Will Drama Over the N-Word Ever Go Away?
From Chevy Chase's on-set rant to Sharmeka Moffitt's case, the slur still manages to stir the pot.
But I have to wonder if the writers would have heard him otherwise. I get it -- Community is about highlighting the mundane nature of life with characters who aren't even aware of their neuroses, awkwardness or incompetence when it comes to their professions. Even if that is the premise of the show, where do we draw the line between humor and bad taste?
That is the challenge. Too many people use the n-word exactly as it was intended -- as hate speech. In Moffitt's constructed reality, we witnessed the impact of the n-word, especially when invoking it to allegedly falsify a hate crime.
At the very least, society has to weigh whether it is worth pretending that the n-word has less weight than it does or to deal with the consequences of what happens when the word is used with the power with which it is imbued. Do we want to continue to help fuel a culture of hate?
If words actually hurt and language is powerful, then why do we continue to take chances with the n-word, whether it's Chase using it to prove a point or Moffitt allegedly using it as part of some sort of elaborate hoax? When will people stop inflicting the injurious nature of the n-word on themselves and others?
The answer is that no one wants to take responsibility for the real-world consequences of the use of the n-word, which is why folks continue using it, even when trying to make a point against the use of it. These recent acts speak volumes about how problematic the term remains, whatever the circumstance.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.