It’s 2016, and white people in the public eye are still insisting on using the n-word, even though they should know better. The latest culprit: David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” who tweeted the following to his over 60,000 Twitter followers on Monday:
Almost immediately, black and non-black people alike called him out for using the word. The activist and former Baltimore mayoral candidate Deray McKesson, who Simon name-checked in his tweet, also reached out:
But, even after fellow white people suggested he take down the tweet (which he hasn’t as of Tuesday morning), Simon pushed back with one of the most convoluted white excuses for using the n-word to date:
What is he even talking about? Using of “the wrong racial vernacular” is a metaphor for Sean Hannity as the wrong person to host a town hall on race? Huh? N***a may be “racial vernacular” among black people, but among non-black people it is a slur. Whether it is “with an A” or an er, when a white person uses it, no matter the context, it takes on a completely different meaning and connotation.
We can debate about whether or not black people should even use such a word among[st] themselves, but there is no debating that Simon’s use of it, and his excuse for using it, is completely absurd.
Judging by his dismissive and lazy response to the backlash, what Simon seems incapable of grasping is that he could have gotten his point across without the inclusion of “Hannity my n***a!” in the tweet. He can call his critics "hall monitors" all he likes, but if his desire was to highlight the fact that Sean Hannity lacks insight into issues affecting black people (as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Deray do), using the n-word was the wrong way to do it.
It’s telling that Simon thinks he has the authority to use this slur, as well as the authority to comment on who the right “racial interlocutor” is. Perhaps Simon believes that because he researched and wrote a book about crime in Baltimore, and has produced and wrote for several lauded series riddled with n-bombs, he “gets” black people and black issues and should be allowed to use a word that most black people feel belongs to them.
But nope. That’s not how this works. If he really cared about black issues, he’d listen to black people when they tell him to fall back. There are better, smarter, and more interesting ways to prove you’re an ally that reclaiming words that don’t belong to you.