Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Differences

If you have not heard of Lisa Lampanelli, she is an annoying comedian whose whole shtick is offensive racial humor that includes repeated use of the n-word. So, last week she posted this tweet:

Notice her use of the n-word. Alright so after outrage on the interwebz, she offered this as an explanation:

" there’s a world of difference between the term “n—a” and “n—er.” The former “means ‘friend,’” she said, while the latter is a slur: “If I had put the word ending in ‘er,’ that would have been a very derogatory thing about Lena meaning she is less than me, and I view her as very above me. ‘A’ on the end means ‘my friend.’”

 “I have been using these words since I started in comedy and guess what, people? I won’t stop anytime soon, just because your ass is up on Twitter,” she told HuffPo. “I have always used in my act every racial slur there is for Asians, blacks, gays, and Hispanics. To me, it’s acceptable if the joke is funny and if it is said in a context of no hate. It’s about taking the hate out of the word.”

Now, this really got on my nerves. I can brush aside her way of making a living because it is one thing to do it in your show, the people showing up know what to expect and are okay with it but to do this outside of a show rubbed me the wrong way. I mentioned that I found her explanation lame and who are these people that go to her shows anyways? and that led to a conversation about the n-word usage between me and a friend of mine(who is also nigerian). He says the n-word is just a word and people being all sensitive about it empowers it. That too rubbed me off the wrong way.

See, the n-word doesn't bother me as much as it does some black people but I also recognize that I am not African American and I am also not as knowledgeable about the whole slavery times as I should be. I remember in college, saying to my African American friend that I wonder why MLK is such a big deal, what exactly did he do? I remember him being very pissed and I couldn't understand it. I've learned now that just because I don't get it doesn't mean I should discount it. The n word is an emotional word for most african americans, I didn't experience stories from my grandparents and I did not grow up here. I equate it to expecting an African American to understand and feel an older Igbo Nigerian's pain about the Biafran war. 

When I watched Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx's press junket for Django Unchained, they both talked about a scene where Kerry gets whipped as a slave on an actual tree that was a whipping post and they filmed on an actual plantation. To hear them tell that story or even something as simple as watching the NAACP awards you sense this emotion that I know I don't possess. A friend of mine told me that he never really understood till he joined a frat and heard stories from his AA frat brothers. Sometimes, I think Nigerians are ignorant and prefer to live in their own world, some may consider us privileged that we come from a world where education ie college is not a choice, drugs are taboo etc but it is not everyone's reality. Look at some Tyler Perry movies, you hear a lot of Nigerians say how unrealistic it is but there's a reason it appeals to its audience, it may be their reality. Granted, there are some examples where the racism cry is just ridiculous, as my friend who made the original statement pointed out, it exists but it should not be a crutch. There's also that debate about black people finding the n word offensive yet using it quite liberally.

Ah well, my point is just every now and then, it doesn't hurt to take a step back and consider where people are coming from especially when we all come from different backgrounds. What do you guys think about the Lampanelli situation and the n-word usage?

5 comments:

Madame Sting said...

No one should be using the word if they r so sensitive about it. It's just a derogatory word, yet they use it on themselves and offer the exact same excuse/ explanation Lisa did. So what's what? They r giving Lisa and any other white person who uses that word, the opportunity and guts to do so. Talk about being hypocritical and confused.

I don't use the word, not and never has been a part of my vocabulary and I really think no one should use it.

MPB said...

I just wanted to say that I like Tyler Perry movies and I feel a lot of people feel it is classy or profound to say how awful his movies are. I know my comment had nothing to do with your topic...but it was triggered by the post. :)

Myne Whitman said...

I think the nword has been over hyped. With the whole fallout over Django I also found out not all AAs are bothered. I think the focus should be on institutionalized racism which is real than on words.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch Lampanelli and am not familiar with her shtick, but I found nothing wrong in the picture or her explanation. What matters is not the word in itself but the spirit behind the word. To some, it has become a term of endearment so to speak. You hear people say "That guy's my nigga etc", nothing derogatory about that and obviously it can be a racial term. What matters is how it's used and the sensitivities of the person it's being said to. I have no problem if anyone (black or white) says "you're my nigga" to me, as long as I know it's someone I'm cool with and he/she is not being racist. What doesn't make sense to me is the hypocrisy of the notion that only black people can say the word with impunity. I don't get how some of the same people who enjoyed movies like Django, crack up at Katt Williams stand up concerts and listen to lyric riddled with the N word take offence just because a white person said it.

Like Myne said, institutionalized racism is what folks should focus on, not stuff like this.

Original Mgbeke said...

I'm with your friend, I feel nigga is just a word, as opposed to "nigger" and black folks get extra sensitive about it and get all up in arms every time it happens. To me, to say "nigga" is to say "homie". I also feel like black folks get offended when other people use the word "nigga"... not because they feel it's offensive, but because they want the word to be exclusive within the black community, like a clique...and no one else should say it. Well, that's hella unrealistic when you have songs like "niggas in Paris" which white people finna sing along to. Then what are you gonna do? Catch a case? Long story short, in my opinion, it's not that serious and black people need to learn to pick their battles.

Then again, like you said, I'm not as knowledgeable and I'm not African American and so it's easy for me to feel that way and type all of the above.