Editorial by John Ziegler

Orginal of Philadelphia Inquirer Commentary on Use of the "N-Word."

7/23/2001

As a white male who was fired as a radio talk show host several years ago for using the "N-word" in a rather academic discussion about the way whites and blacks view each other, I found the recent controversy involving singer Jennifer Lopez to be quite fascinating. You see, ever since that on-air "incident," (which was pre-approved by my boss and during which I believe I did little, if anything, "wrong") I have been desperately trying to figure out what the "rules" are when it comes to uttering this racial epithet that, understandably, causes so much anger in many African-Americans.

Lopez, who is of Latin decent, has come under fire for using three variations of the N-word in the "Murda Mix" (strangely no one complained about THAT element of the song) in her new single "I'm Real." Among those claiming outrage and demanding a recall of the record, was Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic Hope, who stated that use of the N-word is offensive by anyone, but especially by a "non-black artist as popular as Jennifer Lopez."

However, while there have been some minor protests involving the song, it appears that most blacks are willing to do as her former boyfriend Puffy Combs has said to do, which is to "give her a pass." So it appears that we have further defined the "rules" when it comes to use of the "N-word." Apparently, if your skin is dark enough and you're your former black boyfriend says it is ok, then you can use the word in a lyric written by someone else.

I will be sure to add this new tenet to the ever-growing list of rather confusing, contradictory, and seemingly counter productive unwritten guidelines regarding the use of the dreaded "N-word." Here are some others that I have been able to accumulate over the past couple of years:

-- If you are a black comedian (especially if your name is Chris Rock) using the "N-word" is not only acceptable, but can gain you great riches and popularity.

-- If you are a black DJ on a Hip-Hop radio station you can use it all you want, as can listeners who give "shout outs" to their n****r friends. White DJs cannot do this. However Howard Stern gets an exemption because he has a black female sidekick and because he makes Infinity Broadcasting millions of dollars.

-- If you were once a member of the KKK, but are now an old, but powerful and very LIBERAL member of the Senate (Robert Byrd) you can use the word twice on national television and the media will not talk about it at all and the vast majority of Americans will not even realize that it ever happened.

-- If you are a white male at a District of Columbia city council meeting and you use the word "niggardly" (which means stingy and has nothing to do with the "N-word"), you will be publicly ridiculed, fired, and then reassigned.

-- If you send out an "Independence" crossword puzzle in a pamphlet for the 4th of July celebration and a computer glitch causes a spelling of the "N-word" to show up that no one has ever seen before, it will cause a great uproar, but nothing will really be done.

-- If you are a boxer of Latin decent (Hector Camacho) and who use the "N-word" in describing Mike Tyson after he bit off Evander Holyfield's ear, the media will rip you unmercifully, but will let it quickly go away and they will continue to promote your fights. If you are Mike Tyson himself and you later call YOURSELF the "N-word," the media will simply question your sanity, but there will be no real repercussions. If you are a largely unknown, white male, talk show host (John Ziegler) and you SPELL the "N-word" while QUOTING Tyson on a sports radio station owned by the same company that employs Howard Stern, you will reprimanded by your boss and end up leaving the station.

-- If you are an elderly white male golfer who jokingly (he says) responds to a black groundskeeper's query as to who is winning the PGA golf championship by saying, "that n****r, Tiger Woods," you will lose your membership privileges at the golf club. What is still uncertain is whether or not Tiger himself (who is one-quarter African American) is "black" enough to qualify for this new "Jennifer Lopez Exemption."

-- If you are a white male writing a commentary about the use of the "N-word," you cannot actually use it.

Source: <a href="http://inq.philly.com/content/inquirer/2001/07/23/opinion/ZIEGLER23.htm">Way Commentary Actually Appeared in Inquirer.</a>

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