I have been in two minds whether to comment on the latest Big Brother scandal, but have decided that it raises a debate that often people don’t want to have. Emily Parr was evicted from the house after using the word ‘nigger’ in conversation with a fellow, black, housemate. – Read what was actually said here
While Parr apologised and claimed the term was not meant in a hateful/derogatory way – an argument accepted by her fellow housemates – Channel Four decided to act quickly and evict her.
The Channel has been praised for how it acted in this case, taking the stance that any use of the word is unacceptable (although you could argue that the logical extension of that argument would have seen Charley evicted for using the word too) . And of course here is where it gets interesting. I agree with Channel Four, but it opens up the debate of whether there are acceptable uses of the word or not. Currently we have this seemingly accepted double standard in the use of the word – i.e. if you’re black you can use it as a term of endearment (as well as a slur) but if you’re white etc then any use of it – regardless of context – MUST have a negative connotation. If there has been success in ‘reclaiming’ the word, and it is now all in the way it is used, then surely people of any colour should be able to use in in the non-offensive context. If not, then everyone should stop using it. Period.
Commenting on the Michael – i’m a total prat – Richards episode University of Southern California professor of cinematic arts Todd Boyd, backing the use of the word , told CBS “If you listen to the way Michael Richards used the word nigger and then listen to the way nigga is used in hip hop, it’s clearly two different words and it means two different things.”
If that is the case then I would presume Mr Boyd would be on Parr’s side in this case? I’m guessing not. But it seems to me that it is just that use in hip hop, rap, comedy and popular culture in general that led to a situation where someone like Parr thinks it is perfectly acceptable to use the word, as she doesn’t feel she is doing so in a derogatory fashion.
So let’s move forward and pick a direction – either say, yes it can be an OK word for anyone to use in the right context or – my own view – confine the word to the history books for once and for all . It is not hard, Look back through history and you’ll see many words that had their day that are no longer used; true most do not have the terrible history of this word, but that should not stand in the way of it being confined to history.