CNN is airing a special called "The N Word," hosted by Don Lemon, on Monday night.
Lemon will be debating the use of the word, in light of the recent allegations of racism against Paula Deen and the George Zimmerman trial. TV Newser reported that the special will air at 7 p.m. in lieu of "Outfront," while Erin Burnett is on vacation.
Lemon has previously said that he believes journalists should say the full word, instead of the phrase "n-word," when reporting a story. "I think someone should say, that person called someone 'nigger,' instead of saying 'the n-word,' because I think it sanitizes it," he explained last year, adding that he hated the use of the word in music and when it's used for misogynistic purposes.
He reiterated those views while speaking to Burnett last week. "That is the word," Lemon said. "I don't go around calling people that word and I don't like it when I hear it, but I think it needs to be said."
Anyone who has heard the stand-up comedy acts of Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx has to wonder about it all. I absolutely LOVE the classic TV series "Sanford and Son." I recorded all of the episodes off-the-air when they were being regularly run on the TVLand and TV One networks, but I later realized that I should have recorded all the episodes off of TV One ONLY. Why? Because TVLand edits and censors several episodes due to (actual/perceived) "language" issues. (TVLand edits the hell out of their "classic TV" episodes to cram in more commercials, but that's a separate issue than the one I'm addressing here.)
There is one episode in particular that I made sure I went back and recorded off TV One when I saw that their broadcasted version was complete (and BETTER) than the one shown on TVLand. The episode is titled "Fred Sanford, Legal Eagle," and here is the IMDB synopsis:
"When Lamont gets a traffic ticket, Fred convinces him to fight it in court, where the poor man's Perry Mason steps up to defend his son against the system."
At a key point in the episode, Fred cross-examines the white police officer who gave Lamont the ticket. Here's part of the exchange between Fred and the officer:
Fred Sanford: "Listen, why don't you arrest some white drivers?"
Cop: "I do."
Fred Sanford: "You do? Well, where are they?"
(Fred gestures toward the court room seating area - where ostensibly all of the day's traffic defendants are sitting. They are all black.)
"Look at all these niggers in here! Look around here! There's enough niggers in here to make a Tarzan movie!"
The TV One showing contains this dialogue, which is totally censored out of the TVLand episode. Why? Both TV One and TVLand are "cable" channels, where supposedly the "envelope can be pushed" harder than on non-cable television. Why would TV One which - according to their channel description on DIRECTV - is "a lifestyle and entertainment network for African-American adults" think it's okay to run the episode uncensored while TVLand obviously believes it can't (or shouldn't)? Specifically: If the "n-word" is so offensive to black people, why would the self-professed "black channel" choose to include the dialogue in their broadcast when the (ostensibly) "non-black channel" does not?
I believe that only when we come to grips with the answers to these questions will we understand the significance of the "n-word" in our society.
.....and one other thing about the "Sanford and Son" episode cited above:
After Fred utters his "Tarzan movie" line, the camera cuts to the court room seating area, where the assembled group is jumping up and down, applauding, cheering, hooting and woofing with such exhuberance that it reminds me of the way the audience greeted Arsenio Hall at the beginning of his late night TV show in the 1990s. It almost seems as though they are CHEERING the "n-word."