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December 6, 2006

Damon Wayans, Jay-Z, Michael Eric Dyson on the "N Word"

Though I think it's a shame that the aftermath of Kramergate has been reduced from a discussion of racism to a discussion of the "n word," now that we've taken it there it's worth checking Michael Eric Dyson's take, which is more nuanced (no Kerry-o) than most:

from playahata.com:

I have decided to retire the use of the “N” word in public. Why? Not because I believe that it has lost its power as a term of endearment among black folk who use it with love and affection. Not because its meaning has become so bastardized that one may not recover its redemptive use by black folk who intend it to signify profound love and respect. I have decided to stop using it for two reasons: many black folk who otherwise supported my work and agreed with my perspectives were thrown off by my public identification with the downtrodden and the debased of our race through use of the term. Despite all the good they thought I did, they believed that the use of the word made it difficult for them to fully embrace me. [To paraphrase The Apostle Paul said in the Bible that “if meat offends my brother, I don’t eat meat."]

Finally, Rev. Jesse Jackson, after we both attended Johnnie Cochran’s funeral, and after we engaged in a healthy political discussion with Stevie Wonder, asked me to refrain from publicly using the “N” word because it obscured what he termed the effectiveness of my intellectual wittiness. [As some of you may know, I’ve also had friendly debates with Cornel West on the subject, and even though we have disagreed about the subject, I have enormous respect for him and all my elders, including Rev. Jackson, who have different views]. So, I have decided to refrain from public use of the “N” word where I cannot explain the context of the word and its association with traditions of racial response to degradation. When I can explain it, I will feel free to engage in its use, although I realize those opportunities may be rarer than I’d like. In the end, the folk who know how I feel about the black oppressed, and all those who suffer regardless of race, creed, class, color or nationality, understand that I’m still riding for those whose backs are against the wall. But if those who otherwise feel me are offended by my use of the term, it makes little sense to continue its use. I have no problem with its use by hip-hoppers who continue to use it with verve, color, imagination, love and affection."

Meanwhile EURweb reports Damon Wayans is the first victim of the Laugh Factory's banning of the word, also offering Jigga's stance on the banning movement:

"I'm against that, I'm all for freedom of speech." He added, "You have to fix the people that have hatred inside their soul."

And of course there's John Ridley's LA Times piece, for what it's worth.

Posted by jsmooth995 at December 6, 2006 4:13 PM

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