Gerald (Jerry) Zezas

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Bill Maher and the “n” word.

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Still thinking about Bill Maher’s use of the “n” word. (I hate calling it that. It appears cowardly).

I’ve always been of the opinion that the word, when used in a certain context, is not inherently offensive nor racist. That context is one where the actual word, its genesis, or its etymology, is being discussed, as compared to using it to describe another human being. I have never used it to describe any person, nor do I ever intend to. I used it extensively in my book Black, White and Grey, and, to date, have received no complaints.

But Maher was using it ironically, calling himself “the house n—–“. He was using the word as it had been used extensively during slavery and was doing so to describe himself in that context.

Yeah, I know, it’s always a slippery slope when you venture down that road, like when Don Imus tried to appropriate black speech by calling some women “nappy-headed hoes”. It wasn’t his place to try identify with another race by using their vernacular, and Maher is apparently guilty of the same thing.

When white people venture to show how much they “get it” by appropriating the language or cultural mores of black people, they always end up sounding like Al Gore trying to rap. It’s always a better idea to stop trying to sound like something with which you truly have little familiarity.

There is a black culture and there is a white culture. Leave them that way.



  1. Bill & Mary says:

    Here we are again, agonizing over basic human nature. “Racism” as we know it in the US is bad because some of us (the European-descended, English-speaking people who happen to be in charge, for now at least) make it so. All humans are tribal and identify by whatever standards we believe appropriate to a given situation. “Take your car to the Spanish guy on the corner. He knows bodywork” would be entirely appropriate, if it suits the situation. “Buy bananas from that Korean woman, they’re the best”. Or don’t buy from the Korean woman because she sells rotten crap. Entirely appropriate. The difference is inside us all. Looking down at somebody and saying, with scarcely-disguised scorn, “hey, black guy”, or the ‘N’ word, is a whole lot different than looking up at him with admiration and saying the same thing. You could probably call him anything if it’s done with respect and without malice. The word “boy” is a classic example. In Trinidad where I grew up it was an endearing, friendly term. “Boy, you crazy no ass!” was yelled between friends of all color and background who liked hanging out and goofing off. An overbearing, scowling authoritarian saying the same thing to a grown man, regardless of color or ethnicity, would be a deep and intentional putdown and the reaction from the man would be understandably hostile. Personally, I would have to be on close, personal terms with anybody before I called them “Shorty” or “Polack”. Everybody else gets respect, initially anyway. Zezas, you call me “Island Boy” you better say it with a smile! Just as a quick aside, my step-grandmother was a Creole woman from Martinique who would be considered ‘black’ in the South at least. All I know is she made the best damn fruitcake I ever tasted and liked to hug us kids until we yelled for air! Time for us all to grow up and quit the stupidity.


  2. jerryzezas says:

    There are some words that are better left unsaid, once again, unless discussing the word itself. My best friend in the world is a big, ugly, black guy who lives in Jersey. We are very close and can say anything to each other. He never has nor never will hear me refer to him or anyone else as a nigger, even though he chooses to use the word himself.

    The word serves no purpose for me, which is why I simply don’t say it. Those who complain that blacks can say it with impunity are not complaining about equality, but are simply revealing their inherent desire to call someone a nigger. That is revealing what is truly in their hearts and has nothing to do with equality. The word coming from the mouth of a black man has radically different connotations than when it comes from a white man.

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