From the Zimmerman trial to an incident involving a professional football player, a certain word that begins with the letter "n" recently has been in the news a lot. It is such an offensive word -- a distinct racial slur -- that reporters and commentators won't even say or write it. When they refer to it, it comes out as the n-word or n*****.
The word that no self-respecting reporter or pundit wants to write or say is nigger.
Look, I don't disagree that nigger is a horrid word, one that has no place in a multiracial society. It is used to denigrate an entire class of people based on nothing more than the color of their skin. It is used to convey hate and loathing. It is not a word that should readily flow from the lips of a caring and compassionate person.
But I have a real problem with those who are quoting what someone else said. The football player, Riley Cooper, who uttered this offensive word did not say "I will jump that fence and fight every n***** here." He said "I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here."
How are we as a society to come face-to-face with the ugliness of that word if we seek to sanitize its usage? N-word or n***** doesn't sound so bad. It doesn't shock the senses. It doesn't spur emotional outrage. It is antiseptic.
In my mind's eye, if you are reporting or commenting on someone who uses the word, then you should specifically note or quote what that word is. If someone says, nigger, then you should say or write nigger. If someone refers to a Muslim as a raghead, then you should say or write raghead. If someone says gook or spic (referring to a person of Asian or Hispanic descent, respectively), quote the deragatory term they used.
It is only by confronting these hateful words head-on that we can overcome them. The effort to sanitize them for public consumption subverts that effort because it makes them appear far less despicable than they truly are.