between the lines logo (anthony asadullah samad)*There is no easy way to tackle this subject. You know I love writing about controversial issues. Controversy is what makes the world go round in America.

There is nothing more controversial in America than the word America, itself, created. You know the word…and I’m not talking about “the N-word” either.

Political correctness is going to be the death of American society. It allows us to deflect reality. There would no such thing as the N-Word” if it wasn’t for the need to cover our ears for the “other word.”

It was something created, to be “politically correct,” during the O.J. Simpson trial to query Mark Fuhrman after a tape surfaced where he used the word, NIGGER, 41 times when he denied on the witness stand that ever used the word.

The only reason I’m writing about it is because it’s been in the national news twice in the last two months. Makes my publishers nervous as hell, but hell—I didn’t create the controversy.
I’m just a casual social constructionist that makes observations and writes commentary.

First, Food Network Celebrity, Paula Deen, said it a couple years ago in a deposition and now Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver, Riley Cooper, was phone-cammed, saying it at a public event. Both are now claiming they LOVE black people. Deen lost two television shows worth millions of dollars. Cooper lost two weeks pay and is now back with the Philadelphia Eagles—and plays with a team full of Nig, uh—I mean, black people. Where’s the justice? A more important question is, why the hypocrisy? Somebody is called a nigger every day in America, somewhere around America. And doesn’t include all the “Niggas” and “Niggazs” thrown around.

Everybody’s some kinda Nig now in America’s popular culture today. And they wear their Nig badge proudly in this era of “Popular Blackness,” yelling with a vigor—at the top of their voices, holding their genitals. Don’t believe me? I witnessed it two weeks as 70,000 people, mostly whites, Asians, Latinos and any other nationality you want to throw in—sang along with Jay-Z (and Justin Timberlake) at the Rose Bowl. This was a cultural gut check…a social teaching moment, indeed. Are we really trying to get rid of a word that is at the root of America’s racial history and at the height of pop culture—at the same time. The word is popularized that all the other races now call themselves, Niggas, as a term of endearment. But when you hear the “er,” you know who they’re talking about and we’re back at square one.

The sting is still there. The public sentiment, for banning the word, is not. It’s inconsistent, and NOT just because black people won’t stop using it. It’s cultural lexicon.

The reality is, others have never stopped using it. We just punish those who use it publicly…except at a hip-hop concert. Then you can shout it as part of a song (SMH).

Nigger now makes the news every time somebody is caught saying it. We try to clean it up in public, saying “the N-Word.” But nobody gets called “the N-word” in the back rooms. Nobody slips and calls you, “You N-word” in a sudden moment of indiscretion. Nope. “N-word” is just a signal, a smoke signal many times, to keep the backroom protocols in check. We will punish you if you say the word publicly. But turn in on some body in traffic…go into a high-end restaurant and sit beside someone that thinks you are “outta place” because you can now afford to eat or socialize in private spaces that were once racially exclusive, move someplace where the neighbors feel you “don’t belong,” and it’s almost a greeting term. We can’t be hypocritical and punish people for using terms that society itself hasn’t forsaken and on some level, has embraced. We make examples of people for doing things that the rest of society do all the time.

Is that really fair?

We can’t get past the term, “Nigger,” because we’re recalcitrant in our sincerity around the word. When some perceive a segment of society as being that which you were taught that they were, and some who act out in ways that justify the term—demonstrating anti-social and maniacal behavior (when no other race who demonstrate the same behaviors are labeled as such), you entrench the word even deeper into the culture. You cannot ban a word and, at the same time, popularize its usage and except everybody to contextualize the term in a messy popular correctness. As Kanye West would say, “That’s CRA.” But America has become a popularly crazy society—irreverent in its use of the word and in its refusal to stop using the word.

We have this conversation every year—every time somebody slips. And I rebut it every year. The term was made in America, and now the world wants a piece of America. This is usually one of the first pieces they pick up. I once did a five part series on “How America Made Niggas.” That was more than ten years ago and its still popularly circulated around the cyber sphere. We need to own up to the real reasons this word won’t go away.

We wouldn’t get past the word, Nigger, until everyone agrees to stop using it, and we know at least a few segments of the society won’t. Free speech has now become a defense for it.
I feel sorry for Paula Deen because she is Americana, through and through. She was caught in a politically correct “culture shift” that has one foot in and one foot out on the use of the term. I don’t feel sorry for Riley Cooper because I don’t believe he is sincere.

It’s gonna be a long season for him and he’s gonna hear it every time he comes to the line of scrimmage, because—in all likelihood, the cornerback he lines up against, will be a… The licks he takes will be a reminder of what he said and why America can’t get over this word, one we so despise and love, at the same time. This is my Nigger column for the year.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and author of, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com and on Twitter at @DrAnthonySamad.

anthony asadulla samad

Anthony Asadulla Samad