Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dear TAN: N-Word Etiquette

I once started a neverending interview, but now we're switching to a "Dear TAN" feature. Send your questions/letters to theassimilatednegro [at] gmail [dot] com.

In this edition: I'm white and want to use the n-word!

Dear TAN,

As a person of Caucasian persuasion, can I do racial humor without being perceived as a racist? For example, I wanted to make the following joke regarding the return of American Gladiators and my gut feeling that Wolf is a racist:

You can tell Wolf is the type of guy that would call a black person a nigger to their face in a bar just to fight them.

But because of the loaded nature of that word, I instead played it safe and made some weak Teen Wolf joke.

Your thoughts?



Dear Jon,

Don't do comedy!

Ha. Just kidding. Well I'd never recommend any white person use/say the n-word. It's just too risky. And even if you're not lynched, it raises such an eyebrow you're sure to lose any of the intended effect (presuming it wasn't to be racist).

I have heard/read usage like in your example here -- i.e. you're not saying it directly, just relaying someone else saying it, or speculating -- and the person is not always killed over it. But still risky....

I wouldn't think you'd have to scrap the line. You can use "n-word" and keep the spirit of your original statement. But if you're relying on it as the punchline, so to speak, i couldn't advise it.

good luck!



  1. TAN,
    I read your blog here and there because I think that you have good subject matter and I like the way you comment on life, politics and things. However, I must disagree with you on this one. I feel it's only fair to give this young man the most broad opinion on this issue. As a college educated black man myself (with a white, best friend that does comedy, strangely enough. If you'd like to search him David Minsky) I would totally recommend he NOT use the word at all. Having been in crowds and watching black on-lookers as they watch white comedians, the racial arena is shaky ground by nature of the country we live in. But whenever the N bomb is dropped it's an automatic death sentence (figuratively, lol). You might still be funny but I'm sure you will be conveniently left out of any story about that evening that is told later, you won't get those "after-show" good job comments, ect... Again having a good friend in comedy I understand how serious word of mouth and a good buzz can be for a comedian (assuming he's up and coming). And I for one would DEF not recommend using it in the least.

    My 2 Cents,
    H. Herald

  2. I agree

    "Well I'd never recommend any white person use/say the n-word. It's just too risky."

  3. Toober2/11/2008

    Yeah, a white person dropping an N-bomb in a comedy routine is nearly always a bad idea (although Bill Hicks did pull it off to good antiracist effect in one of his routines...but of course, he was Bill Hicks).

    As to using the word in more private contexts, Dwayne Perkins offers some helpful advice in this clip from The Ointment.

  4. Toober,
    That video, CLASSIC!

    ~H. Herald~

  5. See, that's why I hate that word, and take issue with brown folk who claim that by using it amongst themselves it takes away the sting. Bulldinky. The MINUTE a white person uses it, all hell breaks loose, and you know what? In certain circumstances, like the one above it shouldn't. For instance... I laughed... and didn't think it racist.

    But then, a.) I didn't grow up here, and b.) I hate when ANYBODY uses the word, but I somehow hate it much much more when a brown person uses it, because I find it extremely hypocritical.

    Besides, I live in a predominantly white neighborhood, and the little wanna-be thugs out here all call each other that when they think nobody's listening. That and "Spic". I've actually gotten used to it.

    P.S. I was on the bus the other day and overheard two thug-gangsta Mexican chicks talking to each other, and one of them kept referring to her cat--as in pussycat-- as a nigga.

    Laughed my ass off.

  6. I was at a bar the other day with one of my black friends. We were talking to some white chick, and she used the n-word, in the context of quoting a Carlos Mencia skit. Now while I would consider the quoting of Mencia the more egregious offense, my friend quickly reprimanded the young woman for her use of the n-word. He suggested, in future situations, that she could say "n-word" in place of "n*****".

    I personally think the only time anyone could possibly get away with the use of the n-word is when singing along to some rap lyrics. That's the extend of my lenience.


Related Posts with Thumbnails