End Of The 'N'-Word In Entertainment?

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, second from left, comedian Paul Mooney, left, and Willis Edwards, right, a member of the national board with the NAACP, listen in as U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 27, 2006, in Los Angeles, regarding comedian Michael Richards' recent tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club. AP Photo/Ric Francis

Black leaders on Monday challenged the entertainment industry, including rap artists, actors and major studios, to stop use of the racial slur that triggered the Michael Richards scandal.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and others said they will meet with TV networks, film companies and musicians to discuss the "N"-word.

"We want to give our ancestors a present," Jackson said at a news conference. "Dignity over degradation."

Jackson says the Richards episode shows the word still has the power to hurt and belittle, even though it has been co-opted into much of the African-American vernacular.

"We must not profit off degradation and self-hate to a music beat," he said. "We deserve a higher sense of dignity and respect."

Jackson also asked the public to not buy a DVD box set of the seventh season of the TV show "Seinfeld" that was released last week.

Richards, who played the wacky neighbor, Kramer, on "Seinfeld," triggered outrage with a Nov. 17 racial tirade against two black men when he was heckled during a stand-up comedy routine at the Laugh Factory nightclub in West Hollywood. A patron recorded the outburst with a video camera phone.

Richards has made several apologies, including one Sunday on Jackson's syndicated radio program, in which he has said he is not a racist and was motivated by anger.

At the news conference, comedian Paul Mooney said he has used the "N"-word numerous times during stand-up performances but will no longer do so after watching Richards' rant.

"He's my Dr. Phil," the black comedian said. "He's cured me."

Mooney is just one of many entertainers who use the word. In a standup routine, comedian Chris Rock declared that there are "black people and there's niggers. The niggers have got to go."

Asked about free-speech issues, Jackson said the word is "unprotected."

But not every black person feels that the word should be banned. University of Southern California professor of cinematic arts Todd Boyd says today's black artists have embraced the word and use it almost as a term of endearment.

"If you listen to the way Michael Richards used the word nigger and then listen to the way nigga is used in hip hop, it's clearly two different words and it means two different things," he told CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., charged that only situations such as the Richards incident turn mainstream media attention to issues involving the black community.

Photos: Michael Richards
"This is not simply about whether or not the black community forgives or forgets. This is about understanding that this is pervasive, that this happens in all of our institutions, one way or the other," Waters said.
  • Judy Faber

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