NEW YORK – The Westside News, a monthly newspaper serving Manhattan’s Lower West Side published by Greek-American George Capsis, has been making national headlines ever since its July issue went to press, in which writer James Lincoln Collier used the N-word in a headline, with Capsis’ approval, to make a point about racism’s continued presence in America, specifically toward President Obama.
“The N—er in the White House,” reads the headline, and though that may be the most offensive part of the entire story, there are scores of delusional conclusions drawn that run a close second.
Not least among them, Collier’s own contention, that because Obama has been “quite passive in his approach to governing, conservatives should have realized that for a Democrat, Obama was about as good as they could get.” Therefore, in examining why conservatives hate Obama so much, Collier reasons, “it is possible to draw only one conclusion: these far right voters hate Obama because he is black.”
That, of course, is absurd on too many levels to cover here, so let us consider two major ones: first, even though President Obama’s poll numbers have declined, Candidate Obama in 2008 won a lopsided victory over his white opponent, John McCain, and comfortably won reelection against the white Mitt Romney. Was Obama not black back in 2008, when tens of millions of white Americans swooned over his every word? Second, it was conservatives who first propped up Obama because they detested the white Clintons – Bill and especially Hillary – and only turned on Obama once he got the Democratic nomination. In fact, if Hillary wins the White House in 2016, the venom these same “far right voters” will spew upon her will make their antipathy toward Obama seem like a playful pillow fight by comparison.
Granted, there are a few Neanderthals still several centuries behind the times, who judge Obama based on the color of his skin. But they do not even comprise a measurable portion, let alone the majority, of those who oppose him politically.
Next, there is Collier’s fellow delusional liberal colleague, African-American Alvin Hall, who took exception to the white Collier’s use of the N-word, and wrote his own op-ed piece titled “This Headline Offends Me.” Hall acknowledges that Collier did not use the word against Obama, but rather to make a point about how – much to his own disgust – racists view Obama. Nonetheless, though Hall understands that Collier’s heart was in the right place, he says the word itself stirs such ugly memories that its use, whatever the motive, does more harm than good.
All of that is fine, except Hall does not let Collier corner the market on absurdity – he makes his own ridiculous remarks, too: particularly, that the N-word is uttered “during production meetings of conservative media pundits all across America.” In Collier’s fairy-tale nightmare, then, when Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Megyn Kelly tape their shows on Fox News, the “N-word” is thrown around casually, amid a room full of chuckles, as long as the cameras are not rolling. I would suggest that Hall ought to be a “fly on the wall” in Fox cast meetings behind closed doors, so he can see for himself that is not the case – but he might accuse me of being racist, too, because flies are black. Ok, then, how about a butterfly on the wall?
Then there’s conservative blogger Crystal Wright, an African-American woman who consistently opposes Obama’s policies. She acknowledges that Capsis and his newspaper is pro-Obama, yet she inexplicably writes that “it seems the only way Capsis thought to praise a black President was to use a racist word to disparage him.”
That’s not what Capsis was doing. If we take him at his word, he supported Collier’s use of the word, in order to generate some in-your-face provocative journalism about the ugly stench of racism that continues to exist (the West View News would say, prevail) in America. A more cynical take might be: it got them headlines and attention beyond their wildest dreams – a masterful marketing ploy.
But it gets worse. Sleazy tabloids and their even-more-offensive Internet cousins, completing taking the matter out of context, featured their own attention-grabbing headlines, such as: “Newspaper Uses N-Word to Describe Obama,” as if the West View News were a White Supremacist publication.
Those, again, are just a few representations of the cavalcade of fallacies that have paraded ever since the article was published. But in this writer’s view, here is the bottom line: a lot of people dislike Barack Obama. To some, his race matters. But to most, race has nothing to do with it.
Moreover, the N-word is unique in American society as no other word is so institutionally censored due to its hateful history. I could get more attention paid to my column by spelling it fully. But I won’t, because though Hall and Wright overstate the problem of racism in America – just as others understate it – they are right about one thing: using the word in any context does more harm than good.