Lisa and LenaI was scrolling through my timeline on Twitter this weekend, when amidst the usual Beyoncé worship was a retweet of a photo of comedienne Lisa Lampanelli and HBO’s Lena Dunham.  Below the photo was Lampanelli’s caption that read “Me with my nigga @LenaDunham of @HBOGirls – I love this beyotch!!”

While I was angry to see the n-word being used by a White woman to describe another White woman, I wasn’t exactly surprised.  I was familiar with Lampanelli’s crude and offensive style of humor, and assumed that this was nothing more than one of her usual antics.  So instead of venting on Twitter, I decided to go to sleep and not devote any more energy to the matter than I already had.

But days later, Lampanelli has followed up with several interviews in which she unapologetically defends her use of the n-word.  She reassures us that it’s ok though, because she used the word as a term of endearment to describe her friend Lena.  She then goes on to educate us on the fundamental differences between the bad n-word that ends with an “er” and the good n-word that ends with an “a”.

But in giving her justification, Lampanelli fails to mention one important detail that negates her entire argument:  She is white.  The rules that she has just outlined don’t apply to her.  She can’t use the n-word.

Which, of course, is precisely the reason that she does.

Because if this was truly about Lampanelli wanting to express her adoration for Dunham as she claims, she would have chosen another word that would have more accurately accomplished that.

And here lies the problem in this situation.  It’s not just the n-word itself, it’s Lampanelli’s very purposeful decision to use the word just so that she can attract attention.

Because, for Lampanelli, that word isn’t about culture, or love, or inclusion, or camaraderie like it is for the African-Americans who choose to use it.  Instead, for Lampanelli, the n-word is little more than a short and lazy path to controversy and publicity, effectively cheapening whatever endearing quality the word might have had.

And then to add insult to injury, she tries to convince us that the black lash she has received is unreasonable because she has taken “the hate out of the word”.  As if we’re all too stupid to know exactly what she’s doing.

Well, Ms. Lampanelli, you might think you have taken the hate out of the n-word (you have not), but when you use it just to evoke shock and cheap laughs, you replace hate with something far more insidious: disrespect. And it’s that disrespect, that blatant dismissiveness of Black values that is just as vile as the word itself.

You see, African-Americans (or “The Blacks”  as Lampanelli sometimes refers to us as), don’t have many advantages over our White counterparts.  Getting to use the n-word, while White people do not, is one of only a few examples of Black privilege, if there even is such a thing. And even though our “nigga” benefits are trivial, pathetic even, we value them because we don’t have much else.

So go on, White people. Revel in being the majority.  Live without fear of your local police.  Enjoy your readily accessible superior resources and social rewards.  We Black folks can tolerate all that.  Just grant us one simple courtesy: Don’t. Use. That. Word.

But, no.  Lampanelli, can’t even do that.  Instead, she rubs the word in our faces, denying us what little privilege we possess.

Why?  Because her privilege says she can.

It’s a slap in the face to “The Blacks” that have been fans of her work.  It’s a “f you” to the White people who truly understand and respect why that word is off-limits.  And it’s an insult to the women, like myself, who have been called the n-word by some random hateful idiot and have never, ever been quite the same.  To hell with all of us.  Lampanelli’s going to keep saying the word “nigga” because it’s kind of funny.

Except for the fact that it’s not.

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  • Everyone is entitled to an opinion,what makes your’s more important than her’s?

  • Why are we concerning ourselves with the terminology Whites are using to refer to each other?

  • AJS.

    It’s really interesting that I found this article today. I literally woke up wanting to express this CRAZY idea I had:

    What if “Nigga” were just a word?

    What if we never got riled up when white girls call each other nigga? What if there wasn’t a whole convention on Clutch Magazine’s site about whether or not we care?

    Even better, what if our response to a redneck’s half witted, “Stupid Nigger!” was, “Is that the best you’ve got?”

    I read months ago, when Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted the “n-word” a certain rapper’s tweet: “What are we doing letting Non-Blacks think it’s cool to say that word? It’s like a slap in your Grandma’s face!”

    I thought, “Oh I’m sorry, does your grandmother pat you on the back in congratulations when you refer to your friend as a nigga?” Or does she too, see it as an “example of Black privilege?”

    I, a Black woman, hate the word like I hate roaches. But in the same breath, I drop it frequently – specifically in reference to ignorant, short-sighted people (ie even when my friends say something outrageous).

    So when other people use it around me, the hairs on my back stick straight up. It doesn’t matter if they are White calling each other that, or if a Black man says “Oh yeah I’m a real nigga!” Sometimes I react, but mostly, I don’t. Why?

    In my opinion, we give the word “nigga” way too much power. It carries a sense of false entitlement and identity for both races, whether you “re-claim” it or revere it as “endearment.”

    Imagine, if we as Black people simply stopped acknowledging the word altogether. For example, if we equated the cheap shot “nigga/er” to slightly less offensive half-witted “ass-hole,” Lisa’s goal to drive us up a wall would lose effect. Wouldn’t it?

    Lisa used it to get a reaction. Most racists say “nigger” to get a reaction. Black people say it for a reaction.

    Like really ask yourself what does nigga/er actually mean to you? What value does it give or take away from you?

    Listen: you don’t like other people saying it, YOU don’t say it. You want to use it as freely as Harry Potter waves his wand – f-ck it, it’s a “free country.”

    But realize that there are far too many racial injustices happening in this country to focus on some ancient word carefully instructed to destroy your psyche.

    So to you, Miss Pierce, you had the right idea the first time: someone uses the word to get a reaction, ignore them.