It’s Not The Word

It’s not the word. It’s the thought behind the word.

It’s not the word. It’s the actions taken informed by the word

Don’t think that, as Piers Morgan opines, banning the word will ban the thought.

Banning the word is merely being polite. But the same people who wouldn’t dare use the word in public believe in everything the word implies in private.

President Obama used the word “nigger” in his interview with Marc Maron, in a discourse on how racism isn’t solved.

Bill Hemmer of Fox News clutched his pearls because of the President’s use of that word. Us white folks have been taught to avoid that word, and here is Pres. Obama using it.

Like slave owners weren’t presidents.

Like the man who pushed through the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts didn’t drop it as easily as I drop “fuck”, and with as little thought.

As if a black man, who happens to be the nation’s first black chief executive, needs to be policed by white journalists on how to discuss race.

Remember, Chuck Todd said Pres. Obama can’t be “neutral” on matters of race. Because to the white commentariat, that patina of neutrality absolves them from confronting the country’s original sin.

Growing up in New York City, my friends and I dropped the word. White, black, brown, it didn’t matter. It was just something we said. And that was only possible because of the familiarity this country has with that word. When for hundreds of years it was the only acceptable way to refer to an entire class of people.

No one would say “What’s up, my kike.” But people don’t bat an eyelash at saying “What’s up, my nigga.” And we’re not talking about black people.

African Americans took a word of invective and turned it into one of self-identification. But its origin was still in invective. And since American culture is to a large extent black culture, white people re-appropriated the word, not content to let black people have a victory.

The racism doesn’t end with banning the word. The racism isn’t even concealed with banning the word, as there are so many other ways to express that racism. When Pres. Obama utilized the word, it was to make that very point.

You don’t have to say “nigger” to redline an African American family out of a white neighborhood.

You don’t have to say “nigger” to follow a young black man in a store.

You don’t have to ever say “nigger” to clutch your purse in fear at the approach of someone dark.

Banning the word is a convenient way to pretend that racism is in the past. It’s a way for people to say “See, we’d never say anything like that, so we can’t be racist.”

Racism isn’t in the words. The words are merely the most obvious manifestations of it. It’s in the attitudes. It’s in the culture. It’s in the 400 year history of this New World.

It’s not the word. It’s the souls in which it resides.

126 Responses to “It’s Not The Word”

    • 2 99ts
      June 22, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Tis indeed Jackie – and this is how white privilege stops the world talking about the massacre of 9 people as they studied their bible.

  1. 3 99ts
    June 22, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    What a joke are those must find a reason to attack the President for telling them TRUTH. They are so conditioned to the lies of the media and the GOP.

    On the other side of the coin – DOES CHUCK TODD STILL HAVE A JOB – because his words and actions explain exactly why white privilege refuses to hear what the President has to say.

  2. 4 FoxfireTX
    June 22, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    So true LL. That last line, it’s the souls in which it resides.

    Just got done listening to the podcast. I swear, I could sit all day and listen to this man speak. Love the formats where we get a better sense of his thoughts on things.

    • 5 GGail
      June 22, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      Me too Foxfire! I could listen to PBO have conversations all day. I see his mind working to find the right words and I’m so impressed & proud!

  3. June 22, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    So, my boss just told me the best story.

    She and her wife are starting to have discussions about racism with their son. And of course, since she’s a librarian, she’s been doing research on various sites, gathering information on what’s the best way to begin these conversations. And one of the ways recommended is to ask a question such as “Who is smarter, a black person or a white person.” So, they asked their son that question. His response? “That question makes no sense. I’m not answering that question.” So he’s already ahead of the curve.

  4. 20 jacquelineoboomer
    June 22, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    LL – When you started with your “You don’t have to say … ” section, I started getting chills, like I was in church. Thank you so much for sharing these truths with us.

  5. June 22, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Great piece LL, thank you *so* much for this. The creatures who openly use the word are the least of our troubles, it’s the ones who share that hate but are smart enough not to express it are the danger – the employers, the police officers, the legal profession, educators, the media, etc, etc, etc.

    “Itโ€™s not the word. Itโ€™s the souls in which it resides.”

    Thank you again, HUGELY.

  6. 30 a4alice
    June 22, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    great piece LL! Gotta go back and catch up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. 31 MightyPamela
    June 22, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    โค LL

  8. 32 Dudette
    June 22, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Squeeeeeeeeee! OMG! Somebody pinch me!

    P.S. He’s following me too!
    Okay, now I just need tweet or re-tweet NdGT, POTUS, FLOTUS, and Nichelle Nichols to get back on and tweet and I can go to Twitter-heaven as one happy little Tweet critter!
    ๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜Ž ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. 46 Dudette
    June 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    LL! Duuuuuude! You keep knocking out of the park! We’re gonna need a bigger stadium! Bravo! ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ

  10. 47 susanne
    June 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    many times in my life as a white person, someone has used the n-word in my presence, and then become incensed when i responded ‘as if they’d said it in public’. for a long time, racists have felt they were in safe territory by only speaking among themselves–and assuming that all white people would naturally be racist.

    i think this is what pbo was referring to in his comments. not saying the n-word is not enough– racism has persisted as an endemic philosophy of america, and that has to change. change is hard, so it won’t happen without a powerful motivator.

    it took a lot of public shaming for southerners to stop casually using the n-word in public. they’re being shamed again, about the confederate flag, which seems to be having an effect.

    but we’re far from done, and that statement of the president’s is perfect for forcing us to look deeper than flags or even guns. racism is fundamentally a definition of self, using the other as a reference point. and if any of us is ‘other’ and lesser, we’re not one nation.

    • 48 nospin
      June 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      “i think this is what pbo was referring to in his comments. not saying the n-word is not enoughโ€“ racism has persisted as an endemic philosophy of america, and that has to change. change is hard, so it wonโ€™t happen without a powerful motivator.

      but weโ€™re far from done”


  11. 49 donna dem 4 obama
    June 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Preach LL!!!!!

    Nothing but the truth in all of this!!

  12. 50 donna dem 4 obama
    June 22, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Also, while were taking down flags do ya think we could take this one down as well???

  13. 51 JER
    June 22, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    • June 22, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      Not empress one bit by Haley or Graham. Nine people shouldn’t have had to die before they said the flag must come down. Then we are not so sure it will come down because they need a super majority in the legislation to get it taken down, that’s 2/3..

  14. 53 JER
    June 22, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    • 54 sabreen60
      June 22, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I was glad POTUS mentioned the gun manufacturers because as I see they are like the Kochs. The profit the most.

  15. 55 Dudette
    June 22, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    Okay, while I collect myself, I’ll try and catch up on today’s threads.

  16. June 22, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Great essay, LL. Thank you once again.

    Let’s get this train moving on down the tracks.

    • June 22, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      I mean, yay. But of course this begs the question: Why was the nation’s no. 1 retailer selling confederate merchandise at all??

      • 58 COS
        June 22, 2015 at 7:48 pm

        LL, I am asking the same question. Why in the world, were they selling it anyway.

      • 59 amk for obama
        June 22, 2015 at 8:51 pm

        heh, isn’t ‘anything for a buck’ their business motto?

      • 60 jacquelineoboomer
        June 23, 2015 at 12:04 am

        It’s a big thing in parts of the south for rednecks to fly the flag off their trucks and have it emblazoned on their bedding and probably their plastic dinnerware. Makes ’em feel southern-y and maybe macho.

    • 61 nospin
      June 22, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      they were selling it? wtf?

      • 62 desertflower
        June 22, 2015 at 7:18 pm

        Let’s make $$ off hate. No more words.

      • 63 GGail
        June 22, 2015 at 7:19 pm

        Of course it was in all of the Walmarts in GA, SC, NC, MS, AL – come on now, think about this for a minute. Where else would they be able to purchase the flags, bandana, t-shirts?

        • 64 nospin
          June 22, 2015 at 7:26 pm

          well almost anyone can create merchandise and sell it these days. I had no idea Walmart was selling hate.

        • 65 0388jojothecat
          June 22, 2015 at 8:09 pm

          I don’t shop in Walmart but I have been in their stores. I would guess they don’t sell that crap in California or Northern States because it would collect dust on the shelves.

    • June 22, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      It’d also be a really GREAT time to stop selling guns and bullets.

  17. 68 desertflower
    June 22, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Updating in real time…


    Live: We’re asking every member of the SC legislature about the confederate flag
    The Post and Courier has reached out to lawmakers across South Carolina to find out where they stand on removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. This is a work in progress, and we encourage you to keep checking back as we reach more legislators and update our results. We encourage any lawmakers reading this to get in touch with us and weigh in with their thoughts.

  18. June 22, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    • 70 susanne
      June 22, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      pierce is on fire today. re the s.c. governor calling for a vote to remove the offensive flag:

      ‘ …even if she gets the vote she wants, and even if she somehow wins it, all that happens is the flag goes to some museum. I’ll be convinced when Haley and the rest of her party abandon the principles that the flag represents. Let’s have no more talk about blocking federal officials who enforce national gun laws or the Affordable Care Act. Let’s not ever again rally armed people to the defense of some freeloading crank in Nevada. Let’s leave the Bureau of Land Management guys alone. Let’s stop listening to — and appearing on — radio shows that encourage this behavior. Let’s abandon extremist views of the Tenth Amendment that should have died with Calhoun and the Confederacy. Let’s not have sessions on nullification at CPAC. Let’s all greet with happy smiles the 21st century. ‘


  19. June 22, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    LL, this is so good, so wise so true. May I print for my Obama era notebook of articles and essays?

  20. June 22, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Outstanding essay, LL! Thank you!

    Letter in today’s “Dear Abby.” I’m continually amazed by folks that need to ask “What should I do?”

    The N-word is “no”


    I was an invited guest at a dinner party along with a few other couples. During conversation, one of the guests mean-spiritedly used the N-word twice.

    I was appalled. Because it was not my home, I said nothing.

    Please tell me how I could have handled this to let the bigot know this wasn’t acceptable and was just plain wrong.

    I no longer respect this person, and I’m not sure I want to associate with him or even be in his company again.

    – Should Have Spoken Up

    DEAR SHOULD HAVE SPOKEN UP: If you choose to avoid the person, that’s your privilege and it’s fine with me. There’s a saying, “All that’s needed for evil to flourish is for good people to say nothing.”

    It would not have been rude to have said, “Please don’t use that word around me, because I find it offensive.”

    Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/living/20150622_How_can_star_s_family_duck_all_the_requests_for_free_ducats_.html#Cvj7Zxt4ZBGq99rC.99

    • 74 susanne
      June 22, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      also, it would not have been ‘rude’ to stand up, smack the idiot upside the head, and walk out without saying a word. or maybe just one word: ‘asshole’.

  21. 76 Nerdy Wonka
    June 22, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Spitting straight fire, LL.


    These paragraphs stood out to me:

    1. “Growing up in New York City, my friends and I dropped the word. White, black, brown, it didnโ€™t matter. It was just something we said. And that was only possible because of the familiarity this country has with that word. When for hundreds of years it was the only acceptable way to refer to an entire class of people. No one would say โ€œWhatโ€™s up, my kike.โ€ But people donโ€™t bat an eyelash at saying โ€œWhatโ€™s up, my nigga.โ€ And weโ€™re not talking about black people.”

    – Thank goodness you (and hopefully your childhood friends who are not black) now know better. I remember a group of us in a car and some white dude I had just met five minutes ago began dropping the n-word and I let him know, he refers to me by that word again, I’ll stomp his balls to the ground. The idea that just because one black friend allows you to use the word, means you’ve been granted access into our world is ludicrous.

    2. “Banning the word is a convenient way to pretend that racism is in the past. Itโ€™s a way for people to say โ€œSee, weโ€™d never say anything like that, so we canโ€™t be racist.โ€ Racism isnโ€™t in the words. The words are merely the most obvious manifestations of it. Itโ€™s in the attitudes. Itโ€™s in the culture. Itโ€™s in the 400 year history of this New World. Itโ€™s not the word. Itโ€™s the souls in which it resides.” – 100% true.

  22. 81 globalcitizenlinda
    June 22, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    I know the beltway media is stating that there is nothing that can be done about gun control at this time.

    But I think that this should be another issue we can push now – especially these open carry laws.

    May be I associate with people who mainly think like me because there is a sense among those I talk to that we can’t just carry on with life as usual without us making some major changes in the things that seem intractible

  23. 82 vcprezofan2
    June 22, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Hey Black Child! >>Starts at ~ 1:30 (if you don’t want to listen to the intro and the parent’s responses)

  24. 83 donna dem 4 obama
    June 22, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    My personal experiences with the Confederate flag.

    One evening I went to fill up my gas tank and while pumping a truck comes into the station with a bunch of very young teenage boys. They are quite boisterous so I look over to see what all the noise is about. To my shock they are waving the Confederate flag, yelling and screaming some foolishness that to this day I couldn’t tell you what they were saying. I was so surprised that I must of really been staring hard at them. One young boy says, “you gotta problem with this” while shaking the flag at me. I finished pumping my gas and rode off quite shaken. I was about 25 years old when this happened to me.

    When I was a real estate agent five years ago I took some clients to a property down in the southern most part of Maryland. I was driving slowly looking for the house number I was to show (mind you this was before GPS’s were in your car or on your phone). So we drive past a relatively young white guy who is maybe in his mid 30’s sitting in his driveway on the bed of his pickup truck. We find the house and notice that he goes to his garage and opens the garage doors. His garage was immaculately clean but we soon realize why he opened up the doors. On the back wall he had placed a large Confederate flag. This was suppose to be a warning to the AA family I was bringing into his neighborhood. I asked the couple if they wanted to proceed with the showing and the husband looked right over at the guy who was now standing in his driveway and said to me, “I will not be intimidated”. I showed the home and they didn’t like it. The year was was 2010.

    A couple of years later my family vacations in Myrtle Beach, SC. The place has a beautiful beach and everyone was very hospitable but I never felt 100% comfortable being in SC. At the end of the week we decide to go pickup some souvenirs to take back to co-workers, family and friends. There are many large gift shops in Myrtle Beach. My issue became that everywhere we went the theme of every shop was the Confederate Flag! They had that design on beach towels, on boogie boards, on key chains or magnets. All the merchandise had it. That design was just everywhere! It made me nauseous the way that flag was being glorified in that state. This was in 2012. I sat in the car while the rest of my extended family bought their souvenirs. I just couldn’t step foot in those places…..

  25. June 22, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    This baby is OBVIOUSLY A TODer.

  26. 91 sabreen60
    June 22, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    I just listened to the POTUS entire interview and it was fantastic! Just wow. He’s so real and thoughtful and brilliant and WISE!

  27. 92 Nerdy Wonka
    June 22, 2015 at 7:52 pm

  28. June 22, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Well done, as always, LL!

    Most, if not all of you have received a DM regarding a ‘Twitter bomb’ scheduled to start in 8 min. I’ll post the # at 8p EDT.

    #FORWARD Together

  29. June 22, 2015 at 8:00 pm


  30. June 22, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    • 105 Don
      June 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Yes he was!

    • 106 donna dem 4 obama
      June 22, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      That top comment to this article is GOLD:

      There is something so filthily, paradigmatically Chuck Todd-y about the phrase, “As I say to all audiences, Meet the Press should make all viewers uncomfortable at some point or we are not doing our job.”

      This ranks up there with another smugoid mantra you hear a lot from lazy, incompetent, narcissistic, and revoltingly overpaid corporate journalists–and by God, I’m sure I’ve heard it from Chuck Todd among them–when someone who actually knows something about the story they have just dreadfully mangled has challenged their horrid reporting.

      The celebrity journalist sits there lazily smiling until the passionate words he is not actually listening to stop making a sound: then he chuckles and says, “We get attacked by the left and we get attacked by the right, so I guess we must be doing something right.”

      No: this is like saying that because Hitler was criticized by both Stalin and Roosevelt, he must have been doing something right. (Note to Chuck Todd: Hitler actually wasn’t doing something right.)

      Anyhow, Chuck Todd is a fool and a disgrace. At the very least, he needs to stop taking journalistic advice from Joe Scarborough, the man who hungered and thirsted ferociously after that Tim Russert seat (the NBC brass didn’t let him have it, which I guess speaks well for them: but then they went and gave it to Chuck Todd. Just sit back and think about that for a minute.)

      And God save the republic, because it’s later than we think.

  31. 108 Don
    June 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Interesting read LL, I hear the N-word almost on a daily basis. In my line of work it is used as a form of affection and as a form of ridicule, depending on who uses it. Iโ€™ve used it a lot in my life even when Iโ€™ve known better not to use it. My wife is from the Caribbean, to my recollection she has never used it in front of me. Now my son, he has never commented on the color of a person. On the first day of school I asked my son what color was his teacher, he gave me this is quizzical look and said โ€œwhat difference does it make.โ€ It stunned me for a minute, my son has the capacity to see race differently than I do and that might be a good thing. Today has been very interesting, I sat back and observed and read everything concerning President Obamaโ€™s utterance of the N-word. Iโ€™m starting to feel a shift towards a true conversation about race.

  32. 110 Nena20409
    June 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Bravo, LL. This is one masterpiece. Brilliant.
    J4O congrats on your Gold โญ

  33. June 22, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    I read something earlier were someone ask the question why didn’t people (the media) get upset when President Obama have been call the “N” word I don’t know how many times over the last six and a half years. No outcry about that was it.

  34. June 22, 2015 at 8:15 pm

  35. 113 Nena20409
    June 22, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Now a Change?
    What about Guns and Bullets?

  36. 114 Nena20409
    June 22, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    On a lighter note……

  37. 115 sabreen60
    June 22, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    This was really great, LL. Thank you so much.

  38. 116 Nena20409
    June 22, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    The Purity of a 7 yrs old. Bless the 7 yrs old.
    Illustrating that Racism is a Taught behavior.

  39. 118 a4alice
    June 22, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    listening to the pod cast.

  40. 119 JER
    June 22, 2015 at 8:40 pm

  41. 120 JER
    June 22, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    8:50 PM EDT – President Obama Hosts an Iftar Dinner

  42. 121 amk for obama
    June 22, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    peak wingnut, peak poutrage, loch ness monster – all myths.

    • June 22, 2015 at 8:58 pm


      Good morning amk ๐Ÿ™‚

      • 123 amk for obama
        June 22, 2015 at 9:08 pm

        GM Bob. Amazing how the emmessem is still getting away with all that chaff so as distract from having real discussions about the stone cold white murderer.

        • June 22, 2015 at 9:21 pm

          What they broadcast, amk, is ever more an indication of their desperation. They saw how many thousand white folk marched on the Charleston bridge, yesterday evening. They know that Twitter is the medium that daily highlights their impotence. We have a long way to go, but for Walmart to no longer sell Confederate flag artifacts is actually a rather stunning acknowledgement that racist hate is bad for business.

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