Race, Privilege, Music, and The N-Word

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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222 Responses

  1. Avatar b-psycho
    Ignored
    says:

    Far as I can tell we’re all adults here.  Maybe a warning would be helpful for people checking in from work, otherwise no big deal.Report

    • Avatar Russell Saunders in reply to b-psycho
      Ignored
      says:

      I second this.  Grown-ups should be able to handle such things with equanimity, and to understand that the rationale for posting the songs has nothing to do with the offensive nature some of the specific words used.Report

      • Avatar BSK in reply to Russell Saunders
        Ignored
        says:

        I think the bigger question is whether or not the word is offensive in that context. Is the song itself offensive? Does its potential to offend change based in who is posting the song?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BSK
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          says:

          Well, here is the song (one of them anyway) that I was thinking of when I wrote this post. (Warning: contains strong language including racial slurs.)

          SpottieOttieDopaliscious by Outkast. It has some of the most mellowsensual horns I’ve heard since songs from the 70’s and paints a picture of… well, you’ll have to listen to it because I won’t even come close to doing it justice.

          Anyway, is the word offensive in that context? I don’t think so but I don’t know that I have standing to say that. Is the song itself offensive? I don’t think so but I don’t know that I have standing to say that. Does its potential to offend change based in who is posting the song? We’re back to my lack of standing.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to b-psycho
      Ignored
      says:

      Is there a particular warning?Report

  2. Avatar Fish
    Ignored
    says:

    An “explicit language” tag might be appropriate. Have you received pushback for some of the stuff you’ve posted or are you just being forward-thinking?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fish
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m just being forward thinking. I listen to the songs before I play them and there was one in particular that I listened to and thought “this is one that paints a gorgeous picture…”.

      Except, of course, it used that word.Report

  3. Avatar BSK
    Ignored
    says:

    You could also try to post radio edits, which usually bleep out the Nword.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman
    Ignored
    says:

    On a sidenote, a little while ago I was watching some Chris Rock videos (I am duly ashamed for laughing). He broached the “Is it ever okay for white people to use the N-word?” question. His answer was, pretty much, “only when singing along with rap lyrics.”

    I’d edit the words out. But I would do the same with other curse words. If nothing else, such words are *really bad* for corporate Internet filters.Report

    • Avatar BSK in reply to Will Truman
      Ignored
      says:

      Why are you ashamed to laugh at Chris Rock? “Scrubs” tackled the question but with the opposite answer, fwiw.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to BSK
        Ignored
        says:

        Regardless of who is telling the joke, I am a white guy laughing at jokes about black people. (I’m not actually ashamed, but a little uncomfortable.)

        What conclusion did Scrubs come to?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman
          Ignored
          says:

          This is a part of what makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

          I mean, we had an argument the other day about racist dog whistles and touched on how something that a person might say in a room where he knows there are *ONLY* members of the community would have one context but Newt Gingrich saying a very similar thing to a group of white folks would be massively inappropriate.

          Now, it seems to me that, on one level, these albums were released for sale to everybody and all you need to do to listen is drop your twelve bucks for the album. Of course… but, on another level, it feels like these albums were recorded for a very particular audience in mind and listening to them is akin to eavesdropping on an intimate conversation.

          And it’d be one thing to have one particular person say “here, listen to this song” to another, singular, person and share that moment together and another thing entirely for someone else entirely to say “hey, community! Listen to this intimate song!”

          Which is worrying *WAAAAY* too much.

          But that’s one of the worries I had.Report

        • Avatar BSK in reply to Will Truman
          Ignored
          says:

          Thanks for clarifying. I thought you were implying that Rock wasn’t really funny and laughing at his jokes was shameful.

          “Scrubs” answered the question of whether a white guy can say it when singing along simply: no. It didn’t go into depth and obviousy was a comedy, vut they did tackle issues of race on several occasions and in a far more “real” way than many, more serious shows. I believe the particular scene is from the first episode.

          I do think the audience matters. I’m just not sure how much.

          I will say that, growing up in a predominantly black community and attending a predominantly black high school in the 90’s, I heard the word used by black people a lot. By some hispanics, too, interestingly, many of whom were white latinos. And the word was used in reference to people of all races. It really was used akin to “guy” or “guys”. While the people who could use it obviously had limitations, the people who could be party to its usage didn’t seem, too. Of course, I never saw a group of solely black folks engage in dialogue to make a direct comparison, since my presence inherently made it not a group solely of black folks.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
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          says:

          comedy’s supposed to make you uncomfortable. enjoy it.Report

    • Avatar Jeff in reply to Will Truman
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      says:

      I [pasty white guy] was reading Kindred to my [black] wife.  Much of the novel concerns a modern (from 1976) black woman in 1815s Baltimore and Butler uses the words that ordinary people would use at the time.  I have to say “N-word” which diminishes the impact that Butler wanted.

      It’s a tough one…Report

  5. Avatar sidereal
    Ignored
    says:

    I only use it when referring to my vacation ranch.

    Actually, I just maintain that the word ending in ‘er’ and the word ending in ‘a’ are distinct, and actual racists never use the latter, so that seems safe.Report

  6. Avatar Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    The only people who are going to care are the people who don’t like anyone using that word (not an insignificant number of people, including a lot of black people), and the people who are upset that certain people can use that word while they can’t. Everyone else would be fine with it, I’m quite certain, as long as you don’t post a video of Jaybird singing along to Outkast (I’m sure you sing wonderfully, though). So the questions you have to ask are, are any your readers from those two groups, and if so, should you avoid offending them by not posting it? I suspect the answer to the first question is almost certainly yes (particularly of the second type). The answer to the second question is entirely up to you.Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s an interesting question, and makes me wonder…

    Are we at a place now where for you, Jaybird, to use the word in a post, even a post that was wondering about things like this, would be OK for most white people but offensive to X% of blacks…

    But to embed a rap song from a black artist that uses that word extensively would be OK for mod black people, but offensive to X% of white people?

    I think this might actually be the case.  What I don’t know is what exactly does that mean?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      I’m not really thinking about percentages here.

      It’s more that I think that doing something like periodically playing a song where there are extensive uses of racial slurs is something that shouldn’t be done because one just assumes that everyone in the community will be okay with it… and seeing the opportunity to just avoid the entire conversation entirely by just not playing these songs seems like it would do a great job of avoiding controversy but, at the same time, a bit of a cop out (unless, of course, someone said “you know, I’ve heard that word enough for a lifetime and it’s nice to go to a place where I know that I’m not going to have to worry about hearing it” which is an argument that I don’t know that I have standing to argue against).Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Oh, I knew what you meant.  It just tickled that question for me, and I was thinking out loud.  I’m not sure that I can think of a corollary to the way one group of people thinks using a word in one neutral way is offensive and another neutral way is OK, and another group thinks the opposite.  And I wonder what that’s all about.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly
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          says:

          Semiotics is a spectacularly difficult art/science.

          So much more is signaled than is said and the potential for false positives (including, of course, “it’s a dogwhistle!”) and false negatives (including, of course, “that’s not a dogwhistle!”) and that makes any of these conversations into a minefield.

          You’re never going to get across it without going through it, though.Report

      • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        JB-

        How many other songs you play get the same level of care when it comes to their potential for offense?  Music is rife with mysogony, violence, sexism, drugs, and many other offensive topics.  Do you think twice about playing those types of songs?  I’m not trying to be snarky… I’m generally curious how you deal with other offensive topics and, if they don’t engender the same level of care, what makes this topic different?  It very well may be different, and identifying why would go a long way towards helping you come to answer.

        It is also worth keeping in mind that you aren’t playing these songs over the loudspeaker or at your desk loud enough for others to hear.  You are posting them on a blog and people are free to listen or not.  A disclaimer might be the best course, since it allows the individual to make an informed choice.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BSK
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          says:

          Well, I think that the most offensive song I’ve played so far on my site was “Tiger Woods” by Dan Bern (coincidentally, it was my birthday).

          Here’s what I wrote about it then:

          The song doesn’t build until about 0:20 and it doesn’t start proper until 0:39. It is, however, a celebration. I hope you listen to it and laugh and enjoy it. I do, however, hope you don’t listen to it at work. It’s not exactly worksafe… not because of swearwords or anything, but because co-workers might not enjoy its, shall we say, exuberance at just putting some particular pieces of information out there.

          I imagine that “Hey Joe” (HE PLAYS THE GUITAR SOLO WITH HIS TEETH) might require a bit of a warning too… but I didn’t give it one. (I did apologize for the lyrics in the comments.)

          For the most part, I’ve avoided controversy by not really posting songs that strike me as likely to offend.Report

    • Avatar BSK in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      “But to embed a rap song from a black artist that uses that word extensively would be OK for mod black people, but offensive to X% of white people?”

      I think the phenomenon of white people taking offense to black people using it is fascinating.  I’m not talking about taking offense to it being used as a hateful slur (which does happen within the black community… there is a great scene in “Boyz in the Hood” to this effect); but when black people use it collegially.  It just seems to boil some white people’s blood.  I’ve always believed this to be cloaked in a “How dare THEY tell US what we can and can’t say!” mindset, since inherent in the argument that it is okay for blacks and not for whites is that blacks are making the determination of who can and can’t say it.  And some whites just bristle at black folks having that power.  I don’t know how else to describe it… and I’m not doing the best job here… but it is fascinating.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to BSK
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        says:

        BSK, this whole thread (plus the previous one up topside a few days ago) has reminded me of a particularly sad incident. I had picked up my friend’s wife and her two young daughters (then about 5 and 7 IIRC) and we were waiting for him at a fast food restaurant. There were some guys in their early 20’s of the black persuasion who were loudly discussing – I don’t really know, but the N-word was prominently mentioned in roughly every sentence (similar to the song only more so). I could care less, but the girls were freaking out at every mention since of course this was a word that was NEVER to be used.

        I perhaps foolishly decided to go speak to them. I walked over, pointed to the young girls and told the loudest youngster that perhaps he could tone down the use of the N-word where children of impressionable age could hear it. The conversation then went something like this:

        Him: What did you just say?
        Me: Could you please refrain from using the N-word for now?
        Him: What N-Word?
        Me: The N-word you’ve been continuously using since we’ve been here
        Him: What N-word you talking about?
        Me: That N-word
        Him: What word?
        Me: You know, the N-word
        back and forth this went until finally he asked me to just say it, which I did

        Him: YOU m-f-k-r! How dare you come in here and call me N-g-r! And of course many more words of the sort and a lot worse at about 110 decibels. The mom was literally by this time trying to use her two hands to cover her daughters’ four ears, and I’m deciding if I can practice my martial arts on 3 guys all less than half my age with any success (success defined as they end up a lot more hurt than I do). Fortunately around then her husband came in. He’s an officer of the court and carries both a badge and a gun, which he showed to the boys in question. They immediately decided they had elsewhere to be and scurried out.

        Was I setup? No duh there. Was the person in question taking advantage of a particular nuance of political correctness and power? Assuredly. Other than sit (like everyone else in the establishment) and accept the language what were the options? I don’t know. I learned my lesson and recognize how this particular game gets played.Report

        • Avatar BSK in reply to wardsmith
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          says:

          WS-

          That is an interesting story.  Looking back, do you think you did the “right thing”?

          I would also be curious to hear a bit more on the context of the situation.  You mentioned being in a fast food restaurant but that was about it.  Were you in a predominantly black area?  Were the clientele predominantly black?  For lack of a better term, whose “turf” were you on?  I could see your comment being very poorly received if the perception was that you came into their area and were suddenly going to tell them how to act.  In a more “neutral” area or “your” turf, the dynamic might change… though maybe it wouldn’t.

          Think of it this way… you mentioned that no one else said anything.  Which means that every black person in that room (even if it was only the members of the group in question) was comfortable enough with hearing the word to not speak up.  And you were asking these young men to change how they were acting because of the presence of two white children.  None of the black people seemed to care.  But a handful of white folks did.  See what I’m getting at here?

          I’m not trying to get at you… just highlighting the intense complexity of the situation.

          In my own experience, as I mentioned, it was a word I heard used by black folks all around me growing up.  As I’ve grown and my circles have changed, it is a word I hear less and less; at this point, if I do hear it, it is almost assuredly on the radio, TV, or in a movie.  The other day, I was in a store and was being helped by a young black clerk.  He was fairly casual in his interactions… I don’t know if that is how he always was, if it was because it was 5 minutes before close on New Year’s Eve, or something about me made him comfortable being that way.  I didn’t mind (I am pretty casual myself and am not that much older than he was to begin with).  He was trying to get the attention of his manager to help with a return and was having trouble.  Eventually he said, “Man, this n-word is deaf” or something along those lines.  It struck me.  It had been a long time since I remember hearing that word used like that with me a part of the conversation (I probably heard it recently in passing on the streets/subways/busses, but was never a party to it).

          Anyway, yea, I don’t know if I have a point.  It is a complex issue.  At the end of the day, I don’t know if I, as a white guy, have much standing to comment on it.  If black people are cool with it, so be it.  If black people are not, so be it.  If some are and some aren’t, that is for that community to work out.  I will never use it.  And not because I’m not “supposed” to but because I know it’s ugliness and I try not to use ugly, hateful words.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith in reply to BSK
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            says:

            BSK, situationally it was an ambush of a sort. The “territory” was decidedly beige as in there were many more whites in the restaurant than blacks. Everyone was aghast but no one was going to do anything about it. Like you, I grew up around multiple races, until I didn’t really think about it. I’m older, I have tons of stories, this one just underscored the whole “standing” issue for me, esp when looked at in hindsight. Context is everything, if we’d been at a sporting event I’m positive I wouldn’t have done a thing. But there are few people in public settings who will do anything at all. I believe there’s even a series of shows on one of the channels where they keep examining this phenomenon. Ahh, you made me look for it, it’s called, “What would you do?” I have two things going for me, my iconoclast personality and I’m not afraid of a fight. If my friend hadn’t shown up I suspect I’d have been duking it out with those guys, but I’m not sure I’d have gotten the full benefit of the doubt from a jury of my peers if it came to that.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to wardsmith
              Ignored
              says:

              FWIW, I think in that situation you just star guessing random words starting with the letter N until they get tired of i t.Report

            • Avatar BSK in reply to wardsmith
              Ignored
              says:

              Ward-

              I’m not going to jump in with Somni and Kim, because I think their approach is unproductive, but some of their wonderings mirror my own.  Why were you offended by their use of the word?  Why did the children seem uncomfortable?  How much of any discomfort was a product of being around young, vociferous black men?  How much of a real threat was the violence and how much was probably posturing (impossible to know with certainty)?  Would you have spoken up if you heard white men using the word in a hateful way*?  What questions could you have asked the children, either in the moment or afterwards, to probe their understanding and feelings?  What answers could you have given them?  These are questions worth exploring.

              How would you handle a similar situation in the future?

              *  I was in a bar in the middle-of-nowhere Maine, up by Moosehead Lake.  There were 4 of us, all in our mid 20’s.  Two older guys (probably 40 or 50) were pretty lit and making a ruckus, but nothing out of the ordinary for a bar.  At one point, Michael Vick was featured on the TV.  Without any hestitation, one of the men said, “Someone needs to shoot that N-word in the head.”  Only he didn’t say N-word.  And he said it loud enough for anyone sitting at the bar to hear.  We were shocked.  We’re all city boys for the most part who would never use this word and rarely find ourselves in a company where people felt comfortable using this word.  One of my friends sort of said something, basically to the effect of, “Wohhh….”  We had previously been talking to the other of the two men, which quickly ended, though he seemed to at least recognize the discomfort.  He told his friend to quiet down and, while not apologizing, made it clear they had been drinking quite a while.  I was shocked.  Not only that he said it, but that something about the room he was in communicated to him that this was a safe place to say it.  Maybe he would have said it anywhere or maybe he was too lit to even realize, but I felt bothered by the fact that he assumed I was okay with him using that word, when I was very much not okay.  Ultimately, we didn’t say much more, paid our bill, and got the hell out of there.

              In hindsite, I regretted not saying anything.  My friends thought to say something was stupid… this was a drunk man who was probably an idiot even when sober, who probably would take nothing away from an interaction, and who might have been looking to fight.  We were out-of-towners in a podunk town and no one knew us.  Apparently, the two guys rolled up in a truck with shotguns displayed in the back.  I still felt a bit like a coward.  I’m not sure how I”d handle the situation again.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BSK
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                says:

                It’s not just to him that you need to communicate. You need to explain to the bar-owner, the patrons, that it’s not acceptable, and that you feel strongly enough about it to take your money elsewhere.

                “I suddenly seem to have lost my appetite.” might do. Saying a bit more — “in wine, there’s truth, but that truth’s pretty ugly. I think I’ll take my money elsewhere”

                If the guy’s at all decent when he’s sober, he’ll get laughingly told off, and be right embarrassed about what he said when non-locals could here.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to BSK
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                says:

                Jeesh, leave for a few hours (well, quite a few) and see what a mess I made. Actually there is some exceptionally excellent discussion hereabouts and if my little anecdote helped precipitate same, I’m a happy camper.

                Given the whole “What would you do?” dynamic and being about as old as BlaiseP and Bob (I reckon) I have a tendency to do things my own way no doubt with a dollop of curmudgeon thrown in. Was I personally offended by the use of the N-word? Yes.
                Would I have done anything about it absent the children? No. Would I have happily left the restaurant if I weren’t there waiting for the dad and husband? Yes.
                The children were uncomfortable because their parents had taught them well, does it change the story if I now mention they are adopted? It shouldn’t.
                Am I afraid of angry black men? Not so much. My training causes me to treat /any/ situation as possibly leading to violence. It has saved me from getting sucker punched (physically, not intellectually as happened here) many times.
                Yes I’d have said something to /anyone/ using that language, and if they were white wouldn’t have stepped into the landmines I found myself in. Not my kids so I really didn’t do the followup. I’m confident my friends handled it well. The kids are 6 years older and are well-adjusted in most ways, considering the fetal alcohol syndrome and some other handicaps they inherited from their natural mother.

                Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to wardsmith
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                says:

                WS-

                Glad to have you back in the convo. I’m a wee bit younger than you (late 20’s) and grew up hearing that word, so I probably would not have been uncomfortable personaly hearing it in that context. The presence of children obviousy changes the dynamic andyour inability to leaves changes it further still. I work with children, so I’m confident I could have addressed their discomfort directly. I would ot have approached the young men because I would not feel it my place to tell them how to speak, especially in a venue without agreed upon rules (i.e., a classroom, a movie theater). However, I feel reasonable people can disagree on this.

                Wrt the children, I try to avoid absolutes. I don’t tell them, “You can never use this word.”. Instead, I say, “Understand the power, meaning, and consequences of these words. Understand them well. Choose your words wisely.”. The latter allows to discuss how power, meaning, and consequence can vary by context and why it might be permissable for those young men to say it but not for them.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to wardsmith
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          says:

          Are the girls you were trying to protect from the big, bad N-word white or black?Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
            Ignored
            says:

            Sorry, I’m just hearing the echo of “well, how come people of “black persuasion” gets to say the word?” And maybe some heroism complex as well – I’m going to be the guy telling off those guys of “black persuasion”.Report

          • Avatar BSK in reply to sonmi451
            Ignored
            says:

            Sonmi-

            This is inappropriate.  The broader inquiry of your question is valid but the way you went about asking it has made you look like the ass here.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to BSK
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              says:

              It’s inappropriate because wardsmith is a “respected member of the blog community” and I’m just a drive-by troll. If that anecdote had come from some anonymous new commenter, I bet most people wouldn’t have the same “interesting story, ward, tell us more” reaction to it.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                Siding with sonmi here. And I hope ward won’t take it as sonmi calling him a “big bad racist” cause she’d BETTER not be! (rofl! My side is the good side — stay on it. 😉 )

                Maybe she could have phrased it a bit better — but hell, I’ve said things FORTY times stronger than that! (and you didn’t bitch, I know you didn’t!)

                BSK, you’re unnecessarily offending the newbie. Instead, saying something like “a little lighter?” without pointing fingers quite so much might be more likely to bear fruit.

                (sonmi, I think you can see BSK’s actual point here. he’s just putting it way too much into black territory for my taste. You trod moderate gray, and he’s right to say something. Just not what he did say)

                /end metaReport

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                BSK, you’re unnecessarily offending the newbie. Instead, saying something like “a little lighter?”

                Oh, I’m not offended, I don’t really hold with euphemism and too much diplomacy myself, if people think something is not appropriate or troubling, they should just say it instead of hiding it behind interesting turn of phrases.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                This is another dynamic that I think is interesting.

                “Oh, *I* am not offended. I just think that someone should say something on behalf of the people who might be offended by this offensive thing.”Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I don’t think she’s doing that. BSK said it was inappropriate, sonmi said “i don’t think so.”

                very curious what ward thinks, actually. Hate to have a hubbub if the lead didn’t even notice!Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                That is an interesting dynamic, but it’s not the one at play here. She was referring to BSK’s criticisms, not ward’s story, when she said she’s not offended.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Well, that’s much less interesting.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Wait, what are you accusing me here??? I said I’m not offended by BSK calling my comments inappropriate, how does that relate to other people who “might be offended by this offensive thing”? It’s not offensive for BSK to call my comment inapproriate, but that doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with him. Did I say anything about how other people might find it offensive?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Sorry, Somni.

                I lost the thread and misunderstood the dynamic at work here.

                I thought that you were clarifying something that you were not and I misread.

                I apologize.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                No problem 🙂 Sorry I got a little heated as well. I need to start writing down the commenters name when replying. You guys probably know this already, but the nested comment system here is a bit, well, choose your own adjectives.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                Knowing a person somewhat does change how you read that person’s personal anecdotes, yes.

                Should we not be taking our knowledge of other people into account?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Hey, your blog, your choice. But you run the risk of giving people you consider your pals too much of a pass because you “know” them, they’ve “done the work to be a respected member of the community” and so on. Frankly, it’s because I’m familiar with wardsmith’s comments that I find the anecdote troubling.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                To bring us back around:

                I’m not saying that you should not be troubled. However, nor am I saying that Wardsmith should not have told the story.

                I don’t know that this thread would have been better off without it… and it does raise an interesting dynamic that I hadn’t taken into account. If a couple of folks came in cursing and using slurs around me, well, I don’t even know that I’d particularly notice. I’d order my food and leave and eat it at home in front of the computer no matter what.

                If I were there with kids? Then what?

                If I were there with *MY* kids? Then what?

                This is one of the sticky charges that people always throw at Libertarians: “What about Children? It’s all well and good when it comes to adults in your theory of yours… but what about protecting children from bad things?”

                Is ugly language and racial slurs used casually something that children should not be protected from? Indeed, the guys using the harsh language were once children who were not protected from ugly language and racial slurs… are they better off for not being protected from such things? Am I better off for having been one of the kids whose mom would have quietly said “come on” and merely gotten us out of there and we would have gone through a drive-thru somewhere else?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                There are levels to all things. A kid in the 4-7 year old band, maybe you got a right to bitch. Past that? the kid is at least capable of understanding “bad word, don’t use”Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                JB-

                I have no qualms with Ward’s story.  If we couldn’t tell our stories, where would we be?  I disagree with how he handled it, but can’t say objectively that he is wrong or that I am right.

                I guess I don’t view the children as needing “protecting” because I don’t know if that word, used in that context, is indeed a racial slur.  Can a 4- or 7-year-old understand that nuance?  Not necessarily.  But there are more than two options: tell the man to quiet down or go through the drive through.  I think there are ways to dialogue with children about language they hear.  Kids will hear us curse and then quickly say, “Never say that!”  And they’ll probably hear black people use that word while being told, “Never say that!”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                And let’s flash back to yesterday:

                I had picked up my friend’s wife and her two young daughters (then about 5 and 7 IIRC) and we were waiting for him at a fast food restaurant.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I do think it’s kind of funny that here’s someone white-knighting for black people.  (bah-DOOMP)Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                … DD, that joke is so bad…

                (and it’s NOT white-knighting unless it’s inappropriate and interferes with business. Which, as I have been the counterparty to someoen whiteknighting in real estate, is HIGHLY FRUSTRATING. What, you think you’re going to get a better price for a house with a fallen-in chimney in the Middle of Winter?)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                See, I always saw “white knighting” as… well, it’s hard to describe, but it’s some weird defending people who aren’t there from attacks that don’t matter.

                Like someone shows a picture of a female who is about 5’5″, 110 pounds and someone else says “MAN THE HARPOONS and, after you’re done, trim your eyebrows!” resulting in the White Knight coming in and explaining how this attack is disgusting and the girl in question is quite attractive, really.

                And so Captain Ahab explains that this whale would never want to date a neckbeard white knight and now the fight is on, once again, as it has always been.

                Anyway, that’s the white knighting with which I am familiar. (And it’s easy to imagine this dynamic existing on behalf of defending other folks in the face of other insanity.)Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                JB-

                If I understand you properly, are you saying that any defense of an individual or group that is not present is white knighting?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                No, not exactly. At least, not the way it gets used in the various sewers of the internet.

                Outside of these sewers, I think that my earlier forumulation of “Oh, *I* am not offended. I just think that someone should say something on behalf of the people who might be offended by this offensive thing.” does a good job of capturing “White Knighting”.

                I mean, if we’re in agreement that “White Knighting” is a silly thing.

                If we want it to be a good thing, we’ll probably need a different definition.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I was unfamiliar with the term. I strive to be an ally, which I think is a good thing. Or ought to be. And it is hard as hell. White knighting or whatever it is, when done cheeply, is probably silly.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                White knighting or whatever it is, when done cheeply, is probably silly.

                Also sometimes people are offended because they’re offended, not because they are being offended on behalf of someone else not present. For example, when I see people arguing that slavery wasn’t that bad, or the Civil War should never have been fought, I’m offended on behalf of facts and reality, not because of white-knighting of whatever.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Good point. I’m offended by hatred and ugliness. I’m also offended when people assume I would be okay with them using that word, as I spoke about in the story above.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I think we agree that the definitions of hatred and ugliness aren’t perfectly quantifiable to the point where something can be seen as a big deal by this person and no big deal at all by that one… right?

                Are we instead in a place where we have an established moral framework that allows us to say that moral people see X as bad and immoral or amoral people don’t see the big deal with X?Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, it depends on how we define “big deal”.  That man certainly meant to communicate his hatred.  Again, his direct quote was, “Someone should shoot that N***er in the head.”  Even if he used “dude”, there was still a large amount of hate in the word.  So, to that extent, his use of the word was him acknowledging it was a “big deal”.  Just a “deal” of a different sort.

                I cannot comment on the greater morality of the man, as that was basically the extent of my interactions with him (I’m tempted to chalk up him getting plastered and driving his shotgun-laden pickup home on a Tuesday night as just par for the course for middle-of-nowhere Maine, but that probably demonstrates my own bigotry).  I don’t know if I’m comfortable saying that only an amoral or immoral person would be unbothered by using that word.  We all have our blindspots.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “blindspots”

                We’re agreed that this is, even at best, a flaw?

                People who disagree are like those “deaf culture” people?Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I think I’m getting a bit lost.  People who disagree with what?

                If the question is “Is it okay to use hatefilled slurs?” and people agree with the affirmative position, I am okay with referring to that as a moral blindspot.

                I’m sure you’ll now point out just how slanted the language I used in that question was… :-p

                Just to be clear, there are a whole host of reasons to hate Michael Vick (disclaimer: I am an Eagles and Vick fan).  If the man said, “Man, someone should kill that guy like he killed those dogs,” I’d disagree and probably point out (what I think is) the false equivalency of equating humans and dogs, but I wouldn’t consider that a moral blindspot.  If the man said, “Man, someone should kill that guy before he beats my favorite team again,” I’d probably smirk knowingly.  But he didn’t say any of those things.  And even if those were the reasons the man hated Vick, they don’t justify using that word, as far as I’m concerned.  Which isn’t to say that he CAN’T use it.  Only that I feel comfortable judging him to a degree based on his usage of it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                So the young men in Wardsmith’s story had a moral blindspot?Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Ah… we are in fact doing what I thought we might have been, and are really talking about two different things.

                I don’t consider the young men in Wardsmith’s story and the older man in my story to even be using the same word, for all intents and purposes.  So you can probably scratch this whole conversation then.

                I don’t consider those men to have moral blindspots.  They are using a word with no intended malice and with little to no effectual malice.  The man in my story used a word with a very intended malice.  He had, at the least, a moral blindspot.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I don’t consider the young men in Wardsmith’s story and the older man in my story to even be using the same word, for all intents and purposes.

                It seems that what follows from this attitude is that you had the proper moral response when you heard that guy use the term and Wardsmith’s response to this superficially similar term being used could easily be put into a different moral category of responses.

                When your guy used it, it was obviously hate-filled but when the guys in the restaurant used it… they were just displaying cultural markers that should not be interpreted the same way that folks from different castes would use the term.

                Please understand: I’m not playing “gotcha” here as much as I think I see some uncomfortable truths bubbling under here and think we’d benefit from acknowledging them.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                “Please understand: I’m not playing “gotcha” here as much as I think I see some uncomfortable truths bubbling under here and think we’d benefit from acknowledging them.”

                Can you name those truths?  I’m not denying they might be there but I am not seeing them.  Helping me to see them would be a big, well, help.

                “It seems that what follows from this attitude is that you had the proper moral response when you heard that guy use the term and Wardsmith’s response to this superficially similar term being used could easily be put into a different moral category of responses.”

                As far as I understand them, both of our responses were primarily immediate and largely fueled by a visceral response.  I have trouble categorizing such things as “moral” or “immoral” unless there is a clear violation of commonly accepted norms.  I also am not certain that either of our responses (and, if you remember, mine was really a lack of a response) was right or wrong.  I questioned my own and disagree with Ward’s, but I don’t know that I’d categorize his as objectionable or immoral.  Only different than how I probably would have handled it and I pointed out implications of his response that he might not have thought of or intended.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                That this is, fundamentally, a class/caste issue (and more likely to be caste than class).Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                As in, I’m saying it is different when black people use it than when white people use it?  Yes.

                But not SOLELY because of the race of the person.  I had to deal with an issue where one black parent referred to another black parent with that word in a clearly hateful way.

                Intent matters.  And impact matters.  If one black person says to another, “Whats up, my n—a?” and neither one is bothered by the exchange and no other person whom that word is generally used to denigrate is bothered by the term… that is a whole ‘nother matter than a white guy saying it to or about a black guy fully intending to communicate hate.  And both situations are different from a white kid who grew up listening to rap music saying, “What’s up, my n—a?” to a black friend, completely oblivious to the power, meaning, and consequences of that word.  I’d put the third scenario as more wrong than the first and less wrong than the second.

                It is not a binary.

                At the risk of drawing a false equivalency, my friends and I refer to each other as “creep” in a whole host of contexts.  I might genuinely call a friend out for being creepy if he is trying to take home a girl who is black out drunk.  I also might say, “What up, creep,” upon first seeing the person as a friendly greeting.  And I could use it for a whole host of other purposes.  It has become a bit of a catch-all within our little community and its intent can be demonstrated through tone and context.  Of course, the word also has meaning in other contexts and I use it differently when dealing with people outside our circle and respond differently when hearing it from people outside our circle.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                As in, I’m saying it is different when black people use it than when white people use it?  Yes.

                No, this is not the distinction that I am making.

                I’m saying that it’s different when people from one caste use it than when people from a different caste use it. There are terms that mean one thing when a Brahmin use them and a different thing entirely when Vaishya use them… despite having superficially similar spelling/pronunciation.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                But aren’t the castes in question here races?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                But aren’t the castes in question here races?

                I remember where you said: I had to deal with an issue where one black parent referred to another black parent with that word in a clearly hateful way.

                Knowing nothing more about this situation than what I’ve quoted, I wonder if there weren’t two different castes involved between the parties.

                If so, I think that that would do an excellent job demonstrating that they are very different things even in America (though a Venn Diagram would probably show a huge amount of overlap).Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I should clarify.

                The two parents were married and most certainly from the same “caste” as far as I knew them.  From what I came to understand, she used this term in the same way someone might say “ghetto”.  So, yea, I see how she might have been using it in a classist or “caste-ist” way.

                I see what you’re getting at.  I think.  I’m not sure I’m uncomfortable with that truth.  Which might mean that we see this situation differently.  Or that my understanding of this situation is still emerging.

                To summarize, I’m not uncomfortable saying Word X is okay for some people to say but not for others.  I’m not uncomfortable saying it is okay for black folks to say n—a and not okay for white folks to say n—er.  If you think that I’m saying it’s okay for a certain (lower?) caste of blacks to say it because they don’t know any better or something else along those lines… no, I’m not saying that.

                I’m not even really saying that it is okay for black folks to use that word.  I think that is a conversation for the black community(ies) to have.  I don’t think it is okay to invoke a hatefilled racial slur.  I will not invoke a hatefilled racial slur.  I am white.

                FWIW, my hunch is that most black folks would respond differently to a white person saying, “Wuddup my n—a” and a white person saying, “Shoot that n—er” in the head.  There might not be a whole heck of a lot of difference.  But most would probably recognize the difference in intent, if still being uncomfortable with the impact.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                I just want to step in here briefly to make a quick comment.  I want to point out that this is just plain wrong:

                “and I’m just a drive-by troll”

                You have proven yourself to be neither of those things, and I daresay there in no one here that views you as such.  In fact, I’ve started thinking of you as a regular fixture to the discussion.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Tod Kelly
                Ignored
                says:

                Agreed. The League has relatively strict standards for trolls. If you want to be considered a troll here you’re going to have to increase your noise to signal ratio a lot and provide less interesting conversation and useful discussion.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Sonmi-

                I realize I may have misread you.

                When you said “Are the girls you were trying to protect from the big, bad N-word white or black?” I thought you were referring to Ward protecting the girls from an “N-word”, with “N-word” referring to an African-American person.  I realize now you might have meant the word itself.  If it is the latter, I apologize.  I read your comment three times and each of the three times I came to the initial conclusion.  Only now do I see another interpretation.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                I meant the word itself, I would never refer to the guys as N-words, now that would definitely be not just inappropriate, but offensive as well. But yeah, re-reading the sentence, I can see that the sentence can be interpreted that way as well, so it’s my fault for not being clear. No worries 🙂Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                My apologies.  I saw that confusion says more about my lense than it does you.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s probably the “big, bad”, right? After all the discussion about “strapping young buck” the other day. It didn’t occur to me until you mentioned it, because I’m used to using that phrase ironically to refer to the big, bad F-word (not the 4-letter word, the 8-letter word ending with -ist). My lense was a bit clouded too, considering the context of this discussion.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                “I’m used to using that phrase ironically to refer to the big, bad F-word (not the 4-letter word, the 8-letter word ending with -ist)”

                What do you have against flautists?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                What do you have against flautists?

                They are nerds/geeks who think they’re actually gentlemen. (Kidding, kidding!)  For my money, you guys don’t really have what it takes to be nerds and geeks (and I should know, I’ve dated a few). A few posts about Batman? Come on, you can see that even in feminist blogs.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                you guys don’t really have what it takes to be nerds and geeks

                sonmi, I respectfully suggest you spend more time reading Mindless Diversions.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                sonmi,

                you’ll call me grognard yet!

                (at least if I ever finish that rolemaster post)Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to wardsmith
          Ignored
          says:

          “…the N-word was prominently mentioned in roughly every sentence…I could care less, but the girls were freaking out at every mention since of course this was a word that was NEVER to be used.”

          A: don’t say “I could care less”.  Yes, I know what you mean, it’s a stupid thing to say and it makes you look stupid when you say it. 

          B: There are periodic angst-fests in the online gaming community over “how come all these teenagers come on and use racist and homophobic slurs all the time”.  What’s happening is that these are the new swear words.  Thirty years of hipness have taught us not to care about the f-bomb anymore; but those same thirty years have been spent telling successive generations of children that N***** Is The Worst Thing You Can Say, followed by “That’s Gay”.  Which means, of course, that these are the things you say to make adults go bananas.

          (Edit by Jaybird: I prefer the hypocrisy of asterisks to the authenticity of using the words themselves.)Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck
            Ignored
            says:

            Because it’s just barely at the outside edge of possibility that someone might go through this whole discussion and not know what we’re talking about.Report

            • Avatar BSK in reply to DensityDuck
              Ignored
              says:

              Well, I do think there is a difference between N—er and N—a.  I’ve actually had several black people articulate this point.  It seems that pronunciation, conflated with tone and context, was enough to know how a person was using the term.  Because that word is certainly used within the black community to denigrate when pronounced “properly”.  So, a black guy commenting on an ESPN article and using the latter form is different than some dumb white kid shouting the former on XBox Live.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                That seems more like an ex post facto justification than anything else.  “Well, see, it’s okay for me to say it because I say it the right way.  But when you say it, you say it the wrong way.  Also, white people drive like this, but black people drive like this….”Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                The n-word has multiple meanings.

                One is a slur.

                Another is a camraderie sort of thing, that associates both the user and the bestowed upon as part of the underclass. (a white(ish?) guy in this thread had this used on him)

                This shouldn’t be controversial.

                F**k also has multiple meanings — from a straight, emphatic synonym for fornication, to an interjection of displeasure.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                NSFW:

                Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                DD-

                So can we both make fun of your momma?  Or just you?  My hunch is the latter.

                And, if you are making fun of your momma, do you do so visciously and with bite?  Or with love?  Again, my hunch is the latter.

                See, it does matter who says it and how.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                Sure, it matters who says it and how; and where, and when, and what’s happening at the moment.

                I might bust her chops, but only to her face, and not in public, and only when the general drift of conversation supports it.  I wouldn’t just walk up to her in a restaurant and say “hey, ya fat slob, I hear it took ya six years to get yer doctorate”.  And if I did do that for some reason, and someone who overheard got offended, I wouldn’t say it was their problem.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                It certainly would be for eavesdropping, especially if your momma smiled throughout the onteraction.Report

  8. Avatar wardsmith
    Ignored
    says:

    (as an aside, I can’t think of a single instance of a white rapper using this word…)

    Eminem? Not much of a rap fan (ok, i hate it almost exclusively, LMFAO being the rare exception and one or two things by dead rappers) but I think I heard the N-word a time or two in a rap in the bits of 8 Miles(?) that I watched when there was nothing else, and I mean /nothing/ else on the boob tube.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to wardsmith
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m pretty sure that he hadn’t on his first two albums… I’ll do research when I go home.Report

      • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        Not on any of his albums.  Closest he came was a song where he said people think he’s “some wigger” assuming he’s trying to act black, conflating his aggressive attitude as somehow blackness.  There was a really old recording that got out from before he blew up where he used it, referring to a black ex-girlfriend he got really pissed off about at the time (familiar theme for him…).

        Others:

        Everlast has. This was on a concept album though where he was “playing” a racist cop character, so it came with the territory.
        Necro & his brother Ill Bill used to use it.

         Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to b-psycho
          Ignored
          says:

          I’m surprised that Everlast did (but I suppose I can see what he was going for) and I had never before heard of Necro.Report

          • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            It wouldn’t shock me if there existed white rappers who were able to use the word in certain crowds.  As I mentioned above, I went to school with some white latinos who used the word comfortably.  I don’t know how this came to pass, but it did.  Whether they could just drop it in any scenario, I don’t know. If you didn’t know the kids or their names, you’d probably be inclined to guess they were non-latino white.

            Semi-related, there was an African-American teacher at the school who came down on kids who used it.  From what I heard, he required any kid he heard using it to write a paper on the history of the word and, if after doing so, they still felt comfortable using it in front of him, they were free to.  I don’t know the veracity of that statement, but I do know he called each and every kid who used it in front of him into his office.  It was the first time I saw someone object to it and it was profound.

            High school was confusing for me.  And not just for all the regular reasons.  I think I’m stronger for it having been so.Report

          • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            I went through a diehard underground phase back in the day w/r/t music. From that came my discovery of Necro. Here, have a couple examples of the kind of music he’s doing now (explicit content warning…obviously).

             Report

  9. Avatar BlaiseP
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    says:

    The N Word in hip hop is rather like all those country music songs about booze.   Never has a genre of music given itself over to that vice quite so completely as country.

    My kiddoes used to have parties at our home.  I’d warn the neighbours and rent a big old sound system.   It was a big house with an enormous finished basement.  The kids would haul the furniture to the storage area and crowd into the basement to frolic and roister about. The parents would bring their kids, shaking my hand and shaking their own heads somewhat grimly “I can’t believe you’re letting the kids party like this.”   I’d respond “Where would you rather they party, in some abandoned house, with booze and drugs and the like?  Here at least they’re supervised and can have a good time.”

    Maybe half the kids who came were of color.   My own kids are “mixed-race”, we never thought much about it.   There weren’t any color based cliques in their high school, though there were cliques enough.

    Up in the kitchen, the island full of snacks and drinks, they’d congregate and feed.  It was in that context where I heard the dreaded N word, uttered by a young man of color.  I took aside the kid who’d said it and said “That word hurts my ears.   I’m old enough to remember that word said by some very ugly racists to some brave people of color.   You might understand why I feel this way.”

    “Oh, ” he replied, and he was a nice enough kid, “my parents get mad at me for saying n*gger, too.   You gotta understand, Mr. Pascal, that’s your generation’s problem.  Look at this room, all these kids in here.  We just don’t think like that anymore.”

    “Well”, I said, “it doesn’t make me like that word any more than before.  I’ve got half the kids in the neighborhood in my home now.   Do you know of any racists in this bunch here, who might be trouble?”

    “Nope.   Every race in town is here.” he replied.

    “Carry on.”  I said.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP
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      says:

      I don’t think this is entirely, or even mostly, a generational thing. That word was taken by black youth, and reappropriated, as words of oppression often are, a long time ago — before your time even, Blaise. There has always been a divide among black people about the use of that word among black people, and there probably always will be as long as that word still has any power in the mouths of non-black people.

      At this point, having listened to hip hop since I was in middle school (the first album I heard was License to Ill, by white rappers, strangely), the word spoken in certain contexts doesn’t bother me. Most of my non-work friends and aquaintances are black, and it’s not uncommon for someone to call me “my n____,” which freaked me out a bit at first (how do I answer? “my honkey?”), but now I don’t even notice. I actually think that’s a good thing. While I won’t say the word, because it still does have power to hurt in my mouth because of the color of my skin, I can’t imagine it’s a bad thing that it’s lost so much of its power in my ears, and those of my friends. I hope someday (though it won’t happen in my lifetime) we get to a point where that word has no power whatsoever as a word of oppression.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris
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        says:

        “I don’t think this is entirely, or even mostly, a generational thing. That word was taken by black youth, and reappropriated, as words of oppression often are, a long time ago”

        I think this is exactly right, and “the N word” as it is used today by part of the black community reminds me of the way a certain segment of the gay community used “queer” when I was growing up.  Each is said with an unvoiced growl; each contains a protest that says “I hear what you’re saying about me, but you’re wrong – I’m better than that.”

        Both used this way are, I think, empowering.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          Tod, as I mentioned in the comment, this is very common with words of oppression: the n-word, “queer,” “bitch,” etc. And it’s not just in our culture. There’s actually a fairly large literature on the phenomenon.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          That “unvoiced” growl is variously interpreted by those of us who must hear it.   Whatever adjective you wish to use of that growl, let’s not use “unvoiced” for that growl is both disturbingly loud and dripping with the lava of self-pity’s roaring anger.

          Poor persecuted us, the [$epithet]s.   We shall now call ourselves the [$epithet]s and though you may hear it from us, you may not say it yourselves.    This word is reserved only for [$epithet]s.    Furthermore, we the [$epithet]s shall strictly observe the rules of bigotry’s vicious absurdity in all its forms.   Though you find it offensive, that’s okay, we’ll use it in your house, sitting on your couch, standing in your kitchen, eating your food and enjoying your hospitality.   Yes it is offensive, and we’re never going to let you forget it, ever.

          Empowering?   I think not.  It’s the maudlin rage of the historical bigot.   Ask any bigot, he’ll tell you some story about how the target of his bigotry once oppressed and threatened him.Report

          • Avatar BSK in reply to BlaiseP
            Ignored
            says:

            BlaiseP-

            With all due respect, who are you to tell folks how they feel about using a word?  If a black person feels empowered by reappropriating the word, how dare you tell them that they don’t actually feel that way.Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP
            Ignored
            says:

            Empowering?   I think not. It’s the maudlin rage of the historical bigot.   Ask any bigot, he’ll tell you some story about how the target of his bigotry once oppressed and threatened him.

            And I say this with all due respect as well, but who is the bigot in the context of African-Americans using the N-word? Are you implying some form of self-hatred instead of empowering appropriation of the word? Unless you are referring to a specific black person you know, how can you tell just in general? We can’t look into people’s hearts and all that.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
              Ignored
              says:

              The N word represents a codified structure of bigotry.  He who uses it has internalized that structure and believes in it.

               Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                How do you know what he has “internalized” or what structure he believes in? It’s funny, when the subject is Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, we’re forever being told that we can’t possibly know what’s in someone’s heart bla bla bla, but in this subject, suddenly it’s okay to wildly speculate about a hwhole group of people.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Do pay attention.  I speak only for myself.   Nor do I speak for any group of people.  When confronted with one of those little boxes on the W-2 paperwork where they’re asking for my race, I make sure to check Other and write in “Human”.

                I hate the N word.   It’s a meaningless distinction to me.   I grew up in Hausa speaking Africa, to me, the bature, I was lumped in with Europeans and Arabs.

                Who is a N*gger?   It was a vexing question when racism was codified into law in the 1870s.   Do you expect any sane person to believe there’s any real difference between people of African heritage and myself, who might make the claim to African-ness with substantially more validity than anyone who might be called a N*gger today, either in some perverse self-reference or a bigot who might use the same definition?

                The enlightened person does not view himself or herself as black or white or anything else.   The enlightened person refuses to accept the definitions of the bigot.   Wild speculation indeed, allow me to put the genetics into evidence, we are all one species, indivisible.

                 Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                “The enlightened person does not view himself or herself as black or white or anything else. ”

                Problem is that people now say that colorblindness is the most pernicious form of racism.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                DD,

                Colorblind racism is the whole “blacks are lazier than whites” argument, when the far more obvious and stronger argument is that: whites have been given vast free handouts that blacks haven’t been given, and that this past racism is still present, as we haven’t done much to address the wealth inequality.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                Not the most.  And often not explicitly racist.  But often used to further racist ends, deliberately or otherwise.

                To say, “I am colorblind,” is to say, “I don’t care about an integral aspect of your identity.”  If someone said to me that they didn’t care if I called myself a man because they were gender blind and weren’t going to acknowledge me as a man, I’d be bothered.  Likewise if they tried to deny any other part of my identity.

                Colorblindedness was an important step to take as a society because it demonstrated we weren’t going to solely judge people based on their skin tone.  As a society, we are ready for another step forward, wherein we can acknowledge and understand the way in which each other’s race and ethnicity has informed the people we are now.  For some, this is core to identity and for others, less so.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                I will say that I always thought the whole intent of racial-conciousness education was to produce people for whom the question “what do you call black people?” had no meaning, because they had no concept of “black people” as something different from any other kind of people.

                And that seems to me a pretty good way for things to be.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Do you expect any sane person to believe there’s any real difference between people of African heritage and myself, who might make the claim to African-ness with substantially more validity than anyone who might be called a N*gger today, either in some perverse self-reference or a bigot who might use the same definition?

                I’m just going by your picture here, but I would guess that in the days of lynching, Mr BlaiseP who can claim “African-ness with substantially more validity than anyone who might be called a N- today” will not run the risk of being lynched. Genetics is one thing, what people see is another. People don’t ask to look at your genetic code card before they racially profile you.

                The enlightened person does not view himself or herself as black or white or anything else.

                Spoken like a true enlightened white person. This bugs me as much as “race is a social construct’. That may be true, but it’s a powerful construct nonetheless, one that affects people’s lives in big and meaningful ways. To sweep it under the carpet with the claim of enlightenment is mendacious at best. Ehh, someone more polite than me should get into this argument, I just can’t do it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                I will not deny the power of bigotry in today’s world.    It is an ancient thing, no different than any other sort of tribalism or religious bigotry or any other social construct which serves to divide men along its lines of demarcation.   I saw just such bigotry in Africa, where I watched an Ibo man hacked to death in the city of Kano, where just such violence has put in a reappearance in recent times.

                The days of lynching,  eh?   Allow me a rude scoff in your general direction.  I have seen more than lynching, I have seen far worse.   I have seen tribes pitted against tribes, I have seen the CIA lever the racial violence among the peoples of Vietnam and Laos to their advantage.   I have seen the raw divisions between the Maya peoples of Guatemala and their peers of Spanish ancestry used to justify a vicious civil war.   Oh I have seen many artificial wedges driven between groups.   At turns I feel a bit like Roy Batty:  “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

                The sad thing is, you really do believe in the constructs of race and creed and suchlike.   You believe abandoning those constructs is merely to sweep them under the carpet.  It’s you who sweep them under the carpet because you can’t quite bring yourself to put them in the garbage can and be rid of them entirely.   Who’s the condescending Enlightened White Person now?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Alright, Blaise, you go talk with the blacks, and persuade them to give up AAVE. After all, it’s being used as a social marker of race, which is something you’d rather not exist.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                The days of lynching,  eh?   Allow me a rude scoff in your general direction.  I have seen more than lynching, I have seen far worse.   I have seen tribes pitted against tribes, I have seen the CIA lever the racial violence among the peoples of Vietnam and Laos to their advantage.   I have seen the raw divisions between the Maya peoples of Guatemala and their peers of Spanish ancestry used to justify a vicious civil war.   Oh I have seen many artificial wedges driven between groups.   At turns I feel a bit like Roy Batty:  “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

                I got in trouble the last time I mentioned a particular habit of arguing you have, but this right here is another one. (Lynching? Pfttt. I’ve seen much worse.) I’ll probably get in trouble again, but  for the record, I find this method of argumentation troubling, a form of moral blackmail, not to mention belittling the victims of the particular atrocity you considered trifling considered to the worse atrocities you have personally witnessed.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Blackmail?   I will not be lectured on this subject by you with cheap talk about the days of lynchings.   I will tell you what I have seen with my own eyes and you will get the hell over it.  If you find my discourse from first person disturbing, that is your problem not mine, Sonmi, for I have no reason to lie to you and every reason to dismiss your argumentum ad hominem for so much third hand blether.   I will continue to speak from my own experience and if it doesn’t achieve congruence with your own pitiful rhetoric,  so much the worse for you and your argument.   The real world is the one I live in.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                sonmi,

                Alright, we were talking slavery a bit ago?

                I’m not blaise, I go for specifics.

                Let me let you in on a bit of “fun” one of my friends had… (He’s a good chap, decent).

                He met a man, who upon meeting him (the American), promptly presented him with his eldest daughter (who was younger than ten).

                What do you do? The man wanted what was best for his daughter, and felt like she’d have better opportunities with the American than in his house, where they were having trouble feeding the kids.

                [There also may have been the implied “you can take the kid to wife” aspect of it all…]

                What do you do? Do you turn them down? Do you raise the kid?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                AAVE?   As in vernacular English?   I observe quite a few vernaculars in use.   I wrote a paper on this very subject, demonstrating how the advent of radio changed and eliminated many small dialects in the USA, concentrating on the creole dialects of Texas and Louisiana.

                AAVE changed substantially over time, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you.   Here’s a bit of self-referential trivia:  though I speak French as a first language, I’ve always been ashamed of it.   I went back to France for a year, as a kid, only to find myself the target of some pretty vile bigotry from the hoity-toity children of Neuilly-sur-Seine, who found an American boy speaking African-flavored French the height of hilarity.   Only when I came to Louisiana for the first time and encountered the Cajun and Creole cultures did I feel at home, for their French was similar to mine in many respects.   It’s the only place I’ve ever felt at home, chez nous, in the USA.

                Why should I ask anyone to give up their vernacular?   See, I’m a linguist by training, there are two distinct aspects to a demotic language.   The first generation of bilinguals speak what’s called a pidgin, their children will speak what’s known as a creole.   Curiously, almost all creole languages share the same grammatical shortcuts, wherever they arise.   If anything, AAVE is a highly evolved language, far more evolved than its detractors might suspect.   AAVE has a bright future.Report

              • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Blaise: with all due respect – and I hope by now you know that I hold you in abnormally high esteem – I don’t think you’re being quite fair to Sonmi here.  She’s making pretty clear that she’s just letting you know how your arguments affect her and how she views your arguments.  I don’t think she’s said anything that could fairly be construed as an attack on you personally, but is instead just making some fairly tough attacks on your arguments.

                I suspect by the way that on the merits I’m inclined to agree with you since I have good reason to believe that, as usual, your point is a lot more nuanced than it might appear at first glance.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                BlaiseP,

                Blackmail?   I will not be lectured on this subject by you with cheap talk about the days of lynchings.   I will tell you what I have seen with my own eyes and you will get the hell over it.  If you find my discourse from first person disturbing, that is your problem not mine, Sonmi, for I have no reason to lie to you and every reason to dismiss your argumentum ad hominem for so much third hand blether.   I will continue to speak from my own experience and if it doesn’t achieve congruence with your own pitiful rhetoric,  so much the worse for you and your argument.   The real world is the one I live in.

                1) My point was, surely you could see the difference between you with your claims of African ancestry, and people who actually look African-Americans when it comes to lynching. Are you claiming that in those days, you with your “substantial” African ancestry, but looking the way you do, would have the same risk of being lynched compared to someone who looks like, I don’t know, Jesse Jackson, for example.

                2) Your response was to bring up other atrocities you considered worse than lynching, and making fun of me for even bringing it up. You never responded to my point, instead, you switch to another topic altogether.

                3) If we are talking rude and condescending language, I think I have tried my best to be polite to you in this thread. But you are a frontpager, so I guess it’s okay for you to be uncivil.

                THE END.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                @Mark.   Many thanks, from the bottom of my heart.   Here’s the part I find contemptible:  this notion of Moral Blackmail.

                I’ll be the first to admit I don’t fit into anyone’s tidy little box.   It’s been a continuing source of frustration and anomie all my life.  I’ve always felt more comfortable in the company of Africans and Cajuns and Creole people than white people.   I’ve always picked up other people’s languages, like some parlor trick, in some bid for acceptance among other people.  I’ve suffered from identity issues all my life on this basis.

                For most of my professional career, I’ve worked for a Japanese robotics firm as a contractor, on and off in Nagoya.   I started learning Japanese because I had to read the manuals.   Most of the time, around Japanese people, I don’t even bother to inform them I speak and read Japanese.   They’ll say the most amazingly stupid and racist things, without the slightest conception I can understand what they’re saying.   When at last my little secret slips out, there are red faces of embarrassment all round and the subsequent hearty and hollow praise of my Japanese, couched in the language of the near-miraculous, that it was even possible, like I was some sort of talking dog.

                I don’t like playing by the rules of o-jigi but I have done so.   Encountered a fair bit of professional bullying along the way.   The Japanese are just about the worst racists I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen plenty of it in various cultures.   Ask the Japanese about the eta / burakumin some time, or the choshinjin.   Embarrassed laughter all round, very bad manners to bring that subject up.

                The longer I live, the more cynical I’ve become about the human race.   They’ve all long since blurred into one nasty, vicious little tribe of self-deluding brutes pitted against another.   Even those high-minded souls who would tell us about the Evils of Racism perpetuate the old definitions.    There’s no curing this species of this particular delusion, not quickly anyway.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Blaise,

                I know an English teacher in Japan who is American… My god! The Stories he tells!

                re: private tutoring sessions…”Why haven’t you hit on my daughter yet? Is she not pretty enough?”

                Picking up Japanese is a lifeskill, as they have a tendency to provide things “only in Japanese”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                The End?   If only it were.   I’ve endured enough of your half-baked condescending notions of Race.   I look forward to a world where the notion of Race is seen to be the province of the idiot, the hateful half-wit and the bully.    I’ve met Jesse Jackson on several occasions.  He’s a donkey wearing the lion’s skin of Dr. King.  He might fool some folks at a distance but he dispels all illusions of greatness upon opening his mouth and braying.

                I do find your talk about lynchings a bit precious.   You must excuse my laughter.   I’ve gotten past the notion of race in all its forms.     To me, the lynchings in America are indistinguishable from the tribalism of Africa or Central America or Laos.   It’s all of a piece.

                When it comes to incivility, I’m not the one accusing anyone of Moral Blackmail.   That would be you.   If I do not fit into your little definitional framework, maybe that’s because your own is so grossly insufficient.   Nous sommes tous citoyens du monde.  Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Sometimes reading BlaiseP posts is like hearing that joke where the punchline is “the third cowboy just stood there stirring the fire with his penis”, except that the guy telling the joke claims that he’s the third cowboy.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Density, that’s why I made this post below. See he shaved off half his beard to fool us, but he is TMIMITW 😉Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Blaise, May I point something out without getting my head bit off?

                You wrote:

                I will not be lecturedyou will get the hell over it. 

                It’s a bit much to simultaneously tell others what you will not do in response to their comments while telling them what they will do in response to yours.  If you object to being lectured by others, you can’t simultaneously lecture them–or rather, you can, but not without a certain amount of hypocrisy.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                @James.   Let’s suppose for just a minute the words “Moral Blackmail” weren’t now in the air.

                My my.   Isn’t this just the most precious place in the entire blogosphere?   Why, should some uncomfortable little nugget o’ fact which might serve to make someone else’s Glittering Generalization look pretty stupid, say, something like actually watching someone hacked to death because he was from the wrong tribe, something I dare say most of you have not seen, that’s not to be taken seriously.

                You see, James, when other people’s precious little assumptions and assertions and other such are called into question, not with some abstraction, but with “this really happened to me”, that’s unfair.  That’s off-limits, it seems.   Moral blackmail.

                There are various sorts of hypocrisies in this wicked world.   The majority of them resolve to pointedly ignoring the facts.   I will not be hectored by the likes of Sonmi or anyone hereabouts, nor will I have cardboard thunderbolts hurled at me with impunity.  Ever.    When it’s their facts, well, those facts must be taken seriously.   When they’re mine, different story.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Blaise,

                You ignored my point.  Well done.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Let’s see if I can grasp the point you were trying to make, though I do believe I’ve addressed it.

                It’s a bit much to simultaneously tell others what you will not do in response to their comments while telling them what they will do in response to yours. 

                Wherein have I been ordering people around or, as Sonmi says, trying to shut down debate?

                If you object to being lectured by others, you can’t simultaneously lecture them–or rather, you can, but not without a certain amount of hypocrisy.

                There’s a practical difference here.  I’m being told I’m a Moral Blackmailer.   Et pourquoi?   Because I’ve seen tribal warfare and believe it’s analogous to lynching and draw such a comparison?   I’ll admit, that is a show-stopper.   Hard to trump that one.   Like the old veteran of Gettysburg said of the battle:  Some of us went there and fewer of us came back.  And if you weren’t there, you’ll never understand.

                James, I do sorta understand.  I’ve endured a bit of prejudice for being different, specifically African-sounding and African-acting and I know what it means to be excluded from all the reindeer games of snotty nosed little French bigots.   Is it Moral Blackmail to play that card when it comes to a discussion of Race, Privilege, Music and the N word?   Does it matter even a little bit that I was called a N*gger for an entire year, one of the most horrible in my entire life?   I left France with an abiding hatred of the French.  That lovely language is entirely wasted upon its people.

                Some of us went there and fewer of us came back.  And if you weren’t there, you’ll never understand.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Blaise-

                I have not seen tribal warfare. But in calling it warfae, you are implying at least two conbatants. Lynching was not warfare nor an act of warfare… It was part of a systematic massacre. I think it is fair to assume that there existed (and perhaps you have seen) acts of warfare akin to lynching. But looking at the larger context, I struggle to see the comparison.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Let me help you with your struggle.   I may have taken some shortcuts along the way.

                The lynchings in the USA were a systematic attempt to keep Uppity Blacks in their place.   Essentially, they were terrorist acts, mob actions.   This seem to be the verdict of history.

                Tribal violence is no different.   The city of Kano is Muslim and Hausa.   The Ibos who were murdered were an ethnic and religious minority in Kano.   The Ibos are coastal people who came into contact with the Europeans, beginning with the Portuguese at least a century before the Hausa and with those contacts came certain advantages: technology, trading contacts and the like, especially Western education.   The stereotypical Ibo (if you ask a racist Hausa) is not much different than the Shylock character from Merchant of Venice, a ruthless moneygrubber who kisses European ass.   There is no love lost between them.   The Ibos are mainly Catholic, which makes things even worse, for there’s also a religious tension in play.

                There’s one state in Nigeria, on the Bauchi Plateau, where dozens of languages are spoken.   It’s always been a sort of no-man’s-land in Nigeria, variously contested by farmers and nomads.   Much of the trouble in the city of Jos, on the plateau, is based on that conflict, but Nigeria is now wracked by Muslim terrorism, which I contend is not much different than the Klan’s violence.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Thanks. I stopped short of calling lynchings terrorism because I didn’t want to risk whatever trolls that might bring out of the woodwork. But that is exactly what it was. Sounds like “tribal violence” is a better term than “tribal warfare”.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Let’s not be shy or squeamish about calling things by their true names.  Why not just call the lynchings what they were?   Terrorism.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Wherein have I been ordering people around

                Wherein you said,

                you will get the hell over it.

                Grammatically, that’s an imperative statement, which is an order or command.

                There’s a practical difference here.  I’m being told I’m a Moral Blackmailer.   Et pourquoi?

                Eh, I don’t think the phrase “moral blackmailer” was well-chosen, but you do have a tendency to write as though your experience is the trump card that settles the argument.  Either way, it doesn’t put you in any kind of position to determine whether someone else will or will not “get over it.”  You can ask them to, recommend that they do, even scoff if they don’t, but you can’t really tell them that they will.

                I’ve endured a bit of prejudice for being different,
                All right, let me tell you some of my stories.

                One: A friend of mine walked home with me after we had closed out the bar, an educated Jamaican guy who had two black and white cats he called Nigger and Oreo, because those were the terms he’d heard too often.  Realizing I’d forgotten my key, I asked him to boost me up to my roommate’s window so I could get in to my apartment, only to see him flinch and instantly step backwards. “That may be OK for you,” he said, “but I don’t dare do that.”

                Two: I was riding my bicycle up Hayes St. in San Francisco, after dark, through the projects, when a guy steps out from between two cars and I almost hit him.  Idiot that I am I swear at him, and he swears back at me.  At the end of the block I stop for a red light, then hear people running, and a voice yelling, “Get the white guy.” Before I can react I’m blindsided, knocked down, and am being beaten and kicked. When they disperse I have a severe concussion, and an older black guy helps me up and gets me on my way.

                Three: With time to kill before picking my wife up from work, I decided to explore how to drive from the northern San Fernando Valley to downtown L.A., and got lost in South Central (one year after the riots).  Being the only white person around, in an urban landscape where every single block featured multiple burned-out buildings was intimidating for this Midwestern farm town kid, but I finally screwed up the courage to roll down my window at a stop light and ask the young black males in the car next to me which way to downtown.  And they gave me perfectly correct directions.

                What did I take from those experiences?  What should I take from those experiences? What should others take from those experiences, if anything?

                All I can say is that they’re my experiences and they shape how I view things today, but I don’t think they allow me to answer any questions.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                I agree. I just feared making that connection could spin the convo off in unfortunate directions. Not by present company, mind you.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                James-

                A whole THREE experiences with black folks? That is one more than the LoOG itself has! :-pReport

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                BSK,

                Heh. Funny, but uncomfortable at the same time, which I think is what good comedy is supposed to do.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                …except, actually, we aren’t. Pureblood Africans don’t have Neanderthal blood. (and they also have a large amount of genetic nonuniformity, but that should go without saying. the cradle of humanity…)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Heh.  There is that little bit of genetics to consider.   Every species benefits from a bigger gene pool.

                The geneticists now tell us the cheetahs were reduced to a few dozen individuals at one point in the not-so-distant past.  The cheetahs are now nearly identical at a genetic level, causing real problems for that species.   The Amish among whom I now live have genetic problems too.   Endogamous cultures always get in trouble along these lines.    There’s also a theory afoot the human race was similarly reduced to a small number of individuals:  mitochondrial DNA seems to point to this conclusion.

                Racism is bad business all round.   As all people of good will reject the conclusions of the bigot, so must we reject the definitions of the bigot.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                “The enlightened person does not view himself or herself as black or white or anything else.”

                So anyone who identifies as white, black, or otherwise is unenlightened?  Wow.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                Wow, indeed.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                Is that not a fair conclusion to draw?  There was a question in there, Blaise… you are free to answer it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                Short answer, people define themselves.  If they choose to embrace the definitions embraced by their erstwhile tormentors, that’s up to them.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                But you said words like white and black are eschewed by the enlightened. So, are you also saying that people who embrace tose words are unenlightened? Or can those folks be enlightened as well? Can someone be unenlightened and not identify as black or white?

                Blaise, I have long rspected you but am noticing a tendency towards presuming your own experiences are powerful enough to generalize far beyond them. I find this bothersome.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                The enlightened person doesn’t identify himself at all. So sayeth the Buddha.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                @BSK:  I’m afraid it’s true, we really must get past these labels at some point.   Everyone emerges from some culture, I suppose, it’s not a question of saying we’re all the same.  Quite the opposite, we’re all individuals.   If this is so, that we ought to judge people on the contents of their characters, why should we go on with these absurd and patently racist definitions?   Can’t you acknowledge that these are the artifacts of racism?   Is it that hard a leap to make?

                If only we were reduced to the happy arguments over how to cook a chicken instead of the nature of race-itude, it would be a better world.  I reject the concept of race entirely.   I wish others would reach the same conclusion.

                And belay all this schoolmarming me about what I bring to this discussion from the facts of my own life.   I reject it outright.   I’ve lived a rum old life and if I speak from personal experience, none of it has been offered as a statement of general truth.   I earned the right to my opinions.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                What labels are okay then?

                I realize that those words are vestiges from another time and were used to divide. But language grows and changes. And don’t you find it even more absurd to take a position that says, “These labels were fine when wea applied them to you to keep you separate but shouldn’t be used now thay they help you identify yourself.
                “?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                At last we come to the Crux of the Biscuit.   How shall a person define himself?   I cannot write that definition for anyone.   I observe that mankind seems all too willing to embrace the opinions of others and will not go to the very considerable trouble of defining himself on his own terms.

                How I wish I could express how obscene and perverse the notion of Race seems to me.   Culture I can grasp, culture I embrace, culture gives us some semblance of meaning.   Culture puts spices in the pot, vocabulary in our mouths, clothes on our backs, songs in our hearts, art on the wall, all the good things we want from life, yes, and many bad things, too.    But I’ve seen no good come from the concept of Race, nothing beneficial in raising it as a distinction.   It ought to be abandoned entirely, a relic of a disgusting phase of human existence where one man could justify his supremacy over another on its basis.

                I cannot stop people from believing in Race, any more than I can stop someone from being a Racist or a Misogynist or a Gay Basher or any of a dozen repulsive syndromes of this sort.   It saddens me to realize some people, particularly people of good will, cannot see the concept of Race as entirely pernicious.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BSK
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                says:

                BP-

                There are people for whom many, if not most, of their interactions with the world around them are impacted by their skin color.  As such, their skin color becomes an indelible part of their identity.  In the same way that a very tall man will likely identify himself as tall after a lifetime of ducking through doors and squeezing into airline seats, a darker-complexioned individual will likely identify himself as “black” or “of color” after a lifetime of being treated differently because of that skin color.  Yes, ideally, we reach a point where our life experiences are not in any way shaped by the color of our skin.  But that is a pipe dream for a whole host of reasons.  So instead of striving for an illusion that can’t be grasped, we work within the framework that exists.  And, again, allow people to self-identify.  We aren’t drawing sides in a worldwide game of color wars.  We are simply allowing people to freely define themselves.  Which, for many, includes mention of race and/or skin tone.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
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                says:

                The people of Brazil don’t bother sorting out people on the basis of skin tone.   They have a highly evolved structure of class to replace it.   They laugh at Americans for trying to sort people out by race.  Yet when Michael Jackson began to lighten his skin, there was a big uproar over it in Brazil.  They felt he was denying his blackness.

                Of course people will sort themselves out according to their own lights.  Why shouldn’t people sort themselves out as they like?  But are all dark-skinned people the same?  Of course not.  If they self-segregate, more power to them I say.   Do you not see the idiocy in lumping all people of color together?   Hell, we can make cultural distinctions between the black cultures of the Piedmont and the Gullah culture of the coastal Carolinas.

                This concept is easily grasped.   I refuse to lump anyone in with anyone else based on skin tone.  I know better and I know they know better.   Nobody who sees me would believe I could identify with the Hausa culture yet I do.  I can distinguish Hausa from Yoruba though most Americans can’t.   Trust me, the Hausas can and they do.   If you’re ready to accept that skin tone makes a difference, you should know there’s no skin tone difference between Hausas and Yoruba.   You distinguish them by their noses and cheekbones.   Just how far do we want to go along this line of rhetoric?   Americans are stuck with the color line because most of them are idiots who continue to believe it has any meaning.

                 Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                BP-

                You keep flipping back and forth though.  I am advocating for self-identification, which you initially took issue with.  You then went after outside identification, something I don’t defend.  Are you okay with self-identification or not?  Are you less okay with it if people self-identify as “black” or “white”?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                @BSK:  let’s get this straight:  you’re asking an honest question and I’m trying to give you the honest answer.   It’s the fundamental question, the most troubling aspect of racism, what I call the Wearing of the Star of David.

                As you’re doubtless aware, the Nazis weren’t the first to force the Jews to self-identify.   Why would the Jews tolerate it?   The most sinister aspect of the Shoah was the abject capitulation of the Jews in the face of the roundups.   They continued to believe, every whit of evidence to the contrary, that if they only played along and kept their heads down, as they’d done so many times before in history, somehow the bastards would be content with merely robbing them and expelling them and maybe making them run around the town square with their weenies hanging out.

                The Nazis had nothing new to say about the Jews, it had all been said before.   The pogroms had happened every Easter since time immemorial.   The Jews had come to the conclusion it was their fate to suffer in this way.    They wore the Mogen David because someone told them to wear it.

                Anyone who continues to believe the harsh mold of racist ideology applies to him is likewise Wearing the Mogen David.   He’s wearing it because someone told him to.   This country viciously suppressed citizens of color for so long they’ve actually come to believe the lies told about them.   It’s high time they stopped.   Anyone who self-describes as a N*gger or allows himself to be so described is Wearing the Star.   He pins it on himself.

                There is a difference between Wearing the Star and flying the flag of Israel or self-describing as a Jew. The one represents accepting the status of Hated Other. The other represents a democracy, a tribe of people, a religion, an entirely valid and worthy distinction.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                BSK, what he’s saying (at unnecessary length) is that any identification is self-identification, because only the self can identify.  I can call him a blowhard or call him The Most Interesting Man In The World, but that doesn’t change who he thinks he is.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                So what is he suggesting? Everyone just identifies by name and favorite Game of Thrones character?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s funny, when the subject is Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, we’re forever being told that we can’t possibly know what’s in someone’s heart bla bla bla…

                Well, we can’t.

                That doesn’t mean that we can’t judge them on what they say anyway, we just judge them on what they say and what it means to the people who hear what they say… and not on what we think they mean.

                I think it’s pretty likely that Newt is a jagoff who has lived his entire life in a bubble of privilege and power.  Nobody who divorces two (two!) wives who are ill understands the remotest concept of personal honor.

                But I don’t really care that much about personal honor when it comes to elected leaders.  I care about public competence.

                What bothers me about Newt is that he’s either a terrible communicator, or he’s choosing deliberately to communicate terrible things to some people while obfuscating those terrible things to other people.  Either case = bad Presidential material.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                being a part of a counterculture does not imply bigotry, though it may coincide.Report

              • Avatar John R. Haldeman in reply to Kim
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes Kim, but to experience satori, you must “blow out”. Unless you’re Jack Kerouac, then you throw up into a grand piano. A piano that is being played by Steve Allen.

                Is even writing in German now banned at this increasingly ugly and fascistic site? How about sign language? I know Chris and a few others are fluent in German. Hell, Chris is even fluent in Aramaic–and can even speak and write it backwards. He claims Pontius Pilate actually ordered Barabbas to be crucified and not Jesus the Christ.

                It looks like we’ve had 100,000 years of racial lynchings and heading for 100,000 more. Why can’t we all just wear bags over our heads?Report

              • Avatar John R. Haldeman in reply to John R. Haldeman
                Ignored
                says:

                With the exception of Jesus Christ, do anyone’s views or thoughts or beliefs about what happens after we die have any greater value than anyone else’s?

                Death is the great equalizer, here. It’s the only really important question there is, because without an afterlife of some kind or another, a moralistic universe collapses into utter, inescapable meaninglessness.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to John R. Haldeman
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh bullshit.  If the message of Jesus Christ is to mean anything at all, it’s for his followers to be the agents of his love and mercy in this world to everyone, as he was in his time.   The very idea, that the universe collapses into meaninglessness without some promise of Heaven or threat of Hell is utter twaddle, beneath contempt.   God didn’t have us evolve into a buns-up-kneeling position, groveling and whining and begging for forgiveness.   Your God might want that sort of wheedling and begging.   Not mine.   It’s disgraceful and insulting to God himself, not to mention everyone else in the world.   He filled the world with meaning and filled it with our fellow men and women, too.Report

              • Avatar John R. Haldeman in reply to John R. Haldeman
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                says:

                Blaise, you have a remarkable talent and ability to confound. Your abstruse, circuitous routes for getting from A to B are bedevilling to the extreme and bordering on almost complete, abject incoherence.

                I don’t know if your serial rhetorical prevarication is a tactic you use to run like hell away from logic or merely leave your comm-enters scratching their heads in dismay.

                After reading your posts for these past few months, I think I have about 95% of your fabricated word structures down pretty good on just about every subject.

                You’re at your very best, when you’re angry–I’m speaking entertainment value here–so please, get those cylinders fired up and come ready for bear because some poor, unknowing soul will undoubtedly fall into one of your grizzly traps and then watch out victim, Blaise is going to delightfully skin you alive!

                re your comments about my post above, there was not one single word that you wrote that was at all relevant or germane to what I had written. Not one. Let’s try this again: Why would your thoughts or Spinoza’s or Hume’s or Marx’s, or Freud’s or Plato’s or Hawking’s, or Einstein’s or Planck’s or Larry the Cable Guy’s or Alexander the Great, or whomever—why would their thoughts or beliefs about what happens or doesn’t happen after we leave life have any greater value than anyone Elsey’s?

                A very simple question, actually, yet you ventured off into no-mans land with “God didn’t have us evolve into a buns-up-kneeling position, groveling and whining and begging for forgiveness…” HUH?? How in the world did you get “begging for forgiveness” and “whining” and buns-up kneeling” from my comments?

                No one has a leg up on this. The greatest mystery and philosophical question that could ever be asked, “what happens to us after we die” is eternally unanswerable. And I maintain, that should we ever actually prove that death is the final curtain, we would witness a complete, total collapse of civilizations, sort of like what happens when police go on strike, only on an international scale.

                And please, I beg of you, don’t go into one of your self-flagellating/messianic epic adventures that has you living with lepers, riding rockets, swimming the English Channel, surfing across the Atlantic, out-wrestling gorrillas, teaching parrots to speak 5 languages, being the Beatles 6th drummer…..

                And why have you dismissed Bach for Kenny Chesney? Nothing wrong with Kenny, but….Report

              • Avatar John R. Haldeman in reply to John R. Haldeman
                Ignored
                says:

                I should also note, Herr Pascal, that despite my words, I still love ya!

                You’re endlessly fascinating, interesting, bright, imaginative. So many gifts. Do try and come up from the swill, and embrace this magnificent, wondrous, bedazzling, enchanted Universe we find ourselves in. I am a passionate Christian Pagan who believes Jesus was God Incarnate and that every single atom in this universe eternally pulsates with the DNA of God. I think the single biggest shock we’ll all discover after we die is that there is no such thing as time.

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv94m_S3QDo

                Whatsoever is harmonically composed delights in harmony; which makes me much distrust the symmetry of those heads which declaim against all Church-Musick. For my self, not only for my obedience, but my particular Genius, I do embrace it: for even that vulgar and Tavern-Musick, which makes one man merry, another mad, strikes in me a deep fit of devotion, and a profound contemplation of the First Composer. There is something in it of Divinity more than the ear discovers: it is an Hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole World, and creatures of God; such a melody to the ear, as the whole World, well understood, would afford the understanding. In brief, it is a sensible fit of that harmony which intellectually sounds in the ears of God.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to John R. Haldeman
                Ignored
                says:

                Heidi, is there a good reason why you simply can’t get through a series of posts without mentioning me, or is it simply obsession?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Chris, Haven’t had your first cup of coffee yet, eh?  I think you’ve actually answered that question before, and as uncomfortable as the answer is, I think you were right.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh, that answer was straight from Heidi’s mouth (or keyboard). Back on PL, he talked about it several times. I really am curious what it is about me, or the interations I’ve had with him, that has caused an obsession that’s lasted about a year and a half, though.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Chris,

                Can obsessions among people who have mental disorders be explained other than as an expression of that disorder?  That it was going to be someone on line, and why it’s you rather than someone else is not really rationally explainable?

                That’s my suspicion, but of course you are more likely to have relevant knowledge about that than I.  And if so, it’s probably small comfort for the constant irritation of being targeted.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Wilde in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Chris and James, I’d like to thank both of you for your kind and understanding words in a previous thread. There have been a few bumps in this road of life we all travel.

                As for the failed suicide attempt by hanging, that was merely a quest for a new adventure, not an attempt to escape any kind of depression be it acute or chronic.

                Naturally, the shrinks saw it differently and coming up with a sensible reason and explanation for ligature burns around my neck wasn’t easy–I tried to explain it by saying it happened while participating in a rodeo and was accidentally lassoed by a drunk cowboy and dragged around the ring to the horror of the spectators. They didn’t believe it and was put on medications that caused an almost unbearable case of tinnitus that continues to this very day. Imagine the sound of a loud, piercing, boiling tea kettle going on non-stop in your head, and you’ll get the idea. It’s not likely to end until I’ve bought the farm.

                But that’s the past and I won’t hear anymore psycho babble by incompetent psychiatrists of “massive thought disorders”, borderline personality disorder, paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, neuroticism, auditory hallucinations, hypomania, dissociative fugue disorder, and what have you. Enough–I’m finished.

                As far as I’m concerned, I’m cured and liberated–I was merely talked into these disorders by the shrinks and only extended periods of music and solitude have restored my central ground of being.

                Chris, re obsessions of you and the frequent references to you–it can only be the work of faulty algorithms at eHarmony. In filling out the application, I was asked who my “ideal mate” would be and I thought, well that’s easy enough to answer, my ideal mate would be the Second Coming! And they directed me to a “Chris” at Positive Liberty. I’m aware you legally had the “t” removed from the ending of your first name, and that you also used to baptize hundreds in the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.

                Chris, as difficult as it may be for you to reveal your true identity, I shall not complicate matters by continuing to reference you in comments and posts. It won’t be easy, but I’ll steadfastly try.

                Pretty clever to pose as the anti-Christ but admittedly, options are few. Unless I have your permission, I shall refrain from ever mentioning your name again in my comments.

                Der Abfall fällt nicht weit vom Auto und das hieße, Eulen nach Athen tragen!Report

        • Avatar BSK in reply to Tod Kelly
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          says:

          I didn’t say this because I thought it was common knowledge…Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        I am now an old man.  I must now limp along with what I’m told by younger people.  The black people of my generation thought the word had bad connotations, if the young man’s tale of his own parents is to be believed, and I have no reason not to believe it.

        I suppose you’re right in some sense.  Every generation must find some route to piss off their parents’ generation.  If the LGBT community has embraced the nasty old vocabulary with which they were oppressed, the American Revolutionaries took on the phrase Yankee Doodle with a vengeance, too.   Yankee Doodle was a little song composed to denigrate them.   And there really was a Jim Crow song, famous in its day, played by a T.D. Rice, a blackface performer who (though condescending) was considerably more complex and not quite as awful as might be supposed.   The villain in his play Ten Hours in America was a “regular calculating Yankee from Virginia”  which leads us pretty far afield in terms of what sorts of pejoratives apply in which generations.   He was a huge star in Britain, which was just then emancipating its slaves in the Caribbean.   Stupid has always been funny to some people.  To others of us, it just hurts our teeth to watch such japes, as I can’t watch John Cleese do his Fawlty Towers bit about the Germans.   I don’t care if his character was brain-damaged, it’s still beyond the pale for me.

        Me, I hate the N word.  I’d never use it.  But then, I don’t use the B word either.  I feel squeamish when I hear my LGBT friends use the pejoratives once applied to them upon each others.

        It seems to me those who feel they can use those hateful words among themselves are implicitly raising a barrier between themselves, who feel they can use those words and those of us who must hear them and are told we shouldn’t use those words.   Those words remain hateful, even though they’re used in jest.   Jim Crow wasn’t hateful either.  He was just stupid and havin’ a bit of fun at the expense of black people.  Does it make it right?   No it doesn’t.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP
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          says:

          It seems to me those who feel they can use those hateful words among themselves are implicitly raising a barrier between themselves, who feel they can use those words and those of us who must hear them and are told we shouldn’t use those words.

          This.  Although it isn’t necessarily used explicitly to raise a barrier to keep other people out; oftentimes it is used as a sign to acknowledge who is in.

          There are very few people who freely use verbiage without some sort of implicit context (embedded in themselves) or explicit context (messaging to others).

          My grandmother used “colored”.  She always thought “black” was offensive; it’s what you said to people when you were angry at them but not angry enough to use the N-word.  Polite people used “colored”.  George Carlin did a bit about this once.

          The words you choose to employ when you talk to others can be chosen carefully or not.  They can be chosen to convey a particular meaning or not.  But they convey something.

          Oftentimes we spend too much time inferring immediately rather than trying to suss out what the other person was actually implying.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            you heard the bit about “We’re voting for the n****r?”

            There was another one down in Texas…

            Old Guy calls into the local radio station, where they’re discussing Hillary and Obama. He starts off talking about how he can’t stand Hillary, keeps on going about it… About a minute later, he pauses and says, “Who’s that n****r running?”

            And you could hear the talk show folks stop. Because this guy had just turned from “Probably committed Democratic Voter” into “Probable racist”

            Well, the talkshow host tentatively advanced, “You mean Barack Obama?”

            “Yeah! I’ma vote for him!”Report

          • Avatar BSK in reply to Patrick Cahalan
            Ignored
            says:

            But that word is not unique in this regard. How many other words are used to signal who is and isn’t welcome in a conversation? They might not draw as fierce and formidable a line as the n-word, but surely it is not the ONLY coded word in our language.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP
          Ignored
          says:
          You know, I’ve always liked Blaise even when we don’t agree and now I’ve figured it out. Sorry bud, but I’ve cracked your identity. You are

          Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to wardsmith
            Ignored
            says:

            Heh.  Want to know who I really am?   The Loneliest Man in the World.

            But everything I own fits into an SUV.  I married a woman who was never married to me.  All she wanted was to live in Guatemala and cursed me for not choosing to live there all my life too.   I don’t have one friend within two hundred miles of me beyond a few professional contacts, my girlfriend, a cat and a dog.

            Life has given me a dandy collection of stories and I’m a hell of a raconteur.    I’ve taken some great pictures and recorded some interesting music.   Written some great stories along the way and filled up a bunch of passports.    Raised three beautiful children and ran a jazz club, soldiered in some interesting corners of the planet, speak six languages well and a dozen more well enough to get by.

            And it doesn’t amount to a bag of shit when you’re looking at life in the rearview mirror, coming to some place for six months or a year, knowing you’re just going to move on again.   Hard to make friends that way, hard on the nerves and the heart to leave them and I’m sick of weeping over it.   I’ve got a metal door key for an apartment the first time in seven years, a grubby little place where I can live cheap until I get my consulting practice started here in this area.  I’m starting over again and I’m too damned old to carry on this way.

            Go ahead and mock me.  And no, I’m not going to feel sorry for myself or mock you back.   There aren’t four people in the world who understand me and one just died.Report

            • Avatar wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP
              Ignored
              says:

              Blaise I meant no disrespect sir, quite the contrary. I don’t know about some schmoe who filmed a bunch of commercials but YOU ARE DAMNED INTERESTING! I love 90% of your posts and can certainly live with the rest. I’ve achieved economic success but I can only speak one language well, and one poorly. I can make myself understood in a few more, but I had not the patience nor the willpower to devote the time and effort you have to conquer them. No my friend (and if I could I would gladly be your friend) you are head and shoulders above me and I respect the hell out of you for it. You’ve lived a life bored suburban kids dream of, I’m sad it wasn’t more pleasant but as the Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times”. For them it was a veiled insult but Americans take it altogether differently.

              Your life reminds me of this song. It is a sad song but is the greatest Chinese song I know (first part 2nd is her encore piece). I’ve got to do something now but will give a rough translation later.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to wardsmith
                Ignored
                says:

                The Dream of the Olive Tree

                Do not ask me from whence it arose
                From my hometown in the far distance
                Why stray, stray, so far?
                The flight of birds in heaven above
                Rising to mountain streams of flowing light
                On their route to wide prairies, straying far

                Yet still there is the dream of the olive tree
                Do not ask me from whence it arose
                From my hometown in the far distance.

                -translation mine

                C’est la vie repriseReport

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP
      Ignored
      says:

      Never has a genre of music given itself over to that vice quite so completely as country.

      You need to listen to more traditional Irish music.  Which, come to think of it, is probably where almost all country music comes from, really.Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey, BSK.

    Down here.

    Hitchens had an interesting insight a few years back (and damn me for not being able to find the essay) where he was riding in a taxi and narrowly missed an accident and the taxi driver yelled out and the other driver asked Hitch “what did you say?” because he thought that Hitchens (not the taxi driver) had used a (if not *THE*) slur. Hitchens said something to the effect of “I saw that there was a fundamental imbalance between us. I had a word that could ruin his day. He didn’t have a word that could ruin mine.”

    Which is another interesting dynamic.Report

  11. Avatar BSK
    Ignored
    says:

    Hey JB-

    That is an interesting dynamic, which I hadn’t thought about.

    What is undeniable is the trickiness of this situation.  I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers.  I couldn’t possibly.  The more honest and open dialogue we have, with an awareness of our own limitations, the better.  Conversations like this are helpful.

    Now, if only we had that token black guy, we could settle this once and for all. :-pReport

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BSK
      Ignored
      says:

      Well, to bring *EVERYTHING* back, I wanted to know how we, as a community, felt about such words appearing in certain songs.

      I think I’m okay with kicking that particular can down the road for another year.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        Sorry if we threadjacked you there JB. You and Patrick make a great tag team. In the other thread Patrick elucidated the entire “standing” point and my addition to it is that whites just don’t have the kind of “standing” necessary to A) discuss black issues freely and B) ever use the N-word. The B is fine by me of course the A is too bad but a fact of life I think.Report

      • Avatar BSK in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        I have no personal qualms with it. For the record, I didn’t realize the blog mentioned was a subblog here. At the end of the day, the more open you are to dialogue, the less you probably have to worry. If you do offend, but are accessible, most people will work to hash it out.Report

  12. Avatar sonmi451
    Ignored
    says:

    BlaiseP,

    My my.   Isn’t this just the most precious place in the entire blogosphere?   Why, should some uncomfortable little nugget o’ fact which might serve to make someone else’s Glittering Generalization look pretty stupid, say, something like actually watching someone hacked to death because he was from the wrong tribe, something I dare say most of you have not seen, that’s not to be taken seriously.

    Mentioning the fact that you, looking the way you do, even with your claim to substantial African ancestry would most probably not be at the same level of risk of being lynched compared to someone who looks like Cedric Daniels from The Wire for example (I won’t use the Jesse Jackson example again because that just gave you an excuse to YET again change the subject to how bad Jackson is. Might be true, but irrelevant to the point I was making) is Glittering Generalization? Your uncomfortable little nugget of fact is a way to shut down the conversation, of changing the subject because you did not want to answer my question. (BTW, you still haven’t answer it – do you think that you, looking the way you do, would be in the same position as someone looking positively African-Americans when it comes to lynching, or even racial profiling? Yes or no?)Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to sonmi451
      Ignored
      says:

      Sonmi:

      I think you’re reading Blaise fairly uncharitably.  When someone spends a large chunk of time outside the U.S., the context of the U.S. gets put into a different place than if you grow up here.

      I think his point is something along the lines that people with machetes butchering entire villages of people because they share a different tribal name informs you in a way that is somewhat different than growing up here.

      That’s all.

      At least, that’s how I read it.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Pat Cahalan
        Ignored
        says:

        … which was the summum bonum, or malum, of my point.  Racism over here is tribalism over there.

        That said, tribalism isn’t instituted into law the way it was in the USA.  Slavery in the USA was as about as bad as it ever got.   The Belgian Congo was probably worse in some respects, but not by much.

        Post-colonial Africa emerged from the insane borders established by the colonialists, which meant those nations were awkwardly divided, pinning mutually hateful tribes together.   For example, the Hausa span six countries, all along the southern edge of the Sahel.  Think of the problem of the Kurds as a rough parallel:  they didn’t get a country though they probably should have.   Or the Pashtun, for that matter, divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

        Sonmi’s point isn’t completely without merit.   They’re two different worlds, with two different sets of hypocrisies.

         Report

  13. Avatar sonmi451
    Ignored
    says:

    BlaiseP,

    My my.   Isn’t this just the most precious place in the entire blogosphere?   Why, should some uncomfortable little nugget o’ fact which might serve to make someone else’s Glittering Generalization look pretty stupid, say, something like actually watching someone hacked to death because he was from the wrong tribe, something I dare say most of you have not seen, that’s not to be taken seriously.

    Mentioning the fact that you, looking the way you do, even with your claim to substantial African ancestry would most probably not be at the same level of risk of being lynched compared to someone who looks like Cedric Daniels from The Wire for example (I won’t use the Jesse Jackson example again because that just gave you an excuse to YET again change the subject to how bad Jackson is. Might be true, but irrelevant to the point I was making) is Glittering Generalization? Your uncomfortable little nugget of fact is a way to shut down the conversation, of changing the subject because you did not want to answer my question. (BTW, you still haven’t answer it – do you think that you, looking the way you do, would be in the same position as someone looking positively African-Americans when it comes to lynching, or even racial profiling? Yes or no?)Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
      Ignored
      says:

      To be honest, maybe I’m not capable of having an actual conversation with you, because unlike Mark Thompson and other people in this blog, I don’t know you personally or well enough to know what an amazing, wonderful person you are. I’m just going by the arguments you put forth here, and your arguments, in my humble opinion, tend to go around and around and in tangent (suddenly mentioning how racist the Japanese are, for example) and a tendency to one-up people to shut them up by mentioning that you, personally, have seen much, much worse things than whatever they are criticizing or complaining about. I have no doubt that you have seen that much, much worse thing, and I would be very interested in reading your posts dedicated to them, but my issue has to do with using those things to diminish or belittle the impact of something else. Maybe this is not a deliberate tactic of arguing and debating on your part, but that’s how it comes across to me.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451
      Ignored
      says:

      Yes, I’m afraid I have no patience for Glittering Generalities.   I haven’t shut down any conversations by pointing out what’s happened to me over all these many years.   I’m tired of abstractions.   People I know in Kano, Nigeria are being driven from their homes.   I haven’t been able to track down some of my friends.  I think one of those pastors was murdered in the latest spate of violence.

      I cannot put myself into the shoes of an African American.  I wonder if you can, either.  I can, however, put myself into the little shoes of a miserable ten year old American boy in Neuilly-sur-Seine who was called nègre. Yes, I have been called the N word, just not in English.  I did wear those little shoes, you tiresome purveyor of TV cliché.   I think I just might have a few opinions on that subject, ones you might take seriously.Report

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