Lisa and LenaI was scrolling through my timeline on Twitter this weekend, when amidst the usual Beyoncé worship was a retweet of a photo of comedienne Lisa Lampanelli and HBO’s Lena Dunham.  Below the photo was Lampanelli’s caption that read “Me with my nigga @LenaDunham of @HBOGirls – I love this beyotch!!”

While I was angry to see the n-word being used by a White woman to describe another White woman, I wasn’t exactly surprised.  I was familiar with Lampanelli’s crude and offensive style of humor, and assumed that this was nothing more than one of her usual antics.  So instead of venting on Twitter, I decided to go to sleep and not devote any more energy to the matter than I already had.

But days later, Lampanelli has followed up with several interviews in which she unapologetically defends her use of the n-word.  She reassures us that it’s ok though, because she used the word as a term of endearment to describe her friend Lena.  She then goes on to educate us on the fundamental differences between the bad n-word that ends with an “er” and the good n-word that ends with an “a”.

But in giving her justification, Lampanelli fails to mention one important detail that negates her entire argument:  She is white.  The rules that she has just outlined don’t apply to her.  She can’t use the n-word.

Which, of course, is precisely the reason that she does.

Because if this was truly about Lampanelli wanting to express her adoration for Dunham as she claims, she would have chosen another word that would have more accurately accomplished that.

And here lies the problem in this situation.  It’s not just the n-word itself, it’s Lampanelli’s very purposeful decision to use the word just so that she can attract attention.

Because, for Lampanelli, that word isn’t about culture, or love, or inclusion, or camaraderie like it is for the African-Americans who choose to use it.  Instead, for Lampanelli, the n-word is little more than a short and lazy path to controversy and publicity, effectively cheapening whatever endearing quality the word might have had.

And then to add insult to injury, she tries to convince us that the black lash she has received is unreasonable because she has taken “the hate out of the word”.  As if we’re all too stupid to know exactly what she’s doing.

Well, Ms. Lampanelli, you might think you have taken the hate out of the n-word (you have not), but when you use it just to evoke shock and cheap laughs, you replace hate with something far more insidious: disrespect. And it’s that disrespect, that blatant dismissiveness of Black values that is just as vile as the word itself.

You see, African-Americans (or “The Blacks”  as Lampanelli sometimes refers to us as), don’t have many advantages over our White counterparts.  Getting to use the n-word, while White people do not, is one of only a few examples of Black privilege, if there even is such a thing. And even though our “nigga” benefits are trivial, pathetic even, we value them because we don’t have much else.

So go on, White people. Revel in being the majority.  Live without fear of your local police.  Enjoy your readily accessible superior resources and social rewards.  We Black folks can tolerate all that.  Just grant us one simple courtesy: Don’t. Use. That. Word.

But, no.  Lampanelli, can’t even do that.  Instead, she rubs the word in our faces, denying us what little privilege we possess.

Why?  Because her privilege says she can.

It’s a slap in the face to “The Blacks” that have been fans of her work.  It’s a “f you” to the White people who truly understand and respect why that word is off-limits.  And it’s an insult to the women, like myself, who have been called the n-word by some random hateful idiot and have never, ever been quite the same.  To hell with all of us.  Lampanelli’s going to keep saying the word “nigga” because it’s kind of funny.

Except for the fact that it’s not.

95 Comments

  1. They look a lot alike in that picture.

    If people want to be mad, fine. If people don’t care, also fine. I can understand both sides of the argument.

    If she is in fact doing it for publicity, this article is just contributing to that, and will encourage other white comedians to do the same thing–all in the name of publicity.

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  2. Women like her, Chelsea Handler & the one who got into that Twitter argument with Chris Brown love to hide their disregard for other races under the guise of humor. I’m not going to go so far as to say they are racist, but they know they benefit from a racist society. Even when they use the ridiculous argument of “But Black people say it all the time”, I can’t help but wonder, Ok, but why would *you* want to say it?

    I just have to stop trying to make sense out of what doesn’t make sense….

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    • Ding ding ding!!! So agree women like them fly under the radar with their privilege and views on other races because they are seen as funny and innocent or unaware when they are anything but. They do more damage then people who are flat out racist and proud of it IMO. Furthermore a lot of women similar to them think they can say things like this because of the relations/association they had with black men and are often given a pass for their ignorance.

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  3. Leslie

    NO ONE should use the word, but how can you be mad at her for using it when it’s thrown around like nothing? When they hear it in the music like it’s nothing? If use of the word by us Blacks/African Americans, is a privledge, then we are truly lost. It is nothing to take pride in!!
    Sorry, the use of ni**a is not a privledge I want, thank you.

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    • JaeBee

      So because it’s a word that’s thrown around by other ignorant people I can’t be mad that she has chosen to join their ranks and use a term that is insulting to me?!

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    • Yea, I never got the “reclaiming” aspect. It is a flat-out insult, and I haven’t allowed it to be used in my presence since childhood. Basically, I missed out on a lot of rap music.

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    • venus

      of course you should be angry but are you as angry when you hear a black person use it too? i am. this delusional idea we have that it is ok for me to say but not you is absolute nonsense, and an affront to or ancestry. we are better than this but we — the onus is totally on us — present ourselves in such a derisive manner, i mean, c’mon people! we will not congeal as a community as long as we have this us versus *niggas* division. we need to be done with this word. stop supporting movies + music/musicians that incorporate that offensive language into their product. in a historical context, ok, but not as entertainment — there’s nothing entertaining about it.

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  4. Lisss

    What i dont get is why isn’t that word off limits to EVERYONE??? It is an insult no matter who is using it, where it was used, at whom it was directed etc… White people will continue with that “black priviledge” bull as long as black people (not just AA) continue to live in the hypocrisy of ” i can use it but you can’t”. Same thing goes for the so-called terms of endearment that women use among themselves then freak out when men use it. Nobody gets to call me out of my name. PERIOD.

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    • Well, as you pointed out a lot of us don’t use. But white people want to say they can use it and call us that b/c of Lil Wayne and Jay-Z.
      It’s a stupid argument but they act like a few black people represent us all, which is another thing many white people do too much (treat us like a monolith).

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  5. Sasha

    I felt a headache coming on from the title of the article alone so I guess it’s no surprise that after reading, a headache is exactly what I got. I’m just going to dismiss this as ugly White girls being stupid for attention because in all honesty they can’t get attention off their looks nor their craft since they’re not that funny so being crass, offensive and rude is the default way to get publicity/ attention. *going to finish my morning cup of tea*

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    • maxineshawattyatlaw

      And this pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.

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