The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, December 01, 2003
 

It's that word, again...


Nigger, natch.

The last time (November 25), it was a guy at the University of Virginia Medical Center who said
I can't believe in this day and age that there's a sports team in our nation's capital named the Redskins. That is as derogatory to Indians as having a team called Niggers would be to blacks.
and got persecuted for his cry for sensitivity.

Now, I happen to find myself round at Kimberly Swygert's blog - education-related, looks promising - where she has a piece on the saga which brings in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (I kid you not!).

And finishes
(In case you're wondering, my context is that I was reared by several Southern matriarchs whose tough disciplinary tactics prevent me from even thinking the n-word, much less typing it. Plus, I don't want anyone who would type that word into search engine finding this site.)

Now, nigger is pre-eminent among the fighting words - and, for all sorts of reasons, ordinary politeness not least amongst them, not a word to be slung around.

But - how can you avoid thinking nigger in getting your fingers to type n-word? And, in typing the word, you surely know that everyone is going to know what word it refers to. It's weaker, even, than a euphemism - which takes on a life of its own [1] - there's a one-to-one correspondence with the word avoided.

Besides, as I said in the earlier piece, referring a rant from a black UVa professor,
...how, then - to pick one example at random - could that Ur-work of American literature, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, every be discussed in his fine university?
if no one can even think nigger?

(Even O Brother Where Art Thou, mentioned earlier today, which is not exactly Duck Hill-heavy on race, includes a nigger - the blind radio presenter talks about nigger music [2] (hardened up from Negro music in the draft script linked in the earlier piece).)

Of course, common sense evidently does not apply in the freezer cabinet that is US education. It seems to embody the perversity of Jim Crow at its purest to demand in curricula that matters fraught with sensitivity issues be covered by teachers and students, and hold a sword of Damocles above their heads pending the intervention of some worried parent or concerned citizen.

Signs of a deal of courage - or foolhardiness - amongst English teachers in the substantial number of teaching guides online for that more recent icon of juvenile reading, To Kill A Mockingbird. A bear-trap on every page, I'd have thought - and not a few niggers, to boot.

(You might have thought that the intention all along was to give hard sciences a boost. Think again! It seems that the grievance artists and shakedown merchants can generate some action in the most abstract of subject areas - a piece from November 2002 by Joanne Jacobs had news of an initiative to teach Hawaiian kids Hawaiian-style science! There is such a thing as the Ethnomathematics Digital Library And, from a cursory search, much more besides.)

  1. Certainly in the UK, twat is less strong than cunt, in any of their shared meanings.

  2. This review of the movie from some kind of Christian viewpoint ties itself up in knots:
    the film manages to achieve the almost impossible, by having one of its characters...using the 'Nigger' word and doing so in a way which does not come across as offensive.
    The writer seems to have meant to say n-word but nigger just slipped out!


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