Movie Review: The N Word
I watched this documentary the other day, and I was quite impressed. It features interviews with many prominent African-Americans in various fields (entertainment, education, etc…) and asks them about their feelings on the use of the infamous “N-word”. Thankfully, it was done without any heavy-handedness (except for the few excerpts of poetry and book passages performed by actors and poets; didn’t need that). And with folks such as Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg and Paul Mooney being interviewed, there was a fair amount of humor in the discussion as well. (Why Mr. Mooney doesn’t have his own show on HBO or another cable channel is pretty much a tragedy).
The most interesting parts came with the telling of the history of word by scholars as well as old-timers who grew up subjected to being called the word. (Oh yeah, the word we’re discussing is “nigger” just in case you haven’t heard anyone speak in the last 200 years. Didn’t think I needed to establish that, but might as well).
I myself have always been a bit conflicted about it. It’s never really been part of my vocabulary, although there are times depending on the present company, I’ll let it slip out. And let’s be honest, as despicable of a word it is, it just needs to be said sometimes; never at a specific person, but more as a description of a type of person. However, I have never been comfortable being called it by anyone of any race, as a term of endearment, an insult, whatever. Hypocritical? Yes. So sue me.
The one interesting note I took away from this movie was a take you don’t hear too often. A couple of interviewees noted that the public use of the word says more about the speaker than it does about the so-called “target”. When you cringe upon hearing it, you’re more embarrassed for or ashamed of the person speaking it, than you are sad for whom they assigned it to. I must agree.