Commentary: Should News Anchors Use the “N-Word?”

A CNN reporter is getting flak for saying the dreaded “n-word” on the air. But did she really do anything wrong?

Posted: 04/11/2012 01:56 PM EDT
CNN, reporter Susan, Tulsa, Racism, political correctness, Oklahoma, CNN, slur, National News

Oftentimes when people say that political correctness in the United States has gone too far, you can tell they’re mostly just mad that they can’t tell a racist or sexist joke the way they were able to in the ’60s. The complainant ends up sounding like one of the crotchety dinosaurs in Mad Men, privileged old guys terrified by how much the world is changing and how much less power they stand to have at the end of the shift. “You can’t even call a woman a dame anymore without people freaking out,” they might say. They’re parodies of themselves.

As the say, however, even broken clocks are right twice a day. And, at the risk of sounding like a crotchety dinosaur, it looks like political correctness has gone too far over at CNN.

We told you here about the shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week that left three African-Americans dead and two others injured. We also told you that police suspect the shootings were motivated by racism, an assumption lent credence by a posting one of the shooters, Jacob England, put on his Facebook wall. England reportedly used the term “f-----g n----r” before allegedly going on his killing rampage.

In reporting on the shootings, CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti used England’s exact words on the air, saying the word “n----r” rather than “n-word.”

It made sense: England said it, and it was pertinent information. That’s not how some CNN viewers saw it, however. The 24/7 news network was apparently inundated with people angry at Candiotti for using the racial slur. After hearing the complaints, Candiotti apologized, but now some Black commentators are asking "Why?"

Both Don Lemon, a Black CNN host, and Whoopi Goldberg have come out in Candiotti’s defense, saying it was proper to say “n----r” in the context of a news story. I think Lemon and Goldberg are right. “N----r” is indeed an ugly word. But the Tulsa shooting story is ugly, too, and it’s important to not shy away from that fact when reporting it. To any thinking person, it’s obvious Candiotti wasn’t saying the word maliciously, so why treat her like she was?

The problem isn’t Candiotti, or any other reporter, for that matter. The problem is that Candiotti is forced to report on racist gunmen in the first place. That’s where we should be placing our outrage.

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

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