As Gwyneth Paltrow defends her decision to use the word “ni**as” in a tweet, we need to first acknowledge an important fact: When Jay-Z and Kanye West decide to name a song “Ni**as in Paris,” we are all going to find ourselves in some uncomfortable situations when the song title comes up in everyday conversation.
When she attended the Watch the Throne concert in Paris with her best friend Beyonce and Beyonce’s Destiny’s Child bandmate Kelly Rowland, Paltrow got a chance to dance onstage with Beyonce’s hubby Jay-Z and Kanye West. An excited Gwyneth later tweeted photos of the event with the caption, “ni**as in paris for real.”
As a storm of criticism grew, Gwyneth responded with another tweet: “Hold up. It’s the title of the song!”
Gwyneth, who even brought her young children to watch “Uncle Jay” last month, finds herself embroiled in a scenario that has become all too common to those black people who have had close friends of other races—particularly for the generations who have grown up in the throes of hip hop and its free usage of the n-word. Comedians like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock have had lots of fun painting exactly the picture Gwyneth is now starring in—the one where a white hip hop fan has to figure out how to rap along to Snoop Dog or Jay-Z in mixed company without using the n-word.
In recent years, the black community has tried to enforce the credo: We can use it, but you can’t. But that gets more complicated and more difficult to police when major mainstream celebrities like Jay-Z and Kanye use the word in their song titles. Perhaps it might be time for the black community to get together and come up with some new rules for the n-word that can then be distributed to the rest of society so we can all be clear. On this list of new rules, when the n-word is used in a song title for artists who are playing to mammoth arenas where the vast majority of the fans are white, n-word exceptions might need to be made.
One question: When will her homies Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kelly come to Gywneth’s defense?