Friday, August 1, 2008

Today's episode is brought to you by the letter N.

This is a follow-up to an earlier post about Nas, whose name starts with the letter N, and this one about Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who cried on TV and gave Litchik nightmares, which start with the letter N, too.

Elizabeth Hasselbeck was crying over the N-word. And Nas was angry at a mean man named Bill O'Reilly, and Mr. O'Reilly got angry back at Nas and said that Nas shouldn't be mad at him because Nas uses the N-word.

Peligro! That's Spanish for "Danger!" WB is putting on its referee's uniform now and blowing the whistle. Peligro! Don't stand too close, because we're blowing the whistle really really hard and it might hurt your ears. We're blowing the whistle because the game is over, and everyone should clear the field now.

What game? The N-word game.

Queer. RECLAIMED
Faggot. RECLAIMED.
Dyke. RECLAIMED.
Bitch. RECLAIMED.
Midget. RECLAIMED.
Retard. RECLAIMED.
Cripple. RECLAIMED.
Polack. RECLAIMED.
Wop. RECLAIMED.
Beaner. RECLAIMED.

Heteros, misogynists, able-bodied people, and racists used to say those bad words to others and hurt their feelings. But now the other people own those words or have banished them, because they fought very hard and long for the right to do that, and no one can say the words if they're not part of the other people's group.

Language is an amazingly political thing, boys and girls! There's such power in reclaiming a word that when Carlos Mencia, on Comedy Central, started getting popular, people noticed that he was using the word "beaners" a lot to refer to Mexicans. But Mr. Mencia has Mexican ancestry, so it was okay for him to do that! He wasn't being mean, he was being affectionate.

Unfortunately for the Beaner's Coffee people, they weren't connected like Mr. Mencia, and even though their name was about coffee beans, they decided to let go and change their name to Biggby. (Their logo is... a big B! Very clever! Hahaha!)


Now here's the thing, boys and girls: Elizabeth Hasselbeck has never cried over wondering why white people can't call Mexican people beaners. Bill O'Reilly has never accused lesbians of being "horrible examples" for using the word "dyke" at the Dyke Diva web site, the San Francisco Dyke March, or the DYKEDolls toy company. But American Indians have been ridiculed for more than a decade (that's ten years) over their fight to have "Braves" and "Chiefs" and "Indians" and "Redskins" taken away from sports teams and given to actual Indians. And white people have been asking why black people get to use the N-word, but white people don't, for even longer.

Why is that? Why does American society easily admit that it should show respect for the wishes of Mexicans, gays and lesbians, little people, the physically and mentally challenged, and Italian Japanese German Irish Etceteras — but not Indians or Black people?

Ooh, you are concentrating hard. Very good! But probably, you won't be able to guess the answer, because it's not very nice. And it will make you sad and confused, because in school, you're learning that America is a wonderful, happy place that welcomes everyone and treats everyone the same, giving them what is sometimes called equality.

Okay, hang onto that picture for as long as you can. But meanwhile, when today's episode of WB is over, run and tell your parents this: Racism is the desire or ability to control others of differing ethnicity or ethnic origin.

Big words; maybe you want to practice saying them a few times.

If you are a blond white girl on TV and you ask "why can they say it but we can't," and then cry, or if you are a mean white man on TV and you say "if we don't say it, they shouldn't say it either — no one should say it," or if you are white and you say "I don't agree that they have changed the word's meaning, and that it's a term of endearment," then you are desiring or practicing the ability to control others of differing ethnicity or ethnic origin.

And uh-oh, you know what that means, right?

So, boys and girls, it's time for everyone to follow the Biggby Beaner's example and just let go. No more books about the N-word, no more "debates" on TV talk shows, no more pedantic, condescending lectures from the Freedom Marching generation to the Pants Sagging generation. Game over. Let go.

Language is a living, changing thing. The N-word will thrive or die on its own as some people choose to use it or not — and others agree to shut the hell up and let it happen — whatever it turns out to be.

Oops, WB said a bad word there and will have to eat some soap now. (Asqueroso! That's Spanish for "disgusting.")

While we do that, we'll leave you with this little video from more than thirty years ago, when some people already understood that the N-word was off limits for white people, and that the argument was over.

Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase on SNL
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