Using “the N Word”

N word

 

I didn’t grow up in America and I cannot claim to fully appreciate the horror of that N word the President used recently in a TV interview. But in Jamaica, where I grew up, it’s certainly not acceptable. It’s ugly and insulting anywhere.

Still, the President’s critics should take into consideration the context in which he used the word.

He was saying that racism is a lot more than using “n***** in public.” Yes, he said the word right out loud … not just in public but on television.

Media response was immediate – and sometimes critical. CNN called the President’s behavior “shocking.”

Did the President intend to be shocking?  A White House spokesman said he didn’t.

But if he did, maybe that’s what he needs to do – shock his “fellow Americans” into realization that America faces a real and present danger. A cancer is eating at the country’s guts.

That danger is a lot more shocking than the use of a taboo word.  Racism is rampant on the web, in law enforcement, and on the street.

The murder of nine African-American worshippers in Charleston is just one symptom of a dangerous disease.

There is no word, not “the N word,” not “the F word” – not  even Jamaica’s expressive “R word” – that can adequately express the rage decent people should be feeling.

It’s time to get shocking. It’s time to throw discretion and political correctness out the window. It’s time to yell and scream and cry bloody murder.

As they say in Jamaica, “words are wind.”  It’s action that counts.

And, by all that’s sacred, by all that’s holy, even by all that’s unspeakable, it’s time for action.

Human beings are dying for God’s sake! People with hearts and minds and blood flowing in their veins – not black blood, but blood the same color as anyone else’s.

There’s bound to be a backlash. As Shakespeare’s Shylock said:

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?

Racism is not a one-way street. A rank and unashamed assault on one ethnic group by another cannot fail to evoke a response.

America is in peril.

As President of all Americans,  Barack Obama has to take the lead in heading off this imminent conflagration. And if he uses the N word – or any other word – in doing so, we should cut him some slack.

Click for the news story.

Click for CNN’s reaction.

American racism today.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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