Bill Maher is in trouble again. This time for saying the N word. I'm not going to defend him. At all. But I will say, I once called myself the N word too. For a joke.
Let me explain.
When I was in 5th grade I said the N word. In class. During a discussion on what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Teacher: "Class, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Most kids said basic things: Firefighter, Superhero, Astronaut. Yep. They were more popular in 1991.
At at that time in my life I was listening to comedy albums. When my parents took me to the mall, I'd run into the book stores to buy books and cassette tapes. Yep. They were more popular in 1991.
I grew up on Steve Martin, George Carlin, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. And Richard Pryor liked saying the N word a lot in earlier albums. He changed his mind after going to Africa.
I didn't know what it meant. All I knew is that he'd talk about "n***ers" and the people would laugh. I still remember the drunk story. Everyone was laughing. I was 10 or 11 and didn't realize the context.
So when it was my turn to answer what I wanted to be, I told Mrs. McMahon "I wanna be a n***er because they're funny!"
Luckily for me none of the other white classmates in my private school knew what in the hell I said. But there was a black girl named Camielle. She knew. And she cried. And she ran out of the room.
I was sent to the office to see the principal. My mother was the school secretary. She asked me why I was sent. I told her I didn't know. Then she got a call.
Mom: "Hello? [...] He said what?!" She looked maaaaad.
I still didn't know what I had done.
Then I saw the principal. He told me that it was a bad word used to make fun and mistreat black people.
I said, "Like how kids call me fat?"
He said yes. "That hurts your feelings when kids say that, right?"
I said, "Sometimes. But I am fat."
He looked flustered. Looking back, I realized that having this conversation because of my ignorance was not on his agenda for the day.
Eventually, my little marshmallow body was sent back to class. Camielle was better. Mrs. McMahon was back to teaching. I just went on with the rest of my day.
The truth is, it's hard for some people to understand the historical context on how and why the N word gets used. I didn't really understand what I said until years later. It just wasn't a word I heard in my daily life. Just comedy. But later when I heard Richard Pryor talk about how he'd never use it again, I understood that what I did, though in humor, was still wrong because I hurt people.
So so with all the talk of Bill Maher this weekend, I think I understand that Maher didn't realize what he said. The difference is that he's a grown man. I was a kid. He should have known better by now.
Paul Douglas Moomjean Blog's About What's on His Mind
Blogging allows for me to rant when there is no stage in the moment to talk about what's important and/or funny to me.