Friday, June 09, 2006

The "N" Word on Trial

Interesting piece in the New York Times yesterday about the trial of a white man accused of a racially motivated beating of a black man in Howard Beach last summer.

Central to the trial has been the usage of the "N" word and it prompted Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy to testify on the word's behalf.

Kennedy, author of "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word," testified that the word, once spewed solely as a racial epithet, now carries many different meanings. It's used by all different people, he said, and in music videos and popular songs.

His testimony seemed to help the defense, which claims that the black man, Glenn Moore, was about to commit a robbery when the accused, Nicholas Minucci, used the word as a form of "benign address" while he beat him with a baseball bat.

Excuse me, but when some white person is calling me a nigger while chasing me down the street with a bat, I would tend to think that it's racially motivated.

I interviewed Kennedy when his book was first published a few years ago. I asked him how he would counsel his children if they were ever called the "n" word.

He told me that his own parents had given him varying pieces of advice. His father told him that the slur gives any black person to respond physically if need be. His mother told him to "ignore it and run away."

Kennedy said he'd give his kids his mother's advice.


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