If you haven’t seen this clip from "The View," please watch this:
There are two problems with this conversation.
The first problem is with the "N-Word" itself.
Let’s be clear, folks. Words have different meanings in different contexts. The late George Carlin was a genius at pointing this out in his comedy routines, but the fact is, there aren’t many words in the English language that always have negative connotations, simply by existing. I know we have a tendency to imbue certain words with such meanings, but the fact of the matter is, context is everything.
One of the things Ms. Hasselbeck seemed genuinely shocked about is the fact that blacks and whites in this country have separate cultures. I’ll get a little more into this in a bit, but seriously; what planet is she living on again?
Yes, we have come a long way from where we were in this country. And
yes, with the very possible election of Barack Obama as president this
November, people in this country are demonstrating a continuing ability
to move beyond the injustices of the past. But come on; does anyone actually believe that we can all just turn off the racist spigot and live in peace and harmony forever more?
It seems to come as a shock to many white people that the United States really isn’t a "melting pot" when it comes to black people. They seem shocked and genuinely pissed off at the prospect that blacks have developed their own culture separate from whites. Well, let me clue you in a little, folks; the separation happened a long time ago, and at the instigation of white people. Blacks were held as slaves for 250 years, and for another century after that was outlawed, we made sure they kept as far away from us as possible, culturally speaking. Why would anyone be shocked that they would develop their own music, their own way of speaking, and their own culture, separate from whites? I just turned 50 recently, and I still remember seeing the remnants of "separate but equal" when I went to the beach as a young child and could see where the word "coloreds" had been painted over on a bath house door. A few years back, I had to research classified ads in newspapers from 1963, which really isn’t all that long ago, and pretty much all of the real estate ads had the designations "colored only" or "whites only." How could anyone be shocked that such circumstances led to the development of separate cultures?
The histories of whites and blacks are separate, whether you like the idea or not. Therefore, when a white person uses the "n-word," the word itself has a different context than when blacks use it. When a white person uses it, he or she is trying to assume power over someone. When a black person uses it, they are taking the word back, in a way.
That said, there is a very vigorous discussion in the black community about the use of the "n-word," and there are several diverging viewpoints on its use. But that is a discussion for blacks, and I don’t have a place in that discussion, because I’m white. I won’t use it, and it royally pisses me off when a white person uses it to refer to anyone. When a black person uses it, it just doesn’t have the same impact.
Now, I said there’s another aspect to this conversation that has been bothering me all day, and it goes to the problem of having any kind of argument or heated discussion with anyone on the far right.
I have nothing personal against Elizabeth Hasselbeck; I’ve never met her. But the fact that she cried in frustration at not being able to understand this issue speaks to the problem with far right wingers, and their inability to even attempt to understand nuance. Her frustration didn’t stem from the fact that she wanted to use the word, which I’m quite sure she never would, and it didn’t even stem from the reality that some people get to use the word, and others simply do not. No, her frustration came from the fact that she simply could not get an absolute declaration from everyone that the word is simply bad, and that’s all there is to it.
This is why it’s impossible to argue with a right winger, and why they should not be allowed to run our government ever again. They can only see things in terms of black and white; gray nuance isn’t even conceivable to a right winger. They simply have to have a simple answer to everything; everything they deal with has to either be good, or bad; relativity isn’t even a possibility.
Think about it; they have been told the "n-word" is racist and bad and that white people shouldn’t say it, Therefore, it can’t be acceptable for anyone to say it, right? Well, to a right winger, that has to be true. If all people are going to be equal, then none of us can say that word.
Think about it; this is the same attitude that has permeated government during the last eight years, and why we are in such desperate shape. When it comes to foreign policy, all other countries are placed into either the "good" or the "bad" category, and they can only be moved from one to the other; they can’t simply migrate slowly from one category to another. Libya started the decade in the "bad" category, and simply promising to be a better country, they were immediately moved into the "good" category. Iran, too, is squarely in the "bad" category, despite the fact that they were enormously supportive of the United States after 9/11, and they were enormously helpful in assisting us in routing the Taliban in Afghanistan after that. Cuba is a "bad" country no matter what, while China and Russia are always in the "good" category, no matter what they do.
When it comes to domestic policy, everything "market-based" is automatically "good," and government doing anything is automatically bad. Thus, we’re in the economic mess we’re in. See, "markets" will always straighten things out, while government regulation is always "bad."
This whole "black/white" way of thinking is the number one reason why we have to stop giving right wingers equal time in the national debate; their inability to comprehend nuance or irony makes it impossible for them to debate intelligently. And we have to stop letting them have the government keys. It’s not possible to run anything competently, if you’re not able to see variations from what you consider to be the "norm."