The New N Word

The PC crowd is at it again. And, of course, NPR is leading the way.

Last Thursday, on their afternoon news show All Things Considered, Melissa Block interviewed Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter on the use of the word1400091124004.cached thugs to describe those involved in the Baltimore riots.

I always take notice when the matter of race comes up—and that’s exactly what this story was about—because I think the media, and certain individuals like Al Sharpton and our “unifying” president, stir things up far more than they alleviate. Yes, we rely on the news to tell us about these things, and there is room in the news for the op-ed piece.

But pay attention to how these things are couched next time you hear/see them. Who’s giving the opinion? Though I’m sure they weren’t trying to hide it, the fact is, John McWhorter is black, and I have to wonder how much that fact influenced his opinion. Quite a bit, I’d imagine.

The basic idea behind the interview was that Professor McWhorter posits the word thug is “the new n word,” at least when we eternally prejudiced whiteys use it. When black Obama uses it, or the black Baltimore mayor uses it, or any other black in the whole frickin world uses it, it’s okay. Why? Because when a white person uses the word to refer to blacks, it automatically means we’re using in a prejudiced way because we think different. That’s not my opinion. That’s Professor McWhorter’s.

NwordHe even takes a bit of exception to Obama using the word. Why? Because although he’s black, he hasn’t had “that experience” that a gangbanger has (will gangbanger be the next racially charged word?). This from a man who attended Friends Select School, a private school on Philadelphia, before being accepted to Simon’s Rock College in tenth grade. Sounds like he grew up on some mean streets indeed.

Just as an aside, something I’ve noticed about these types of interviews, at least on NPR: the interviewer (who in this case is white) seems to take every opportunity to use the word in question, though in fairness I’ve never heard them use the n word. (I’m not using that very word in this post because this is me talking, not one of my fictional characters.)

Now, full disclosure here, just to be sure we’re clear: I’m a white, heterosexual, Southern male. That makes me a far cry from being politically correct. About as far as you can get, I’d say.


Despite having a rebel flag tattooed on one arm, I do not belong to the Klan. Or any other white supremacist group. Or hate group, for that matter. I have gay friends and family, Mexican friends, black friends (though those are in short supply at the moment, simply because I’ve lost touch with the ones I had), my goddaughter is in a KKK_Busters_by_Dess520relationship with another woman and it doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m not narrow-minded. I got the tattoo when I was nineteen and in the Army. I grew up in the seventies and loved The Dukes of Hazzard. I love my Southern heritage. Even in those days, I didn’t get that tattoo as anything remotely racial, and still can’t understand how anyone can make such a blanket statement to say the Confederate flag can only be a racial symbol. That discounts those of us who are proud to be Southern, even if we’re morally embarrassed by those inbred idiots parading around in white sheets. I’ve always thought it’s no coincidence their hoods look just like dunce caps.

So to have a man like John McWhorter, who apparently comes from a privileged background (his full name is John Hamilton McWhorter V, according to Wikipedia) make a blanket judgment about my thoughts just because I’m white…well, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m taking too much offense here, but isn’t that a racially biased opinion? For him to say he knows what I mean when I say thugs without meeting me or knowing a thing about me, is prejudice. Just as much as me saying that all blacks are criminals or subhuman or any of those kinds of things. I’m making a judgment based solely on skin color or stereotype, with not a single fact to back it up. And he reinforces this biased opinion by saying it’s okay for blacks to use the word, but not whites. Sound familiar?

I could go on and on about this subject, but I’d likely start repeating myself in a lot of ways, rehashing the same old points ad infinitum. So let me close with this: we will never patch over this festering sore that is prejudice until we drop the agendas, the desires to balance the scales by fostering white guilt over honest dialogue. The word thugs, in its modern usage, originated with gangsta rap. Tupac Shakur had the words Thug Life tattooed on his stomach. It’s a term used to describe life in a gang. Tupac came from the streets, not from a private school. He has the right to use that term, according to Professor McWhorter, while a poor white guy who grew up running Southern dirt roads doesn’t have a right to use that word when referring to those who tear up their neighborhoods and loot black business owners as a way to “honor” someone killed by police.

first-they-cameWhere is the outrage when a black cop shoots a white guy? Or a black cop shoots a black guy? Why not have outrage anytime a police officer shoots someone in questionable circumstances? That’s fair, and balanced, and will benefit everyone, not just one class of people. And shouldn’t that be the ultimate aim of all this business? After all, Hitler started with the communists. But he didn’t stop there, as the Jews can attest. If we let the cops continue to abuse blacks, how long will it be before they decide they can extend that abuse to other groups?



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