Friday, June 08, 2007

Wha's up, ma nooks?

You know mah niggas, it's a bad thing when we lose sight of what harms and start hanging each other for shibboleths.

It is not a sign of progress; it's a diminishment of the real issue. When someone is kicking someone else's teeth in because they're a "nigger", that's a concern. When some silly posh tart calls a black woman -- who doesn't care -- "nigger" because that's what the girls do back home, that's not.

Of course some will be "offended".

Channel 4's action was welcomed by the Commission for Racial Equality.

No organisation has done less for racial equality in the UK than the CRE. It is so heavily focused on making the news that it loses sight of the real issues. Everything it does is done with an eye to the (very famous) American black activists, who have achieved public recognition through outrage. I'm not saying that using a bit of well-timed hysteria to grab a platform is a bad thing. I'm all for it. But it's what you do when you have it that matters. In the CRE's case, particularly in the days of that horrible Uncle Tom, Trevor Phillips, it uses it to snivel.

"The n-word is offensive," said Nick Johnson, the CRE's director of policy and public sector.

Yeah okay. We all know that it is. The girl probably doesn't realise that whatever her crowd does, it's not acceptable on national TV.

I think it's more complicated than "it's offensive", because it is a word that has been "reclaimed". In groups of mixed friends, the black kids call each other "nigger" and the white kids pick it up too. The whole group calls one another "nigger". You can argue that the black kids have a right to it and the white kids don't, but then you are stuck with having to argue that a word you claimed is offensive period is offensive sort of. Once you start gradating rules for words, you're in linguistic shit.

"This will show everyone that racism must never be tolerated in any way, shape or form...

What racism?

I have a real difficulty with this guy's position, which I'll explain.

If we insist that using a particular word is "racist" without regard to intent, we open the door to allowing racist attitudes to persist so long as they are not spoken. Racists cannot be engaged if all we ask is that they don't use this word or that.

This chick wasn't insulting anyone or trying to hurt anyone. She used an offensive word for people of a different type from her. But, like many people, I'm wondering whether there should not be more offence that we have started to have "blacks only" words.

I understand the theory and politics of reclamation, but I think that care needs to be taken in drawing the line between "we're reclaiming this insult to make it a word that expresses pride" and "we're reclaiming this insult to make it a tool to bash other people with". Otherwise, a word that we outlaw because of the divisiveness and hatred it expresses becomes a means to create divisiveness and express hatred.

Johnson goes on to pound home his point:

"There is no stereotype."

Erm, what? Has this guy got a script that he just reads out whenever he's "outraged"? Or -- I suspect this is the case -- did he not see the show and is just spouting because someone has told him a white chick said "nigger" on Big Brother. When asked, he didn't say "I didn't see it so I really can't comment". These people never do. They always can comment.

Other talking heads also had plenty to say:

Henry Bonsu, director of Colourful Radio, a digital station aimed at a black audience, described the incident as a "wake-up" call to young people who think the word is a term of respect of endearment. "Lots of middle-class white girls from the home counties are listening to hip-hop music - it is the dominant street culture, and certain things are deemed to be cool. Perhaps she thought it was legitimate.

Perhaps. I don't think you could wish for a better example of a person looking at a thing and not seeing what they're looking at. Yes, lots of MC white girls listen to hiphop. In that genre, the rapper will refer to all his associates as his "niggers". Copying that is not to be "cool". It is simply to use a code that everyone who is into that music uses. The kids who are into hiphop are aware, I don't doubt, that the word is offensive, but in their view, they are helping to "reclaim" it.

"[But] if you think you can gain coolness by using the n-word then you're in for a rude awakening."

Whatever "coolness" there is in it is gained by being part of a group, part of a subculture. The subculture reclaimed the word, not just blacks.

I'm wondering what this guy really doesn't like. I can't help thinking that at base, he has a problem with whites liking "black" music, or appropriating "black" culture. He wouldn't be the first. "Wigger" is not a compliment.

"People think the word has been denuded of its savage meaning - it hasn't."

In the circles the girl mixes in, it has.

Her sin was to use the word in the wrong context. If this guy wants to argue that it is "offensive" that she uses it among her mates, I am finding it difficult to agree. Who exactly is offended?

"And many young people don't realise this."

Those damned kids, eh? They just won't hang on to the prejudices and hatreds of old. They refuse to fight the battles you want them to. They refuse to accept the codes you live by and insist on making their own. Bastids!

Robert Beckford, a lecturer in black theology

You what? How exactly is that different from "white" theology though?

and culture at Oxford Brookes University, said: "It's not the first time there has been a manifestation of racism on the show.

What racism?

In the previous incident, several housemates bullied another because she is a woman of colour. In this incident, a girl carelessly used a bad word. The two incidents don't even begin to bear comparison.

"It's only since the last celebrity show that the production company has been forced to act on discrimination."

What discrimination? If she called a white chick "nigger" we'd be okay?

"The n-word has a clear negative history...

Yes, it does. No one is denying that. But so what? It used to be impossible to say "fuck" on TV. Now you hear it every day.

"but is used in complex ways today...

Yes, so what we're going to do is boil the complexity out of it by making out that it's a simple issue: the girl's a racist for using the bad word and must be hanged for it.

"Even with its use in hip-hop culture, the dominant interpretation for most black people is still that it is abusive."

Abusive is as abusive does.

Let's imagine that racists start calling blacks "nooks". That's a word with no history as an offensive or derogatory word, and it's hard to come up with an etymology that works for it as a word of that type.

But every time a racist discusses blacks, he calls them "nooks". It becomes code among them.

For Beckford, there could be no offence in "nooks". He would not even be aware what the racists were doing. What grounds could he have for caring?

Trevor Phillips

Speak of the devil!

chair of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights

except for Muslims, apparently.

praised Channel 4 for its swift action: "Channel 4's reaction is different than in January. They've learned some of the lessons, and you have to say that is a good thing."

Well yes, they've learned to be reactive and fake outrage too. They had no option of course. They need not make a big palaver out of it. They've removed the silly girl. No need for any more fuss.

Except that we can all enjoy: the juicy pontification.


At 11:35 am, Blogger Sour Grapes said...

Oxford Brookes University?

I was thinking of your "nooks" idea reading down. Let all racists call blacks nigger, willy nilly. At the same time, declare that it is no longer an insult. It's been reclaimed, so it's actually a term of endearment.

If you want to insult black people, you'll have to think of something else.

Cue pictures of mouth-breathers sucking their knuckles.

At 6:09 pm, Blogger P.Dub said...

S'up, nigga?

Excellent post. Personally, I'd have evicted her on the grounds of being one of the most irritating twats on earth, which I found far more offensive than this particular indiscretion. Still, channel 4 will apparently refund the £4,000 worth of credit I wasted voting for her all week. Nice.

At 10:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd have evicted her on the grounds of being one of the most irritating twats on earth

She's just jealous, of the girls youth,(body)lovely arse!!!

C4 scapegoated her, the word was used in a non racial derogatory way, which means she was evicted for merely uttering a word that some find offensive if that is the case both the Asian and the Black girl should be evicted for uttering it as well.

The key word is Hypocrisy.


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