Considerations on the N-Word

The injudicious use of which has led to Paula Deen being booted from the Food Network, never mind that she was speaking under oath, and is a lady of a certain age and of a background where the n-word was … well, I honestly can’t say how current was the use of that word back in Paula Deen’s early days. It’s certainly scattered generously all over 19th century literary works like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn like chocolate sprinkles on a frosted Krispy Kreme donut, and piled on by the handful in the 20th century oeuvre of rap artists and edgy comedians of color…

It’s a word that I don’t use, myself. The very first time I brought it home – in the first grade, I think, having heard it on the playground, Mom landed on me like a ton of bricks. I don’t think I actually got my mouth washed out with soap – Mom wasn’t that old-school – but the lesson came through loud and clear. The n-word was not to be used, ever. The fact that I had gotten to the first grade, or thereabouts and had never heard it is likely a strong indication of how generally it was frowned upon in middle-class and mid-century So-Cal suburbs anyway. Matter of fact, I can’t even bring myself to use it in writing my own books, where it would certainly be appropriate and historically correct. I just can’t – I have to smooth it out and write it as it might very well have sounded phonetically. No, the use of racial epithets was frowned upon, as being low-class, tacky, and rude at home – and in the military it was even more strictly verboten. So there you are – very likely I could swear honestly and truthfully to never having used the n-word, ever.

I’ve never been particularly a fan of her show or her cooking; too much fried and way, way too rich for my taste, but I might be willing to extend some indulgence to Paula Deen, being of certain age myself My daughter, though, is most definitely not inclined to indulgence, when it comes to the n-word, although I have repeatedly pointed out that the only people who seem to be able to wield it with impunity are the aforementioned rap artists and edgy comedians of non-pallor.

To judge from some of their output, if they couldn’t use it, there would go about a fifth of their vocabulary – but I digress. I only wish to point out the basic hypocrisy. If it is an ugly, demeaning and degrading term, then it ought to be across the board, without exception. One is reminded of how a certain kind of feminist wishes to reclaim the word ‘slut’ and proudly throws it about at slutwalks and such-like events, but comes totally unglued when the term is applied to say – Sandra Fluke, proud professional feminist.

So – circling back around to the original thought – Paula Deen dropped from the Food Channel for … essentially being honest, old-fashioned and perhaps consciously or unconsciously reflecting values of a different era and at somewhat at variance with the expected TV norms, and having the bad luck to be drawn into a legal imbroglio with a perhaps-vengeful former employee. One wonders … but I honestly don’t know enough about the case, or the people involved to venture any sort of opinion but this one; what if? (Firmly donning my tinfoil hat here…) What if the Food Network has established a preference for the young, urban, urbane and smoothly trendy metrosexual male chefs/restaurateurs or decorative young to young-ish and non-threatening of the female variety, and that would account for the rush to ditch Paula Deen, simply for the crime of being not-young, urban, urbane and smoothly trendy, etc.

If such is the case, I hope that Ree Drummond (rural, devout Christian, non-minority and home-schooling) has no skeletons in her metaphorical closet. Otherwise, she might very well be next on the chopping-block.

All academic to me, though – now that we have ditched cable and gone to a Roku box and a couple of paid subscriptions – but still food for thought, eh?

(Crossposted at

31 thoughts on “Considerations on the N-Word”

  1. I think people over reacted, or protested too much. The context of how words are used are important to the meaning. The use of the N word’s context is as noted and limited to the superficial of who is using it, not the meaning. A few female conservatives have been called the C word, which is also pretty vile, and no one gets fired, nor is the word outlawed. As Steven Pinker has noted, swearing and shock language is effective when used appropriately, it is cathartic. Having a gun pointed at you is legitimate.

    I cannot stand to be referred to as honey, sweetie or dear by strangers,yet it happens often. I know it is meant as an endearment. They are harmless people, and sometimes I answer back in kind. End of fake familiarity. People who know me well do not refer to me in those terms.

  2. I’m of Paula’s vintage but from a part of the country where I don’t recall hearing it until Mr. Edwards, the black man who cut our lawn, used it to describe some of the shiftless young men he tried to hire. I was admonished for hearing it as soon as we were out of his sight. Different times, different places.

  3. It is moments like this when I am glad I don’t have a TV — and I don’t know who Paula Deen is.

  4. Rap gangstas can say nigga, niggaz, nigs, whatever they damn well please, primarily because there’s boatloads of MONEY to be made by everyone involved. The fact that it’s obviously socially destructive is ignored by the “entertainment” industry because:
    1) Rap helps to keep blacks down, separate, dependent on government, and so voting reliably Democrat.
    2) Actors and entertainers are generally cowards, and only the rare exception would have the guts to try to discuss rap as a destructive social pathology. One of those exceptions is Bill Cosby, and he’s taken tremendous heat for his outspoken criticism.

    However, The Left – and here, the “entertainment” and “news” industries act the loyal Propaganda Ministries – work to maintain the fiction that, but not for them, blacks would be put into chains. They’ll help them destroy themselves and their communities on one hand, and pretend to defend their honor on the other.

    They can’t maintain the fiction with one of their own admitting she uses (or used) words like nigger. So out she goes.
    BTW, have you ever considered how much time and energy and money the “entertainment” and “news” industries expend stirring up racial tension and provoking violence and confrontation and riots? Who benefits? Who pays?

  5. I don’t care for her schtick, and don’t watch her; although I am a Food Channel regular [Grew up in restaurants, father was a chef, I’ve been a chef, wife’s father was a chef. We may be po’, but we eat good.] That said, there has to be something else behind this besides her having said a word that constitutes thoughtcrime unless you are ethnically or politically immunized.

    I would also note an addition to the hypocrisy. Paula Deen and her sons are known as hard core Democrats, and they made personal appearances for the Obama campaign and raised a LOT of money for him. As, I suspect did a number of southern Democrats of a far younger age than Paula Deen. And I will bet a plate of shrimp and grits that a whole bunch of them still use the evil word on a regular basis. And they get a pass on it.

    I am given to understand that her latest cookbook [something about cooking southern food “lite” *shudder*] has had a sudden upsurge in sales since she was dumped.

    Subotai Bahadur

  6. SB – yeah, I knew about that- Paula Deen being all for da One. So it is kind of curious as a sidelight – why is she so suddenly a media leper.

    Lex, if one of the ladies in my Red Hat group hadn’t been a fan – and with the latest imbroglio all over the media, I’d never known about her, either. Ree Drummond I do know about. Barefoot Contess I do know about – their recipes are good and every-day usable.

    Yes, indeedy, Mrs. Davis. Yes indeedy.

    Becky – all the time that I was on active duty, any man who called me ‘darling’, ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’ – I called them back as ‘sweet-cheeks’ or ‘honey-buns’ and they usually got the message. Alas – when I got to Texas and civilian life, they usually thought I was being flirtatious in response. Time for another response – sometimes an expression of frozen horror and disgust. More usually, I let it go. Custom of the country, at all that.

  7. So we have a man that sits in a pew every Sunday for 20 years listening to a blatantly racist preacher ends up becoming President. And a woman, raised in the ’50s south having a private conversation with her husband 27 years ago used against her to destroy her life. And that was because a black kid robbed her. The world is truly fucked up.

  8. “Oh, so you’re that guy.”

    I so totally want to be that guy. I need to work on the facial hair.

  9. I had never heard of her either until my wife (Fox News fan that she is) just pointed the whole issue out to me.

    The only things I can recall watching on Food Channel are Iron Chef (Morimoto!) and Guy Fieri touring diners and dives. I’m not a regular viewer at all, but from what I have seen it seemed to me that they were leaning less towards urbane sophistication and more to the extreme and in-your-face.

  10. Growing up in West Texas in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I can tell you use of that word was very very common, almost always in reference to low-lifes. Use of it to refer to a hard working law abiding black was very much frowned upon. I can guarantee that was probably true almost everywhere in the southern states, and from talking to my Yankee in-laws in Illinois, it seemed to be up there also.

  11. I grew up in west Texas in the ’60s and ’70s. I heard the word occasionally, generally as a term of general disparagement, except from the one racist I knew who used it to refer to specific people and peoples. No, let me correct that—the one white-skinned, anti-black racist I knew. The non-white racists hated blacks and hated me as well. They used a term from their own language to describe blacks, not the English term.

    In my life I have heard terms of racial hatred against blacks less than against my own people, and the term in question fewer times in real life than in music or reel life. One recent film alone contains the term more often in two hours than I have heard in fifty years.

  12. ErisGuy,

    What part of West Texas are you from? I grew up in the huge metropolis of Garden City and it’s suburb St. Lawrence (Glasscock County)

  13. Back in the ’60s a Black friend said of a white friend, “She can call me ____ anytime of the day.” Not that I ever risked saying it to her, however.

    I substituted and later taught at a poverty level 3% white school- the rest split between Blacks and Hispanics. I heard the word rather often. One time, when I was writing down some transgression of a student on my clipboard, the student said, “I hate white people.” His grandmother took care of him, as both his parents were in prison. Overall, his behavior was not that bad- definitely improved from the beginning of the school year- and he was a decent student. There were definitely more problematic students in the class- though the more problematic students tended to be his friends. I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. Which may be one example of why I didn’t last as a teacher.

  14. “Racism” isn’t going to go away, simply because it is a very profitable game for a lot of people who don’t want to do the work involved in making an honest living. It is useful for minorities , but even more more for “Progressives” who can feel self righteous. Invoking “Racism” is the perfect way to blame others for one’s own failure and maybe extort a little something in the deal. My wife and some friends teach or have taught in”urban environments” ( love that euphemism ) and they think their charges have discovered that they can behave like slobs and get away with it. And they are right,to the extent that “intellectuals” aggrandize themselves by excusing destructive thinking and behavior. In the end,however they are mascots (Sowell’s word) for the political class.

    Want to end racism? Don’t allow gov’t agencies or courts to classify people in that way. Don’t force people to hire incompetents to meet quotas.Allow people to associate freely.

    I do remember being called “Kike”,when I worked in the Postal service. Had I called her a “Nigger”in return I might have gotten fired. Some words are more equal than others. Remember, it is only a word that people have been allowed to weaponize.

    We treat race the way Victorians treated sex.That’s not healthy.

  15. In rural Washington state 60 years ago, I almost never heard the word — except as part of another name for Brazil nuts.

    No doubt that was because race was almost irrelevant there, with very few minorities. (Almost. There was one interesting exception: Many of us boys thought that some Indian blood, 1/4 or 1/8, was desirable because it would make us more courageous. I’ve often wondered whether that belief was common in other parts of the United States.)

    Florence King has had some interesting to say about the subject.

    Lexington Green – For many years, I did not have a TV set. Even now, I don’t have cable or a satellite connection, but I am still a little embarrassed that I do watch TV an hour or two a day.

    A few years ago, I saw a study of people who don’t have TVs. They were, according to the study, very smart, principled, and more than a little eccentric. The last certainly applies to me — and I’ll leave it to others to say whether the first two do, as well.

  16. You know what’s really funny? As of the time of this posting Paula Deen’s next cookbook, “Paula Deen’s New Testament”, not set for release until October, is Amazon’s #1 top-seller. All pre-orders.

    According to Instapundit, it was #4 as of last night.

    Hey, maybe it’s rope-a-dope for the Deens to earn even more money to contribute to Democrats!!

  17. Renminbi,

    We treat race the way Victorians treated sex.

    Thank you! That’s going on my short list of political and cultural aphorisms.

  18. The cookbook hitting the top spot on Amazon – now that is some all-clad irony for you. I wonder if a lot of people are thinking, “ah, s***w it, it’s not fair, ganging up on an older lady for something she did or said, or said that she said how many years ago – I’m gonna buy her damn cookbook!” Reminds me rather of the Chic-Fil-A appreciation day.

    And it certainly is another irony that she is an Obama supporter. Layers within layers.

  19. My family didn’t use the word, nor my neighbors or friends at school. Not ever. Nothing could induce me to use it. I don’t care if it’s sometimes used ironically or for shock value by black comedians. It’s not the same context at all if I use it. I’d as soon engage in anti-Semitism, another possibility that has been absolutely 100% out of bounds for me for my entire life.

  20. Mike K “The Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case is a treasure house of racism gone wild. Yesterday was precious that way.”

    Yes. Let’s use that testimony as a starting point for a “national conversation about race.” Just what fraction of American blacks DO routinely engage in racist speech? Not exactly the “national conversation” that Obama and Eric Holder want, though, because it’s not one in which we passively submit to their hectoring.

  21. The trial scene was sad as an indicator of the education level of urban blacks. How are these people supposed to get jobs and support themselves ?

    I deal with many black foreign students in medical school. I also examine applicants to the military. I don’t see this sort of behavior in either group. One young man I interviewed a month or two ago had something like 12 half siblings and he said he didn’t care if he ever saw any of them again. He was 25 and going into the army. He was a little rough around the edges, no prep school product but light years beyond that girl. He is making a very good choice for himself and I wish him well.

    Another young man I interviewed a couple of months ago is from Uganda. Well spoken and articulate. He wants eventually to go to medical school. We had a nice conversation about the problems of Africa. These kids are from another planet than Trayvon and friends.

  22. Michael Kennedy “The trial scene was sad as an indicator of the education level of urban blacks. How are these people supposed to get jobs and support themselves?”

    Riot. Murder. Demand reparations and quotas.

  23. Look at the commentary for

    There are a lot of comments excusing this sad specimen,many from self-professed “white” women. Would they excuse this coming from a Caucasian? A great twofer though, since they get to condescend to blacks and feel superior to most “whites” as well. With people like this around, there will always be “Racism” around since they need blacks as Mascots (Thomas Sowell’s word).

  24. “Riot. Murder. Demand reparations and quotas.”

    I’m not there yet but getting close. I was raised by a black woman, our nursemaid. She lived with us from the time my sister was born in 1941. She lived to the age 95 and died in a Catholic nursing home. My sister took care of her until she died. She lived long enough to hold my youngest daughter who is now 23.

    I know this doesn’t count as leftists only consider such family retainers as little better than slaves. She converted to Catholicism because we were Catholic. She was very dismissive of the young punks she saw in Chicago. Her family owned property in Georgia and she had worked as a nursemaid since age 16. We were her last family and she came to us at age 40. In her later years, she had a small apartment in Hyde Park. The young man (black) who managed the local supermarket liked her and helped us to stock her freezer with frozen food so she need never go out except for a few things.

    She was literate although not well educated. Certainly, she was far from that young woman who testified in the Zimmerman trial. We have lost a lot.

  25. “The N-word”??? WTH?

    “Nigger” That’s the word. Starts with N, follow up with an i, then double down on the gees, close out with a good errrr. Rhymes with “Tigger”, only not as bouncy.

    What are you all, children at Hogwarts? Fearful that He Who Must Not Be Named will come and steal your soul? Go ahead, say it. “Nigger”. It won’t hurt you. If you need to ease into it, just start a discussion of Huck Finn and the role of Nigger Jim in the story. Perhaps saying it may trigger a massive wave of white guilt, but if so, best you deal with that false guilt rather than have your very soul deadened by PC.

    Apparently, what has happened to Deen is thought by most here to be a travesty.

    So why do most of you continue to acquiesce to the paradigm of her tormentors? You cannot even bring yourselves to use the word “nigger” in a discussion of the word, so thoroughly have you surrendered to the totalitarians.

  26. Just perhaps, BikerDad, we all recall the firestorm regarding use of the wholly unrelated word “niggardly” and how that worked out for the people who inadvertently used it, meaning no insult or reference to our very own dear African-American citizens (or what is the nom du jour, now – persons of color? Is it still Black, with a cap-B?). I think I have done my job in pointing out the relative hypocrisy. And besides, I can still taste the soap that Mom might have used.

    I don’t propose to be the one to walk out in front and get shot at first – that’s the officer’s job. Sir.

  27. hey Sarge, “Sergeants” are non-commissioned OFFICERS, right? I’m just aksin….

    Seriously though, the “here and no more” has to start somewhere. I, for one, have worked to banish ” the N-Word ” euphemism from my repetoire. If an occasion arises where “nigger” is appropriate, such as discussing the use of the word “nigger”, then that’s what I’ll use.

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