Last night CNN aired a special called “The N Word,” which was hosted by news anchor Don Lemon. The program was broadcast in the midst of the recent allegations of racism against celebrity chef Paula Deen and the racially polarized trial of George Zimmerman.
Lemon assembled and moderated a panel tasked with debating the ramifications of the N-word in society and which derogatory term, n*gger or cracker is the most offensive. The panel included Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, actor LeVar Burton, musician Wynton Marsalis, activist Tim Wise, editor Michael Skolnik, and filmmaker Rochelle Oliver.
Hill opened up the discussion on an interesting note, addressing the perception that white people are baffled by the N-word being off-limits for their use.
“I always find it remarkable that white people find n-word usage such a complicated puzzle. It’s not that complicated: Just. Don’t. Use It,” explained Columbia professor Hill, as simply as possible. “You just have to accept that there are some things in the world — at least one thing — that you can’t do that black people can. And that might just be okay.”
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In the debate, the panelists took different positions on the use of the word amongst African-Americans, Caucasians and artists. However, they all agreed that the “n-word” is far worse than “cracker,” since “black and white are not the same,” and one has a deep history rooted in oppression, whereas the other derogatory phrase references white people’s position of power.
Check out the debate in the videos below: