Oprah and the n-word

Photo via Parade magazine

In a recent interview with Parade magazine in support of the upcoming film Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels, and Forrest Whitaker took a little time to chat about race, the civil rights movement, and the film.

During their chat, the trio began discussing the n-word, and Oprah took a firm stance against it.

Although The Butler director Lee Daniels said he used the n-word quite often, he nixed it from his vocabulary after getting a lecture from Oprah.

“It’s a word I used quite a bit, until Oprah sat me down and talked to me about its power,” he admitted.

Winfrey chimed in, “You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. … I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree.”

Whitaker echoed Oprah’s sentiments. “I don’t use the word. Never did.”

While many have tried to “reclaim” the word and use it frequently, others—like Oprah and Whitaker—refuse to accept its use.

What’s interesting to me about Oprah’s decision to not let the word be spoken around her are her close ties to folks who use it freely, like Jay-Z.

In the past, Oprah has gushed about her friendship with Jigga, interviewing him for her magazine, and profiling him for her  Master Class series. Oprah has spoken highly of Jay’s ability transform himself from former drug dealer to legit (and quite paid) businessman. Oprah loves Jay’s swag, his determination, and his thoughtfulness, but I assume she doesn’t love his continued use of the n-word.

I wonder if Oprah gave Jay-Z (or 50 Cent or Usher or LLCoolJ) the same talking to she gave Daniels…or if she ever would.

How about you? Do you stop others from saying the n-word around you? Would you? Sound off! 

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  • I agree with Oprah wholeheartedly. It’s a dirty word and I don’t understand why Black folk would want to keep t alive. They say that they are taking the sting out of it; but that’s a lie because when any white person says it they go ape. It, to me, is embarrassing to hear Blacks using that word. Even the Latinas talked about it and said that they can’t imagine themselves calling each other “spic” or the other nasty words coined by whites. I heard a Black lady from England say the same thing. It’s like the more things change here in our country, the more they stay the same. I, as a senior citizen, hate that word and it can never be sterilized for me.

  • WhatIThink

    Oprah’s movie must be pretty bad on the sambo scale when you have an interview and don’t even talk about it.


    Talk about the N-Word on the set of a movie that is all about portraying black folks as the N-WORD.

    “Everything you are and everything you have is because of that N-WORD”


  • Kat

    Yes Oprah had that same talk with Jay Z…on national tv lol (when he was on her talk show)…a lil research would’ve been nice. Anywho I agree with her. I won’t say that I don’t use the word, but it’s definitely something i consider to be a bad habit. I hate when people try to explain why it’s ok for them to use it.

  • Yea, that’s what I like about Oprah. She’s pretty consistent. She definitely had “the talk” with Jay on TV. lol. And while I do think she admires Jay-Z’s feats and they may call each other “friend”, I don’t think they’re close, buddy-buddy let’s do dinner tonight. They’re more so peers in the industry and they respect each other’s success.