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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Just Letters, Just Sound

Amidst all the uproar over President Obama's utterance of "the N-word" on Marc Maron's podcast, one extremely salient point seems to be getting lost: As Gayle King pointed out on last night's "Nightly Show," the president did not use the n-word; he said it.  This is a more-than academic difference.  It's the difference, for example, between my calling someone a kike and pointing out that the word "kike" is an anti-Jewish slur, used by Nazis, skinheads, and other troglodytes.  Not only is my use of the word not meant to be offensive--it is not offensive.  Period.  It is a word offered to provide explanation, a word separated from its meaning, a signifier divorced from its signified.

Hearing the word--the k-word, the n-word--may certainly provide a jolt, but so would hearing a car backfire.  And the president's use of the word in that context was exactly as offensive as a backfiring car would be.  Which is to say, not at all.

1 comment:

  1. What you are seeing here, is the typical Republican/Media response to any topic they REALLY don't want to discuss.
    Instead of treating the SUBJECT of Obama's remarks, the discussion becomes about HOW he may have said something.
    Of course you are completely correct in what you are saying about his use of the word. But the question still is: Why is that even being discussed?

    Also: And this is NOT unrelated, There was a big to-do about a poll that the media covered as defining a complete split amongst people about the confederate (I refuse to capitalize it) flag. 49% (said the media) regard it as racist; 49% regard it as a tribute to southern heritage.
    Not one commentator noted that this means that 98% of the respondents regard it as exactly the same thing!