The NFL has plans to crack down on players using N-bombs. The big debate is whether or not they can successfully implement and enforce such an idea. A secondary debate then ensued over whether this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to the Washington Redskins (R-word) franchise.
What troubles me is that this even needs to be addressed. Why is the N-word still being used?
Obviously I hear it being dropped in rap songs – though of the “-a” or “-ah” variety as opposed to the original “-er” version – (“-a” or “-ah” being considered okay), and occasionally from the mouths of white, self-proclaimed “old-school” types (decidedly not okay). The former usage is apparently a term of endearment while the latter screams “Racist.”
It all depends on who uses it and how. Context, they say, is everything.
So here we have a word that those advocating human rights and racial equality worked hard to eradicate from the English vocabulary. The N-word stood as a representation of all backward and racist thinking and its elimination from use is a way to show progress in our thinking about racial equality.
Maybe that’s why such in-house usage of the N-word feels like two steps forward, one step back. Isn’t it going against what past elders have championed? Why resurrect something so hateful?
Is it really an attempt to change the connotation of the word? Or is it merely an attempt to rub it in the face of those on the outside? We can use it, but you can’t. I hope it’s not the latter because that really feels like driving a stake through the heart of progress through self-segregation.
Based on this line of thinking, let’s take a look at another cringe-worthy word: faggot (at least it makes me feel as uncomfortable as the N-word).
Straight white rapper Eminem slings this epithet in several of his songs and he has been labeled a homophobe because of it. Why? Because the term has a negative connotation and denigrates an entire group of people.
Now I don’t follow a lot of gay culture, but I am friends with a fair number of gay people. I can say that I’ve never heard any of them refer to another using this term. However, by N-word logic, it would be fine if they did.
But would it further the progress of our acceptance of gays and gay rights? Unlikely.
Now, about the R-word.
If the connotation of the term “redskins” is as negative and ugly as the N-word or faggot, then the Washington NFL franchise needs to change its name. In fact, I would argue that the use of redskins is even more egregious than the use of the N-word.
I don’t know anyone, including Native Americans, who drop R-bombs. Other than to reference the Washington football franchise or potatoes, this term has long since disappeared from our lexicon. There are no attempts to bring it back into vogue or to use it as a racial slur. Let’s move on.
Besides, the Washington Redskins could stand a makeover. That franchise provides the only negative connotation to the R-word these days.
I think it was comedian Chris Rock who observed that having a team called the Washington Redskins was like having a team called the New York N-words. Obviously, that would never happen.
And yet, use of the N-word persists: who can use it, who can’t use it, and if you do use it in the NFL, will it draw a 15 yard penalty? (What’s the equivalent of a 15 yard penalty in life, BTW?)
In the end, those who still insist on using the N-word bring to mind a group of mentally-disabled people sitting around calling each other retards.
Endearing, isn’t it?