Paula Deen and “the N-word”
That’s why I’m bothered by the way news outlets and even court documents in Paula Deen's case refer to her use of “the N-word.” When we see or hear “the N-word” (or “a racial epithet”) instead of the blatantly offensive word “nigger,” we are sanitizing the racism that is a very real and very disturbing part of life in America today. We are shielding ourselves from the ugliness of racism.
I’m also bothered by the double-standard being used in news reporting on “the N-word.” When NPR, the New York Times, and other news media report on the homophobic activities of Westboro Baptist Church and other hate groups, they quote the signs and phrases that are used by such groups, such as “God Hates Fags.” They don’t refer to “God Hates F-words” signs.
I’m reminded of how one of the contributing factors in the ending of the Vietnam War was TV news. For the first time in history, everyday people removed from the battlefields saw the horrors of war on a daily basis, broadcast into their living rooms. War was no longer an abstraction from which they were removed; they could see its reality and its ugliness as they ate their dinner. Public opinion against the war increased. Perhaps if we stopped distancing ourselves from the ugliness of racism by censoring its offensive vocabulary, we could help increase public opinion against racism – or at least against the “acceptability” of racism in the kind of jokes Paula Deen tried to defend in her court deposition.