Conservative Scholar John McWhorter Asks, Is Justin Bieber Really a Nigger?

John McWhorter
John McWhorter
He’s a professional naughty boy, but if you think Bieber is a racist, you haven’t kept up with the n-word’s changing cultural meanings.
So we’ve learned that Justin Bieber had a penchant for smirkingly throwing the n-word around when he was a teenager. First came a video last week of Bieber at 15 venturing an observation that the motor of a chainsaw sounds like “Run n___ n____ n_____ n_____ n____.” Hot on the heels of his apology for that, the British Sun dug up a video in which Bieber, at 14, briefly parodied his song “One Less Lonely Girl” as “One Less Lonely N—-” and joked that he is considering joining the Ku Klux Klan.

None of us were under the impression that Bieber was exactly a United Negro College Fund board member. But we are now supposed to speculate on something grimmer: whether or not he “is a racist” or has a “problem about race.” And really, there is no indication that he has one, at least not one worth wringing our hands over.

First, we should always have been assuming that Bieber flings the n-word around in casual conversation, not surprised to find out he has. Not because he is a “racist,” but because he, a coddled, undereducated and vaguely megalomaniacal celebrity and a boy to boot, is professionally naughty.

People who act up break the rules. And in modern America, the idea that black people can use the n-word and white people can’t is a rule. Specifically, in being a rule that many whites have a hard time making sense of—remember the brouhaha over white Dolphins player Richie Incognito using it as trash talk?—it’s the kind of rule asking to be flouted by little rascals.

That’s easier to understand in terms of the classic four-letter words: We have a rule that certain terms relating to excrement and sex are profane. In an earlier time it was religious oaths that were profane, hence the pox against taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Today, none of those words would qualify as truly taboo to the Martian anthropologist who took a look at how commonly we use those words in pop songs, journalism, and even casual conversation. A world where a hit play can be called “The Motherfucker With the Hat” is one where certain words have lost their sting, even if some outlets refrain from printing the word.

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Source: The Daily Beast | John McWhorter

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