White Writers Join N-Word Debate

Arguing that they can no longer sit on the sidelines, whites are jumping into the debate over who can use the word—if anyone.

12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Wise">" ‘You Don’t Get It; You’re White’ . . . Doesn’t Work for Me"

White writers are coming forward to say they cannot sit on the sidelines in the debate over who can use the "N-Word," if anyone. The latest is Mike Wise, Washington Post sports columnist, who responded in Friday’s printed Post, "I deserve a seat at this table. This is about the world my 3-year-old is going to live in."Wise isn’t the only one. Garret Mathews, a retired metro columnist for the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press, wrote Thursday in the Indianapolis Star about a visit to an Indianapolis high school where the word was bandied about by black students. He taught them about the civil rights movement. "I tell the students the N-word was used by white racists as far back as the 19th century to reinforce the stereotype that persons of color are lazy and stupid," Mathews wrote.

Even Rush Limbaugh, patron saint of conservative talk radio, entered the fray. After Michael Wilbon, co-host of ESPN’s "Pardon the Interruption," said last week that he uses the N-word "all day, every day of my life" and that white people have no right to tell black people how to use it, Limbaugh said Wilbon should have used the occasion to scold white liberals wedded to "political correctness" — not all whites.

The latest controversies over the N-word have come from the sports world. The NBA fined Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes $25,000 last week after his ejection after L.A.’s’ 111-103 victory over Oklahoma City the previous night. Officially, Barnes was dinged for "failing to leave the court in a timely manner … and using inappropriate language on his Twitter account."

"I love my teammates like family, but I’m DONE standing up for these n—–!" Barnes wrote, referring to his fellow Clippers, Ben Golliver reported for Sports Illustrated. "All this s— does is cost me money."

Before that, black players in the Miami Dolphins locker room said they had no problem with white players calling them the word. The Dolphins’ Richie Incognito, according to news reports, left a voice mail calling teammate Jonathan Martin the N-word. Incognito later apologized after the incident became public.

Most recently, John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group formed to promote diversity in hiring in the NFL, said Thursday that Trent Williams, offensive tackle for the Washington Redskins, directed the N-word at umpire Roy Ellison after Ellison had attempted to stop players from the Washington and Philadelphia teams from directing abusive language at one another, Mark Maske and Mike Jones reported Friday in the Post. Williams and Ellison are black.

On Friday, the NFL suspended Ellison for one game without pay for “making a profane and derogatory statement" to Williams, Maske and Jones reported Saturday.

Wise wrote, "All this time I had it in my leftist-engineer head that this word was the most vile, disgusting, loaded word in the history of the English language, and now it’s an accepted synonym for ‘man’ or ‘dude’ or ‘partner?’ More jarring, Wilbon said he used it ‘all day, every day, all my life,’ specifying on ‘Pardon the Interruption,’ ‘I have a problem with white people framing the discussion for the use of the N-word.’


"And I have a problem with anyone of any ethnicity telling me that my values and beliefs about eradicating slurs from public and private conversation are less important than having agency over them for personal use — no matter who it hurts, including millions of African Americans who want the word abolished and should have just as much say.

"Actually, it’s deeper than that. When you think you’re fighting for a less hostile, less confusing and more mutually respectful country for our children to live in and then you find out your idea of a shared purpose wasn’t shared by people you like and respect, a real hopelessness sets in.

"The N-word is filth; it’s disrespectful, confusing and uplifts no one. I know of no other minority in the world co-opting a dehumanizing, racial slur used by its oppressor.

"Yet I’m told, ‘You don’t get it; you’re white.’

"No. That doesn’t work for me. I deserve a seat at this table. This is about the world my 3-year-old is going to live in.

"Spending my formative years in a rural part of Hawaii, where welfare and food stamps were how many families in Ewa Beach got by, I grew up as one of a few ‘haole’ kids among an ethnic stew of poor- to middle-class Filipino, Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian and Japanese kids. I would not wish some of the early prejudice and violence I experienced on any prepubescent teen. But in hindsight, I now feel being a minority, even for a few years, should be a prerequisite for every person of a dominant culture; it makes you see and feel what people on the other side see and feel.

"It’s where I gained a real affinity and appreciation for diversity, for experiencing the world outside my own ethnic prism. I want to continue that for my son, to impart the one-world values my father imparted on me. I don’t want him to experience the word in any form.

"When I am told, ‘This isn’t about you,’ I feel like I’m being judged by the color of my skin and not the content of my character.’ . . ."

Wise joins Tom Joyce of the Mount Airy (N.C.) News, Skip Bayless of ESPN and Jack Dickey of Time magazine among whites who have said they cannot keep silent.

Dickey zeroed in on NBA analyst Charles Barkley, a Hall of Famer who said, "White America don’t get to dictate how me and Shaq [O’Neill] talk to each other." Dickey picked apart Barkley’s logic in a blog post headlined, "Charles Barkley Is Still Not a Role Model."

Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Rest of Dolphins owe as much blame in Incognito flap (Nov. 13)

Bryan Burwell, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: N-word isn’t acceptable in the workplace

Connie Cass, Associated Press: Young people say online slurs common, not OK

Chris Chase, USA Today: Adrian Peterson hears ‘crazier things than just the N-word’ in NFL locker rooms

Michael DiRocco, ESPN.com: Jaguars react to potential ban of N-word

J.R. Gamble, the Shadow League: Stephen A. Smith Says White Opinion Must Kick Rocks, Leave Fate Of N-Word to Blacks

Justice B. Hill, BET: The N-Word Defines Blackness in All the Wrong Ways

Ernest Hooper, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Learning n-word’s origin might help curtail its use

Mark Maske, Washington Post: Fritz Pollard Alliance urges NFL players to stop using N-word

Piers Morgan, CNN: Debating the "N" Word and the "F" Word with Charles Blow, Don Lemon, and Noah Michelson

Lateef Mungin, CNN: Massachusetts high school cancels football games after racial slur spraypainted on player’s home

Bob Raissman, Daily News, New York: Bryant Gumbel on ‘Real Sports’ says no one should ever use N-word

Gyasi Ross, Huffington Post: Richie Incognito, Redskins and Racism in the NFL

George Willis, New York Post: LaTroy Hawkins: Keep N-word out of locker rooms (Nov. 13)

News Organizations Challenge White House on Photo Access

"The atmosphere in the White House briefing room got heated Thursday afternoon as reporters challenged a spokesman over press access to the president," Jennifer Epstein reported Thursday for Politico.

"After delivering a letter arguing that officials are ‘blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government,’ members of the White House press corps cut into principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest as he defended the administration’s policies on press access.

" ‘It is the responsibility of those of you who sit in your seats to push for more. You’re supposed to be agitating for more access. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be doing your job,’ Earnest told reporters as he filled in for press secretary Jay Carney at the White House press briefing. ‘So, the fact that there is a little bit of a disagreement between the press corps and the White House press office about how much access the press corps should have to the president is built into the system.’

"Earlier Thursday, the board of the White House Correspondents Association delivered a letter to Earnest detailing press concerns that the White House has engaged in a ‘troubling break from tradition’ by choosing to release photos and videos of events to which the press has not had access, but to which White House photographers and videographers have had access.

"As POLITICO has reported, much of President Obama’s daily schedule is not made public, though some of it later becomes public when the White House releases photos, videos or blog posts about the president’s activities, something the White House argues has given Americans more access to Obama. . . ."

Nancy Benac, Associated Press: News Media Protest White House Press Limits

David Boardman and Debra Adams Simmons: ASNE-APME call on White House photo access

Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review: A bogus NY Post piece sets off a frenzy 

Al Jazeera Testing S.F.-Based Internet News Network

"Across from San Francisco’s AT&T Park stadium, a small group of news junkies is working on building a different kind of startup," Janko Roettgers reported Friday for gigaom.com.

"The first thing you notice when entering their building is the omnipresent imagery of civil rights leaders and pop culture icons from around the world. Nelson Mandela, John Lennon and Aung San Suu Kyi are everywhere, as are promises of defiance and empowerment. But the building, which formerly housed Al Gore’s Current TV, isn’t home to some kind of progressive nonprofit. Instead, it’s the birth place of AJ+, Al Jazeera’s ambitious attempt to produce news for an audience that gets its information from the internet.

"Al Jazeera first announced its plans to launch an internet news network at an industry conference in October, and the Qatar-based news organization is set to officially unveil the AJ+ brand with a placeholder website in the next few weeks. But in San Francisco, the team of AJ+ is already busy working on producing pilots to meet its goal of a soft launch early next year. AJ+ executives invited me to take an exclusive behind-the-scenes look this week, and while they didn’t share too many details about the shows and news formats that they’re working on, they weren’t shy about telling me what they don’t want to do: television. . . ."

Kennedy Assassination Marked Year the ’60s Came Together

"We were never innocent," Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote Wednesday in his syndicated Miami Herald column, anticipating Friday’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

"That word is invariably used to describe what changed in America 50 years ago Friday when a dashing young president was murdered in Dallas. But the word has never been quite right.

"Anyone who was 40 years old the day John Kennedy died had already lived through global economic collapse, factories silenced, smokestacks stilled, bankers selling apples on street corners. She had seen the agricultural heartland dry up and blow away in towering black clouds of dust, the former tenants dispossessed and forced to flee. She had seen war on a scale that beggars the imagination, mass murder in numbers that blaspheme God and a nuclear sunrise over Japan. Just the year before, she had seen the world teeter on the brink of another nuclear catastrophe.

"We were not innocent.

"And yet, something did change when Kennedy’s motorcade executed that hairpin turn onto Elm Street and Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger of that mail order carbine. After that moment, something was different, something was lost — and it has haunted America ever since.

"Nineteen sixty-three is the year the 1960s began, the year so many of the themes that would define that tumultuous era — civil rights, women’s rights, Vietnam, the British Invasion, political assassination — came together for the first time. . . ."

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR "Code Switch": Mexican-American Vets Ignited Kennedy’s Latino Support

David Bauder, Associated Press: Viewers Respond To Kennedy Programming

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Hatred of Catholics led some to cheer JFK’s assassination 

Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund: "Ask What You Can Do For Your Country"

Jon Herskovitz, Reuters: How the JFK assassination transformed media coverage

Rick Horowitz, Huffington Post; "Oswald Has Been Shot!" (video)

Indian Country Today Media Network: 6 Things JFK Did — or Didn’t Do — for Natives Before His Death

Blair L.M. Kelley, the Grio: Remembering the real JFK: What is the late president’s legacy with black Americans?

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Great martyrs leave us asking ‘What if?’

Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: Recalling JFK’s first visit to Fort Worth

William Spriggs, AFL-CIO: Our Selective Memory

Oliver Willis, Media Matters for America: Stealing Kennedy: Conservatives Try To Hijack The JFK Legacy

NBCLatino to Shed 3 Positions in January Relaunch

NBCLatino.com, which launched last year in the first time an English-language broadcast network news division initiated a Web site specifically targeted to Hispanics, is shedding three positions as it plans to relaunch in early January as part of NBCNews.com, according to NBC News sources.

"This move will allow its content to reach a much larger audience and it will further enhance NBC News’s commitment and ability to cover news and issues that matter to the Latino community," Ali Zelenko, senior vice president, communications, told Journal-isms on Friday by email. "Unfortunately this means a few positions will be eliminated. We are grateful to those affected for their contributions and are actively looking for other roles for them inside the company."

Zelenko said she was not permitted to identify how many positions would be lost and identify them. Chris Peña, an NBC veteran, is executive editor, overseeing a staff of bilingual writers and producers at NBC’s headquarters in New York. Sandra Lilley, another NBC veteran, was promoted to managing editor in July. Suzanne Gamboa joined as politics editor in September from the Associated Press.

Former Librarian, 83, Recorded 140,000 Tapes of TV News

"In a storage unit somewhere in Philadelphia, 140,000 VHS tapes sit packed into four shipping containers. Most are hand-labeled with a date between 1977 and 2012, and if you pop one into a VCR you might see scenes from the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Reagan Administration, or Hurricane Katrina," Sarah Kessler wrote Thursday for Fast Company.

"It’s 35 years of history through the lens of TV news, captured on a dwindling format.

"It’s also the life work of Marion Stokes, who built an archive of network, local, and cable news, in her home, one tape at a time, recording every major (and trivial) news event until the day she died in 2012 at the age of 83 of lung disease.

"Stokes was a former librarian who for two years co-produced a local television show with her then-future husband, John Stokes Jr. She also was engaged in civil rights issues, helping organize buses to the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, among other efforts. She began casually recording television in 1977. She taped lots of things, but she thought news was especially important, and when cable transformed it into a 24-hour affair, she began recording MSNBC, Fox, CNN, CSNBC, and [C-SPAN] around the clock by running as many as eight television recorders at a time. . . ."

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a free Internet library, plans to make the tapes public and searchable, Kessler reported.

Blackistone Needed More Time to Explain, Ombudsman Says

"Kevin Blackistone, a frequent ESPN commentator, recently found fault with the sports industry’s embrace of military symbolism … and the ombud mailbag, in turn, found fault with him — in substantial numbers," Robert Lipsyte, the ESPN ombudsman, wrote on Friday.

"On Nov. 6, responding to a question from host Tony Reali on ‘Around the Horn,’ Blackistone, a regular ATH panelist, said, ‘When you have military flyovers and the military symbolism that goes on in sports, I think you’ve got a problem.’

"At issue was Northwestern’s usage of American flag and Army designs on its helmets and jerseys for an upcoming football game. Another ATH regular and fellow Northwestern graduate, J.A. Adande, also had reservations about the uniforms, but Blackistone went much further in his criticism, saying he was opposed to the sports-military connection ‘whether it’s the singing of a war anthem to open every game, whether it’s going to get a hot dog and being able to sign up for the Army at the same time, whether it’s the NFL’s embrace of the mythology of the Pat Tillman story.’

"It was the phrase ‘war anthem’ that stirred the mailbag to call Blackistone’s commentary ‘disrespectful’ and ‘reprehensible.’ . . ."

Lipsyte concluded, "I thought Blackistone’s commentary deserved to be unpacked on ESPN, if not to classroom-hour length, at least in a column or in a few minutes on a program that could show other examples of sports and military collaboration, perhaps exploring how purported displays of patriotism might disguise service recruiting, politicking and commercialization. Is football good preparation for combat (an active officer recently said that in a discussion of the Army-Navy game)? How come so few pro athletes ever use those wondrous muscles to actually defend their country (even though, as Ombuddy Paul Gigliotti of Andover, Mass., pointed out, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski insists on calling quarterbacks ‘warriors’)?

"I’m sure Blackistone has a lot of valuable insight on these and other matters that don’t quite fit into the Horn. Of course, that might just make the mailbag come out fighting."

Short Takes

Writing Friday about the Flint (Mich.) Journal’s election coverage of a convicted murderer who won a spot on the Flint, Mich., city council without reporting on the conviction during the campaign, Cleveland blogger Afi-Odelia Scruggs concluded, "I don’t think the paper took the community seriously enough to cover it correctly. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time; sad to say, it won’t be the last." This columnist and Vincent Duffy, chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, are scheduled to discuss the case Sunday on CNN’s "Reliable Sources." Eric Deggans, NPR television critic, is the guest host.

"A Philadelphia judge on Friday ordered the immediate reinstatement of Inquirer editor William K. Marimow, overturning a firing that exposed deep divisions among the newspaper’s owners and sparked an ugly public battle for control of its parent company," Thomas Fitzgerald and David Sell reported Friday for the Inquirer.

The Tribune Company, owner of The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, will lay off 700 employees at those newspapers and the six others it owns, it said in memos to the staff on Wednesday," Ravi Somaiya reported Wednesday for the New York Times. "The cuts, which represent about 6 percent of the company’s 11,000 employees, will affect mostly its business side. . . ."

Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz, Ezra Klein and Juan Williams reportedly met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday, the Huffington Post reported Thursday. "After the meeting, Williams appeared on Fox News and discussed the ‘frustration’ over the botched Obamacare rollout among Obama staffers, and the administration’s attempt to change the narrative about the legislation. . . . "

"If you missed it, the hot new story in the right-wing fever swamps is that the Census Bureau manipulated unemployment numbers in the run-up to last year’s election to boost Barack Obama’s reelection campaign," Ryan Chittum wrote Friday for Columbia Journalism Review. Chittum also wrote, "New York Post columnist John Crudele re-opened the fake controversy with an atrocious piece of journalism on Monday headlined ‘Census "faked" 2012 election jobs report.’ " The Field Negro commented Wednesday.

Amanda Davis

"Just over a year ago, at 12:30 a.m. Nov. 11, former Fox 5 anchor Amanda Davis’ life changed forever on Piedmont Ave.," Rodney Ho reported Thursday for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "She was allegedly driving southbound in a northbound lane in Midtown when she crashed her green Fiat into a black Toyota Corolla. The Atlanta police charged her with DUI, reckless driving and failure to maintain lane. Her haunted, disheveled mugshot was plastered all over the Web. She was immediately taken off the air. In April, she ‘retired’ after 26 years in an awkward on-air goodbye. The victim David Jarmin sued her in civil court in June. Since then, there has been no progress on her criminal case. . . ." Ho also wrote, "Sidmel Estes, a former long-time executive producer at WAGA-TV with Davis, remains close friends with her and as a media consultant, advises her and shops her around to other TV stations. Estes is also helping Davis try to find a ‘Plan B’ outside of broadcast news. . . ."

"Fox 11 colleague Araksya Karapetyan tweeted today that ‘Good Day LA’ entertainment anchor Julie Chang came out of surgery and that a benign brain tumor was removed," Kevin Roderick reported Thursday for LAObserved. "Host Steve Edwards announced on the show on Monday that Chang would be on medical leave for [a while] after the tumor was discovered during treatment for a surfing injury."

"Three years after the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) filed an indecency complaint with the FCC against Liberman Broadcasting over its show ‘José Luis Sin Censura,’ the company has settled the case," Veronica Villafañe reported Wednesday for her Media Moves site. "Liberman has agreed to pay $110,000 as part of its agreement to resolve the 3 year-long FCC investigation into the airing of indecent, obscene, and profane content. . . . "

James Ragland, whose Dallas Morning News column was suspended two years ago while a domestic assault charge was pending, became a columnist again Wednesday. In his returning column, however, Ragland did not mention exactly why the column had not been appearing. "To my mind, this is a lie of omission," Tim Rogers wrote Wednesday for D Magazine. "When you are a high-profile columnist, you take up the mantle to use first person. And if you’re going to write about yourself, if you’re going to give us your bio from birth and reintroduce yourself to us, then you owe it to us to at least acknowledge the real reason you were gone for two years — or still with us but sitting in the backseat, being much quieter than we were used to. . . .

In Chicago, "Three sports reporters are trying to tackle the crowded River North restaurant scene," Micah Maidenberg reported Thursday for Chicago Real Estate Daily. "Fox 32’s Lou Canellis, Comcast SportsNet’s Kip Lewis and CBS 2’s Ryan Baker are backing a group that leased an 8,000-square-foot space in the building at 414 N. Orleans St., where they’re partnering with two local restaurant operators. . . ."

"Award-winning journalist, digital media strategist and startup advisor Ju-Don Marshall Roberts has been appointed Director of the Center for Cooperative Media, an initiative of the School of Communication and Media, at Montclair State University," the school announced on Monday. Roberts has been general manager and senior vice president of Everydayhealth.com, senior vice president and executive editor of Beliefnet.com and spent 17 years at the Washington Post and washingtonpost.com, where she led the company’s digital news operation until her departure in 2009.

Somali authorities arrested two journalists, one of them the victim of an alleged rape, on Wednesday in Mogadishu, the capital, and charged them with defamation in connection with a report on the alleged rape, according to news reports and local journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported Thursday.

"The family of US journalist James Foley, who today will mark the first anniversary of his disappearance in war-torn Syria, say they have not given up hope of welcoming him home," Agence France-Presse reported from Washington on Friday. "The freelancer, a five year veteran of combat reporting for outlets including GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse, is one of an estimated 30 journalists missing in Syria’s 32-month-old civil war. . . ."

"The South African government has warned that media outlets publishing photographs of President Jacob Zuma’s house face prosecution," Roy Greenslade wrote in his media blog for Britain’s Guardian newspaper. "State security minister Siyabonga Cwele said: ‘No one, including those in the media, are allowed to take images and publicise images.’ The ban on pictures follows a long-running controversy over Zuma’s residence in Nkandla, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is a huge compound, with a mini-football pitch, gym, helicopter pads, a tuck-shop for one of Zuma’s four wives and a pen for livestock. A scandal erupted when it was discovered that more than £12m [$19,436,200] of state funds was used to refurbish the property, prompting many media outlets to publish aerial shots of the property. . . ."

In Guinea, "One person died and 4 others sustained injuries on November 17, 2013, when police opened fire and tear gas on demonstrators who had gathered outside Planète FM — a privately-owned radio station," the Toronto-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House reported on Thursday. According to the Media Foundation for West Africa’s correspondent in the country, "the demonstrators — who were believed to be pro-opposition — went to the radio station’s premises after Mandjan Sidibé, director-general of Planète FM, made a distress call during a programme asking listeners to come to his aid. . . ."

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince’s Journal-isms" on Facebook.