The “N” Word

Posted: February 12, 2010 in Rant
Tags: ,

This will be first for this blog… a post that doesn’t involve putting up the next in the chronological exploration of my poetry. Halifax will have to wait (probably until Monday).

First I will tell you why I am at home today and then I will tell you why I felt compelled to write anyway.

Yesterday at work I leaned up against one of the desks in my cubicle (something I have done dozens of times), and in a flash the whole thing came out of the wall and crashed to the ground, taking all of my stuff with it (and landing on top of my computer, doing some cosmetic damage). I fell backwards and hit my neck and shoulders against the over-hanging cabinet.

It was nearly quitting time when that happened so we cleaned up and I left work, heading over to the Cajun Attic for the Bill Brown 1-2-3 Slam.

By the end of the night I was really sore. Ruthanne says the back of my neck looks swollen. So I took the day off and may go visit the doctor if it doesn’t feel any better soon.


Now, the point of my post…

See the title? I mean the word you think I mean.

Last night at the Slam, someone dropped the N-bomb on stage.

A white dude.

This is the first time I have heard someone in Ottawa (well, a white someone in Ottawa) do that on stage. Previously, I was present when a Victoria poet did it on a stage in Halifax and ignited a firestorm.

What I saw last night was worse.

What’s the difference? The one in Halifax was done out of ignorance. Small i ignorance. Look, I was born and raised in Victoria and you couldn’t get a more whitebread town. I think there are more black people on my poetry team, The Recipe, than there were in my graduating class in high school. A graduating class of 500.

So when that poet did a poem about the racism of his youth and dropped certain words, in his own shame, he didn’t realize the impact it would have on his Halifax audience? No.

Does that excuse it? No.

What I heard last night was something completely different. This poet dropped the word, KNOWING it would offend and anger people.

His lines went:

“N**** wut?
Oh, does that offend you?”

I would like to answer his question.

Yes… yes it does.

I would also like to extend a message from one pasty-looking white dude to another, and pardon my caps…


Was that clear enough?

I was disappointed with the judges, to be honest. Only one judge took him task for saying it, while the others gave him the sorts of scores he would have gotten if he hadn’t said what he did.

I wanted to see a ZERO thrown up, honestly.

After the show somebody told me something that bothered me even more. I was told that he HAS done that poem at Capital Slam. Obviously when he did that, I didn’t hear when he said THE word (I’m a busy guy at these shows), but that means there was no uproar from him saying it.

That disappoints me. I thought our Merc crowd would explode on him for saying it.

Last night Ruthanne told me she was reading a thread about John Mayer dropping the bomb in an interview with Playboy. In the thread somebody said “it depends on the context”. Somebody else said “there is no acceptable context”, and that is where I am on this.

Let me reiterate from up-post, WHITE DUDES DON’T GET TO DROP THE N-BOMB! EVER!!


  1. Kyra Harris says:

    I’m going to go one step further and add onto this statement: WHITE DUDES DON’T GET TO DROP THE N-BOMB! EVER!! I’ll disclaim by saying I’m a post-structuralist and believe that discourse and language are not just discourse and language, but shape the way we experience the world. Lately, I have been more then frustrated on my campus with the number of individuals who think it’s okay to use words like, the n-word, fag, retarded etc. with a complete disregard for how these words affect other people and re-inscribe ‘white supremacist patriarchal’ power dynamics (or have been used in the past, i.e. the word fag has disturbing historical meaning). We are all bodies with histories…my body just happens to be able-bodied, white, and female. There is not a single day that I allow myself to forget this – because my body, is not just mine alone, but one with a history and a genetic code that has been present at each and every one of the devastating epochs in the history of colonization and imperialism. I am separate from my body’s history, only in as much as I refuse to fall into being the oppressor, the colonizer, or the person who uses their power and privilege to dominate others, even if that is simply through my word-choice or what I say on stage. Words make meaning, they create new histories, and they harm, silence, aggress, injury and isolate other human beings. And for anyone that thinks differently, take a corse in semiotics, or read some Barthes and then realize that when use offensive words with historical meanings, you’re not just using a word that’s offensive, you’re speaking of a history, casting yourself as the modern day oppressor.

    Thanks for calling this one out Rusty! And hope you’re feeling better! Make sure you didn’t get a concussion!

  2. […] ‘real’ hits) and now the Amal post is my most read post of all time, passing the ‘N’ Word post (and leaving it in the dust – 62 to 38 at last […]

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