According to the African American Registry, a non-profit educational organization, the n-word endures because it is used over and over again, even by the people it insults.
The question is how do we go about eradicating, deflating, or taking power from that word which is so ingrained in American culture? Or should we simply let it be and deal with it in our own individual way?
Industry icon, Norman Lear who brought us such shows as “Sanford and Son” (1972 – 1977) “Good Times,” (1974 – 1979) and “The Jefferson’s” (1975 – 1985) and Jerrod Carmichael, actor, and producer of “Meet the Carmichaels” a sitcom going into its third season on NBC, think they may have the answer.
Recently, The Hollywood Reporter shared with readers Lear’s n-word chat on his podcast show, “All of the Above,” where Carmichael had the opportunity to talk about his plans to incorporate the n-word into his sitcom.
Carmichael, Lear and co-host Paul Hipp spoke about the word, which the three of them believe only increases the divide in society.
Here is an excerpt from the Podcast:
“Wouldn’t it be better if the word…was available?” said Lear. “Making it the worst thing that could ever happen, so that nobody can say anything but the ‘n-word’ —isn’t that a curse on the word and communication?”
Carmichael: “It’s a curse on the word and childish, and does more harm than good. People think the intention is it’s stopping hatred, but it doesn’t stop hatred and it doesn’t stop, you know, painful language…What it does is preserve a word and make it more dangerous…If we free the word then, perhaps, it will be less dangerous and you won’t feel the need to fight the person who says it.”
Hipp: “Take the power away.”
Carmichael: “Exactly. Take the power away from it.”
The trio decides to say the n-word in unison during the podcast but not before Hipp questioned Carmichael about his intentions of incorporating it.
Hipp: “Did you have to fight for that episode, to be able to say it?”
Carmichael: “It’s some pushback. It’s some concern, but we say it with the best intention. It’s always for the sake of discussion, you know, and that’s what’s fun about this format, is that it’s for the sake of discussion. We want to talk about it, and we want to talk about why you should use it at times and why you shouldn’t use it, and it’s a pretty balanced argument…I’m really excited that I’m here for this groundbreaking.”
Lear, Carmichael, Hipp: “Nier.”
Carmichael: “By the way, that may be one of the greatest moments of my life…I think we’ve done so much for race relations in that moment. A couple of people are angry. Good for them, though. I hope a couple people got angry, and I hope more people felt enlightened.”
In an interview, former President Barack Obama used the ‘n-word’ when he talked about the debates over race and guns that had erupted after the arrest of a White man in the racially motivated shooting deaths of nine Black church members in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nier in public,” Obama said in an interview for the podcast WTF with Marc Maron. “That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
The president uttering a racial slur aloud stirred controversy, especially on social media, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest said later that wasn’t surprising.
Obama didn’t plan in advance to use the word to be provocative, Earnest said, but was simply making a point during a casual, free-flowing interview. He said he didn’t recall ever hearing the president say the racial slur aloud before, but noted that it did appear in his book, “Dreams from My Father.”
In the 21st century, it remains a principal term of White racism, regardless of who is using it. The use of the word or its alternatives used by Blacks have not lessened its hurt. This is not surprising in a racial hierarchy four centuries old, shaping the historical relationship between European Americans and African Americans. Anti-Black attitudes, motives, values, and behavior continue. Historically, the n-word, more than any other word, captures the personal hatred and institutionalized racism directed toward Blacks.
For more information regarding the history of the n-word and its impact on American culture go to aaregistry.org.