If Paula Deen’s N-word Ended in an “a” and other Signs of Cultural Decay

The song paints a detestable picture:

Bi*ch I'm bad…
im the sh** pi*s nigga…
Shoot the witness, nigga…
Oh di**less nigga…
Young money motha fu**a…
I love my baby momas…
Take a nigga gal and make her come give me a private show…

In the presence of my children, these are the lyrics from Lil’ Wayne that bellow across the fitness club. Upon my regular complaints about the lyrics, our fitness instructor dismisses my concerns, minimizing the meaning and significance of the term “nigga.” He, incidentally, is a black man and a business owner with young children of his own.

I wryly comment that if I loudly uttered these words myself, the patrons at the club would have a different reaction than their passive and disengaged consumption of this offensive slang.

This, of course, is merely a small sample of a dramatic inconsistency in proper standards of conduct in our society, which leads to some important questions.

Can just anyone get away with using terms such as “nigga” and “bitch” that have regrettably become ingrained in pop culture, primarily through gangsta rap? Has society slouched so badly that such terms are always tolerable?

A witness in the George Zimmerman murder trial, Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, offered some instruction on the proper use of slang terms in an interview on CNN after Zimmerman’s acquittal. According to Jeantel, the term “nigga” does not refer to a black man specifically, but a man of any race, even “Chinese.” Martin had used the term regularly on social media and in reference to Zimmerman in his last cell phone conversation with Jeantel before his death.

“Nigga” therefore is not a racist term. Place an “e-r” at the end of the word instead of an “a” though, and it is racist – and you’d better not be “by black people” when you say it, according to Jeantel.

Thank goodness for this clarity.

So what does this say for the much-maligned Paula Deen and her use of this offensive label? Two weeks before the Zimmerman verdict, Paula Deen lost an estimated $22 million in annual revenues when it was revealed in a court deposition that she used the word once over 25 years ago. Her utterance was in reference to her assailant just after being robbed by him while staring down the barrel of his gun.

While I object to the cowardice of company suits that so quickly bail out on high profile targets such as Deen, including those at the Food Network, Novo Nordisk, WalMart, Harper Collins, and others, I also believe that business is business – any company has the right to do business or not to do business with anyone, whatever their reasons.

Yet did any one of those corporate turncoats even check to see if Paula Deen had used the term “nigga” without the “e-r” at the end? Considering the standard of gangsta rap, had it been shown that Paula Deen only used the non-offensive reference to any male, she might still have her media and publishing empire still intact today.

This is hyperbole, of course, but you get the point. We have vast double standards about the use of offensive language in our society today.

What of actor Alec Baldwin and his anti-homosexual rant on Twitter recently, for instance, when he threatened to “f–– up” a reporter who he referred to as a “toxic little queen.” Calls for Capital One to fire their well-paid spokesman fell on deaf ears in this case of public prejudice.

Indeed, Paula Deen got fired for several reasons, including hypocritical threats by race activists online – or the mere fear of them by corporate sponsors – and a culture that has become submissive and very inconsistent about proper standards of conduct.

Bill Cosby and co-author Alvin Poussaint may have characterized the shame of this social trend best in their 2007 book titled, Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors:

Gangsta rap promotes the widespread use of the N-word to sell CDs among people of all ethnic groups. In fact, the audience for gangsta rap is made up predominantly of white youth, who get a vicarious thrill from participating in a black thug fantasy.... Black youth, as well as some misguided adults, have defended the use of the N-word, suggesting they are somehow making it a positive term. Don’t fall for that nonsense. The N-word is a vile symbol of our oppression by slave masters.

Because America loves stories of redemption, Paula Deen will rebuild her business in time no doubt.

Nonetheless, it is because of other media empires such as the highly influential gangsta rap that our culture needs a good, fair cleansing across the board, on social media, in the boardroom, in local fitness clubs, and throughout the communities of America.

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