The common use of the “N” word Fallacy

I  grew up in the South.  Certainly below the Mason Dixon line, I was born in Washington DC and grew up in Maryland.  Maryland has a state anthem, that once you get past the first few verses pretty much says “Suck it federal government” and “I love owning slaves”.

It’s sung to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree”, and all I ever learned in school was the first verse.

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People legally owned slaves in Maryland during the war. Washington DC was in a bad location, as many Maryland residents were not to be trusted.

Still, while most people in the deep South do not consider Maryland a Southern state, it has deep racist roots.  My own family fought for the North.  Our family tin types from the Civil War show Northern uniforms.  That’s because we were kicked out of Scotland to settle on an island on the Chesapeake, but only after being indentured servants.  A family history includes bits of a diary where the family mentions fighting for the North as our religious beliefs did not include owning slaves.  Maryland was a state where Dr. Mudd set the leg of John Wilkes Booth after he had shot the President Lincoln. While later pardoned, historians now say Dr. Mudd knew Booth personally, and certainly if not at the time of treating Booth, then later knew darn well who he had treated and why.  Maryland residents were instrumental in helping Booth eventually escape to Virginia where he later died of wounds.

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The people of Maryland helped hide Booth, it was Virginians that helped turn him in.

Growing up, I never heard anyone use the “N” word.  It just wasn’t used.  The word was “colored”.  My grandmother would have a black workman over to the home, and he would eat in the kitchen a lunch she had prepared.  He didn’t eat with us at the dining room table, but then again I had always assumed it was because he was usually quite dirty from whatever work he had been doing.  I know I was sent to the kitchen table to eat by myself if I came in from a day playing a complete mess.

One day a friend used the “N” word.  My grandmother was very upset, you didn’t use that word.  She didn’t mention how it was demeaning and an insult.  Instead she believed it was a reflection on the person that used the word. “Only very ignorant people use that word. It’s a sign you are lower class”.  This was the same 1960’s Paula Deen grew up in.  It was wrong, but wrong for the same reasons cursing and saying someone “Jewed” you.  Only poorly educated people used language in this manner.

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“Golly gee, this pan is black as a n….” (don’t say it Paula, my grandmother would wash your mouth out with soap).

My grandmother had trouble adjusting to “black”.  The hospital where she worked was integrated, but the form had a box to check for “Race” and it said “Colored” not “Black”.  I did point out to her that if she had a patient that was black, she would always say “I had this interesting colored patient today…”  I asked why she never said “I had this interesting white patient today…”  She took the criticism well and with consideration.

When I was a moderator on the JREF forums I found that many people from Europe would use the “N” word in posts. I would have to explain why this wasn’t allowed.  Many of them had learned English partially from American made films. The films had given them the impression that using the “N” word was acceptable.  I would try to explain this word was controversial even in the black community, some feeling it was alright to use among other blacks, others calling for no one to use the word, whatever color they were.  I always ended with “If  you aren’t black, don’t use it. Ever.  It’s incredibly disrespectful, and shows a lack of education.” (I would throw that in as something I had learned from my grandmother and wanted to pass on).

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Just because you heard it in movie, doesn’t mean you can use the word.. unless you are in a movie and the script tells you to. Also if you use the word in a movie and you are white, pretty soon these guys will kill you. The hint is that white people that use the “N” word in movies soon die. (for my non- US readers)

Posters on the forum would actually thank me, one saying he hoped to visit the US one day and now understood he would have faced a potential beating if he used the language he learned from Martin Lawrence.

When Paula Deen claims this word was in common use in the 1960’s and 70’s, I counter with it was known to be an insult and term of derision even back then.  It was certainly not a cute nickname or in any way acceptable.  It was said out of prejudice and hate.

The fact is that people I grew up around that were not for equal rights and often made derogatory remarks about blacks, never used that word. Some people would say all sorts of things about “coloreds”, but never the “N” word. Even they weren’t known as very nice people.  Since Paula Deen was a child at the same time I was, she can’t claim “I never heard this word used often”, because it was not used around a small child.  She was young and she claims to have heard it on a regular basis.

I did hear the word, but those that used it were seen as uneducated and probably as was said of the poet Lord Byron  “Mad, bad and dangerous to know.”  Good people, especially good Christians, never used the “N” word. (My grandmother liked to throw in the “good Christians” thing, but in her case she really meant “nice people don’t use that word”)



Categories: History, James Randi Educational Foundatioin - JREF, Maryland

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8 replies

  1. Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    Thank you Ms. KITTY LAPIN AGILE, for this post.

    • thank you! I was angry for Paula trying to blame her upbringing as a Southern woman for her “opps”. I wanted to say that my own family made sure we respected all cultures and races. At a time when there were often segregated hospitals, my grandmother refused to work a hospital that did accept anyone that walked in the door. While there was racism around us, she made sure that we learned racism was wrong from a religious and moral point of view. Most of my friends were raised the same way, if not, I was not allowed to play with them.

      • Your family should be a blueprint for real America, Ms. Agile. When you have a pot of soup with many different ingredients that you added to the pot of soup, it’s down right stupid to pick out what you don’t like, since you made that pot of soup.

        America’s racism and discrimination is exactly like a pot of soup.

        Caucasians bought every race & culture to America, to work land they were too lazy to work, and after massacring & stealing America from The Native Americans…..then decided to pick out the parts they don’t like when those races & cultures started to grow & prosper.

        It’s too damn late/bad now, should not have added ingredients you don’t like when you stated this melting pot of soup called The United States Of America.

  2. This is a pedantic sidetrack, but Byron didn’t say, “Mad, bad and dangerous to know.” That was instead said OF Lord Byron by the woman who later became his mistress.

    • thanks, I changed it! I KNOW it was said OF him, not by him! He was exciting to know, but more than likely not if you were a woman!

  3. What I think is you are correct. Never a nice word in my mom’s book. I am 54 and I grew up in Baltimore and Baltimore County. My mother never tolerated the word and to use it in front of a “colored” person would have humiliated her. The rest of my family were not so sensitive but still didn’t use it all the time.
    I do think it was a much more commonly used word even to a black person’s face in the states deeper South but I suspect that many people even there knew it was wrong and discouraged their children from using it. We tend to believe that every southerner was a racist animal but we also tend to think all Moslems are bent on being suicide bombers or Jihadists.
    The truth is probably more like some were hard core racists and many more followed due to peer pressure and then there were those; I’m betting the great majority, who took the changes in stride or at least without resorting to violence.
    As always, a few assholes make everyone look bad.
    Not to say that the anti-equality and racist movements were and are not a serious threat and large. Just not the majority they like to advertise themselves as being.
    Propaganda is a powerful tool. One used to great effect by every Fascist and Right-Wing racist organization and government.
    Used often; to make people feel like they are the only ones not a part of the insane plans they press. As so many people are so easily led…

    Funny thing about the word “colored”. I remember a TV show from about 68 I think. It was called Julia and starred Dianne Carroll as a single mother of a 9 or 10 year old boy named Corey. Her boss was played by Lloyd Nolan.
    When she calls about the job opening in his office and he calls to tell her he has seen her application and wants her to start (without meeting her); she is taken aback and says to him, “Doctor. I think I had better tell you that I am colored”.
    The Doctor says, “That’s nice. What color are you? Purple, Blue?”

    It was the first but not the last time I heard that joke but in some way, that joke made me begin to think for myself about race and my family and what the truth was about people.
    I guess because it is such a stupid joke. “What color?”
    I think I began to think about how stupid it is to be concerned with skin color.
    Wish I had been quicker on the uptake.

    Maryland is a very racist State in some areas and very Liberal in others.
    I live in the northeastern most county; Cecil and it has a reputation as formerly being one of the KKK’s strongholds in Maryland. Ain’t I luckey?

    It isn’t quite as bad as it once was but still; Republican and racist at the core.

    Well have a great day and thanks for this post. It’s a real thought provoker.

    • I love Maryland, I truly do. I loved growing up crabbing and fishing and enjoying the Bay. My mother and step dad still live in Ellicott City and have a condo in Ocean City. My own life was around Easton and Nanticoke. I love to visit “home” but the racism is still “out there” too much for me at times. New Hampshire which I call home now, while not considered a liberal state, is a highly tolerant state. I love both my old home state and my new home state. But Paula can not paint us all with her excuse “oh everyone used this word”. no no no.

  4. I grew up in the deep south, and I’m about the same age as Paula Deen. While my parents taught me not to use the “N” word, I regret to say that I did hear it used all the time, even when I was a very young child. Also, as children tend to do, many said a lot of things their parents told them never to say. In my childhood (1960’s) “black” was also considered insulting. The correct words, we were taught, were “Negro” or “colored.” I agree with Angry Man, most people in the South were not hard core racists but there was a lot of peer pressure from those who were. (I remember being called “n-word lover” more than once.)
    I also remember the TV show “Julia” and as I recall, it was set in a northern city, but even so, Julia felt she had to “warn” her potential employer that she was colored. Racism was and is everywhere, it just takes different forms.

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