Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Thank God for Black Radio

Driving home from work, I noticed something odd. For the last few days, at 1:00 at my local Sacramento public radio station KXJZ, I was listening to a program that didn't sound like a bunch of cackling hyenas or screeching bluejays doped up on coke. It was sensible, rational, interviewed Ralph Nader, talked about the NAACP without mentioning extortion... I didn't want to throw a coffee mug at the radio.

Then it hit me: This was a program with a black anchor and black voices.

It wasn't just tepid white liberalism, either. Here was real social commentary. I was having to constrain the urge to openly applaud.

Today talked about Ralph Nader using the "N word" to express how he felt in this country. Now, I agree with the pundits that for a privileged white male to claim that his experience is anything like the black folks who were and are called that is, umm, sort of racist. I also thought that Nader's statement that he never "made mistakes" like that when he was speaking was laughable and totally indicated how self-absorbed he is. If people are offended by your speech, fuggin apologize. Even if your position doesn't change, you can certainly say, "Look, I wasn't trying to offend anyone for publicity." The best of intentions don't excuse that, ESPECIALLY when speaking to your logical allies.

However, I felt that they were giving the hip hop generation of black youth too hard of a time. Though not a member of the black community, I can see more generally that even very hateful words like the N word can actually be used in very different contexts in very different ways. Equally offensive words (at least historically), like wop or paddy or dago or Jew (the latter in the usage and the application of it to things the speaker things are bad, like "lame" or "gay" or "retarded"), can also be used very differently.

After all, the N word won't disappear if black people don't say it.

The pundits had also talked about the Supreme Court. There seems to be an increasing chance that Rehnquist will retire and Scalia will take the seat.

First of all, let me point out that despite the Supreme Court's disgraceful partisanship in Bush v. Gore, I must respect the conservatives there, even Scalia. After all, in the recent case that established the right of cities to take away private land for private economic development (a woeful decision to privilege the right of economic elites over ordinary citizens), Scalia and Rehnquist voted nay. But a switch of Scalia to the Supreme Court chair, I think, would have more impact than is commonly stated: The Chief Justice does quite a bit more than we imagine.


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