Can You Buy The N-Word?
This isn’t a post to justify saying the n-word. So relax. While driving in the car the other day a song came on the radio that was edited so you didn’t hear the dreaded word. And I got to thinking – Is it OK for me, a typical suburban white man, to sing along to every lyric in a song, that includes that word?
The only time you hear that word is in songs or movies anymore. If it’s in a movie it’s to let you know that whoever said it is really really racist and white, or a gangsta. But in songs, it’s used in choruses, verses and sometimes even the persons name. If you are an artist, and I use that term loosely since we are talking about rap here, don’t you want your song replayed and memorized and sang along to? I would think so.
There is a scene in Office Space where Michael Bolton is stuck in traffic singing along to his CD. When he sees a black guy walking down the street, he turns the song down and is quiet – because of the content and the n-word is involved. After the guy passes he turns the song back up and starts singing along again. And I am pretty sure that’s how 90% of people would handle that situation. But he paid money for the CD, obviously is a fan, is making that artist money – but can he really sing along to all of the lyrics? I know I don’t turn my Cher or Backstreet Boys CD’s down or quit singing along when my gay friends walk by. . .
You know how every now and then someone will let something incredibly racist slip and immediately follow it up with ‘It’s OK, I have black/gay/Jewish friends’? Ever noticed how the friends they are referring to are never there? But if this was true – are there little sub-groups going around granting permission to use certain words? I doubt it. Because otherwise you would have heard a white rapper use the word by now. And that is why I am almost positive you can’t sing the word out loud.
(Now remember I was born and raised in Utah) I believe that my generation is far enough removed from the origins and conflicts up til the 60’s when that word had it’s most power in the hurtful and derogatory connotations. This generation has no experience in the Civil War, race wars, riots, affirmative action, segregation. . . I only know of that from history books. I had to watch All In The Family to learn about that word.
So growing up with that context, and all of the money you have ever paid for a song or movie with that word – can you say it along with them either quoting or singing it? I know it is silly and pointless because obviously you never would, but I find it odd that are things out there that you can buy, own, produce, support and publicly play – but you are not allowed to say.
I like to imagine in the 90’s during an N.W.A. concert as everyone is singing along, that when that word comes up each time in a song, the noise from the crowd dropped in half just for a beat then got loud again after the word was gone. So you know what? The NAACP has the best idea. Bury the word. Everybody bury it. That solves the singing along problem and any accidental incidents at concerts. You don’t want to be singing along to the Chronic or Doggy Style (it’s been almost 20 years since those albums came out) and hear the proverbial record scratch to silence as you forgot to not sing one word. Even though most of us haven’t lived through or experienced the hurt or power from that word, it still exists to some and should be buried.
To answer the question – Just like roofies, nuclear bombs, denim jackets and Nickelback albums – you can buy them, but you should never use them.