|Calling a kettle "black" or a "spade a spade" could be misinterpreted in today's world.|
If Deen had called me a "nigger" to my face, I probably would have been fighting mad, but I don't know the woman and will probably never meet her. Words can be hurtful, and being caught using the wrong ones at the wrong time can have disastrous financial consequences for celebrities and business people. Sometimes, though, they can have a tendency to make bigmouths more endearing. I hadn't even thought about Paula Deen recently or watched her show lately, and now I'm writing this post about her. Go figure. Remember Martha Stewart and her incarceration in a federal penitentiary for shady stock dealing? Stewart's net worth last year was $970m!
In Deen's case, she admitted she has used the word "nigger" before, but not in a demeaning way. After that admission, several of her sponsors dropped her, and her famed cooking show has been cancelled. Deen contends that she is not racist and wonders why people think she is a bad person for using the word "nigger" once in her life. Deen may be the kind person she portends to be; who am I to judge.
Looking back at the word's history, the term was used by people who referred to black slaves from Niger as "niggers." This word later was used to connote persons who were lazy. Many Southerners during the mid-20th century bastardized the word "Negro" to "Negra" which was a slap in the face to African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement when blacks were fighting racial segregation. Comedian David Chappelle uses "nigga" all the time, while The Boondock's Aaron McGruder throws it around in his comic strip and TV show.
I remember a comedy skit during that time in which a black man was asked why he was infuriated when whites called him "nigger" and didn't mind when his sweetheart did. "That's because she wakes up every morning, kisses me, and calls me her SWEET NIGGER," which means intent is everything when communicating politically charged words. My maternal grandma use to wake me up in the morning and tickle my toes, saying, "Good morning, my little nigga toes." I loved my grandmother dearly, even though she was born in the late 1880's in North Carolina where racism left its toll.
Calling someone "Uncle Tom" or "Colored" is looked upon with contempt today, but once these were familial words. Any words which separate us from each other, which make us feel better than someone else, can become hurtful; however, if everyone who has ever spoken the words "nigger", "spic", "slut," "bitch," "fag," "raghead", "kite," or "wetback" were due to be punished, possibly all of us would be under the jail!
Kettle photo: Holger Ellgaar, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2