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White Writers Join N-Word Debate

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

"'You Don't Get It; You're White' . . . Doesn't Work for Me."

News Organizations Challenge White House on Photo Access

Al Jazeera Testing S.F.-Based Internet News Network


Kennedy Assassination Marked Year the '60s Came Together


NBCLatino to Shed 3 Positions in January Relaunch


Former Librarian, 83, Recorded 140,000 Tapes of TV News

Blackistone Needed More Time to Explain, Ombudsman Says

Short Takes

"The recently released movie '12 Years A Slave' contains scene after scene of br

" 'You Don’t Get It; You’re White' . . . Doesn’t Work for Me"

White writers are coming forward to say they cannot sit on the sidelines in the debate over who can use the "N-word," if anyone. The latest is Mike Wise, Washington Post sports columnist, who responded in Friday's printed Post, "I deserve a seat at this table. This is about the world my 3-year-old is going to live in."

Mike WiseWise isn't the only one. Garret Mathews, a retired metro columnist for the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press, wrote Thursday in the Indianapolis Star about a visit to an Indianapolis high school where the word was bandied about by black students. He taught them about the civil rights movement. "I tell the students the N-word was used by white racists as far back as the 19th century to reinforce the stereotype that persons of color are lazy and stupid," Mathews wrote.

Even Rush Limbaugh, patron saint of conservative talk radio, entered the fray. After Michael Wilbon, co-host of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," said last week that he uses the N-word "all day, every day of my life" and that white people have no right to tell black people how to use it, Limbaugh said Wilbon should have used the occasion to scold white liberals wedded to "political correctness" — rather than all whites.

The latest controversies over the N-word have come from the sports world. The NBA fined Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes $25,000 last week after his ejection after L.A.'s' 111-103 victory over Oklahoma City the previous night. Officially, Barnes was dinged for "failing to leave the court in a timely manner … and using inappropriate language on his Twitter account."

"I love my teammates like family, but I'm DONE standing up for these n—–!" Barnes wrote, referring to his fellow Clippers, Ben Golliver reported for Sports Illustrated. "All this s— does is cost me money."

Before that, black players in the Miami Dolphins locker room said they had no problem with white players calling them the word. The Dolphins' Richie Incognito, according to news reports, left a voice mail calling teammate Jonathan Martin the N-word. Incognito later apologized after the incident became public.

Most recently, John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group formed to promote diversity in hiring in the NFL, said Thursday that Trent Williams, offensive tackle for the Washington Redskins, directed the N-word at umpire Roy Ellison after Ellison had attempted to stop players from the Washington and Philadelphia teams from directing abusive language at one another, Mark Maske and Mike Jones reported Friday in the Post. Williams and Ellison are black.

On Friday, the NFL suspended Ellison for one game without pay for “making a profane and derogatory statement" to Williams, Maske and Jones reported Saturday.

Wise wrote, "All this time I had it in my leftist-engineer head that this word was the most vile, disgusting, loaded word in the history of the English language, and now it's an accepted synonym for 'man' or 'dude' or 'partner?' More jarring, Wilbon said he used it 'all day, every day, all my life,' specifying on 'Pardon the Interruption,' 'I have a problem with white people framing the discussion for the use of the N-word.'

"Okay.

"And I have a problem with anyone of any ethnicity telling me that my values and beliefs about eradicating slurs from public and private conversation are less important than having agency over them for personal use — no matter who it hurts, including millions of African Americans who want the word abolished and should have just as much say.

"Actually, it's deeper than that. When you think you're fighting for a less hostile, less confusing and more mutually respectful country for our children to live in and then you find out your idea of a shared purpose wasn't shared by people you like and respect, a real hopelessness sets in.

"The N-word is filth; it's disrespectful, confusing and uplifts no one. I know of no other minority in the world co-opting a dehumanizing, racial slur used by its oppressor.

"Yet I’m told, 'You don’t get it; you’re white.'

"No. That doesn't work for me. I deserve a seat at this table. This is about the world my 3-year-old is going to live in.

"Spending my formative years in a rural part of Hawaii, where welfare and food stamps were how many families in Ewa Beach got by, I grew up as one of a few 'haole' kids among an ethnic stew of poor- to middle-class Filipino, Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian and Japanese kids. I would not wish some of the early prejudice and violence I experienced on any prepubescent teen. But in hindsight, I now feel being a minority, even for a few years, should be a prerequisite for every person of a dominant culture; it makes you see and feel what people on the other side see and feel.

"It's where I gained a real affinity and appreciation for diversity, for experiencing the world outside my own ethnic prism. I want to continue that for my son, to impart the one-world values my father imparted on me. I don't want him to experience the word in any form.

"When I am told, 'This isn't about you,' I feel like I’m being judged by the color of my skin and not the content of my character.' . . ."

Wise joins Tom Joyce of the Mount Airy (N.C.) News, Skip Bayless of ESPN and Jack Dickey of Time magazine among whites who have said they cannot keep silent.

Dickey zeroed in on NBA analyst Charles Barkley, a Hall of Famer who said, "White America don't get to dictate how me and Shaq [O'Neill] talk to each other." Dickey picked apart Barkley's logic in a blog post headlined, "Charles Barkley Is Still Not a Role Model."

News Organizations Challenge White House on Photo Access

"The atmosphere in the White House briefing room got heated Thursday afternoon as reporters challenged a spokesman over press access to the president," Jennifer Epstein reported Thursday for Politico.

"After delivering a letter arguing that officials are 'blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government,' members of the White House press corps cut into principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest as he defended the administration's policies on press access.

" 'It is the responsibility of those of you who sit in your seats to push for more. You're supposed to be agitating for more access. If you weren't, you wouldn't be doing your job,' Earnest told reporters as he filled in for press secretary Jay Carney at the White House press briefing. 'So, the fact that there is a little bit of a disagreement between the press corps and the White House press office about how much access the press corps should have to the president is built into the system.'

"Earlier Thursday, the board of the White House Correspondents Association delivered a letter to Earnest detailing press concerns that the White House has engaged in a 'troubling break from tradition' by choosing to release photos and videos of events to which the press has not had access, but to which White House photographers and videographers have had access.

"As POLITICO has reported, much of President Obama's daily schedule is not made public, though some of it later becomes public when the White House releases photos, videos or blog posts about the president's activities, something the White House argues has given Americans more access to Obama. . . ."

The online network AJ+, headquartered near San Francisco's AT&T Park Stadium, is

Al Jazeera Testing S.F.-Based Internet News Network

"Across from San Francisco's AT&T Park stadium, a small group of news junkies is working on building a different kind of startup," Janko Roettgers reported Friday for gigaom.com.

"The first thing you notice when entering their building is the omnipresent imagery of civil rights leaders and pop culture icons from around the world. Nelson Mandela, John Lennon and Aung San Suu Kyi are everywhere, as are promises of defiance and empowerment. But the building, which formerly housed Al Gore's Current TV, isn't home to some kind of progressive nonprofit. Instead, it's the birth place of AJ+, Al Jazeera's ambitious attempt to produce news for an audience that gets its information from the internet.

"Al Jazeera first announced its plans to launch an internet news network at an industry conference in October, and the Qatar-based news organization is set to officially unveil the AJ+ brand with a placeholder website in the next few weeks. But in San Francisco, the team of AJ+ is already busy working on producing pilots to meet its goal of a soft launch early next year. AJ+ executives invited me to take an exclusive behind-the-scenes look this week, and while they didn't share too many details about the shows and news formats that they're working on, they weren't shy about telling me what they don't want to do: television. . . ."

The Indian Country Today Media Network featured this photo of President John F.

Kennedy Assassination Marked Year the '60s Came Together

"We were never innocent," Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote Wednesday in his syndicated Miami Herald column, anticipating Friday's 50th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

"That word is invariably used to describe what changed in America 50 years ago Friday when a dashing young president was murdered in Dallas. But the word has never been quite right.

"Anyone who was 40 years old the day John Kennedy died had already lived through global economic collapse, factories silenced, smokestacks stilled, bankers selling apples on street corners. She had seen the agricultural heartland dry up and blow away in towering black clouds of dust, the former tenants dispossessed and forced to flee. She had seen war on a scale that beggars the imagination, mass murder in numbers that blaspheme God and a nuclear sunrise over Japan. Just the year before, she had seen the world teeter on the brink of another nuclear catastrophe.

On Friday, the New York Post reproduced its front page of 50 years ago.

"We were not innocent.

"And yet, something did change when Kennedy's motorcade executed that hairpin turn onto Elm Street and Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger of that mail order carbine. After that moment, something was different, something was lost — and it has haunted America ever since.

"Nineteen sixty-three is the year the 1960s began, the year so many of the themes that would define that tumultuous era — civil rights, women's rights, Vietnam, the British Invasion, political assassination — came together for the first time. . . ."

NBCLatino to Shed 3 Positions in January Relaunch

NBCLatino.com, which launched last year in the first time an English-language broadcast network news division initiated a Web site specifically targeted to Hispanics, is shedding three positions as it plans to relaunch in early January as part of NBCNews.com, according to NBC News sources.

"This move will allow its content to reach a much larger audience and it will further enhance NBC News's commitment and ability to cover news and issues that matter to the Latino community," Ali Zelenko, senior vice president, communications, told Journal-isms on Friday by email. "Unfortunately this means a few positions will be eliminated. We are grateful to those affected for their contributions and are actively looking for other roles for them inside the company." [She added on Nov. 25: "the nbclatino brand will remain."]

Zelenko said she was not permitted to identify how many positions would be lost and identify them. Chris Peña, an NBC veteran, is executive editor, overseeing a staff of bilingual writers and producers at NBC's headquarters in New York. Sandra Lilley, another NBC veteran, was promoted to managing editor in July. Suzanne Gamboa joined as politics editor in September from the Associated Press.

Former Librarian, 83, Recorded 140,000 Tapes of TV News

Marion Stokes

"In a storage unit somewhere in Philadelphia, 140,000 VHS tapes sit packed into four shipping containers. Most are hand-labeled with a date between 1977 and 2012, and if you pop one into a VCR you might see scenes from the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Reagan Administration, or Hurricane Katrina," Sarah Kessler wrote Thursday for Fast Company.

"It's 35 years of history through the lens of TV news, captured on a dwindling format.

"It's also the life work of Marion Stokes, who built an archive of network, local, and cable news, in her home, one tape at a time, recording every major (and trivial) news event until the day she died in 2012 at the age of 83 of lung disease.

"Stokes was a former librarian who for two years co-produced a local television show with her then-future husband, John Stokes Jr. She also was engaged in civil rights issues, helping organize buses to the 1963 civil rights march on Washington, among other efforts. She began casually recording television in 1977. She taped lots of things, but she thought news was especially important, and when cable transformed it into a 24-hour affair, she began recording MSNBC, Fox, CNN, CSNBC, and [C-SPAN] around the clock by running as many as eight television recorders at a time. . . ."

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a free Internet library, plans to make the tapes public and searchable, Kessler reported.

Blackistone Needed More Time to Explain, Ombudsman Says

"Kevin Blackistone, a frequent ESPN commentator, recently found fault with the sports industry's embrace of military symbolism … and the ombud mailbag, in turn, found fault with him — in substantial numbers," Robert Lipsyte, the ESPN ombudsman, wrote on Friday.

"On Nov. 6, responding to a question from host Tony Reali on 'Around the Horn,' Blackistone, a regular ATH panelist, said, 'When you have military flyovers and the military symbolism that goes on in sports, I think you've got a problem.'

"At issue was Northwestern's usage of American flag and Army designs on its helmets and jerseys for an upcoming football game. Another ATH regular and fellow Northwestern graduate, J.A. Adande, also had reservations about the uniforms, but Blackistone went much further in his criticism, saying he was opposed to the sports-military connection 'whether it's the singing of a war anthem to open every game, whether it's going to get a hot dog and being able to sign up for the Army at the same time, whether it's the NFL's embrace of the mythology of the Pat Tillman story.'

"It was the phrase 'war anthem' that stirred the mailbag to call Blackistone's commentary 'disrespectful' and 'reprehensible.' . . ."

Lipsyte concluded, "I thought Blackistone's commentary deserved to be unpacked on ESPN, if not to classroom-hour length, at least in a column or in a few minutes on a program that could show other examples of sports and military collaboration, perhaps exploring how purported displays of patriotism might disguise service recruiting, politicking and commercialization. Is football good preparation for combat (an active officer recently said that in a discussion of the Army-Navy game)? How come so few pro athletes ever use those wondrous muscles to actually defend their country (even though, as Ombuddy Paul Gigliotti of Andover, Mass., pointed out, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski insists on calling quarterbacks 'warriors')?

"I'm sure Blackistone has a lot of valuable insight on these and other matters that don't quite fit into the Horn. Of course, that might just make the mailbag come out fighting."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Comments

White Writers Join N-Word Debate

I really despise this euphemistic n-word. Because of all the trench warfare in all the journalism regions where I have worked — news organizations and collegiate journalism programs populated by predominately by members of the dominant culture who regard People of Color with contempt — I am getting ready for the next wave of racist bigots and their dying to use the word nigger. I hope to make their experiences as gruellingly unpleasant as mine has been. 

The N word

As the only black in my elementary school class in the late 1940s, I remember fighting every male but one in that group over their tendency to call me the N word. Prior to and subsequent to that time, I heard it frequently applied to me and other blacks as the ultimate slur on our humanity. I heard it countless times when I marched in Chicago during the Rev. Martin Luther King's demonstrations against segregated housing. Now we have a generation of blacks, some with high public profiles, who say it's ok to use the word, especially among each other. God help us. The Emancipation Proclamation technically ended slavery 100 years ago this year, yet some of us are still bound in mental chains of self hate and ignorance of their history. This is the same twisted thinking that gives some of us the "right" to judge who is "black enough," or that says studying hard, making good grades and speaking proper English is "acting white," and that going to prison is something to be proud of. For full equality to occur for African Americans, it will mean a vigilant and proactive response not just to those external forces that oppress us but to those INTERNAL forces that would demean us. 

Cross-Postings from The Root

Nation Builder

Are you serious? Is that all you all have to say about 12 years a slave? Can white folks sit at the table to talk about the use of the "N word?" And Rush Limbaugh can go straight to hell!

Randy Stephenson

Words only have the amount of power that YOU allow them to. If someone uses a name against you, and you react differently when someone else uses the same name, the problem is NOT within the name, its with YOU. I have been called many names and I must just consider the sources.

klof

It's just a nasty Word and as a White I feel no need or desire to use it. I don't tolerate other Whites using it around me, and I don't tolerate myself being called a White one, either. Frankly, I can't tell African Americans wha to call themselves or not, but it makes me cringe to here Young kids Calling each other it as well. It's just got way to much bad history behind it for me imagine wanting to use, and really, is there no other Word people can use with each other that denotes some kind of respect instead?

keithbusting

@klof

The word originally came from Whites. There are other words people can use with each other that denotes some kind of respect, unfortunately they have not become fashionable yet.

l heard

I find the word more offensive when I hear a black person uses it , if anyone shouldnt use a word , it is us who should not use the N-word ,

2lovingmeklof

keithbusting

@l heard

The more you tell a person what she or he should not do, they are only more inclined to do it. Probably could count on your fingers the number of black persons who would be willing to take an oath not to use the N-word. Then again there is the old saying, it's not what they call me but what I answer to.

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