The more things change, the more things stay the same, and when it comes to a certain word, it’s Groundhog’s Day.

This was proven by none other than Mel Gibson, who was allegedly recorded as telling his ex-girlfriend that if she was raped by a “pack of niggers,” it would be her fault. He also levied misogynistic statements that would make Too Short proud.

Naturally, national outrage centered on Detective Rigg’s usage of “nigger.” But few sounded off about the sexist tone of his rant. Or the inherent inferiority complex about his masculinity. Or the subtle jab at Black women, who tend to be the recipients of sexual assault from Black men.

Nigger. That word seems to generate more attention than any “bitch,” “ho” or “a woman deserves to be in the kitchen, bare-footed, with an apron and a smile” sentiment. The collective response falls short because of this lack of nuance in interpretation. If alcohol was the trigger Gibson’s rant, then I can forgive that. He was having a private conversation. He got angry.

Perhaps the woman he was talking to loathed black men and shared that with him previously.

Perhaps her greatest fear is being raped by a “pack of niggers.” And perhaps, in the heat of the moment, Gibson wanted to verbally hurt her as much as possible by bringing her fears up. After all, isn’t that what people who are in the throes of an argument do?

Perhaps none of this really happened (the tape has yet to be released).

Perhaps Gibson is really a douche.

Perhaps this is all irrelevant.

The knee-jerk response is to unleash “hell hath no fury” venom at Gibson, demand an apology and a public renunciation of the n-word. But what is an apology, besides another reminder that Black people are dependent on White people’s approval? Gibson’s statements were revealing, but the reaction was even more so.

Gibson could have replaced “nigger” with “the Great Descendants of God” and it still would have been offensive. After all, context rules everything in regard to the usage of the n-word and race. If Michael Steele or Jay-Z said the same thing as Mel, what would have been the real difference? All three people would be complicit in perpetuating the stereotype of black men as primitive, savages, rapists and gangbangers. A race doesn’t have a monopoly on negative usage of the n-word. Not even Black people.

Two people can say the same thing, but convey two different meanings. Consider it the beauty and blemish of language. Uncle Ruckus and Strom Thurmond both shouted racial epithets against Black people. Should the Uncle Ruckuses get a pass just because his body produces a higher amount of melanin? Months ago, Harry Reid faced heat for his comments in a private conversation, stating that Barack Obama doesn’t sound like a typical Negro. He also said because he is light-skinned, he is more acceptable.

Obama defused the situation, saying that Reid’s record spoke for itself. Reid apologized. Amazingly, many people were aghast that Reid would have to gall to say something Black people say among themselves quite often.

Back to the n-word. Many Black people are so confused about using the n-word that they want to barricade anybody else from using it. “Nigger” is a racial slur in one context; a term of endearment in another. It’s not uncommon for words to have more than one meaning.

It is uncommon for a word to have totally disparate primary and secondary meanings; typically word meanings are close in application. That what makes the duality in context so troubling. Black people go through great lengths to defend using a word that has never spurred greatness. The dominant excuse: “When they say it, it’s racist. When we say it, it’s art. We made it positive.”

If “nigga” metamorphosed into something positive, where’s the manifestation?

Black people still lag far behind other races in unemployment, educational achievements, home ownership and health care. Unless you consider the revenue stream that rappers have accrued over the last 20 odd years a positive, the manifestation is lacking.

Hip hop, in its quest to become a global phenomenon, has normalized the n-word for a myriad of cultures. It’s not any more surprising to see an adolescent from Taiwan recite “Nigga what….nigga who” than it is to see a teenager from Columbia Heights saying the same thing.

Cultures can be appreciated by anybody. The use of the n-word is cultural. Why should I get mad about another race addressing me in a language that we address each other in all time?

Fact: People of other races say “nigger.” If that offends you, then cringe when you hear your favorite rapper say it. Stop uttering it in private conversations. Become more tolerant. Realize the word is dehumanizing in any context. I’m not unaware of the racial history behind this word; I’m also not unaware of the meaning of hypocrisy.

There was little focus on Gibson’s sexist utterances, which is another indication that society has dropped the ball in sensitizing people to occurrences of sexism. Racial tension is a hynoptic factor, a lucrative industry even. Television shows, news and movies benefit greatly from espousing the racism angle. Until we realize this, we’ll continue to be up in arms about the next white guy who is revealed as a bigot.

The primitive response is a call for an apology from Mr. Gibson. But we don’t need an apology. We need a shift in ideology.

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  • Johnny Duncan

    Youu have treated me like an n word for the last fifty years and now you don’t want me to be called one! Once and n word always an n word. Read my book, “YOU MIGHT BE AN N WORD!

  • gee

    he doesn’t need to apologize…..why apologize for what you really feel in your heart?……eff him!!!!

  • Skip Adams

    Why don’t we ask ourselves why the racial slur “Nigger” has so many different meanings and why do all other derogatory terms only have one meaning…. Caucasians men are the arbiters of words in this country, and each word means something specific… and (they) have succeded in making a racial slur for blacks be accepted, by saying blacks use the term. The degradation of our women began with pimps and thugs in our society… (why so many back men are pimps and thugs is another conversation) and our young people thinking that that type of life and language is “COOL” in ignorance have adopted this lingo and way of communicating. etc… same thing with the pants hanging off thier a$$…. If I used the term KIKE, WHOP, SLOPE, CHINK, REDSKIN, RUSKIE and thier are many more, they all have ONE meaning. Although I’m not sure if each one of these ethnic groups use these terms in an endearing manner. The arbiers of words will allow only one meaning for these words. I’m sick and tired of people telling me, that because I’m a black man that I can use these terms as endearment for anyone and it’s OK…. If I use this word in reference to someone I know, it’s because I’m trying to be derogatory….
    This “MY NIGGA” stuff is a bunch of crap made up by “WIGGERS” (White boys that want to be black or take part in the black experience and not get thier butts beat by saying it out loud. Just remember most of this language is perpetuated by Thugs and picked up by kids that want to be “COOL”. So, I white folks want to say it’s al-right to use this term in relation to Black people and we exccept it, then the joke is on us every time we do it, and we will never get our self respect back….

    • Skip Adams

      While I agree with a lot of what the “other” Skip said, I just want to make it clear that THIS Skip Adams didn’t say it. (THIS Skip Adams is the one at http://blogadams.com )

  • Nicole

    Remember when Mel Gibson was like the nice guy in Hollywood or something?

    His use of the n-word was actually not the most offensive piece in his “tirade.” I’m not surprised when stupid people say stupid things, so no apology needed.

    I’m so tired of the word, all it’s forms and usages anyway. I can’t wait until it becomes obsolete (hopefully in my lifetime), because it will. Language lives, breathes, and changes. Let’s try and help it along shall we?

  • Ivy

    A demon has taken over that man’s mind. Yes, people get angry enough to say regretful things to those they purport to love BUT who among us is so utterly out of control that they are willing to say the FILTHIEST thing possible, the most cruelly-imagined things possible, to get under the skin of someone they are angry with? Gibson’s exhibition was of pure rage and you better believe it has taken over his heart and mind. That woman would do well to leave him alone.