One watches television with expectations. Watching the American comedian Chris Rock on the Graham Norton show, I expected to hear adult comedy. That is what he does. Still, it’s a mainstream show, a flagship show. So I was shocked to hear him blithely, and without objection, use the N-word
Rock was talking about being discovered by Eddie Murphy, then about a white girl who met Murphy and wanted to kiss him as she had never kissed a black man before in her life. He then mentioned what Murphy said to the girl: “You can’t start at the top – you’ve got to kiss some of these broke n*****s first.”
Rock was not involved. He merely witnessed what had happened. He could have said, “Eddie used the N-word”, or some such. His forte is words. Instead he used the full term and no one challenged him. Everyone simply laughed. Even the studio audience were laughing hysterically, highlighting perhaps how the N-word has been allowed to slowly drift into our vernacular and into our living rooms without being challenged.
There are no excuses. Rock is an international superstar. He is a role model to a global audience. And that comes with a number of responsibilities. It felt rather unpleasant to watch the rest of the programme, especially as we are at the start of Black History Month. As a black British Londoner I felt the production team on the show hadn’t just fallen short but had shot themselves in the foot by disrespecting black minority and ethnic viewers. Questions need to be asked: who allowed the programme to be aired without any edited or vetting
I have campaigned for a ban of the N-word or referencing it in any context. That’s increasingly an uphill task. In the US, they still haven’t got to grips with how to educate people on not using the word. It’s used on rap tracks as a form of endearment. Hip-hop artists often greet each other using the term. The result is that it’s an increasingly generalised term used by a younger generation in a social context.
But that’s not OK, and this wasn’t OK. My parents could have been watching, and they would have been offended. No apology was given at the end of the programme. It’s still there, unedited, on iPlayer, even though a use by Rock of the F-word sounds muted. If Norton himself, Kate Winslet or Liam Gallagher had used or said the N-word there would probably have been uproar, but Rock was allowed to get away with it because he’s black. Idris Elba, sat beside him on the sofa, laughed. So that’s OK, then? No it isn’t.
Don’t fall for this. It’s not necessary. It certainly doesn’t represent my world as a black Briton or forward any notion of black acceptance. I think it’s time for programme makers to be educated on the use of N-word. It’s out there, they can’t stop that, but they have responsibilities for their output. There is a line in mainstream entertainment as there must be in all genres. The N-word crosses it every time.
• Edward Adoo is a DJ, broadcaster and writer
Source; The Guardian