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Race/Ethnicity Questions 301-310

THE QUESTION:
R310: Why are there so many black TV sitcoms nowadays? It seems the number far exceeds the demographic numbers. Is it possible we are reverting to the days of Amos and Andy? Also, are black people offended by these shows? It seems to me they are a bit demeaning.
POSTED JUNE 8, 1998
Wayne, 52, white male, WayneHD@aol.com, Anaheim, CA

ANSWER 1:
I don’t think the situation is as bad as Amos and Andy. These were whites in blackface, which is far more offensive than anything going on now. Furthermore, it’s hard for African Americans to make shows other than comedies that will sell. You may remember an African-American soap opera called Generations a few years back. Why did that get cut? Because nobody was watching it.
POSTED JUNE 21, 1998
Katherine, Richmond, IN

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am black and yes, I am offended by some of these sitcoms. Especially shows like The Wayans Brothers Show. It is no more flattering than Step N Fetchit or Amos and Andy. It is one of the most degrading shows I have ever seen both times I watched. Our forefathers must be turning over in their graves in protest of this setback. Have you ever thought of why it can place last in the ratings for so many years and still remain on TV? Have you ever thought of why sitcoms lead the sector of TV work for blacks? No accident. Much better shows like The Gregory Hines Showand many tries by Tim and Daphne Reid (Frank’s Place) have lasted only two or three weeks at best. Sometimes I think whites make sure such stupidity stays in front of TV audiences to perpetuate the clown myth. Their is nothing wrong with the amount of shows, but the fault lies in the quality and the lack of chance in the drama sector.
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Embarrassed As Heck, black <Firdinand@AOL.Com>, Gainesville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I feel that because there is such a stress nowadays on diversity, etc., people think we need shows to reflect all kinds of people. I feel, however, that may of these shows are stereotypical of black people. I am not offended, but would rather see more diverse shows – not just all black or all white. It makes it seem as if blacks are friends only with blacks, etc..
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
K.P., 18, African American <klp113@theglobe.com>, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I am definitely offended by these shows. I seldom watch these programs that portray African Americans in a negative and stereotypical light, such as Martin (now cancelled), The Jamie Foxx Show, etc. These stay on the longest, but decent, positive shows like Living Single get the ax for no apparent reason. These shows are there for a reason: To keep those images in the minds of others and perpetuate myths that already exist about blacks. It is not that there are a lot of shows, just the ones that don’t show real African-American life.
POSTED AUG. 9, 1998
T. Spen, 26, black female, Largo, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
First, I guess it is important to say I am black or Afro American or whatever term Iam this time around. I remember the Amos and Andy radio shows, and the actors might have been in black face but the radio did not reveal this information. This was an extremely popuplar show. I remember the show on TV and there was no blackface. I thought it was some of the funniest stuff I have ever seen to this day. The reason there are so many perhaps inane black sitcoms on TV is that they deal with the situations people want to watch and laugh about. Perhaps doing the show black is a way for the writers to get the show/point across. The age group that watches these shows is not the sophisticated adult black or white; in the main, it is the dominant younger set, who probably do not see the actors as black.
POSTED AUG. 10, 1998
Henry, Raleigh, NC

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
There may seem to be a lot of black shows on now, because there were so few on before. I would dare to take a guess that if you were to count the number of black shows, their numbers would pale in comparison to the number of white shows on TV. As to the quality of the shows, the blame lies squarely on those who advertise and those who watch and buy from those advertisers. If an advertiser is losing money, the show goes away. Remember, it’s all about money. Advertisers want to reach certain markets. There are segments of our society that don’t make the dollars to spend on advertisers’ products. Therefore, from a business standpoint, you advertise your product to those who can afford to buy and purchase your product. The consumer has a say in the types of show that appear on TV, through the use of their buying power (i.e. who they buy from) and the power of the pen to write to those who do the programming for the various networks. You get what you pay for in more ways than one.
AUG. 18, 1998
Dewy B. ,46, black <brooksdy@thecb.state.tx.us>, Austin, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
To Embarrassed as Heck: The rampant stupidity of “black” sitcoms has nothing to do with “white”execs plotting to continue some stereotype. If you look at TV in general, there are a lot more sitcoms than dramas, and very few of them are intelligent. Race has very little to do with it. On the other hand, if you look at dramas or action shows, you usually see a more varied cast with less stereotyping (take ER or Homicide). Also, the truly awful black sitcoms would not exist if black performers refused to work on them.
POSTED AUG. 18, 1998
John K., 25, straight Irish-American male <the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
As a black male, I can only ask white people, “Aren’t there a lot of dumb shows on TV?” The answer is a definite “yes.” I think we’re seeing more black TV shows because the “minority” demographic is rising. Pretty soon, there’ll be many more Hispanic and Asian-American programs. The fact that they’ll probably be stupid too can be traced to the one-celled brains of network executives who think archetypes and formulas are the best ways to script a show.
POSTED AUG. 21, 1998
Randal O., 24, black <rmantooth@yahoo.com>, Troy, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
To Embarrassed as Heck: White people keep the shows on to perpetuate the “clown image”? That not only sounds somewhat racist, but also somewhat paranoid. No one’s trying to put an image on anybody by keeping a show on the air. I don’t claim to know why stupid shows stay on the air, but if you’ve noticed, there are a lot of them, black and white. There are just as many shows that are really stupid that stay on the air with mainly white audiences. There have been shows with black people in them that have stayed on a long time, even a few with some drama in them. The old Cosby Show holds one of the longest records for being aired. The reason shows like that were successful is that they weren’t aimed to appeal to any one race. The shows being talked about here are obviously launched entirely at the black audience. Though there are a lot of shows with white people, they’re not specifically geared to the white audience. I think that’s the difference.
POSTED SEPT. 5, 1998
Nick <kotula@hotmail.com>, Newport News, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
To add to “Embarassed as heck’s” comment, it seems to me that for the most part, the reason black sitcoms that last for a long time are those that portray blacks as “silly” or not having any importance is that in general (I know I’m not supposed to generalize), blacks are viewed in this country as being outside of the “norm” – they are “others.” Thus, they are objectified; they are any and everything but the subject in this society. They are not the central players or actors in the story of this society, they are extras. Therefore, they cannot be portrayed in such a way that can be perceived as deviating from this system of existence. The problem is that this mode of perception and thinking seems to be so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that anything that conflicts with this perception is immediatly seen as “wrong.” Thus, black sitcoms that do not follow this mode of black objectification are seen as being “boring,” “weird” or just plain “stupid.” This is an extremely unfortunate situation.
POSTED OCT. 9, 1998
K.R., black female, Maplewood, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
While I’m not black, I can easily understand how African Americans might be offended. Sitcoms rarely present developed, whole characters; usually, the characters are stereotypes. As a father, I am often dismayed at the portrayal of fathers’ ineptitude as parents, always outsmarted by the wife and kids. I’m not sure what can be done about it, other than supporting the better shows and tuning out the bad ones.
POSTED OCT. 15, 1998
Dan, 34, white male <dnh6n@virginia.edu>, Charlottesville, VA
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THE QUESTION:
R309: Many Mexican males I see over the age of 13 wear mustaches. Is there some significance to this?
POSTED JUNE 7, 1998
Tony H., thamm@computoredge.com, Chgula Vista, CA

ANSWER 1:
My boyfriend is Mexican and does not wear a mustache. I have many Mexican friends, and they say it’s a sign they are now a man, even if it is peach fuzz.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Ariel, 16, Armenian female, Fresno, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R308: Are most African Americans liberal Democrats? I ask because almost all media attention seems to go to black leaders who are left of wing in the way they think. I always assumed there would be far more Republican blacks due to the fact that it was a Republican president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law. Also, it was predominantly northern Republicans who started and fueled the abolition movement.
POSTED JUNE 5, 1998
Moo Moo, 29, white male, bigmooch@mindspring.com, Los Angeles, CA

ANSWER 1:
While I call myself conservative, I will never be a Republican as long as Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Abigail Thernstrom, Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond, Jerry Falwell, David Duke and Jesse Helms and their followers are in the party.
POSTED JUNE 18, 1998
Wanda, black, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
The Republican party was formed in the mid-1850s. The Abolition movement predated the birth of the GOP by several decades. And for all intents and purposes, the goal of the Republican party was to was prevent slavery from expanding to the Western territories, not to abolish it were it already existed. The party was strongest in the “Northwestern” states of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, etc., by those who wanted to protect the “free” farming interests of their states, which didn’t want to have to compete with slave holders in the West.

“Wrong as we think Slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States?” – Abraham Lincoln, March 6, 1860

And while the Emancipation Proclamation put the GOP in the good graces of the black electorate for many decades, that was 135 years ago.

Are most African-American voters “liberal Democrats”? If being a Democrat makes you a liberal, then yes. But if you were to discuss a variety of issues with individual African Americans, I think you might find a large number African Americans are “conservative” on many issues.

I think what prevents many blacks from considering becoming Republican is that on issues concerning race in America, the GOP seems indifferent, with the exception of those policies they oppose. Other than occasionally trotting out a black conservative to oppose welfare or affirmative action, or to say that Democrats are bad, the GOP acts as if it couldn’t care less about black votes.
POSTED JUNE 19, 1998
Jay B., black <jayboyd@ameritech.net>, Detroit, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R307: I was raised in Los Angeles County, and I have noticed that the only times I’ve seen people expressing racism toward each other in person (i.e. not in front of TV cameras) have been between blacks and Hispanics. Do these groups have greater animosity toward each other than toward whites?
POSTED JUNE 5, 1998
A.J., 43, white male, alanjones@access1.net, Mission Viejo, CA

ANSWER 1:
I was raised in a suburb of Los Angeles where the population is 75 percent Mexican and 25 percent black. There is a small part of town called “ghost town,” and that’s where the black people live. I think it has to do with gangs. Mexican gangs and black gangs do not get along. They are always killing each other. I think it’s because these are two very agressive cultures, and they clash a lot, but if for some reason they had to, I believe they would unite against whites.
POSTED JUNE 24, 1998
Aztlan, 21, Mexican female <aestra@chmc.org>, Bothell, WA

FURTHER NOTICE:
There was a lot of racism against blacks by Mexicans when I was growing up. Partly this was from stereotyping. My grandfather said blacks had no culture and thus were not worthy of respect. This has changed dramatically in the past decade. Most Mexicans I knew growing up looked down on blacks, but young Mexicans today often have black friends from school. I think the factor that changed their minds was the popularity of rap music, which expressed their own views better than their parents’ music. I hope this change is permanent.
POSTED AUG. 4, 1998
A.C.C., 32, Mexican, San Antonio, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R306: Why do many black people seem to dance and perform at sports better than people of other races?
POSTED JUNE 5, 1998
O. Sai, North Hills, CA
(Similar question posted Aug. 3, 1998, by David J., 15, white, Jefferson City, MO)

ANSWER 1:
I, too, have noticed that hundreds of successful performers of various types are black, and this partially is influenced by slight genetic differences, but even more by environment or society. Where I live, thousands of people are under the misconception that black people are naturally born athletes and dancers, largely because of their portrayal on television and other forms of media. In fact, this is not the case because I must admit I cannot dance especially well nor play basketball or football with any exquisite amount of skill. This can be attributed to the fact that where I reside, although a number of people expect me to be a certain way, I experience very little pressure to mold my life in that manner. In fact, my goal in numerous cases is to break stereotypes and exhibit through my behavior that all African Americans do not think and act in the same fashion. In other words, my opinion is that many black people can dance and play certain sports well for exactly the same reason many white people can play golf better than a number of black people. It is because of the effort one puts into improving himself at doing whatever an activity is. I put little effort into improving my basketball skills; thus, I do not become much better at playing. If you were to put much effort into playing pool, swimming or singing, you could probably become just as talented at these activities as many black people.
POSTED JUNE 19, 1998
Joe C., 15, African-American male, Pleasanton, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Being Chinese, I can’t say from my own experience. What I have seen on documentaries and conversations with immigrant blacks is that they have much more music and dance in their culture. Since I was raised as a Canadian, there was not a lot of music and dance in my childhood except for what we did in school. My mother and her brothers and sisters are great singers, but they never did a traditional Christmas carol sing-sing or anything close to that. I wish they had and I’d bet that myself and my cousins would have been more avid singers and dancers. With great song, dance is not very far behind – you just gotta move! I think we have a lot to learn from these singing and dancing cultures. It keeps our spirit alive. I sing and dance with my 3 1/2-month-old virtually every day.
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Corey K.-L., 37, Canadian Chinese, Edmonton, Alberta

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Black people have excelled in those areas because those are the venues we have been traditionally allowed to compete and excel in. We were kept out of the best schools until very recently (remember that the desegregation of major universities in the South happened only a little more than 30 years ago), so achievements in other areas were more difficult to come by. The triumph of black people in America is even more remarkable when you consider that. In the future, you will see less emphasis on sports and entertainment and more on education, culture and capitalism. I pray for that.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
Erik B., 47, black male, <erikdb@mailexcite.com>, Boulder, CO

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I think black people genrally are more athletic. You can see it in them. I am not saying they all are athletic, just that more blacks are athletic than whites. I noticed this when I went to play basketball (I am white living in Cyprus, were very few black live) and this black boy was there. He was naturally thin, fit and strong. I could see he had never been to a gym, but if he went he would shape muscles very easily. I repeat, this is not something that applies to all blacks, just a higher percentage of them than whites. Fewer whites have a naturally athletic body.
POSTED OCT. 22, 1998
Mike, 18, white male, Republic of Cyprus
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THE QUESTION:
R305: Some of my closest friends are German, and experience has shown me time and again that they seem to have few qualms about being overly critical of those around them. Why is this? Is it something fundamental to the German personality?
POSTED JUNE 3, 1998
Don G., 27, American of European descent, Salinas, CA

ANSWER 1:
Many northern Europeans tend to be blunt and overly straightforward in their dealings with people in general. This is true of Germans bu is not limited to them. I have traveled extensively in Poland (my wife is Polish) and have noticed it there, too. As with the French (in another reply at this site), they are not taught to “make nice” as Americans are. Their defense, when challenged for their behavior, is to say “Well, it’s the truth.” In short, there is no incentive to be nice, unless you are just naturally a nice person, anyway. Verbal bluntness and rudeness (not necessarily synonymous) are just not the big deal they are in the United States. I don’t recommend this as a norm for human relations; I am just stating what I have observed.
POSTED JUNE 25, 1998
S., S.C.

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am half-German, and here’s my dimestore philosophy on why this might be. My mother is 100 percent German and my father is a Russian/Czech mix. Growing up in that household, there was a low tolerance for errant behavior and there was no tolerance for crybaby-type behavior. You had to “suck it up” if anything went wrong. To this day, when I see someone blame someone else for why something didn’t go their way, or if someone is giving less than 100 percent on an endeavor, I am likely to be critical because I know that in my family, we would be given no pity. Anything we did not get was our fault, i.e.,we did not work hard enough, end of story. I cannot attribute this strictly to my German heritage – it’s probably safe to assume that first- or second-generation Americans of Eastern European descent have similar situations because our ancestors had it “so much harder than us” and their toil and work ethic rubbed off on us.
POSTED JUNE 28, 1998
Erika <nuerika@yahoo.com>, Chicago, IL
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THE QUESTION:
R304: Why does it seem that many families of American Indian and Hispanic descent go generations without upgrading their educational and economic status?
POSTED JUNE 3, 1998
Female, 36, Antelope, CA

ANSWER 1:
It’s my belief that goverment programs such as free health care and cheap, if not free, housing bleed the will of people to promote themselves. I see it a lot here.
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Married to woman of native descent, Tulsa, OK

FURTHER NOTICE:
Many people assume government “handouts” encourage laziness among First Nations peoples. On the contrary, it is the shortsightedness of most government programs that keeps the recipients of subsidized housing, etc., from improving their living conditions. What good is a house, and how can it be maintained, when, as is often the case, essential services like running water, electricity and sewage systems are not provided for a reserve, and the profits from a house’s construction go into the pockets of white contractors? As a teacher at a Native-run university, I meet people every day who, with help from their own communities, have managed to overcome enormous obstacles to improve their own lives and those of their families and friends. Recovering from long-term discrimination and economic disadvantage is a slow process, but there are many people of courage and vision who are seeking and creating positive social change.
POSTED JULY 20, 1998
Patricia M., 41, white, Regina , Saskatchewan, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Who says we don’t improve? My family has gone from dirt-poor to all of us having education at the doctoral level in two generations. You need to understand that Mexican and especially Indian people are in an almost colonial relation with the United States. Labor and resources are sucked out of our communities to benefit the wealthy, and enormous obstacles, both legal and economic, have been placed in our way. My family got out of poverty by the military service of every male. We also have more of a group or family than an individual materialistic idea of what makes for success. It’s common to turn down a better job if that job would take you away from family. A teacher or soldier is a success because they serve their people, but a wealthy businessman or salesman isn’t unless he gives back to the community. In fact, he’s rather sad because he’s deluding himself into thinking wealth is important.
POSTED NOV. 27, 1998
A.C.C., Mexican and Indian, San Antonio, Tx
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THE QUESTION:
R303: Why are commercials on, for example, NBC often multiracial, but on BET and Soul Train they’re predominantly black?
POSTED JUNE 3, 1998
Ray S., 35, white, fundbuyer@aol.com, Santa Ana, CA

ANSWER 1:
I would imagine that BET and the advertisers who buy time on that network are focusing on who they believe their primary audience is. Networks like NBC are truly “broadcasters,” as they offer a variety of differing programs in an effort to attract a broad demographic, whereas BET is a “narrowcaster” trying to reach a specific niche by providing programs designed to appeal to a particular interest. In this respect, the lack of whites in BET commercials is no more unusual than the lack of senior citizens in MTV commercials.
POSTED JUNE 17, 1998
Jay B. <jayboyd@ameritech.net>, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
Let’s look at these multiracial commercials. Most are some of the most demeaning and stereotypical on television. Why are we (blacks) always portrayed as “dancing, singing and rapping” for our beer, soft drinks and hamburgers? The commercials on BET are more balanced, but even BET has a lot of work to do. Also, look at the demographics of viewers. BET has an overwhelmingly black audience because of the lack of black television shows on major networks.
POSTED JUNE 18, 1998
Wanda, black, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
There may be people of all different races in commercials on NBC, but I have seen more whites than other groups in these commercials. The situation with commercials on BET is the same, but in reverse. I have seen commercials on BET that had white people in them, but the predominant characters were black. Also, you have to realize who they are targeting. It would make more sense for a “Dark and Lovely Black Hair Care” ad to appear where the advertiser knows more blacks will see it.
POSTED JUNE 22, 1998
Katherine, Richmond, IN

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
The answer is plain and simple: Racism. NBC and their local affiliates must do a better job at getting advertising that reflects the people who use the products, and also the people who watch their shows. Most of the prime-time advertising on NBC that I see is “chock full o’ whites.” The advertising firms share some blame in this, too. Blacks (and other minorities) are never thought of unless it is shown that we spend a bazillion dollars on a product – and even then, they’ll “think about it” (remember The Cosby Show ads? If it wasn’t Bill peddling JELL-O, many times the folks in commercials were lily white). Anyway, BET (and other black media outlets) has a long way to go, too. We don’t all rap, sing, dance, have unbridled sexual bravado, etc., and many of us do speak standard English. And, by the way, we don’t all drink Old English 800 Malt Liquor or Colt 45.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Mel B., black female, Detroit, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R302: My family and the guy I am dating make racist remarks. What can I say to them that will not put them on the defensive but instead open their minds to human beings who are different then themselves?
POSTED JUNE 3, 1998
W.J.C., 24, white, wjc9473@aol.com, Des Moines, IA

ANSWER 1:
First, I wonder why you would want to date a person who makes racial remarks. Obviously you see the ugliness involved in this type of self-expression. You are an individual with the right to choose and set boundaries. Inform your family and boyfriend that you simply don’t like their racial remarks and would appreciate their trying not to use racial remarks in your presence. It may make them think new thoughts themselves. You never know!
POSTED JUNE 17, 1998
Mama Fixit, 58, <detached30@hotmail.com>, Rancho Cordova, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Dear W.J.C.: Don’t be concerned with racist remarks, as they are no true indicator of whether one is actually racist. Racism is manifested through conduct rather than words or jokes. Words often merely indicate a lack of knowledge about a particular group. Jokes often are used to release stress rather than perpetuate racism. The bottom line is, if your friends or family take action against another race, I think you should be extremely concerned. Until then, do not waste your energy worrying.
POSTED JUNE 19, 1998
David L., 38 <Lawstnt@aol>, Chatsworth, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
To W.J.C.: Have you ever told them you don’t like it when they make these racist comments? Or do you remain quiet? Sometimes silence means acceptance, and they may feel you agree with what they are saying if you say neither yea nor nay. It is very hard, sometimes, to teach others, even our own family, about things they have no experience with. In Iowa, where you live, are there many people of different races nearby? Does your family/boyfriend have friends or acquaintances of other races? If not, that’s part of the problem. We fear what we don’t know. How about you? Do you have friends of different races? Do they come over to your home or go out with you and your boyfriend? Communicate your feelings, in a calm way, to your family/boyfriend and try to open up a conversation about the subject. You may encounter resistance at first, but if this is important to you, don’t give up. Good luck!
POSTED JUNE 24, 1998
Cheryl, 44, black <blackcherrie@yahoo.com>, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Say they make a comment about the action of some member of an ethnic group, either portrayed on television on in the movies, and they make a statement accusing the entire group of that action. Just think of a time when they did almost the same thing and remind them of it. For instance, if they make the observation that such-and-such group is lazy, just remind them of an incident where they showed a bit of laziness themselves. You’ll subtly point out to them that those racial stereotypes and comments they make apply to all people, not just that group.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
K. Green, 30, African American <KennyG9@yahoo.com>, Chicago, IL
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THE QUESTION:
R301: Why have some prominent blacks promoted the idea that it is all right for a black person to use the “N” word, but it is not OK for non-blacks to use it? Not many years ago, we were told it was one of the worst words in the English language, but lately people such as Oprah Winfrey have preached it as acceptable if used by the right person. Why do these people want to keep this word alive?
POSTED JUNE 3, 1998
Eric K., 33, white, Pensacola, FL
(Similar questions posted June 5, 1998, by Kristy S., sime@mistic.net, Manteca, CA; and Robert, 52, Los Angeles, CA)

ANSWER 1
Both who is using the word and how the word is used are important. As for who, are the speaker and listener strangers or close friends? Same race or not? As for how the word is used, remember what Ali McGraw called Ryan O’Neal in Love Story? (“You f***ing bas**rd.”) My students at Sophia University in Tokyo were very confused by this. Why? Because McGraw said it in such a loving way. Go figure.
POSTED JUNE 17, 1998
Ron G. <goze@webgalaxy.com>, Encinitas, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
As a black person, I think is is contradictory for us to tell others this is offensive, but that it is OK a black person or the “right” person uses it. To do away with something so negative and stop its usage, black people should be the first to remove it from their language and everyday use. There are times when the “N” word can be used as a term of endearment among blacks, but we can’t, nor should prominent blacks, promote something that is an ugly part of history.
POSTED JUNE 19, 1998
T. Spen, 26, female, African American <auset2be@aol.com>, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I feel the intent of these people using the “N” word may have been misconstrued. Personally, this word brings nothing but detestation and negative recollection of the past when I hear it, but others do not have such a problem with it, as we both know. If, in fact, Oprah Winfrey did claim the use of the “N” word is acceptable by those of African descent, I sincerely doubt her motivation was to keep it alive. Let’s face the truth: The “N” word may be here to stay. In many low-income areas, people apply it in their diurnal vernacular. This is not because they love to hear everyone using it; it is because that is how they have learned to speak for whatever reasons. Whether the usage of this word is a positive development, virtually all black people agree they dislike hearing a person use the word in a derogatory or hateful manner. So, whether some black people continue to use the “N” word, everyone involved will likely be much better off if it is not used in a superfluous manner or by anyone who might be perceived to be employing it with malicious intent.
POSTED JUNE 19, 1998
Joe C., 15, African-American male, Pleasanton, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
People who make racist remarks do so out of fear. People who are not afraid of racially different people do not make such remarks. Your lack of racist fear is commendable. How can you convince your racist loved ones to embrace your more tolerant attitude? Gently, honestly and with love.
POSTED JUNE 25, 1998
Z., Bellingham, WA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
The “N” word has been embraced and redefined by many blacks, particularly within many inner-city communities. By redefining the word, we took away the oppressive power that once stood behind the meaning. Whites have owned the “N” word for many centuries. As an act of rebellion, many blacks have used the “N” word as a term of endearment. For example, many black men refer to some of their closet friends as their “N”‘s. However, only blacks and those inducted into the black community are entitled to use the word. There is a “cultural understanding” and rights of passage that make us uniquely qualified to use it in its newly found meaning, especially because our usage is not the same as its original, racist connotation. The “N” word in American culture is deemed a “bad” word, but within the cultural context of the black community it can stand for brotherhood and sisterhood.
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Patrice D., African American, Philadelphia, PA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Patrice: I can’t buy your position or those of others who propose this argument. One minute we’re supposed to be up in arms, protesting a publisher for even listing the “N” word in the dictionary, and the next we’re suggesting it’s OK to defame ourselves. That’s illogical, hypocritical and self-defeating. I believe in the power of the spoken word. I believe we are affected by the connotations associated with words. Why would I use a term that has historically been derogatory and insist that in a contemporary context it is a term of endearment? I think that logic makes us look neurotic. I will never ascribe words like “nigga(er),” “bitch,” “hoe,” “dog,”etc., to my peers or anyone else. Where do we get off telling the world, “You have no right to disrespect me, but it’s OK if I demean myself”?
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
Zawadi, 33, black female, Detroit, MI
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