“Did He Really Just Call President Obama the N-Word?”

That’s exactly what I said when I saw the clip of comedian Larry Wilmore’s speech at the White House Correspondents dinner. Then after watching the clip I could more times, I said, “Whattt?”

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Now being that the word was said from one black man to another, (and other cultural rules about saying the word to black people by black people) I know Larry didn’t mean any harm, but given the time, place and mostly importantly THE PERSON, the use of the word was distasteful.

The main point that stuck out to me was how this example shed light on a bigger issue within our culture. Every so often there’s a situation when a black person becomes close or connected/associated with a fellow black person in a position of power, crosses the line of respect or hard work the black person in the position of power has earned, but believes it’s all good because they’re both black. This can be shown in ways of “bending the rules” without asking the said black person in power because he or she, “know how we do,” request and expect discounts at establishments or like the situation here, call them the N- word.

Now I’m aware there may be different opinions on this and I’m open to reading them, but to clear the air I’m okay with the word being used in conversation among black friends (if they’re comfortable) or singing along in songs. I believe words have the power you give them and if I have good intentions when I use the word with those who are comfortable, that’s how it should be perceived. However, I would never use the word casually with

  • someone who is not comfortable with being called that
  • someone I just met and don’t know very well
  • someone in a position of power (Executive, Boss, Pastor, PRESIDENT)

It’s just completely out of order and really just a respect thing. Think about it like this, would you use slang with your boss (assuming you two maintain a strict work relationship) or say, “Yo you stupid” after they made a joke? No! Out of respect, you honor that person’s position of authority.

Now although I read President Obama didn’t take any offense to the comment, I still don’t think that makes it okay. Your mom may be okay with cleaning up after you after 25, but it doesn’t mean you should still leave your things around the house. I’m also aware Larry Wilmore is a comedian and it is essentially his job to ruffle feathers and say provocative things.

But in the infamous words of Randy Jackson:

randy

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