"N-Word" and "R-Word": Is One Worse Than the Other?

Sheri Reed

Jon Stewart Daily Show N word R word

Team N-Word vs. Team R-Word on The Daily Show

The dreaded "N-word" made headlines last week (yes, in 2010) when Dr. Laura Schlessinger said it 11 times on her radio show and then quit her radio show when people flipped out about it. Then, Jennifer Aniston got herself in some big trouble for calling herself the "R-word" on national television. Our President even got himself busted for his "Special Olympics" comment last year.

But then, Sarah Palin, a known challenger against the use of the "R-word," actually defended Dr. Laura by telling her via Twitter: "Don't retreat...reload!" Reload what? More spews of hateful language in the name of her "first amendment rights"?

And wait a minute, so according to Palin, who recently called for Rahm Emanuel's resignation after he used the "R-word" in a strategy session, one derogatory word is less offensive than the other? Huh?

What's with all the hypocrisy surrounding this issue?

What do you think? Does the "N-word" out-offend the use of the "R-word"? Or vice versa.

Well, maybe Jon Stewart and The Daily Show can help us all work this out...


(Discussed segment in this episode from 01:00-10:55)

I have to say I got a huge laugh out of Jon Stewart's mocking on the hypocrisy of Palin and the issue of using offensive slurs. In The Daily Show's extra special way of making fun of the world, Jon Stewart brought on John Oliver and Wyatt Cynac as defenders of "Team N-Word" and "Team R-Word" -- each one arguing their word was more offensive.

Turns out, even in this wonderful spoof about an extremely sensitive issue, the spoofers ended up being big hypocrites on the issue too. Is this issue destined to be full of hypocrisy forever and ever?

For this matter, I'm less interested in talking about the people who choose to use such words in their daily lives. We know they exist and probably always will. Sad but true.

I'm more interested in folks, particularly educated folks, who think that in one instance, it's okay to use words that evoke hatred and in other instances, it's not okay. As in the case of Palin. Does it all really come down to the gray area of intent and context for some people? Was poor Dr. Laura really just trying to make an important point? Is it possible that some people honestly believe there's a hierarchy of "evil" when it comes to using derogatory slurs against a person of a certain race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or even physical or mental disability?

And (gasp!) am I one of those hypocritical people?

If I'm honest about latest incidents, I have to say I was less offended by Jennifer Aniston's slip as I was about Dr. Laura's. Partly because Dr. Laura always offends me. She's gruff and rude and turns tough love into tough hate. But mostly because I honestly believe Jennifer's use of the "R-word" was a slip or at most an ignorant attempt at self-deprecation. Do I think she should apologize? Yes. Any celebrity who causes such a sting should step up, apologize, and take responsibility -- no matter her stand on the topic.

However, in the case of Dr. Laura -- the meaningless explosiveness of saying the word over and over almost in a "Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, you can't stop me" way coupled with her other racist and possibly more offensive remarks to and "advice" for the caller -- I walked away completely offended. Like red in the face offended.

So I guess I am one of the hypocrites with a my own "index" and "exchange rate" that ranks the level of right vs. wrong.

What are your feelings on this topic? Are certain words more or less offensive to you? Why or why not?


Image via The Daily Show

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