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July 23, 2008

Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck & The "N" Word

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I'm nearly a week late on this one, but what can I say...I've been busy. Last week there was another big brouhaha at "The View." 

What is with those blasted women?  I go out of town for a couple of days and a whole new race war starts.

I'm exaggerating, but damn, I can't leave those Gabby Girls alone for a second.

What happened was Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck got into over the use of the word n*gger.  It came up because of another loose comment by Jesse Jackson, but I'm not even gonna talk about him. 

When the discussion came up, Whoopi argued that while it is not okay for white people to call black people by that lovely little word that holds so much history and hatred in its six assorted letters, it was fine for black people to call each other n*gger.

Elisabeth countered that no one should use the word.  She argued that just like Italians, Poles and Jews don't run around calling each other the most heinous word that's been used about them throughout history, black people shouldn't either.

The heated discussion became even more press worthy when Elisabeth choked up while saying she hoped that we could all live in a world where the races were together.  This was in response to Whoopi's blunt and true comment that racially speaking, she and Elisabeth don't live in the same world.  To add to the drama, Sherri Shepherd agreed with Whoopi that black people had "retaken" the word n*gger and had every right to use it the way they wanted.

Here's my opinion.

It's horribly offensive if a white person calls me n*gger and it's just as offensive if a black person calls me n*gger.  There really is no difference.

I am and always have been on Elisabeth's side on this one.  No, ifs, ands or buts.

Whoopi and I have been in agreement a lot these days but on this one we part serious company.  Part of the reason I think she and Sherri have no problem with the use of the word is because they're performers.  What do I mean by that?  I mean, they use that word for effect as part of their acts.  They both admit to using it in their personal lives as well, but just like Elisabeth doesn't live in or understand the world black people live in, Whoopi and Sherri don't understand the world we non-performing, non-star black people live in.

It's a world where the word n*gger should never be used by one black person to another.  It's a world where the thug/gangster/performer mentality that permeates so much of black culture and which worships the word n*gger, should not be absorbed by black people as who they truly are.  It's a world where I and many black people like me, have too much respect for ourselves and our rich and valuable history in this country to call each other by that word.

Just like no one will ever convince me that images of black women leashed as dogs or used as playthings in so many current music videos is acceptable, no one will convince me that a word that was used by white people to emotionally enslave us is acceptable.  It.  Just.  Won't.  Happen.

Do I think that means black people will stop using it?  No.  But I can always hope that more black people will start to reject the words and images that denigrate us, and that are used by us.  It's that simple.

In closing let me clarify something.  I'm not a huge fan of Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  She can get me yelling at the screen just as much as the next viewer, but unlike what some bloggers have been saying about her the last few days, she did not try to defend white people using the word n*gger because black people do.  I know she's a republican and everything, but fair is fair.

On the other hand, Whoopi did not verbally eviserate poor little Elisabeth.  It was a discussion.  It was heated, it was emotional, but it was a discussion.  An important one.

As Barbara Walters said on Monday's show when they all came out and reassured viewers that, it was just a discussion, "The View" has miraculously turned itself into a show starring women, that's become very relevant.  And personally I think that's a good thing.

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