Thursday, August 26, 2004

Bravo Romeo Delta has in several places expressed a feeling of resentment that certain words can be used by certain people without the same stigma.

The only thing I feel compelled to add to the mix on this, is that it's the fact that I can get fired for dropping an N-bomb by someone who, in all likelyhood, could also be of the opinion that boycotting the Dixie Chicks (for their political views) constitutes an impingement of First Amendment rights.

Yes, this is about the word you would get fired for calling an African-American who worked at the same place you did.

It's worth noting that if an African American called a Caucasian-American a honky, or a Spanish American called a Caucasian-American a Gringo, they would almost certainly be in serious trouble - but not necessarily quite the same trouble.

It's also worth noting that many people of all colors do dislike or boycott comedians who use the 'N-bomb'. Again, it's not the same. We can respect people with different opinions about these comedians, but have only one opinion about a white comedian who uses the N-bomb.

One important point is that people who can laugh at themselves are often admirable, but people who like to mock other people for things that they have suffered seriously for are contemptible. Remember Jesse Jackson and Hymietown? A Jewish comedian could have gotten away with that line, but it doesn't mean Jesse Jackson wasn't wrong and mean spirited to use it - or that the Jewish comedian would have been wrong.

Still not quite the same. I could write all those words.

The core of the issue is economic. That is where the symmetry radically breaks down. The N-bomb was historically used not merely to hurt people, but keep them 'in their place'. If you look at employment and salary statistics, you will see this is a battle still being fought. Comedians are often rather good at tapping concealed angers that can't be expressed in polite company. Oddly enough, not only African Americans are victims of this anger. The dogs of the employment market may become the lions of the criminal scene, and it is in all our interests that ambitious and capable people should have reasonable hope that they can prosper while doing something worthwhile. A joke using the N-bomb between boss and subordinate can become an unspoken compact that that 'other' subordinate won't get the promotion.

Is it then OK for black comedians to use the N-bomb? I'm not quite sure, but I do consider it different. It is much less certain that this latter use will reinforce the short sighted little compacts which in the long run hurt us all.

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