Staying away from both versions of the ‘N’ word

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By Ben Carlson

A quick show of hands: How many of you have ever used the version of the N-word that ends in “ger?”
If you’re like most, you won’t raise your hand even if you have. That word, in its “ger” form, has been rightfully demonized as a remarkably hateful, ignorant and ugly word. Further, there is no statute of limitations for past transgressions — just ask deposed cooking queen Paula Deen. To make matters worse, a guilty plea for its use carries with it a lifelong sentence as a racist with no hope of parole.
Now let’s have a show of hands for the other variant of that word, this one ending in “gga.” Given this area’s demographics, chances are fairly small that if you’re not a young person singing along to a Jay Z or Eminem tune, you almost certainly don’t know the real difference between “ger” and “gga,” and haven’t used the latter, anyway.
Nor should you, unless as a white person you have been accepted by the black community as someone sympathetic or in touch with current black culture and its norms. Then, and only then, is that use allowed because at that point it becomes a term of endearment, or at least that’s what I’ve been told, particularly between blacks.
Confusing? Sure it is. For middle-aged white folks like me, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay up on these sorts of things, particularly if you want to understand what you should and should not say.
The debate from the white side typically includes the following: “If they [meaning black people] can use that word, why can’t I?”
Of course the answer is that when black people use that term for each other, neither the speaker nor the person on the receiving end feels offended, that’s why.
That’s enough of an explanation for me, although I wonder how a word so thoroughly rejected by society evolved to the point where those upon whom it was so hatefully used adopted it and now use it toward each other?
That certainly hasn’t happened among whites. Best I can tell, racial epithets commonly used toward white people — cracker, whitey and the like — have not been similarly adopted by whites as terms of endearment, even among the scoundrels in the Ku Klux Klan.
America is swiftly sorting out the “ger” vs. “gga” issue, and the National Football League is doing most of the heavy lifting.
The league is poised to fine players who utter either version while on the playing field. Some players, black and white, have objected, saying that the word is used constantly and is OK provided the context in which it’s used and, at times, who’s using it.
Others say the word should be banned out of fairness to all players, and that neither version is acceptable.
I’m not going to pretend to know which side is correct, but I do know that at least for this middle-aged white guy, I have no interest in using either.
Speaking of words …
I got a kick out of a recent Obamacare news item, this one explaining that the tax penalty levied by the IRS for not having a qualified health care plan isn’t going to be called a tax or a penalty.
Instead, the IRS is placing its frightening iron fist neatly inside a velvet glove by calling the tax “The Individual Shared Responsibility Payment.”
Can anyone else taste the bile? Not only is that a clear example of pandering to people too ignorant to know a tax when they see one, it’s a remarkable strategy shift from what is largely regarded as the most feared federal agency in the county.
Now, if it can just figure out a way to rub that velvet glove along the backs of Tea Party groups looking for a 501(c)(4) without that iron fist breaking their backs.