When is it okay to say nigger?

Paula DeenAs we all know now, Paula Deen, the doyenne of deep-fried cooking, has turned her career into toast. Blackened it, one might say, with a series of scorching admissions about her use of the word “nigger” and her proposal to throw a plantation-themed party with African Americans portraying slaves.

Amid the uproar, pundits, newscasters and bloggers routinely used the prettified phrase “N-word” when referring to the racist slur Deen slung around. The cautious resort to a euphemism isn’t the most effective teaching tool for conveying how objectionable the term is. If we’re too delicate to even say the word, how can we possibly educate the unenlightened?

Imagine trying to teach sex education using only “the I-word.”

As distasteful as Ms. Deen’s bigotry is, the rabid reactions of her defenders are downright astounding. To those who insist they “don’t understand” why Deen’s attitudes are so harmful, try this little exercise.

Imagine she was accused of disparaging fat people. She goes on TV to protest her innocence. Instead of saying (as she did) that one of her employees is black and asking him to come on out even though he might be hard to see because he’s as dark as the background of the stage set, let’s say she told him “Come on out here, if you can get through the door, and show people how fat you are.”

Or, let’s take the plantation-party plan a step further. Why didn’t it occur to Ms. Deen to suggest including some light-skinned slaves who look an awful lot like Ol’ Massa, played by her brother Bubba and some relatives with spray-on tans? And an overseer with a big whip? And a pack of baying bloodhounds?

Guess that didn’t fit into the happy slaves theme, and unhappy slaves would be no fun at all, y’all.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s