Was It Okay For A White Man To Say The N-word On CNN?

Brooke Baldwin, host of CNN's Newsroom, broke down on Tuesday, November 22 after Charles Kaiser said, "If you don't want to support the alt-right, don't choose, as a White House counsellor, a man who uses the word 'nigger'."

This happened during a segment discussing Donald Trump's appointees. Baldwin admonished Kaiser in the segment stating that that word should never be used on her show. This is a point I would usually wholeheartedly agree with, particularly seeing as Kaiser is a white man, however this time I think Baldwin is upset for the wrong reasons.

We are watching as Trump puts men like Jeff Sessions, Michael T Flynn, and Steve Bannon in the White House. Between them, these men have said 'the n-word' to dehumanize and belittle, said that fearing Muslims is natural, and run a news network which focuses on spreading and normalizing messages of racism, sexism, and homophobia. These men are racists verging on neo-Nazism but the media softens the blow by calling them 'alt-right'. These racist, fear-mongering men will be helping Trump govern the country.

When Kaiser said the n-word, without masking it, he shocked everyone watching. The n-word has a dark history; it is used to dehumanize, to dismiss people of color. Masking the word by only referring to its initial allows it into daily parlance. You can say it without saying it, as it were, but then what is the point? So we can discuss around it, we can reference it but not be faced with the word, not hear it drop from our mouths, not face what horrors actually lie in those six letters.

Kaiser said the word to highlight that it still holds power. "I'm quoting someone who's been appointed by the president to serve in the Oval Office, this is such a disgusting moment in our history," he said. Samuel L. Jackson, when being interviewed for Django Unchained, said "it's not a great question if you can't say the word." How are we truly meant to realize the gravity of what is happening if we continue to use the masked terms the "n-word', 'alt-right', and 'white nationalist'?

I do think Baldwin was right to have been shocked by its use. She was right to have a visceral reaction to such a loaded term. But she was wrong to be angry with Kaiser. She should be angry at the groups who use that word to promote hate and fear, like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions who are now making their way into the White House. She should be upset that men running the country have used the word, embracing its horrors, and not at the man pointing a finger to show the reality of our situation.

Kaiser later apologized for attributing the quote to Steve Bannon. It was actually said by another racist Trump White House appointee, Jeff Sessions.