Just like most thoughtful Americans, white, black, or some color in between, we have a problem with the "N-Word." We personally don't use it. Never heard it bandied about the house when growing up. So it comes as no surprise when anybody with a brain and a heart to go along with it gets bent out of shape when they hear one of their state reps has used it repeatedly. Florida House Republican Ralph Arza admits doing it and, like Mel Gibson's recent tirade against Jews, blames it on alcohol since none of them have a prejudiced bone in their bodies. Gibson can make amends in Hollywood by making sure his next film is a hit at the box office because money always trumps morality there. Arza's got a bigger problem. Unless he can singlehandedly reduce taxes, create affordable health insurance and housing, and make all schools "A" schools tomorrow, he will most likely find himself shunned in Tallahassee by his collegues and the public in general. And rightly so.
The N-Word will always be America's most sensitive noun. Thanks to our history, it will follow us where ever we go the rest of our lives-- just like "Holocaust" and "Nazi" stalk the Germans. It's America's own private bugaboo, always lurking in the dark behind our backs ready to pounce at the first opportunity to embarrass our public and private selves; to make us see the truth about ourselves, that no matter how much we want to be, Will Rogers we'll never be.
To get a sense what kind of power the word has over us, even Howard Stern, the planet's champion of the profane and man's baser instincts, would dare not use it on his radio show. Unless, of course, he might be interviewing a rap star. In that case, the word's strength is weakened and somehow made more acceptable with a gangsta rappers intonation: nigga.
So why then does our politically and socially sensitive country turn its judgemental gaze away when rap stars use it repeatedly in their songs? Why is that tolerated? Why aren't people up in arms about that-- especially when those songs are making the rappers filthy rich while poisoning the minds of their legions of fans? White guys have little or no street cred with rappers, especially old white guys in positions of power. That leaves it to black America to speak up. Aside from Bill Cosby, who has railed against the N-Word and the bankrupt culture gangsta rap glorifies, who else has? Has Oprah? Reverends Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or Run? Loud and long enough to be heard? Where is their collective national voice? Could it be liberal political correctness and the desire to appear hip supercedes speaking out? Why is it we only see and hear them when a white bigot uses the word? Silence implies a double standard, that it's okay for "us" to use the word, but don't try to drop one of them bombs on us if you're white. If anyone has an answer, would you please let us know?
Yes, we're all for staging press conferences and getting behind a microphone to show our contempt or to issue a statement that records our disgust like politicians have done in the last couple of days. But we'd really be impressed if they could muster a modicum of that collective public distate and channel it toward the bigger danger of gangsta rap where the N-Word flourishes unrepentant.