Commentary: TMZ and Suge Knight Tackle the N-Word

The gossip site steps over the line.

Posted: 12/17/2013 03:08 PM EST
Suge Knight

It's important to know how to pick your battles. Otherwise, you'd spend all day every day in a state of rage because a lot of deplorable things get said and done and passed around on social media and reality television. It's enough to make a grown man or woman cry if they didn't just decide to brush off certain stories as not worth a rise in blood pressure.

Take for instance, the latest from Suge Knight. Instead of throwing punches in parking lots, Suge decided to get sociological and deep. It was captured on video and posted to TMZ, one minute and 45 glorious seconds of the Death Row Records owner answering a question from a paparazzo who wanted to know, "Do you give anyone the pass to use the N-word?" Here is a snippet of what Suge had to say: “I like that [word] better than African American. We’re not from Africa, we’re Black.”

He goes on, pointing out that Africans don’t even call themselves African, instead they identify by which country they are from. Completely glossing over the historical realities of slavery, Suge keeps talking, adding that at least hip hop has given some positive associations to the n-word.

Even if you were to listen to the entire conversation, Suge’s reasoning might sound convoluted. But, in the interest of choosing battles, who cares? The kids aren’t checking for Suge for cues on how to behave and how to identify. But the kids are reading TMZ to find out what shenanigans the stars are up to. And when the kids are done reading, do you know what they like to do? Take a poll. TMZ knows that, so they posted one to go with the Suge story. It asks, “Refer to black people as: African American OR Ni**a.”

What it does not specify is who is doing the referring. Like, is this asking Black people what they want to call themselves? Or are they prompting White people to speak up and say, “Thanks for the poll, because really I have been waiting for someone to give me a chance to just cut through the niceties and call those people n----s. Whew, it feels good to be asked!”

Surely the site felt it had protected itself from racist behavior by printing asterisks instead of the letters “gg.” But an asterisk or two does not negate the fact that in the attempt to be funny, snarky and interactive with readers, the site crossed a line. TMZ gets to tell us what Kim Kardashian is wearing, who Justin Bieber is partying with and what kinds of punches are being thrown at Lindsay Lohan’s parties; it does not get to casually throw around the n-word, with or without g’s or an “er.” The Black employees in the newsroom aren’t a buffer to not having to keep certain words off of your website.

Of the more than 75,000 people who responded, 55% of them were all for “ni**a” as the Black people name of choice. And in case you were wondering, getting mad about such racist ignorance is a battle worth fighting.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.



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(Photo: Walik Goshorn / Retna Ltd.)

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