Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Justin Timberlake's "N---a" Tweet Is Not What You Think!

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/NtRXXqg7ObeO0Z2qM8AjAcLWrk0b7FFYXgN17BT0s9q4UcDgJoJDH9-kbwXOp8YTR6aSfnm7_DS5csrHq9Ae1PzukNbRXyVZ7LduAutV-jpwt-s7VmIkLv2QXKK__XznXw
Apparently, “ninja” is an ethnic slur.  I never got the memo.



Word?
This week, Justin Timberlake tweeted to Madonna, “A HAPPIEST of Bdays to my mother chucking ninja, @Madonna!! Hope you have a great one, M!” Following the tweet, Timberlake found himself at the center of a racial firestorm of epic proportions. According to the Twittersphere, “ninja” can be used in place of the N-word when one does not want to actually use the N-word. 

As the outrage spiraled out online, all I could think to myself was, “I can’t say ninja anymore.” Not because it is my practice to use degrading words, but because a word that has historically been inoffensive must now be viewed as one with the potential to offend. 

Does this mean that Brooklyn GOP Radio, a proud member of Wayne Dupree’s #TeamNinja, is regularly using a slur to promote their shows? I don’t think so. 

For us, "Ninja" describes the style of news that we deliver - mercenary, tactical, with a hard punch. After this Timberlake snafu, even the most innocent use of the word "ninja" must now be said with a bit of trepidation. 

More importantly, the outrage over this tweet broaches a new frontier in political correctness. Polite society knows that the N-word is a derogatory word, and they know why it is so. But "ninja" is one of the first examples in recent memory, where an innocuous word has been claimed as a euphemism for a pejorative. One cannot help but think of all the people who use the word ninja without any knowledge of its more vulgar connotation. 

I can’t claim to know Justin Timberlake’s intentions with his tweet, and I certainly would not excuse him if he was knowingly inappropriate, but I do know that the fallout is concerning for the average American who might use the word in its original context (“My son fought like a ninja at karate practice.” or “Did you see American Ninja Warrior last night?”) can now be painted a racist, a bigot, or the like. 

It begs the question: have we reached the point where political correctness has gone a bridge too far? 

I know that Brooklyn GOP Radio would answer with a resounding “YES!,” but would citizens at large answer the same way?

It is certainly a topic that must be kept in mind with all of the discord that has occurred in Ferguson, MO. Even after all the tear gas clears the air, the ethnic tensions will still remain. There is a deep schism in the Ferguson community that will go unhealed if there is no movement to understand each other. "Ninja" is one such example. This is a word that is easily utilized without malice, yet it can cause vast amounts of anger because some groups of people have no context to understand why using "ninja" could be problematic. It speaks to our need as a society to have an honest dialogue about communities and culture. I am not saying that we need to form a rap group like they did in the movie, Crown Heights, though to be fair, a rap group with the police in it would be pretty awesome. However, Americans of all creeds and colors must recognize that ignorance does not mean that there is an intent to offend. 

It does no one any favors to be affronted by a perceived slight. We must look to ourselves just as much as we do to our neighbors to see if we are overreaching on our sense of offense. 

I sincerely hope that someone who disagrees with me comes across this article and challenges me on my ideas. But if they do, I want them to know that I am writing not to educate, but to learn. There is no offense in learning. I can only hope that my future debate partner feels the same. 

3 comments:

  1. First there was Racial bias free Language, gender bias free Language, Code words and Dog Whistles ... we have finally reached the point that all that is left is ... CONTENT FREE Language. People who go this far Overboard, I with all due dilligence, IGNORE due to nothing is being said!!!

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  2. Intentions behind the tweet may never be known but unless he's walking down the streets of Harlem yelling Ninja who cares. Can we constantly live in fear and keep the "Liberals Racial Code Word Pocket Edition" handy at all times to appease those who keep running out of reasons to call us out?

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  3. When saying "ninja" is a thought crime, you know that we have to draw a line in the sand (unless that is offensive to pirates to say).

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