Thought of the Day: Cultural Appropriation

Basketball bores the shit out of me. But I have to tip my hat, assuming that is something distinct to my own culture and not some vile act of appropriation which will garner me condemnation from some other culture who has laid claim to hat tipping, to Jeremy Lin. Lin is a basketball player from California whose parents immigrated from Taiwan. And this season he took to the courts sporting some fairly ridiculous-looking dreadlocks.

Kenyon Martin, a retired basketball player who was born in Michigan and raised in Dallas, made headlines when he called out Lin for his new hairstyle, accusing him of “cultural appropriation.” Apparently, adopting styles that one group of people has claimed as its own is a bad thing. Which seems odd to me, because I’d think a group of people who have endured a history of abuse and oppression would actually take some comfort and perhaps even a little pride in what Martin claims is Lin’s desire to be a part of that group. I would think that Martin would celebrate the fact that Lin and others are openly embracing what they feel are traits distinct to his culture.

Lin certainly touched on this point in his initial response, noting that both players are members of racial minorities and suggesting that “…the more we appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.” He also astutely called out Martin’s hypocrisy, pointing out that Martin has Chinese tattoo’s. Clearly Martin had no problem appropriating Lin’s culture, yet was quite upset when Lin apparently appropriated his.

As the debate played out publicly, few have acknowledged the racist undertones in Martin’s remarks. For example, he referred to Lin as “this boy” and “these people.” Imagine the outcry if Lin had referred to Martin in such terms? It makes me wonder if David Duke should be angry with Martin for his cultural appropriation of terms deeply rooted in white Southern racist culture?

It’s also important to note that Lin is not a racist, and therefore his adoption of a hairstyle that’s widely considered to be a “black hairstyle” is not meant to mock or offend. This is not a case of a Klansman who is spending $50 a month in tanning salon so his skin can look less white. Lin plays in the National Basketball Association, where 74 percent of his colleagues are black. He has been surrounded by blacks and black culture for most of his life. And getting dreadlocks is evidence of how much he has positively embraced that culture.

For his part, Lin penned an insightful piece about his journey to dreads. Clearly his intent was to sport a hairstyle that was popular among his teammates and friends. Which reinforces my belief that anyone who supports black culture should celebrate Lin’s decision to get dreads as a positive affirmation of that culture (if indeed that’s what dreads represent, but more on that in a moment).

First, let’s acknowledge that hair is more than just hair in black culture. The afro has been seen as a black-positive hairstyle, much like dreadlocks, because it’s seen as more “natural.” Conversely, straight and smooth hair, often artificially created through a nasty-ass process known as “relaxing” it, has been seen as Uncle Tomish, trying to emulate white culture. And if you are unfamiliar with all of this, I highly recommend watching Chris Rock’s documentary on the subject.

But back to dreadlocks, their origins, and what they may or may not represent. This hairstyle was made popular by Jamaicans, specifically the Rastafarians, which leaves me wondering if Martin’s family comes from Jamaica. If not, then shouldn’t he be apologizing to Jamaicans – or at least the Rastafarians – for cultural appropriation? And to that end, why hasn’t Martin called-out other basketball players who are guilty of cultural appropriation, being non-Jamaicans who have appropriated the dreadlock hairstyle from Jamaican culture, such as Chris Bosh, Marquis Daniels, Kenneth Faried, Brain Grant, Latrell Sprewell, and Etan Thomas? Has he held his tongue because they are black? And, if so, does that make Martin a racist?

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether or not any of those aforementioned basketball players are third- or fourth-generation descendants from Jamaica, or perhaps Rastafarians, in which case the hairstyle would indeed be a part of their cultural heritage. Which raises the question of how much of a connection does one need to a particular culture to justify their alleged appropriation? And since science tells us we are all descendants from Africa, doesn’t that make this whole discussion kind of silly?

I don’t understand cultural appropriation. For starters, what specifically defines a culture? And what about distinctions within what’s presumed to be a distinct culture? Are there not cultural distinctions between black Americans, black Africans, and black Caribbeans? And, if so, are they allowed to borrow freely from one another simply because of the level a melanin in their skin?

Is there a white culture? And if so, are there things that non-whites are not allowed to appropriate from it? For example, should black women be allowed to straighten their hair, dye it blond, or wear wigs that achieve the same affect, given that those hairstyles are more traditionally associated with white culture? Should there be an outcry against blacks who wear Timberland boots and North Face jackets, both of which were initially popularized by whites?

Making these kinds of distinctions can get very confusing for those who complain about cultural appropriation. For example, is a white person not allowed to use a touch-tone phone, caller I.D. and call waiting because they were invented by a black woman? And is a black person then not allowed to use any phone because it was invented by a bunch of white guys, one of whom went on to create the lab in which the aforementioned black woman made her inventions? And would the latter fact negate her inventions because they were made in a lab created by white culture?

Given the world we live in, where cultures have been living together for ages, what makes something truly unique to a given culture? Koreans are believed to have invented pants, so does that mean the rest of us are appropriating Korean culture when we wear them? Should we apologize for our pants?

What makes such things distinct to one culture and not another? Is it because someone from that culture created them, or because someone from that culture borrowed it from another and then popularized it through their own culture? And who do you need to ask permission from before you “appropriate” something? Is it simply a question of acknowledging its origins and respecting them? If so, what exactly constitutes acknowledgement and respect?

Finally, is this really about culture, or is it about race? Are these claims of cultural appropriation nothing more than a backlash against years of deep-seated racism, or a way to reinforce racial stereotypes? Are they intended to be a form of cultural racism, or is that just an unpleasant byproduct of trying to hold onto cultural identity on an increasingly assimilating world?

As you can see, I have a lot of questions about cultural appropriation. And there don’t seem to be a lot of clear answers to any of them. But perhaps the most poignant question of all is whether or not we want to be drawing more lines between one another.

I, for one, have seen far too much racism, hatred, and bigotry in my lifetime – based on everything from race, religion, culture, and nationality. And it mystifies me why anyone, particularly someone who has likely endured a lifetime of overt and institutional oppression, would want to foster more of that in our society by trying to use something as simple as a hairstyle to build even more boundaries between us.

 

Dear Donny: An Open Letter to El Trumpo

Dear Donny:

Remember how you said you wanted to make America great again? Well, that’s exactly what these kneeling athletes are doing. Like you, they are trying to make America great again. They are calling attention to what they feel are some of the shortcomings of our nation, areas in which can and should improve. Specifically, they are understandably alarmed by the seemingly endless string of police shooting of unarmed black men across America, and the incredible absence of justice on the behalf of these victims, as well as the overall racial injustice and inequity that has plagued our society for far too long.

Now is that disrespectful to our nation and its symbols? Is it any more disrespectful then you saying that America is no longer great, a claim on which you based your entire campaign?

Is it any more disrespectful than when you falsely claimed that the President of the United States – your predecessor, a man who won the popular vote, twice (the first to do so since FDR) – wasn’t even born in America (like two of your three wives), despite indisputable evidence that proved he was indeed born here?

Is it anymore disrespectful than claiming that neo-Nazis and the KKK, people who proudly denounce most of the ideals our nation holds sacred, are on equal footing with those Americans who showed the courage to defend those ideals?

Is it anymore disrespectful than claiming that a decorated war hero, who was tortured after his plane was shot down during battle, defending America’s freedoms in a war that you dodged, claiming that (despite being active in sports) you suddenly had “bone spurs” (a condition which, miraculously, “heeled” itself as soon as the war ended)?

And what about disrespecting the Presidency by spouting endless lies, especially the really sad ones that everyone knows aren’t true? Isn’t that disrespecting America in a far more intentional and impactful way than a handful of protesters silently taking a knee in a league you claim doesn’t have much viewership anyway?

I never understood the blind loyalty that people like you have to our nation and its symbols, until I realized that it’s neither loyalty nor blind. You are the first to bitch, moan, and protest whenever there’s something about America you don’t like. You know, like that time you tweeted that the President shouldn’t be talking about football when “our country has far bigger problems!” But when someone questions the things about America that you happen to like, then you immediately hide behind the flag and pretend that they don’t love our country, that they are disrespecting it, because they happen to be raising a concern you don’t share. That’s how cowards like you operate. You act like everything that comes out of your mouth is the only thing that matters, and whenever anyone questions you or dares to disagree with you, you cry out that they are either espousing fake news or claim that they don’t really love America.

You are the worst kind of hypocrite, Donny. Whenever an American says something about our country that you don’t like, you say shit like, “America, love it or leave it.” Yet you think it’s perfectly acceptable to criticize the country when there’s something about America that you personally don’t like, such as same-sex marriage, reasonably affordable healthcare, or high-placed government officials who use private emails while in office. Oh, wait, strike that last one.

Rather than say “love it or leave it,” why not simply try to change it, try to improve it? That’s all that these protesters are trying to do. And I’m guessing that’s what drove you to run for president, as opposed to your child-like need for attention. After all, if you didn’t like the things that were happening in this country, like these athletes who took a knee, you could have packed up trophy wife #3 along with the rest of your mildly retarded clan and fled to Nambia. You know, love it or leave it, eh?

Where would our nation be if we Americans didn’t protest against the injustices of the world, including right here at home? That’s what has made this country so great. Not a cheap cap with a slogan that did well with focus groups in rural Alabama. Speaking out against injustice is more American than apple pie. In fact, it’s our patriotic duty as Americans to tackle society’s wrongs.

And why are you so upset at people taking a knee during the national anthem? After all, that song, and our flag, are merely symbols of who we are, and how we conduct ourselves. Both were adopted long after ideals like liberty and justice for all. And isn’t that what our flag and anthem represent, things like the right to free speech and equal justice regardless of the color of one’s skin?

Since you are always quick to threaten to sue or imprison those who disagree with you, I assume you agree that our flag stands for the the rule of law. If so, then why are you disrespecting it by suggesting that these protesters be punished for taking a knee? After all, a smart guy like you must know that the United States Supreme Court ruled that Americans do not have to stand and salute the flag (West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette). Does this mean you don’t believe in the rule of law either?

Ask yourself this: what’s more important, the national anthem or the right to free speech? If you say that national anthem, not only would you make a better North Korean (where worship of national symbols is compulsory) than an American (where, as previously noted, worship of national symbols has been deemed voluntary by the Supreme Court), but you are also betraying your ignorance. The anthem represents free speech, so clearly what the symbol represents is more sacred than the symbol itself.

If you could be honest with yourself for a moment (I know it’s scary, after seven decades of incessant lies, but try to be brave for once in your life), do you think that the real reason you are upset with these people is because they have different views than you? Views that are hard to address, even for a competent leader, let alone someone like you? Or maybe it’s because you are still sore about the NFL giving you the cold shoulder all those years ago?

The truth is that America was founded on protests. Historically, we have always been a people who have rebelled against loudmouth leaders telling us what we can and cannot do. Hell, you can trace it all the way back to the Pilgrims and the Boston Tea Party. Though, I suppose if you were around then (come on, buddy, you’re not quite that old), you would surely have told the King to lock them sons of bitches up.

But let me stop right here, though. I’m sure you haven’t made it this far through the letter – not even if it was burrito night in the West Wing, leaving you with plenty of time on the toilet and little else to do. After all, I know you aren’t a big reader (all those words, and so few boobies!) and have the attention span of a 4 year-old meth head.

The bottom line is that you aren’t going to listen to a word I have said. Just like you won’t listen to the protesters (well, except for those “fine people” marching alongside the local Hitler Youth in West Virginia). I’m sure that by the time you wandered into the second paragraph of this letter, you had already dismissed me as an enemy of the state.

However, on the off chance that you did make it this far (perhaps you have run out of toilet paper and even the Secret Service are pretending they can’t hear you), let me leave you with this thought. If you really are so concerned with whether or not people respect our flag and anthem, then maybe you should focus on giving them more reasons to respect these symbols…and our nation as a whole.

You may stand during the national anthem and salute our flag, but if you do not honor and support the principles and ideals they represent, then you are disrespecting those symbols – and this country – far more than any of these protesters. And it has become painfully clear that you do not, in fact, support the principles and ideals our flag and anthem represent, including the freedom of speech, the rule of law, and justice for all. In fact, you seem to be more interested in the symbols of America than the principles and ideals they represent, which makes you the worst kind of American – a false patriot.

Disrespectfully Yours,

A Kneeling Patriot

Does Colin Kaepernick Deserve To Be On His Knees?

kaeperneeI was very supportive of the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick “taking a knee” during the national anthem as a form of protest against racism in America. As a public figure, his subtle protest helped draw additional attention to this critical issue. But after learning that the guy didn’t even bother to vote in this election, I can’t help but wonder if he deserves to be on his knees.

Kaepernick explained his decision not to vote by claiming that it didn’t matter who we elect to govern our nation. So, it seems, he chose to look the other way. Which is odd because, in explaining his justification for choosing not to stand in respect of our national anthem, he said that doing so “would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

I’m not calling Kaepernick a hypocrite, as many have. This isn’t technically hypocrisy. It’s just stupidity. If you sincerely care about ending racism in America, why not do whatever you can – within the law, of course – to combat it? It’s easy to take a knee. But why draw attention to a problem when you are not willing to stand up and try to find a solution? Don’t just say there’s something wrong if you’re not willing to do something about it. Don’t look the other way. That’s just stupid…lazy…and selfish.

And despite my headline, I’m not suggesting Kaepernick deserves to be the subject of oppression and brutality simply because of the amount of melanin his DNA produces. No one should ever have to be on their knees, for anyone.

But people who refuse to participate in the democratic process certainly deserve whatever government they couldn’t be bothered to elect. And after this election, that should be abundantly clear to everyone who thinks voting doesn’t matter.

We’ve all experienced this to some degree. There always seems to be a coworker, friend, or neighbor who spends four years complaining about the politicians and the way they are running the country, and then you find out they didn’t even bother to vote.

It’s easy to bitch. But it’s not that hard to cast an educated vote, either.

To put it in terms that a quarterback should understand, imagine if your offensive line didn’t bother to do any blocking because the other team is stronger and faster. They may be stronger and faster, but damn it, man, at least try. Put some skin in the game, so to speak. You’re never going to gain an inch – let alone earn a victory – simply by taking a knee.

I used to think that if you really care about something – especially something as important as ending racism in America, and the world – the least you can do is cast a vote and try put people in power who share that vision. But I was wrong. The least you can do is take a knee.

Thanks for not standing up when it really mattered, you putz.

Dear South:

No, not you, the enlightened egalitarians who make up what I hope are the majority of this, arguably the most culturally distinct region in the continental United States. No, in this case, we are addressing the loud, proud, and utterly ugly societal segment popularly known as Rednecks, and specifically those inbred imbeciles who continue to fly the Confederate flag.

The original Confederate flag.

The original Confederate flag.

Look, we get it. You consider the Confederate flag – which, incidentally, is not really the Confederate flag, having been rejected as such in 1861 – to be a symbol of your “heritage.” And, to be clear, that’s a heritage of defeat, hatred, and un-Christian principles.

This heritage you so dearly cling to is that of losers (literally…you lost the war…look it up). It is a heritage of those who do not believe that all men are created equal (meaning you don’t stand by the Declaration of Independence, which makes you decidedly anti-American). And it’s a heritage of those who believe they should be allowed to own other human beings as if they were property (which means you are a pretty lousy person and, despite all your professed faith and virtues, a pretty shitty Christian as well). That’s your heritage, and that’s what that “flag” symbolizes.

If you really want to flaunt that, if you really want to declare to the world that you are proud to be a racist loser who preaches Bible Belt bullshit while supporting an evil and inhumane belief system, then at least have the courage to come out and admit it. Have some fucking balls, you cowards. Don’t hide behind the lies. And don’t hide behind this false flag.

It’s been 150 years and 52 days since your ancestors lost the war, when their – and apparently your – evil ideals were defeated. Don’t you think it’s time to man-up and face the facts?

 

PS – As soon as you accept this, we’ll turn our attention to why certain blacks claim they can use the term “nigger” because it’s part of their “heritage,” and how they insist that whether or not the term is racist depends upon the color of your skin. One bag of hypocritical bullshit at a time, folks!

Conquering Hate: What The Demise Of The KKK Can Teach Us About Combating Islamic Fundamentalism

klansvillePBSRecently I watched Klansville USA, a documentary about the rise of the Klu Klux Klan in North Carolina during the 1960s. It was both fascinating and disturbing to learn that the KKK’s attraction for poor white Southerners was similar to the appeal of today’s Islamic fundamentalism.

Like the Klan, Islamic fundamentalists target the poor and disenfranchised, the people who don’t feel they have a voice let alone a seat at the table. And their sales pitch is nearly identical: 1) you are not to blame for your situation in life; 2) someone else is; 3) that someone must be punished if you ever want to advance; and 4) only we can help you do that.

Of course that’s an enticing appeal for the poor and disenfranchised, as everyone wants to think they’ve been dealt a raw deal through no fault of their own. It’s easier to claim a conspiracy than it is to accept an unpleasant truth: life is difficult, and not everyone succeeds.

Ironically, the real reason a lot of these followers find themselves in such an unsatisfactory place in life often has more to do with the manipulations of those who lead or at least fund these hate groups, whether that be white Southern businessman and politicians or wealthy Muslim businessmen and politicians. These manipulators seek to control the masses in an effort to maintain their elevated situation, the status quo. And they typically do so by denying education and opportunities to the poor masses while placing the blame on someone else – and using that blame to keep the poor masses preoccupied, so they’ll be compliant and not ask questions.

KKKfagThe Klan Plan
The leaders of the Klan, for example, rallied poor white Southerners against blacks and other minorities, blaming these third parties for their economic struggles and overall disenfranchisement. This unrest, and the violence and intimidation it bred, not only kept blacks and other minorities in check, preventing them from advancing, but it also kept poor whites occupied so they wouldn’t question the politicians and businessmen who had orchestrated the society that had been consistently letting them down in the first place. An added perk was that the leaders of the KKK also pocketed a sizable sum of cash from these poor folks, thanks to things like membership dues and merchandise sales.

What made this especially appealing for many is that the Klan’s doctrine was served up with large portions of patriotism and religion. As history continues to teach us, there’s no limit to what you can get people to believe – and do – when you convince them that it is for God and Country.

ISILfagA Global Variation
Islamic fundamentalists work in a similar fashion, though their variations are designed to work across borders. Like the Klan, the leaders of these Islamic fundamentalist movements are often relatively well-off compared to their followers. Many of them are also better educated and tend to have already enjoyed the “trappings” of Western civilization. In fact, some of them turned to fundamentalism only after they failed to succeed in their attempts to pursue a more Westernized life.

In addition, the governments of the host nations where these groups operate tend to be shamelessly autocratic, giving the people no rationale for their continued suffering and oppression. Wisely, though, the leaders of these extremist groups temper their authoritarian rule – often far more brutal and oppressive – by preoccupying the masses with fears of a common enemy: Western civilization. They position the West as the reason for all their suffering. And they then use the violence and hatred this breeds to combat Western influence, ensuring that the governments of their host nations remain weak and isolated, which ensures that they continue to have a safe haven to operate in. The most violent acts also serve to provoke Western powers, leading to retaliation that reinforces the extremists’ argument and boosts recruitment.

Like the Klan, this is all packaged in religion and patriotism – so the poor and disenfranchised Muslims being fed this propaganda aren’t going to question any of it, just as Klan followers didn’t. These disenfranchised and often uneducated Muslims become radicalized by the religious and patriotic fervor. They are convinced that the West and its secular puppet regimes are to blame for all of the problems in their world, so they expend all their energy fighting against that assumed enemy. If you can somehow overlook the inherent evil in this scheme, it’s really a neat trick to keep the masses oppressed by pitting them against the forces best suited to encourage the kind of reforms that could eventually help free and empower them.

NazifagNazi Roots
It’s also interesting to note that this is similar to the way the Nazi’s rose to power in Germany in the wake of World War I. They told the nation’s poor and disenfranchised that they were not to blame for their situation, suffering the economic and emotional ravages of losing an especially horrific war. They identified a number of scapegoats (like both the Klan and Islamic fundamentalists, they selected specific religious faiths, political beliefs, and ethnicities that were either easy targets or might offer resistance to their eventual rule) and rallied the masses to blame them for their troubles.

The Nazi’s also fueled their followers’ fanaticism with an equally twisted blend of religion and patriotism. It’s yet another example of how this powerful combination can be used to mask hateful and violent intent, which is necessary because even the uneducated might think twice about an openly evil doctrine if they weren’t convinced that it was for God and Country.

StetsKennLessons To Learn
So how do we counter terror organizations that use religion to manipulate the minds of the poor, uneducated, and disenfranchised? According to the Klansville USA documentary, the downfall of the KKK was largely the result of both its leaders being exposed as frauds as well as their followers finding a more fruitful agenda. And a second documentary, How Superman Defeated The KKK, provided some insight into how this actually happened.

The Klan achieved a strong resurgence in America during the 1960s, with its members holding many leadership positions in politics and businesses throughout the South. But a brave man by the name of Stetson Kennedy was able to infiltrate the organization and discover its darkest secrets.

Unfortunately the local criminal justice systems, many of which had been infiltrated by the Klan, were not willing to take action on what Kennedy had discovered, just as most of the nations that harbor Islamic fundamentalist organizations turn a blind eye to their activities. So Kennedy sought a different avenue for exposing and discrediting the Klan.

SoupormanSuperman To The Rescue
Kennedy contacted the creators of the Superman comic, which had become widely popular during World War II. Since that war had ended, Superman needed a new foe to battle. And the creators of the comic – which had also become a popular radio program – welcomed the opportunity to take on the unbridled bigotry of groups like the KKK.

In a ground-breaking series, Superman battled domestic forces of hate, taking on the Klan and ridiculing them in the process. The series exposed the greed and corruption of Klan leaders, which certainly didn’t sit well with their poor Southern followers. This coincided with some federal prosecutions in which Klan executives took the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify. That didn’t sit well with the Klan followers either, because most of them supported Senator Joseph McCarthy’s ugly and unjust witchhunt against Communists, in which many of the accused had also plead the Fifth and refused to testify.

But discrediting the Klan’s leaders and exposing their hypocrisy was only part of the strategy. The real turning point was when, through the efforts of things like the Superman series, the doctrine of the Klan was exposed as being in opposition to the American ideal of freedom and justice for all. The Klan had always relied on a sense of patriotism to validate its mission, but that was taken away when soldiers returned from World War II having witnessed firsthand the horrific effects of such hatred and intolerance.

New Preoccupations
The Klan lost much of its religious support and credibility as well. With teh organization’s darkest secrets being exposed, it became harder for Christian religious leaders and their followers to continue to embrace and back the hate group. Sadly, though, many of these Christian fundamentalists have since moved on to preach hatred and even violence against other minority groups, practices which are unfortunately still alive and well today.

Another factor in the Klan’s demise was the gradual swing to the right in the Republican party. This increasingly conservative political force contributed to the downfall of the Klan by offering poor white Southerners a more legitimate voice at the table. Just as they realized the Klan had failed to speak for them, these former followers found that some of the new voices in conservative American politics would champion many of the causes that concerned them – though often without the open hatred and bigotry that had kept the Klan largely out of the mainstream.

Hope Against Hate
Perhaps in these lessons we can find some solutions to combat the growing popularity of terror groups like Al Qaeda, AQAP, Boko Haram, FARC, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIL, and the Muslim Brotherhood. True, the KKK and its ideology of hatred are far from dead. But the Klan is now largely an impotent, fringe force here in America.

And surely all peace-loving peoples would welcome a similar tempering of the violent extremism we are seeing from today’s Islamic fundamentalists. If we can find a way to expose the fallacy of their teachings and discredit their hypocritical leaders while simultaneously offering their followers a more rewarding agenda and a more effective forum for their concerns, then we might be able to emasculate these hate groups around the world – just as we were able to clip the Klu Klux Klan here in the US.

Paula Deen’s Coon Fried Chicken

PDI had planned to post a mock recipe for “Coon Fried Chicken” as a means of calling attention to the unfortunate thing that is Paula Deen – and just leave it at that. But I got bogged down in whether I wanted her to recommend using all white meat or all dark meat in the recipe. And while thinking about which option would be funnier, I started to give the whole thing a little more thought.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Though it seems that Paula Deen tends to do just that, judging people based on the color of their skin. And in her case, the book appears to be a lot like the cover: ugly. Which reminds me of another saying: beauty is only skin deep. Ugly, however, seems to penetrate down to the very core.

I have little tolerance for intolerance. And it’s very hard to excuse prejudice these days. But I do want to draw attention to an issue raised by Deen in her “bigot for life” reconciliation campaign, and that is the use of the word nigger.

In addition to an apparent inability to push away from the dinner table, I have something else in common with Paula Deen. I, too, have a problem when people use words steeped in prejudice and hatred. And I don’t think the color of one’s skin should have any bearing on what you are allowed to say and what is worthy of getting you sacked by the Food Network. After all, the color of one’s skin shouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not you are hired or fired from a place like the Food Network, so it certainly shouldn’t have anything to do with what words you can and cannot say, right?

CRComedian Chris Rock did a famous bit about the difference between black people and niggers in one of his recorded performances. He was using the term to illustrate a point, and did so exceptionally well. Though I’d love to see him take it even further and tackle colorism, the racism practiced within the black community based on the darkness of one’s skin.

Rock’s comedic performance aside, I would not consider it acceptable for him – or any individual, regardless of the color of their skin – to use a term like nigger in every day usage. For example, if he went to a restaurant and referred to the waiters as a bunch of niggers, that’s no different than what Paula Deen has done. The fact that his skin is black and her skin is a rusty tan-in-a-can should not be a factor. That would be a double-standard.

If our fundamental position is that the color of one’s skin is irrelevant (unless, of course, you are a dermatologist…or a portrait painter), then that rule must be universal. It cannot be applied when you feel it’s convenient. You cannot claim that it’s OK to use a word like nigger just because you are black, and that people of different skin colors cannot use the word. Making such a distinction is in and of itself an act of racism, judging people and setting rules for them based on the color of their skin. And you cannot employ racism to excuse acts of racism.