Why white people can’t use the n-word.

n_wordMuch of my political commentary really boils down to: Don’t be an asshole.

So, honestly, my personal go-to response to the very notion that white people occasionally get wrought up over the fact that they really-but-really should not say the n-word under any circumstances, “friendly” or not, is: Don’t be an asshole. Because seriously, how hard is that? Millions of people are telling you that when you use that word, it’s painful and offensive. That should, in a perfect world, be enough.

I mean, come on! The n-word isn’t even like, I don’t know, “bitch,” about which there is real disagreement among women. Millions upon millions of black folks are pretty clear on the fact that white Americans should never ever put that word in our mouths. Ever. “But they say it to each other,” you say? So the effing eff what. You are not them. The English language is positively chock-a-block with words — words that don’t carry the lash, and centuries of systematic terrorism, and the rending of families, and the continued devaluation of people who happen to be going about the business of Being Human While Black — that you can use with your black friends. I promise! Do.Not.Be.An.Asshole.

Alas, the world is not perfect, and “don’t be an asshole” isn’t really much of an argument. Indeed, the argument could be made that understanding why a particular behavior is asshole-y is pretty useful in ridding ourselves of said assholery — and as he so often does, Jay Smooth has our backs on this. Give him a listen, and tell all your white friends.

And don’t be an asshole.

Open letter to the fashion industry.

Dear Fashion Industry,

I’ve been meaning to write ever since the weekend, but, well, events overcame me. Given the blow-out affair of last Friday, I’m sure you needed a day or two to recover anyway! And so finally, here we are, tete-a-tete.

I’m sure this isn’t usually done, but I want to open this missive with a little snippet from the American Heritage Dictionary, unabridged – to wit:

nude adj. – Having no clothing; naked.

Now, I bring this to your attention, Fashion Industry, because I have begun to suspect that you don’t possess this important linguistic nugget of information. “Nude” means “no clothes on” — and evidence suggests that either you don’t know that, or you don’t know that people of all colors take their clothes off now and then.

No, it’s true! All over the globe, at any given time, black people, brown people, amber people (“yellow” sounds rather garish, doesn’t it?), red people, tawny people, cafe-au-lait people, cinnamon people — all manner of people who are not pasty, pink, or beige in shade are taking off their clothes. Wandering about in the nude. Even if only between pairs of underwear.

I mention this because in the course of reading about last Friday’s big event, I discovered that you, the Fashion Industry, still use the word “nude” incorrectly. You still use it to mean “approximately the color of a white lady’s bum.”

Let me demonstrate.

This pair of $620 shoes?

In spite of the designer’s insistence: Not nude.

This mini-hat, aka: “fascinator” (note to non-Fashion Industry readers: Yes, that really is a thing)?

In spite of the website copy: Not nude.

This ensemble (the little number on the right)?

While so daring as to be charming in my books (though, I understand, not necessarily in yours): Also not nude.

I happen to be of Caucasian extraction, and thus have some experience with the color of a white lady’s bum, and let me first note that, in fact, none of the above actually resembles the skin of any white lady I know. Just, you know, for starters.

Next: To the extent that “nude” could conceivably be a color, it would (by inference) be “the color of the person wearing it.” Thus, if you’d like to call all of the above “Caucasian nude,” I’d be willing to roll with it, though, as I say, I don’t know any Caucasians the color of that hat (except my mother, after an afternoon of vigorous gardening, and really, should we base an entire color scheme on one white lady’s tendency to overheat?).

I understand: The Fashion Industry is an industry. It was constructed and conceived to make people money, and there is a tendency to market industries to the broadest possible swath of humans with money, and the understanding of nearly everyone in positions of power in all of the image-heavy industries has long been that this can only mean using white people to do the marketing.

Models are white. Designers are white. Magazine editors are white. That’s the way it goes, I suppose, until someone figures out that white people are, in fact, just smart enough to be sold things worn, designed, and/or described by non-white people. That day will come. I appreciate the occasional spasmodic efforts to bring more models of color to catwalks, but I don’t expect real integration until the rest of society has gotten rather more integrated itself.

But we could make a small start with “nude.”

As a lady, I can tell you: Ladies will buy any freakishly-named color under the sun. You don’t need to make us feel that we’re buying something that is white-lady-skin-colored to get us to buy it. We’ll buy ecru, toasted coconut, buff, chamois, palest rose, taupe, beige, palest pink, biscuit, mushroom, fawn (ooh, I particularly like fawn), oatmeal, sand, on and on.

Really. I promise.

But, on the other hand, every time you define nude as “Caucasian,” you’re telling a whole lot of people that their naked skin is mistaken. Is wrong.

And not only does that suck, it’s probably costing you some dollars, son. If you don’t want to consider social advancement, you could at least consider your own bottom line.

Anyhoo, thanks for all the details on the frocks and hats at William’s and Kate’s big day! Man, that satellite thing on that one lady’s head — whew! Something else.

Hugs and kisses,

Emily

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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