Hatred and the Hitch

In the wake of Michael Richards' racist rant and the response of black celebrities such as comedian Paul Mooney never to use "nigger" again, Christopher Hitchens writes that perhaps this might put to rest the tiresome argument, often made by whites, that if African-Americans can call each other "the N word," why can't we?

Because a white person saying "nigger" calls up this rather starkly marked history of hatred, that's why. The tradition of (one might even say instinct toward) the targeted group's ironically turning such slurs around and de-fanging them goes back at least as far as Tory and now includes suffragette and queer.

But Mr. Hitchens wants a third way of using such words, minus the bigotry -- using them for what one might term intellectual and educational purposes. Seeing as he seeks to get around the taboo, seeing as he wishes to use such words without the bigotry he himself feels will "always be able to outpace linguistic correctness" -- well, it's an admirable goal, but good luck.

December 6, 2006 9:38 AM | | Comments (1)



Hitchens' idea that these words need to be discussed and dissected in academic and intellectual settings seems perfectly reasonable until you look at the actual settings he's talking about: Hardball, where outrage is the coin of the realm, and a college classroom, where excessively rigorous debate is part of how students figure out who they are and what they believe. In those contexts, a dispassionate consideration of an inflammatory word seems unlikely at best.

Thanks for the link.


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