This debate is so tired. Who can and can’t use the n-word? Is it ever appropriate to use? Why do some black folks get to use it, but white people can’t? And what if you’re Latino or Asian, can you get away with using it?
Paula Deen, the Savannah, GA food maven, is the latest celebrity to find herself in a pot of boiling hot water.
Call it foot in mouth disease.
In a deposition to gather evidence for a lawsuit filed by one of Deen’s employees, Deen admitted using the N-word way back in the day.
I was 5 when someone first called me the N-word. I was among the first students to attend a Catholic school kindergarten in Winchester, KY. Even the nuns couldn’t protect us from the hate we experienced.
The word would be hurled at me again in my early 20s. A young man in a truck decided he didn’t like the way I was crossing across a Stein Mart parking lot, so he fired the N-word in my direction. I smiled and kept on walking. My blood was boiling but I knew better than to get into an altercation in a parking lot.
Fast forward 30 years and I no longer feel a certain way about the word. Books and dissertations have been written on it. Back in the 50s and 60s the N-word was often accompanied by racial violence. Even Jay Z and Oprah have sparred over it. Jay believes that when blacks use the word its power is diminished. If you listen to Oprah the word should never be used by anyone, under any circumstances. There’s just too much baggage there.
Me, I don’t much care anymore. To be sure, words matter. But deeds matter more.
If people have a problem with Paula Deen using the N-word and treating African-American employees badly, perhaps they should consider boycotting her products and services. That will surely get the Queen of Butter’s attention.
If she doesn’t have the good sense to protect the empire she’s spent years building, I really don’t care what she says.