Friday, 8 June 2007

That 'N' Word

THE SETTING - White, middle class, 19 year old student Emily, Black contestant Charley & Asian Nicky dancing in the garden of the Big Brother house.

Emily to Charley dancing - You pushing it out you nigger.
Nicky - I can't believe you said that.
Charley - You are in trouble.
Emily - Don't make a big thing out of it then. I was joking.
Charley - I know you were ... but that's some serious shit, sorry.
Emily - Why?
Nicky - Just don't talk about it anymore.
Emily - I was joking

Emily - I'm friendly with plenty of black people.
Nicky - And you call them niggers?
Emily - Yeah and they call me niggers. They call me wiggers as well.
Nicky - I'm quite shocked.
Charley - I'm fucking in shock.
Emily - It's not a big deal though is it?

Naive? Innocent comment? Racist? Ignorant? A product of street culture? Over-reaction? String her up? Acceptable today?


The Fez Monkey said...

Ignorance blended with a complete oblivious nature and a burning desire to be cool which overrides the normal process of common sense.

What should happen to her? Nothing. At least nothing external. Her experience with how the others are treating her should be enough. If this little girl has even half a mind, she will take the reaction she receives and internalize it to understand that her behavior was unacceptable.

What she ought to do is simply apologize for the unintended offense and shut up. Trying to explain herself, or trying to justify it by using her other black friends just makes her look incredibly stupid.

But them what do I know.

Ook ook

Paula said...

I was brought up to view the word as horribly offensive, so I have a hard time with its use in friendship or joking, though I understand how that came about. As a white person, I'd never use it, even if all my black friends assured me it was okay. I'm not the person to say whether or not any particular use is offensive, though if I must, I would say that it seems in this case there was no malice intended. But it still makes me cringe.

Here's Dr Zen's take on it.

Anonymous said...

It's a dumb word and I don't know why ANYONE would want to use it, so I won't try to defend her. On the other hand, I see the "You can say the word if you're THIS color, but you can't if you're THAT color" thing to be just another form of racism.

It's all bad.

The Little Cheese said...

Agree with Joe. I would never use the word, it is not in my vocabulary... it is offensive - to quote another BB housemate 'end of'.

But I do tire of yet another 'BB race row'.

The real horror of racism in this country is action and discrimination. It is this that should be acted upon, not some word uttered by an ignorant teen.

Falling on a bruise said...

I agree with all of you and the only defence she could possibly have is ignorance althopugh i find it hard to believe that she has gone 19 years and not once been told that this is such an offnesive word.
The fact that her reasoning was that all her friends say it and she didn't think it was that big a deal is quite shocking.
I also tire of BB and the constant stream of controvery little cheese but it really does throw up some very good debatable social issues.
You really should post more Fez monkey because i am lucky enough to have a good bunch of blogs bookmarked who give a wide range of intelligent views on matters and i include you in that list but we do not see enough of it on your blog.

Deadman said...

So if Emily says "nigger" out of ignorance, is the utterance of the word still racist, or do we give her a pass because she's "ignorant"?

Anonymous said...

Well, since racism IS ignorant, I wouldn't really call it much of a pass. If she's telling the truth and not just trying to weasel, the best I can say for her is she hangs with a shoddy crowd.

~*~Snappz~*~ said...

Nothing is ever black and white (No pun intended) - maybe she meant it in a racist way, maybe she didn't - no one will know but her. In this culture everyone makes exucses to cover behaviour that isn't well received.

Deadman said...

Snappz - It would appear that she did not mean it in a racist way, but merely out of ignorance since she probably hears peers using the word as is done these days in certain circles. So the question remains, do we say, "Oh gee, that person just doesn't know any better", or do we say, "Yo, bitch, you're a racist for using that word?"

Tough call but I say call it what it is and let the person HOPEFULLY learn a hard lesson and step back and look at their behavior.

Of course some people are incapable of doing just that because, well golly, it just isn't nice to point out when people are being shitheads.

Cheezy said...

Double standards abound with this issue, naturally... For example, I'm willing to bet anyone who says the word "faggot" in the house won't get in anything like as much trouble.

And of course, there's the old chestnut that it's acceptable that black people say this word, but not white people.

Now, I'm white, and I really don't think I'm missing out on much if I don't say this word. I'm fine with it. And it doesn't bother me if black people say it either. Why should it?

Does this state of affairs honestly bother other white people?

Really? Shucks.

Notwithstanding all of that, how stupid is this girl? I mean, really... everyone in the world knows how hypersensitve Channel 4 would be to any signs of racism after they got raked over the coals (and fined) after that last series... Sheesh.

And notwithstanding all of that, is anyone still watching Big Brother? Everyone I know hates this kinda stuff nowadays...

hema said...

cheezy makes a good point. i'm just wondering of it would have been more acceptable if charly herself had used this word.

Falling on a bruise said...

If we are being charitable and give her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't know how offensive the word was, i think she is in no doubt now. That is a good thing and hopefully people who also claim they didn't know, as in her excuse, have also been bought up to speed.

O' Tim said...

little cheese wrote: The real horror of racism in this country is action and discrimination. It is this that should be acted upon, not some word uttered by an ignorant teen.

E-fuckin-xactly. As Dr. Zen put it, "Racists cannot be engaged if all we ask is that they don't use this word or that."

Words have no inherent power - that comes chiefly from the abundance of the heart and some in the delivery. I have no desire to use the word, and I can't say that I'm offended by the culture that has seen fit to reclaim the word as a badge of recognition for themselves. But in concert with decrying its usage elswhere, I believe that creates a set back of likely many years in the quest for equality.

Courtney Hamilton said...

What Emily Parr said is no real big deal - what I thought was really offensive was the way Big Brother dragged Emily out of bed at 3am in the morning, only to lecture her, and by extension all of us veiwers about what constitutes good language and appropriate behaviour.

My word, C4 even kicked the girl out before she could brush her teeth and get her knickers back on. The thing is, there's nothing wrong with what Emily said, we all know that white middle-class kids like to chat ghetto stylee sometimes - and everyone here knows that Emily had no hate in her heart against black people when she said nigger.

It appears what we're witnessing is the elevation of what was just loose banter into some kind of moral parable. Indeed, I remember Charley saying that it 'wasn’t racist so don’t get the wrong end of the fucking stick yeah' - but that hasn't stop people from getting the wrong end of the stick.

The way this story has been overhyped-up by C4 and the rest of the media, you'd think that Emily had just delivered Enoch Powell's 'river of blood' speech.

Falling on a bruise said...

After Channel 4 were reprimanded over the race row in celebrity BB, they were always going to come down hard on anthing that could be taken as racist.
It was the fact that she felt comfortable just dropping it into conversation while talking to a black girl infront of millions of people that i found amazing.