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article imageOp-Ed: Why Rappers Can Say The 'N' Word, But Paula Deen Can't

By Paul Bright     Jul 1, 2013 in Entertainment
How come Paula Deen is virtually getting fired for using the "N" word while rappers who do still make millions? Follow the money.
Paula Deen is currently in hot water for more than just using a few sticks of butter in her recipes. She’s being dropped by many of her sponsors because a former employee’s lawsuit that alleges Deen and her brother have used discriminatory practices while running their restaurant business. It’s interesting that these companies dropped her but the lawsuit is still pending.
If you’ve seen the headlines and short reports and interviews but haven’t read the actual deposition, I would encourage you to do so before formulating an opinion on Paula Deen’s views about race. I can't say with certainty she is a racist or not a racist because I don't know her personally nor have I ever worked with her. Her testimony, however, demonstrates to me that she's been painfully ignorant about what constitutes racism, harassment, and appropriate behavior from her brother and others related to her business.
Yes, she admitted in a deposition that, at some point in her past, she used the dreaded “n” word ("nigger" for the uninformed) to describe a black person. She has told off-color jokes before that included more ethnic groups than blacks. Full disclosure: so have I, and many other people I’ve met in the world.
Since Digital Journal is an international community, let me explain what makes the word "nigger" controversial. A vast majority of black ancestors in America were slaves. Slaves were not considered equals and were referred to as "niggers" by their white masters. After the American Civil War, our constitutional amendment was written to free slaves in 1865. However, full civil rights weren't even considered for blacks until over 100 years later. Those who still considered blacks as unequal, to include white supremacist groups, would still use the word as an insult.
Many years later, with the rise of hip-hop music, black artists and otherwise use the word to describe themselves and others. Some of them say it's okay because by "taking it back" they remove its insult power, while others (like myself and Oprah) do not. It's so taboo in popular culture that people often refer to it as "the 'n' word".
Yet the question I see buzzing in social media is “how come SHE gets fired for using the ‘n’ word while this rapper/that entertainer/these black people get to say it freely?” That’s a good question and I think I have the answer: money.
When it comes to Paula Deen’s sponsors and rap artists’ major record labels, the consumer base and the industries are totally different. If major labels saw that they were losing money because rappers were using the “n” word, they wouldn’t sign on rappers that use the “n” word. But they aren’t losing money, so it’s okay.
They aren’t losing money because people don’t care enough NOT to buy their music or go to their concerts. It doesn’t even matter the context of how the word is used. Some more socially conscious rappers may use it to explain feelings and situations, while other more hardcore rappers use it as throwaway term with no racist intent behind it, despite its toxicity. Change the word from “nigger” to “nigga”, and it’s okay in the community. It’s actually still debatable and not strictly forbidden for white rappers to use the term (though Eminem won’t).
I would caution people that using the "n" word doesn't have an inherent double standard that truly violates your rights. White people won't go to jail for using it amonth the utterence when blacks do not. It will be a matter of context. If a black business owner discriminates against white employees and calls them deragatory names based on race, he or she can be sued just as well. I don't believe anyone is inherently racist just from using the word itself; I am more concerned with the context and how the person treats others around him.
The bottom line is that you can’t equate Paula Deen's past use of the word with some rappers using it or even perceive it as a double standard, when the standard is about the sponsoring company’s bottom line. The “n” word doesn’t have an effect on record label profits associated with rap music, so why would they ask Kanye and Jay-Z (who won a Best Rap Song Grammy for “ N***as in Paris) to change the lyrics when they sell 436,000 copies of Watch The Throne in one week? If they were white rappers whose sole purpose for saying it was to degrade blacks, I don't think they'd get signed bya major label.
If Paula Deen were in her marketing prime, the sponsors would be running to her support and not make a decision UNTIL the trial was over. But here's a reality check: Paula's ratings have been on the decline, thanks to the rising popularity of cooking competition shows.
It looks like, based on the comments coming in from blacks, whites and everyone in between, the consumer base doesn’t believe Paula Deen is racist. Even Al Sharpton has come to her defense. So again, this doesn't come down to right and wrong, evidence and hearsay, or rappers and Paula Deen. It comes down to dollars.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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