There. I've said it. In public. The N word. I must be a racist,
right? Only racists say the "N" word. But why is "nigger" so powerful?
Do racists create its power to shock? No. It doesn't shock them.
Blacks have given this word its power. Blacks can take that power away.
From time to time, people accuse economists of being indifferent to
the issue of power. For example, some people defend unions as being a
natural reaction to the power of an employer over the employee. The
employer can find another employee easier than the employee can find
another job -- or so goes the theory. It is true that power always
affects economic relationships, but it's not true that one class
always has power over another. I try not to ignore power.
"Nigger" is a word of power, and I don't like that.
Let the word roll off your tongue lovingly. Nigger.
Say it again. Nigger. And again. Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger.
Say it enough times so that it loses all ability to shock. Nigger.
Nigger. And more, until it loses the ability even to offend. Nigger.
Nigger. And more, until it has no meaning. Nigger. Nigger. What a
funny little word is nigger! Who nigs, anyway, and what's wrong with
Quaker used to be an insult. Quaker, like in shaking in his boots.
Like in coward. Mormon used to be an insult too. So did queer. So
did dyke. The trouble with taking offense at nigger is that it
empowers the user. It gives them a power to shock, to offend, to
insult. It turns a word into a permanent edifice to racism. Taking
ownership of an insult takes away power from the would-be insultor.
It forces them to work, to create another insult. Yet it is of no
avail, because the new insult can be stripped from them, by accepting
it with love.
Learn to love nigger. Love is the only way to destroy the word's power.
UPDATE 11/9: I received email from H.
Lewis Smith, the author of Bury that
Sucka!. He objects to the black community's internal use of nigger as
a friendly self reference, but when used by people outside of the community,
it is an insult. I agree with him. If the power of the word is to be
destroyed it can only be done through consistency. I think it can be best
destroyed with a "Yes, I'm a nigger" attitude. It seems to me like
that if black people stop using it, so will everyone else (see below). I disagree with
him there. As long as there are racists, and as long as racists can offend
by using it, the word will be used.
UPDATE 11/12: Lewis writes again to clarify: he wants blacks to stop using
nigger because it's a form of self-loathing. He fully expects racists to
continue using it regardless of what blacks do. In this, he and I are
diametrically opposed. I think the solution is greater acceptance and
self-identification among blacks (with the goal being to replace its
pejorative meaning with a mundane one); he thinks the solution is rejection by
blacks (who are, after all, the major user of the word these days --
it's not acceptable for whites to use it even in quotes. For example,
St. Lawrence County is currently trying a white drug dealer for murder,
and his attorney cautioned the jury that even though he might "use the N-word"
that shouldn't prejudice them against him. When somebody on the jury said
that they didn't know what the N-word was, he spelled it out for them, but
still couldn't say it.)
Everyone is against pollution. That means "stuff where the
property owner doesn't want it." So it could be litter, or air
pollution, or water pollution, or groundwater pollution. Nobody wants
somebody else to pollute their property. Nobody
The problem is that pollution is difficult to control. How do you
stop a factory from polluting the air when they're doing it from their
property, and you have no contractual relationship with them? The
economic term for this is "externality," because the effects of the
factory are external to itself and its customers. The standard answer
is "Well, you just pass a law."
The problem with a government solution is that government itself is
difficult to control. Voting is the ultimate externality. The
majority inflicts its will on a minority.
Using government to solve pollution doesn't solve the problem; it
just transforms it into a different problem. Perhaps the government
solves the pollution problem, but then it creates other problems at
the same time. If you could get it to not create those problems, it
probably couldn't stop pollution either.
Don't believe the Red Cross, or any other blood bank, when they
claim that they have a shortage of blood donors. They don't. They
have created a shortage of blood donors through unscientific policies.
For example, I have travelled to India multiple times in the past
year, and am headed off there again next week. I have to wait a year
from the most recent donation. ONE YEAR. Even though I'm O-Negative
blood, my blood could save somebody's life, and according to the paper
below, we're saving 0.03 people from getting malaria. That's like
three people per century!
Here's the abstract of an
NIH paper published in 1991 (that's fifteen years ago):
- Nahlen BL,
- Lobel HO,
- Cannon SE,
- Campbell CC.
Malaria Branch, Centers for Disease Control, US Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, Georgia.
In the United States (US), travelers who have had malaria or who
have taken antimalarial chemoprophylaxis are deferred as blood donors
for 3 years to prevent transfusion-transmitted malaria. To assess the
impact of shortening this 3-year exclusion period, national malaria
surveillance data from 1972 to 1988 were reviewed. The average annual
rate of transfusion-transmitted malaria is 0.25 cases per million
units of blood collected. Of 45 reported cases, 38 percent were caused
by Plasmodium malariae, 29 percent by P. falciparum, 24 percent by
P. vivax, and 9 percent by P. ovale. Thirty-two donors were implicated
in 34 cases of transfusion-transmitted malaria. Of 30 implicated
donors whose native country was identified, 23 (77%) were foreign
nationals and 7 (23%) were from the US. In a review of all imported
malaria cases by species and by interval between date of entry and
onset of illness, 98 percent of P. falciparum, 86 percent of
P. malariae, 76 percent of P. vivax, and 74 percent of P. ovale
infections became symptomatic within 6 months of the patient's arrival
in the US, regardless of the use of prophylaxis. Shortening to 6
months the donor exclusion period for US travelers to malarious areas
would result in a minimum of 70,000 additional blood donors' being
made available, with a maximum annual increase of 0.03 additional
cases of transfusion-transmitted malaria. The potential benefit of
bringing healthy travelers back into the donor pool after a shorter
period of exclusion merits consideration by the blood banking