Now it is The Hon.
To quote Marc Morial, president of the
Why not use the word or not use it -- instead of dancing around it? Authors from Mark Twain to
Some of us can remember back when n----- was just a common, and I mean common, synonym for black people and nothing more, though our folks tried to teach us better. At the same time, we could recognize when the word was being used as just a hateful epithet, too. As when speaking out against racial segregation and being called a "n------lover" for it, or maybe A Traitor to Your Race.
The first time another boy called me that I could only look at him blankly. It was in grammar school after I'd made an offhand comment about how it was time to let the "colored" kids go to school with us, not thinking much about it. Traitor to my race? Whatever race this kid belonged to, I didn't want to belong to it. But the haters have their own politically correct speech code, and the same way to enforce it: by trying to bully others.
That was about the first time I realized that there was a simple way to handle bullies: Just stand up to them. And like this kid, they'd shrink away.
Now it's anybody who'd dare say the word n----- who's fair game for bullies of a separate but equally repressive persuasion. Quite aside from violating their fellow citizens' freedom of speech, that kind of censorship violates the very spirit of the ever-adaptable English language. Words are not simple things, and simply banning or allowing them with no consideration for the context in which they're uttered ignores the wonderful variety of connotations in the capacious English language -- connotations good, bad and otherwise.
Me, I've got a copy of the only speech code I'll ever need hanging on the wall of my office at home. It's beautifully embroidered and simply framed, a gift from a fellow editorial writer. It consists of only 45 words, and is called the First Amendment to the Constitution of
All the rest is commentary, and a wealth of it -- judicial interpretations, legislative enactments, heated debates -- has sprung from those 45 words over the years, and more doubtless will in the future. But those definitive words should remain as they were written -- sacred and inviolate -- and not be replaced by some simplicity like: Thou shalt not say n-----.
That simplistic prohibition isn't just an assault on freedom of speech; it's arrogance compounded by ignorance. The two do have a way of going together. As they did in the current brouhaha over the president's use of the verboten word. Besides, don't these people realize that banning a word only gives it more power?
This is scarcely the first time
Welcome to America, circa 2015: confused and confusing. While all the time the words of the First Amendment are right there. If we would only see them.