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July 17th, 2008
08:59 PM ET

If this isn’t a double standard, then what is?

Latoya Peterson
Editor of Racialicious.com

If calling an entire group of people the n-word isn't talking down to blacks, I don't know what is.

While the term may be used casually by some members of my community, Jesse Jackson has made his career of challenging racial stereotypes and denouncing those in the public eye who have used the word – including being at the forefront of the protests involving Michael Richards and Don Imus. It is a rather strange twist that "n*****s" rolled off his lips so casually – particularly in a news room setting.

In his book, "The N-Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't and Why," journalist Jabari Asim explores the history of the word and deems it "a metaphor for these various ideas involving citizenship and black inferiority." The NAACP declared when they chose to symbolically bury the word, "The N-Word is the most well known example of racist language by others and self hatred by African Americans." Clearly, there is no excuse for its’ use.

Jackson's comments were beyond the pale and one wonders what would prompt him to make such statements. Perhaps, out of frustration, Jackson forgot his role as a civil rights leader and let his anger loose – language be damned!

Regardless of how Barack Obama chooses to handle the situation, Jackson is going to take a well deserved hit to his reputation and credibility.

Perhaps it is time for Jesse Jackson to take a good long rest outside of the public eye.

Failing that, I'm sure he could join Michael Richards on a comedy tour.

Editor’s Note: See Jason Carroll’s report on Etiquette of the N-word on AC360° tonight at 10pm.

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Bradley Sumner

    You need Jesse Jackson.
    He is your GOTO person
    Your media plays on him
    And he in turn plays on the media

    You would be a country that would be better off without him.

    July 18, 2008 at 8:35 am |
  2. Ryan Armstrong

    To my neighbours,

    It is amusing how much people are caught up with the issue of race in the USA. In Canada, nobody cares about colour and the subject is not brought up. Until Americans stop addressing it, having it in films, having Spike Lee make comments and talking about color in general, it will be an issue. Seems to me if all the people that were spending their time ranting about race would stop and realize that you are all Americans and there are other issues of greater importance affecting you, you would realize how silly the subject seems. So much talk about the color of skin and it is all circumlocution. You are all neighbours, you need to get along, get over it and put it away.

    Ryan Armstrong

    p.s. I realize people have been hurt due to the past but how long do you carry that around until you let it go? People make mistakes but one cannot move on until those mistakes are forgiven. Better to let it go....it must get heavy being ticked off all the time. Take the high road and smile in the face of ignorance.

    July 18, 2008 at 7:58 am |
  3. Jamie

    I have grown up in the south, part of my family is racist and I have tried to go against that. It is difficult raised in that culture. Honestly, my family is more racist against Indian and Pakistanis on one side and blacks on another. I try not to use epithets, but I slip as others do. I am only one generation away from the civil rights movement. Thirty years cannot undo hundreds of years of wrong. However, if you put yourself up as one who is against so much wrong, you must be holier than thou, I do not care where you come from. You cannot stand in your glass house and throw stones. There does not seem to be any way to move past this word especially. Throwing it around, either in public or private, will not move us as a people, not a race, past it. It only makes those who rally around it as an issue look that much more foolish. I truly wonder what those whose mantle these leaders have taken up would think of them. Just like many movements over the vast history of man, they have been perverted by others for their own desires. It has been that way throughout history and one day people will stand up and take back what has been taken from them. Please, true believers, never let your cause be taken away from you. Reach down and take control of your beliefs, do not let your party, or your race, or your class determine what you think and want for yourself!!! It is the only way out of where we are AS A PEOPLE!!! Only together can we make it better.

    July 18, 2008 at 5:59 am |
  4. David H

    The bottom line – yes it does matter. It still boils down to equality; you can not tell me that i can eat some where and you another place. You use one vernacular and me another. Equality people! If you use it then dont complain when I use it. It was symbolically buried, now look who's keeping it alive. Remember: You + Me = Equality. If you want to change the rules again, please tell me which word is PC: negro, black, African, African-American? Not the history, not the impact, not the policy, just for today. It should matter to everyone. Equality for all people (period)!

    July 18, 2008 at 4:14 am |
  5. Sky

    So to make you feel better ,LaMar, we should elect an inexperienced, and slick politician to the WH simply because he is black? It is like letting off a brutal killer like OJ off the hook because the jury had an ax to grind against their white oppressors from 200 years ago.

    July 18, 2008 at 3:10 am |
  6. sanj haer

    i cannot believe the lop sided reporting going on between candidates in this presidential election ! jessie jackson's comment about obama get approximetaly 4 plus days of reporting & counting. yet a report about the actual republican candidate john mccain telling a joke about a women getting raped by a gorrila & liking it doesn't even get mentioned.
    it absolutely ridiculous when you look at the amount of outrageous things the republican camp ha said and done and gets away with it but its never the other way around. i hope most intelligent people in americans realize the biased reporting and 'keep ac360 honest' about these differences in plain view. it's so obvious its disgusting.
    why can't the major media including ac 360 magnify these constant issues involving mccain camp ??

    July 18, 2008 at 2:47 am |
  7. Lisa

    Regarding The View and other African Americans who say "we've taken a word that was ugly, and turned it around, but only we can say it". I don't believe that is a good argument for such hypocrital behavior. I think it's just an excuse to use derogatory language. I believe it's an ugly word and NO ONE should use it. If someone called me an M*F*, I'm not going to turn around to my friends and family and start using the word as a "friendly" term. I think the N word is a cuss word like any other and should not be tolerated or used by anyone, no matter the race.

    July 18, 2008 at 1:46 am |
  8. martina punt

    What's the real issue here, I wonder? What I want to know is what made him say Barack Obama is talking down to black people. To me, finding out what made him say that is more important, than him using the 'n' word, which of course is wrong, but to focus on that is missing the point here.

    July 18, 2008 at 1:43 am |
  9. Debra, Ga

    I get so tired of this race stuff being played over and over....I always think back to King's speech that people will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin....when I think back on the news coverage of the 9/11 WTC attacks....no one was concerned about the color of anyone....everyone was helping anyone and everyone....and for a while it lasted....then it was back to business as usual....why is it that during a time of crisis we all step up to the plate....but in everyday life it's the same ole thing?

    July 18, 2008 at 1:41 am |
  10. Sherri

    I find it difficult to beleive that Rev. Jackson had any expectation that his words would not be overheard. Would he have made the same remarks to a reporter that was white, or asian or hispanic, or east indian? I don't think so. Non blacks are castigated for using racial slurs- yet if blacks use it- in public- it slides. If he was aware his words were inappropriate and he is truly a friend of Obamas- why say them? A public 'mea culpa' and it goes away. As much as I disdain Imus and Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, Ann Colter, etc- there definitely an inequity here. I am somewhat fearful that this constant stream of people who have access to media coverage and make bad decisions might be acting in concert to divert people's attention from the precarious state the country is in.

    July 18, 2008 at 1:33 am |
  11. Rich from Phoenix

    I'll say it again. Jackson's an unbelievable hypocrite. One guy one camera and another guy off. I gave up on him after "Hymietown."

    July 18, 2008 at 1:26 am |
  12. Alex

    In my humble opinion, it is never been, is not now, nor never will be alright to call anyone such a demeaning and hateful term as the "N" word. Its is apparent, however, that the double standard or the bigotry some claim exists, is practiced by some of the very people who've been screaming about it for years. Hypocracy is alive and well and knows no color. Shame on Rev Jackson as he cannot control his anger nor accept the fact that he has become obsolete and has become his own worst enemy. That word is simply unacceptable by any standard.

    July 18, 2008 at 1:17 am |
  13. carol

    So don'y vote for Obama people thinking you're going to make reparations-there will never be enough whites can do, so for goodness sake, don't vote Obama out of uilt or reparations, Don't put the country into a downward tailspin for white on black guilt.

    July 18, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  14. Betiel A.

    As an African-American I take offense to anyone using the term, regardless of their racial background and the context of the situation. For those using the word as a term of endearment, I urge you to eradicate it from your vocabulary and rather refer to your friends or family members as the brothers and sisters they are and not the demeaning and demoralizing word created by your oppressors.

    July 18, 2008 at 12:57 am |
  15. Lori

    Let's be clear, many black people don't think that it is ok to use the n word. I am black and have never used the word and don't allow others to use it in my presence. But as far as Jessie Jackson....he is a non issue and is so irrelivant in the black community. The black people I know and talk to have always known that Jessie is a fraud and his only motivation is media time. If he or Al Sharpton really want to make a change in the black communities they would put all their efforts into figuring out why so many of the black youth are loosing their way. Trying to get Imus fired from his job does nothing for the black community but giving direction to the young black kids that are out there lost will make a difference.

    July 18, 2008 at 12:21 am |
  16. GF, Los Angeles

    @ La Mar if it's never alright then why did Jackson say it after he and Sharpton wanted to make a moratorium on never uttering that word again because of what it means? He's a hypocrite and racist because he's always quick to jump down the white man (which I'm not) when there's an alleged crime against the black man i.e. the alleged and later proven false rape claim by a black woman against the white Duke University LaCrosse players. To this day neither Jackson or Sharpton have ever publicly apologized for persecuting these innocent men in the media (God forbid they have to apologize to a white man).

    July 18, 2008 at 12:18 am |
  17. Greg

    It amazes me how whites really don't want to face up to the fact that African-American culture in America is complex and not easily understood and rightly so. Our experience and history in the US is real .. slavery really existed and it really tramatized a people for several generations. Most whites have had such little exposure to the "real" history of this country they would like for thnigs to be easy.
    For instance, it is hard for them to believe that Thomas Jefferson was a racists who enlaved people and had children by those he enslaved. While that is well documented history, most whites would try to label some unpatriotic for raising the issue. Why should blacks think highly of such a person?
    As far as the N word ... once whites truely believe and use it as a term of endearment they will be free to use it. I fully understand why blacks use the word ... but why do whites want to use the word? Jesse Jackson really did have to fight for civil rights. Most whites his age really did go to schools where blacks could not attend. Most new comers to this country probably hae a hard time understanding how thing were and are. Can you imagine how much Jesse Jackson has been terrorized by the N word by whites with guns and dogs? I doubt if any black person has hurled that word at him in a mean and hatful way. Yes, there is a double standard and it started when this country legally supported the enslavement of black people. Just like all oher ethnic groups, blacks have a true culture that may be hard for others to understand and that it perfectly OK.

    July 18, 2008 at 12:10 am |
  18. Mike in NYC

    Larry wrote:

    “Look what happened on The View today.”

    I know. Just proves that neo-cons are not “Nazis.” They’re as anti-racist as liberals.

    Hasselbeck should be ashamed of herself. She disgraced her people. Weakness like that only begets aggression. Whites need to understand this and act accordingly.

    July 18, 2008 at 12:02 am |
  19. Mike M., NYC

    There is no excuse for the use of the N-Word. We as African-Americans, many of us have made a poor attempt at taking such a word associated with so much pain, anguish and degradation, that when we saw it would never seem to go away, it was added it to our vocabulary in a terrible attempt to change the meaning.

    African-Americans use it in jest, as well as when angry. The bottom line is that the meaning will never change, and the inferiority complex which is the reason it was rationalized in the first place, still remains in so many today.

    As for Jesse Jackson, while I respect his role in past Civil Rights movements, and while I do forgive him for such disgusting comments, I feel that he should remove himself from the presence of public service. Just as was asked of Don Imus, words have meaning, and they don't have any less of an effect because Mr. Jackson is African-American.

    He should accept full responsibility for his language and actions. If he removes himself from the public arena, it will speak volumes to the negative impact of the word, and perhaps it would be the most effective way to demonstrate how much we need to rid it from our minds and our mouths.

    July 18, 2008 at 12:00 am |
  20. Greg S

    Humm, finally an opportunity for Rev. Jesse to "squirm" when he hears his voice. Many of us have beeen doing that for years !.

    It's sad, he could be relevent, respected and an additional voice for change and progress, but having his true sentiments broadcast as they were he has sunk his own ship.

    What he can't see, is that Sen. Obama, by taking his own community to task and demanding responsibilty ; he was not talking "down". He was talking "straight". He also then earns the opportunity to (once elected ) demand accountability and responsibility from all sectors / groups in the nation. It's called cleaning your own house first.

    But I guess Rev Jesse doesn't own a mop or a broom so he missed the point !.

    July 17, 2008 at 11:55 pm |
  21. Larry

    Okay, I see. Non-blacks ie: Asians & Hispanics & Whites can say negro ( as in the United Negro College Fund), is that correct? By the way, the word negro originated from the 15th century Spanish & Portugese. But I see that the word 'black' is considered offensive in the african american community.
    Moving on, the word 'brother' is that an african america possession or can non-african americans use it as well?Its like there needs to be segregation in schools so that white kids don't get confused when they hear african american students use the 'n' word.

    Can the obamas use the 'n' word?

    July 17, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  22. Ron

    Jesse Jackson's use appears to be nothing more than a generic substitute for "black people" in general. There's no constructive purpose behind that.

    That doesn't mean no one can never use the word ever again as if it never existed. That's ridiculous and impossible.

    Intent and context are of paramount importance. Using the word to hurt someone's feelings, to imply some kind of intrinsic inferiority by race, et al. has no productive purpose, either.

    But consider the song "The ____ Experience" by GooDie M.O.B. (Cee-Lo Green from Gnarls Barkley et al.) It's hard to see a way to express the meaning and power of that song [which is about the word itself] without using it. That's a very positive, constructive, artistic use of the word that would be less effective without it.

    July 17, 2008 at 11:34 pm |
  23. Sheila

    I would never dream of treating people the way some white people once treated African Americans. I simply would not do it. However, I was not one of those people who treated them that way. Now, some of my best friends are black. So why does it seem that people keep blaming white people 40, 50, 60 years later for what a bunch of nuts did back then? I would change it if I could, but it's frustrating when it's brought back up all the time. Can we ever get past it and move on? Can their ever be forgiveness when it's always brought up?

    July 17, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  24. La Mar Allen

    mike its peolpe like you that dont understand black people like me live in the suburbs to and make lots of bi racial babies maybe thats the answer a world of obamas , owe can you see it the future is so bright i gotta wear shades.

    July 17, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  25. La Mar Allen

    obama ran as a canidate that happened to be black he did not bring up race, black people know from past history this is a sure looser . the white driven media was salavating waiting till someone mr .bill brought it up and they ran with it , you ask how will obama bring us together people forget the inconvient truth he is as white as he is black . i see in him the new face of america a little bit of everything that how we will heal.

    July 17, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  26. Jozette

    Jesse Jackson is a bitter, old man who's time has come and gone. The only one who isn't aware of it is him!

    I hope he takes himself out of the public eye, keeps his mouth shut and leaves us with some sort of a respectable legacy.

    These days, every time he is in the news, it's because he's rammed his foot in his mouth yet again!

    Jozette
    Barrie, Ontario Canada

    July 17, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  27. Charlee

    It is sad that everyone can't just get over race and it is dissappointing that someone like Jesse Jackson would even to think in those terms. It seems to me that he is very conflicted...

    July 17, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  28. Michael

    PJ,
    This is exactly why MCcain should not be elected because he has been in congress for over 25 years and never propose a sound energy policy. He is just a typical politician and you just made my point

    July 17, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  29. La Mar Allen

    Look black people took the word from slave masters and made it there own as a defense mechanismn to stop the hurt and use it both as a term of inderment and a weapon and ever since white people have been trying to take it back saying things like why cant we say it if you can . Until your race has been enslaved and persecuted jim crow ect and the word meant to hurt and degrade you make you less than human ,until you have been called a n-– then you dont know and you will never know , STOP TRYING TO MAKE YOUR SELF FEEL BETTER IT WILL NEVER BE ALRIGHT

    July 17, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  30. PJ

    Al Gore is now full of ideas about the need for a U. S. energy policy
    yet he was a member of Congress for years as well as Vice President
    of the United States. Why didn't he do something about the
    U. S. energy policy and alternative energy development during those years?
    The predicament we are now in is not a sudden development of the
    last 8 years. It was forecast and predicated at least 30 years ago
    when President Carter was in office!
    The same holds true for the Kennedys who have been members
    of Congress for many years yet did nothing about the development
    of alternative energy sources and the energy policy.
    Congressmen who have held office for more than ten years
    are at fault and should be sent home by the voters they represent.
    These individuals are far more responsible for the lack of
    a better energy policy than President G. W. Bush and his administration!

    July 17, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  31. Mike in NYC

    Annie Kate wrote:

    "I would hate for this to be the only thing the Reverend Jackson is remembered for."

    He'll certainly be remembered for his distinguished record of racial shakedowns.

    Larry wrote:

    "How is Obama going to bring ALL Americans together if we keep having to put up with racism?"

    He won't. It's a pipe dream. People have always self-segregated. On a casual social level, I see it every day in my own workplace.

    Even the hip younger white crowd will move out to the suburbs when it's their turn to raise families.

    July 17, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  32. Tam- Berkeley, CA

    I think what most people forgot is that language carries culture and personal experiences. What is okay for us to say does not mean it's okay for others to hear; so in order to eliminate "hypocritical standards", we must understand what we speak and be aware how others interpret it.

    July 17, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  33. Lynn, Vancouver

    I wish the polls would show how age and race relate to how people will vote. I think there is more of a generational divide than a racial divide in the US. Being a high school teacher and having a twenty year old daughter, I certainly see much more racvial harmony, emoathy and acceptance than sadly in most of my age group,

    July 17, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  34. Annie Kate

    What a shame – all the years of good work in civil rights that Jackson has done compromised in less than a minute by venting his frustrations in less than acceptable words on a hot mic. I would hate for this to be the only thing the Reverend Jackson is remembered for.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 17, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  35. Cindy

    It doesn't matter how big of a hit Jesse's reputation takes because of using the "N" word. He really doesn't matter anyway. He is old news. Who even pays him any attention anyway?

    Cindy..Ga.

    July 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm |