Monday, June 10, 2013

Neil Patrick Harris Says the N Word at the Tonys

'Neil Patrick Harris Time Shankbone 2010' photo (c) 2010, David Shankbone - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Aright I know that there is some celebration going on about how many Black actresses and actors won an award at the Tonys.  Given the ongoing lack of good roles and or recognition of POC at award shows, this is truly something to talk about.  Of course when Whiteness throws us a bone, there always has to be a catch. The following is from the cameo with Patrick Harris and Mike (the rapist) Tyson.

In the video a portion of what he said was bleeped out. What follows is a transcript from The Daily Mail:

'And make things bigger, like bigger
'I'm here with Iron Mike Tyson he's a heavyweight yo
'We're going bigger is 'Is I his n***a'.

Alright, Tyson was clearly in on this supposed gag but as far as I know, the acceptance of one man regarding a slur, does not somehow give permission for a White man to use the slur in a public forum and there are few venues more public than an award show. 

I was really shocked when I saw this because I am a fan of the quirky Neil Patrick Harris and have been ever since his Doogie Howser, M.D. days.  He is also the reason I watch the extremely problematic How I Met Your Mother and then fib about it normally.  Neil Patrick Harris is normally hilarious funny and great to watch but there was absolutely no excusing this.

Neil Patrick Harris is only days away from turning 40 and I for one refuse to believe that he had no idea going in this that his choice (yes, it was an active choice) to use this word would not be problematic. Though he is marginalized because of his sexuality, let's face facts, Neil Patrick Harris, is White, seemingly able bodied, male and rich.  He has plenty of freaking privilege to go around. 

You cannot use the word N word or any derivative of said word ironically.  Unless you are Black, this is not a word that should ever come out of your mouth, regardless of the situation. It's not cool or funny; what it is, is racist and hurtful. Nigger is what they called Black people as they were lynching us. Nigger is what they called Black people while they were raping us. Nigger is what they called us as they were enslaving us. Nigger is what they called Black people while denying humanity and even the smallest modicum of civil rights. Finally, nigger is how they continue to refer to us when they want to make sure we know exactly where we stand in the racial hierarchy.  No one wants to sing a song about that do they?

I don't care what Neil Patrick Harris's intent was when that word passed his lips because intent is meaningless when it comes to a slur.  He can intend to be funny but he cannot create a new meaning for a word that for centuries has been used to mark us as "other."  I am sure he thought that singing along with Mike Tyson (the rapist) brought him some measure of protection but all it did is show that he had found a self hating negro to stand beside.

So on a final note, you cannot say it on car, in a bar, on a plane or a train.  There is no place where it's okay for a White person to say the word nigger.  I don't care if you feel excluded or limited by this restriction, because there is no reason to ever bandy around a slur.

update: As per the comment below, I hit twitter to look for a response from NPH and he did in fact tweet this:

 Update 2: The Daily Fail otherwise known as The Daily Mail now has a new video up of the incident in question up and it is clear now that NPH did indeed say bigger because they have slowed the video down and enhanced it.  My Apologies.