaps sooner than later, even the term “African American” will be considered pejorative and derogatory by polite society.
Yes, soon we’ll be witnessing “A-word” hysteria in America just like we have “N-word hysteria now.