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The 'N'-word

Simon Waldman | 14:49 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2007

When Emily Parr was ejected from the Big Brother house for using a "racially offensive" term, we had to decide - quickly - whether or not to broadcast the word itself. The BBC's editorial guidelines include advice for our terrestrial TV channels, radio stations and online pages on such matters:

BBC News 24 logo

    Offensive language is one of the most frequent causes of complaint... Judgements about its use are difficult because they depend on tone and context. There is no consensus about words that are acceptable, when, and by whom. Different words cause different degrees of offence in different parts of the world… We must not include offensive language before the Watershed (that's 2100 - ed) or on radio when children are particularly likely to be in our audience, or in online content likely to appeal to a high proportion of children, unless it is justified by the context and then its frequent use must be avoided.

On News 24, the offending word "nigger" WAS used - sparingly. By which I mean that it was included in our full report on the story, and in interviews on the subject. It wasn't used in headlines or in the introduction to items on the row. The One O'Clock News followed suit, but the Six O'Clock News - mindful of the number of younger viewers watching at teatime - plumped for "the 'n'-word".

So, why did some parts of the BBC transmit the word, while others did not? Did we change our minds as the story developed? And what did our audiences make of it all? The term is clearly highly offensive to many people from all ethnic backgrounds, but it is also commonly used by many young black people. As we pointed out, it's a word heard regularly in more and more styles of pop music - and not only by black singers.

To explain the story and to try to put it in context, we decided initially neither to disguise the word, nor to keep repeating it. Not to have used it at all would have left many viewers wondering what all the fuss was about; to have kept saying it would have smacked of sensationalism.

So, by broadcasting the racist term in some - but not all - of our output, you might think the BBC is having its cake and eating it.Or perhaps we're simply indecisive? Other media organisations wrestled with the same issue - one national newspaper managed to print both both the word in full and "n*****" on the same page.

Audiences were quick to let us know what they felt by text, e-mail and phone. And they seemed unable to agree. Opinion was divided on whether the BBC's use of the word was offensive in itself, or whether it helped illustrate the issue. Many thought there were double standards involved: what do you think?

PS: My colleague Rod McKenzie from Radio 1 has also blogged about this - you can read his piece here.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 03:21 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

I think it's a really sad indictment of how society seems to have totally lost sight of any sense of proportion that we are even having this discussion. It's just a word. Using it as a term of racist abuse is reprehensible, but it's a sign of political correctness gone mad if people have to worry about whether it might "offend" someone when used in a news report.

Personally, what I find most offensive is the way that the whole of society seems to be paralysed by a fear of doing anything that could cause "offense". Real life is offensive all the time. Get over it.

  • 2.
  • At 04:00 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • David wrote:

Another example of a knee jerk out of proportion reaction.

It does highlight (again) just how complicated people can make this issue.

I have friends of african origin (I do not know how to describe them in case I use a raciest term) who call me this name. They are big fans of the Friday movies that parody the use of this word and certain racial sterotypes. Am I to take this as a racist comment? Are they comparing me to the image this word represents? Or is ok for them to call me this name but not for me to use it reply?

If a word is racist then the word is racist, it does not matter who uses it and who they use it to. If we look at history, language is always evolving and what was offensive yesterday is not treated the same today.

This way an over reaction designed to both show that Channel 4 were on the ball and also to generate more publicity for the show.

  • 3.
  • At 04:08 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Gwilym Hardy wrote:

It seems that there are double standards everywhere regarding this event. E4 advertised George Galloway's response to the event in a joking way. Definitely double standards there.

The use of the word by Emily Parr was inadvisable, but isn't it perhaps a good thing that young people can use it and NOT be attempting to insult through its use? Charley Uchea also used the word, but she was not expelled from the house - isn't this bias against white people using the word? In the same show Channel 4 showed one of the house mates squeezing Charley Uchea's breasts - surely this is offensive. The contestants regularly blaspheme - isn't this offensive to Christian viewers? Earlier in the week Zak Lichman had his shorts pulled down by many of the other house mates - isn't this offensive to victims of bullying or sexual abuse? Why hasn't Big Brother intervened in these situations?

I am glad that news reports used the word when explaining what Emily Parr had done wrong as I would rather we were clearly informed of unacceptable words. The only thing missing from reports was the history of the word, to explain why many find it offensive.

I have to agree with Adam.

The Job of the News is to report the Fact and unfortunately if people decide to use offensive words you must rely it in order for there to be an open discussion.

It's not as if you (eg. BBC News) are describing either the "Victim" or the Ethnic Group itself, they are informing people of what took place and for you to be forced to say "the N Word" or "N****" is a joke.

As for the Word itself, it all depends in the context in which it's used.

It is more than socially acceptable to refer to others using a Slang Term, which may appear to be racist but it all depends on the relationship between the two people. Then beyond that it is no one else's business what two individuals find acceptable to call each other.

  • 5.
  • At 04:30 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • JW wrote:

Fair play to Simon for attempting to explain the inconsistenty in use of the word by the BBC.

However, someone should explain the policy to Jon Humphrys on Radio 4. He made a huge issue about whether it was necessary for C4 to broadcast the offending word and I quote:

"Surely the point is here, that you need not have broadcast the word" and

"We know that a lot of very stupid people still use offensive language like that, we don't need Channel 4 to demonstrate it for us, do we?"

What Jon had apparently failed to realise was the offending clip was used in the intro to the interview.

That particular case of double standards is impossible to justify.

  • 6.
  • At 05:05 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

I think it is quite a hypocritical move to kick her out the house.

After the incident, the "n word" was said out in full in discussions about her removal from the house on national tv. Surely this fact merits the removal of these media personalities from their jobs? And may I add it (from the program I saw after the show)appears that the people who used the word in full were black, whilst the censored version of the word was used by white people. Does this mean it is more appropriate for a black person to say it?

In Hong Kong I am often called Wigga by my Chinese friends. Also a common term is Gweilo which means white devil and is a derogatory word. This word has also been embraced by the white expats and is not generally seen as offensive.

I guess it just depends on the environment you live in that constitutes what is offensive and what is not. However I believe that some people are overly sensitive to certain words because they like being a 'victim'.

  • 7.
  • At 05:28 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

As (1). I think that avoiding the use of a word is a bit silly because after all, you are in the business of reporting what other people have said, and this item is only newsworthy because of the specific word that was said.

I can't imagine what would drive someone to complain about a sentence like "In the Big Brother house today, one contestant referred to another one as a nigger." , except perhaps that the BCC are reporting on Big Brother at all.

Finally, I think it's quite important to teach children of all people that certain words have a history of use that makes them unacceptable in certain contexts. This was surely a prime opportunity missed.

  • 8.
  • At 05:33 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

The reaction (which the BBC seems to spend some effort to whip up) is excessive and precious. What matters is not the words used but the intent behind them.

  • 9.
  • At 05:37 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Given the far worse words used freely after 9pm I can't see what all the fuss is about. Nobody in the BBC is at all concerned about the offence that language gives. But perhaps they just dismiss those people as old, middle-class and white and so not worthy of consideration.

  • 10.
  • At 05:41 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew Strong wrote:

I consider this another example of how the Big Brother format has bankrupted itself.

The nomination/eviction format renders the individuals involved as performers in a popularity contest, first of all inside the house, then outside. If Emily Parr's comments offended, she could be nominated, and then evicted, and her defeat would be a victory for the show's intended purpose. The producers have pandered to the watchdog and robbed their own show of its basic competition.

The truly sad thing is she was already up for eviction, and had been generally so annoying she'd have gone tonight anyway. This would have tipped the scales...

  • 11.
  • At 05:42 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

The problem lies not within offence caused by reporting it in the media, but by the chance of it being picked up by younger audience members.

It may be true that such terms may offend some members of society and not others, but it would be inappropriate to use any term if there was a chance that it may offence a significant section of society.

Just because it doesn't offend one person, that doesn't make it acceptable to use. It's a matter of personal taste and the majority of personal tastes suggest that use of "the n-word" is inappropriate and likely to offend.

  • 12.
  • At 05:50 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

The comments above just shows the ignorance of some people. I am black and it is those sort of comments that make a lot of black people mad because it is trivialised. The word is offensive no matter who says it. And another thing that gets on our nerves (and we hear it all the time) is when they say a racist word and the next thing you hear is 'my friends are black' as if that justifies it. It doesnt..

  • 13.
  • At 05:53 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Alan Diprose wrote:

There's an old saying, "It's not what you say but the way that you say it." Words in themselves are not offensive. The newspaper I read prints the F word if someone has used it. I don't find that offensive. It is only offensive if you use it in a way that is intended to offend.

  • 14.
  • At 05:57 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • John wrote:

It is without question that the term n****r when used with the intention to cause offence and upset is reprehensible. Many people of african origin (especially younger individuals) use the term in a non - offensive way to refer to each other (listen to gangsta rap etc). I have to question whether why is it ok for an individual of african origin to use the term in an non offensive way, why is it always considered offensive for a caucasian person to use the term? Surely it is the intention to cause offence that is issue.

Some people might say that racially offensive words are equivalent to swear words and the same criteria should apply. However, I think it's worth noting that there is a historical aspect to words like "nigger".

George Santayana said, "Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it". I think it's important that we specifically identify words like these; people, especially young people, need to learn about them and why they are offensive. We should talk frankly about the mistakes that we have made in the past in order to move forward.

Overall, it seems that your actions are well-reasoned and justified, and I congratulate you for not backing down from a controversial subject where many others would simply have avoided the word in an attempt to avoid offending anyone.

  • 16.
  • At 06:00 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • alex wrote:

Remember the old ryhme, "sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?"

As human beings we always have a choice about how we respond to what is said.

The word nigger surely is only cruel and hateful when the intention behind its use is cruel and hurtful. It is more useful to ask whether Ms Parr was intending to be hurtful, or simply being naive.

  • 17.
  • At 06:01 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Dr Nicholas Ashley wrote:

The N word? Nutter?

LOL, of course not but I think there is a contextual dimension. It is used in Hip hop and as a term of endearment amongst black people. Fine. (I think that's how it was meant in BB). That's up to them. Samuel L Jackson certainly used it a lot in Pulp fiction, but he's black. A lot of black rap stars use it.

Even Jackie Chan used it in Rush Hour when playing a naive Chinese detective in the USA.

I reckon it's down to the context and tone of voice. I do remember the case of a white US civil servant sacked for using the word niggardly about a black US politician. the man was reinstated after it was found he was an oppressed minority as he was homosexual.

Weird word isn't it?

  • 18.
  • At 06:02 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I don't think any useful discussion of this issue can take place without going back to the so-called 'landmark case' on this topic, reported on the BBC and in the Guardian below. Whether this also applies to the 'N-Word' is not, to my knowledge, something which has been tested in a court case.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2993908.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/footballviolence/article/0,,999973,00.html

i am one of those who complains at the frequent swearing on Radio 2. The whole verse where the word ''niggers'' occurs in the 1930s song ''The Sun Has Got His Hat On'' was edited out. Jonathan King used the word ''negroes'' in his version but the B.B.C. Doesn't Seem To Be playing his records anymore. What possible offence could be caused by ''Everyone's Gone To The Moon'' or ''Hooked On A Feeling''? Not to mention Gary Glitter records don't get played even when Dale Winton is playing the 1973 top 20. Ha!! Yet when i complain about the word ''effing'' or the word ''crap'' i'm told Radio 2 has an adult audience and there are so few children listening as to make no difference. i've also heard the expression ''s. h. one t.'' said by Sarah Kennedy this week. i've frequently complained about the language used by the idiot on Saturdays and Jonathan Ross. Basically the B.B.C. has lost sight of the standards it used to set as an example to people of all types, all countries and all generations. What was the point of setting an example? And what happens when a worldwide broadcaster fails in its responsibility? The world will suffer and nobody will accept the blame. But somebody IS to blame. They will be called to account someday, but look at the mess they are leaving in their wake. Yet the B.B.C. talks about it as though it is somebody else's fault. Channel 4 are taking the same attitude when they refuse to listen to the authority of the Royal Family this week. Sad world it is going to be for those who are making it sad.

  • 20.
  • At 06:06 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • jackie wrote:

The hip hop street culture that has brougt this term into the mouths of young black (and white) people nowdays, also only refer to their wives and girlfriends as "bitches" and "ho's".
They might not be racist terms but they're certainly used to offend. This is not a culture that black people should be proud of - in fact it's very offensive nature is what makes it appeal to the disaffected youth of today.
The word is racist - irrespective of who says it or what colour they are.

  • 21.
  • At 06:11 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • SteveSkydive wrote:

Whether a word is offensive or not is entirely due to context. The 'N' word is not offensive if used between two black friends referring to each other, it probably is if used by a white man in a heated discussion with a black man. We need to concentrate more on context and less on the word itself.

Note that under every single message from users I am given the opportunity to 'complain about this post' just in case it might offend my fragile existance.

  • 23.
  • At 06:18 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Bruce MacLachlan wrote:

Surely its racist itself if black people are allowed to use the word and white people aren't. I thought racism was about treating others differently due to their race. If Charlie from Big Brother is allowed to use the word whilst Emily was quite obviously not.. then that is treating people differently because of their race.

  • 24.
  • At 06:19 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • sweetalkinguy wrote:

There is a difference between reporting that somebody used the word "nigger", to general opprobrium, and showing somebody actually using the word as if it was normal and acceptable, which is what Big Brother supposedly did, or using it in a play.

There is a doubt whether the incident occurred in a live broadcast, whether it was subject to a 30-second delay and hence a possible bleeper, or whether it was a pre-recorded broadcast. If Channel 4 included it in a "recorded highlights" programme, or made a positive choice to broadcast the material having it under their control, this is reprehensible, it should have been edited out, in which case it would have been out of order to throw the young lady responsible out. Comment has often been made before about Big Brother and the way the highlights are edited to present the bosses' favoured candidate in a better light and to influence the phone-in votes.

The issue really is not so much racism and the use of racist language, it is a question of editorial responsibility and impartiality and how this applies, or does not apply, to so-called "reality" programmes. Can the viewer rely on the integrity of the programme-maker, and can we expect better standards from journalists and news-producers than we can from makers of "reality" television?

  • 25.
  • At 06:22 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Ed Robinson wrote:


Just a reminder that any reference within BBC transmissions to me and others of my ilk as a SCOUSER will result in immediate legal action.

  • 26.
  • At 06:25 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Cheryl wrote:

It should always be referred to as the "n" word as to the majority of black people it is highly offensive. As a license fee payer i don't expect the BBC to use such language. i would not expect you to say the "f" word or the "c" word in a news broadcast so why to you think you can say the "n" word and for it to be appropriate. it's not about political correctness it is about a word that was used in history to denegrate an entire race and it should never be used on TV. everytime i hear it i am very offended and sad. it is also not an excuse to say that many black youths use it in conversations with one another - that does not make it right. Again, they use other words as well but they are still not appropriate to air on TV. the bottom line is that the "n" word is extremely sensitive to an entire race of people and it's not acceptable for anyone to use it. I think the BBC should have consulted their black staff before broadcasting such language - that's if you have any black staff that are senior enough to be able to affect decisions.

Also, it's not acceptable for people to justify using the word by saying "i have black friends who use it....". this word is not about your circle of friends it's about an entire race of people. Everyone will know someone with different views and experiences but i believe broadcasters have a responsiblity and should not be thinking of situation on a one on one level but on a national level. what happened in the BB house yesterday was bigger that Emily saying it Charley and that's what some people just don't get.

  • 27.
  • At 06:30 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • David Parkes wrote:

Using a racially offensive word to describe or make reference to an individual clearly can be offensive, but to report it's use is not.

Personally I think the BBC Editors got the right balance of using the actual word when reporting the story without overly repeating it to sensationalise the story.

  • 28.
  • At 06:33 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Geoff wrote:

While I fully agree that this word should not be used, it would seem that in the Rap world, it is a common term of expression. Should this highly publicised source of the word not be also targeted with education into the offence caused?

I do understand irony, but it does not excuse it.

It is in common use now with an a at the end or an er.


Stop it now.


  • 29.
  • At 06:36 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Geoff wrote:

While I fully agree that this word should not be used, it would seem that in the Rap world, it is a common term of expression. Should this highly publicised source of the word not be also targeted with education into the offence caused?

I do understand irony, but it does not excuse it.

It is in common use now with an a at the end or an er.


Stop it now.


  • 30.
  • At 06:38 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Ed Manning wrote:

Perhaps it would have been better if the BBC made only infrequent references to B** B*******.

The show itself is designed to debase humanity. It is the very opposite of the founding ideals of the BBC, Lord Reith would despair of such television.

The BBC should give it less publicity, and get on with reporting serious news and issues. Racism and using racism to generate viewing figures are both deplorable.

The BBC should resist fads like B** B******* and then it would not have been a problem.

  • 31.
  • At 06:40 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

I think that the BBC was right to say the word, and that it made the right decision to limit its use though. I think it may have been acceptable to use once on the evening News, even when children may be watching, just to highlight the issue, and also telling the children which may be viewing, what exactly the word was that used on Big Brother, that actually was offensive. As if they hear the word, but are also told that it is offensive, then they are unlinkely to repeat it, but, if they find out the word at a later date, for example hearing it in a film or in a conversation, they may not understand its meaning and start repeating it, without knowing that it can actually cause offense to some people.

  • 32.
  • At 06:41 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • shaun winstanley wrote:

I regularly watch films with comedic black actors such as Eddie Murphy etc starring in them and they are forever calling each other the "N" word. So if a none black person says this word then everyone is up in arms, but yet it is ok for some black people to call each other it in nearly every sentence? Is this a case of 'double standards'??

  • 33.
  • At 06:47 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Tom Hopkins wrote:

I agree that the term in question has evolved. African-American urban culture has reclaimed the word to the point that it's rare to hear a hip-hop record that doesn't feature it, and I believe the word can justifiably be used in a specific context.

However, the way it was deliverd on Big Brother was almost a jeer - putting 'you' in front of the 'N-word' while issuing a command made it feel like a put-down, and I think people were entitled to take offence.

I wonder how Channel 4 would have reacted if the term was used in banter between two young black contestants?

  • 34.
  • At 06:47 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Matt Fogarty wrote:

If black people can use "derogatory" language in a friendly way then why can't white people do it too? Surely that's racist in itself? Or am I simplifying this too much? I have just started reading 1984, I don't know how much more I should read.........

  • 35.
  • At 06:52 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Nick E wrote:

I ran into similar troubles whilst writing a piece of critical and music analysis on a Dr Dre album. That was slightly more complicated than it sounds! I decided (as I pointed out in a footnote) to not censor any words I used, when quoting lyrics. In that context, espicially when analysing rhyme, words with no endings would have quickly become confusing. However, I did not use any foul language in my own text. I took the view that anyone who would come across my essay would probably be mature enough to deal with the language used.

I sympathise with mainstream media, for once. This is something no-one will ever be happy about, either way.

Soon enough, the "word that must not be named" will end up on the "ok-to-use" side of the taboo line, much like the rest of the swearwords used on the BBC and the rest of terrestrial television past the watershed.

However, you're right to remove it on a medium with a 24 hour availability, although I hardly find the term heavily insulting. I guess it's another one of those times where you just have to think of the naive kids..

  • 37.
  • At 06:54 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Tez Anderson wrote:

Doesn't this word just mean 'relating to the Negro Race' ???
So why is it offensive?

Pathetic nonsense.

  • 38.
  • At 07:00 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • steph wiffen wrote:

I was shocked - I've only ever heard the word used in old films (or in the title of a famous book). I would never, ever use the word, and hadn't realised that anyone else would in public. But I am 47, and I'm also shocked by other words that leave youngsters unfazed.

I think that if such an item makes the news, the original piece should be played to illustrate the problem. If it's legible/audible, then there's no need for the offensive word to be repeated by the news reporter. If it's not loud enough or obvious enough for the news audience to hear/see, it shouldn't have been a problem in the first place.

  • 39.
  • At 07:05 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Dr Peter Jepson wrote:

It seems to me that it must, in certain circumstances, be appropriate to use the "N-word". For example, if I am writing that racist language is unacceptable and the word "nigger' often causes racial offence - then its usage is possibly necessary and certainly acceptable.

However, if I am using the "N-word" in a derogatory or antagonistic way then its usage must be unacceptable.

I believe that Big Brother were right to tackle the contestant for use of the word. However, they were wrong to dismiss her from the show for a first time usage in circumstances that were not antagonistic. In an employment situation a written warning would be appropriate and that is the route Big Brother should have taken. Counter-expression is also important.

Dr Peter Jepson author of 'Tackling Militant Racism'.

  • 40.
  • At 07:05 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Neil Lees wrote:

It is more appropriate for a black person to use it because black people never used it as an instrument to oppress a race of people... As for black people using this word it's not "nigger" but "nigga". The F-word is equally offensive to some people but importantly, it is not exclusively used in the context of racial discrimination.

  • 41.
  • At 07:14 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Vanessa wrote:

I think it is absolutely right that Emily Parr was thrown out. I watched BB last night and it was obvious that Charlie (the only black person in the house) was disturbed by the use of the 'n' word. Emily was quick to define the comment as a joke. But Charlie was obviously disturbed, later rightly mentioning that Emily's defence 'it just slipped out' did not hold true. It was an unconscious slip of the tounge. How many others accidentally slip the 'n' word into normal banter. Emily is a typical immature condescending personality, her purported superior intelligence was not evident when she was in the house, I suggest it was instead public school arrogance.

  • 42.
  • At 07:14 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • M Johnson wrote:

If the word is to be banned from news reporting what has happened, will it be banned from all songs along with swear words and inuendos that appear on air?

  • 43.
  • At 07:15 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Guy wrote:

It is simply ludicrous for channel 4 to kick emily out of the house for using a word by which she meant no offence and was in fact trying to bond. Whilst Jade and co. were maliciously and deliberately excluding someone partially on grounds of race and that was allowed. It is shutting the stble door after the horse has bolted

  • 44.
  • At 07:19 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Jennifer wrote:

Surely it is not the set of phonemes which is offensive, but the meaning of the word! If used in a derogatory fashion, it has the power to offend. If used to report an event, it is simply part of an accurate description of what happened.

It is utter silliness to be offended by a set of sounds with no regard to context or intended meaning.

  • 45.
  • At 07:19 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Johan wrote:

Frank Zappa appeared on CNN's crossfire to make it clear that words are just words. Yes they can be assembled into other things that can be offensive, but it makes me angry that we have to avoid using a particular word. Perhaps we should ban the work cock? Every rooster from now on shall be referred to as the 'r-entity'...

  • 46.
  • At 07:28 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Matt L wrote:

I think this whole episode has been completely outrageous and people's attempts to be excessively politically correct has shown how pathetic those in charge of big media corporations really are.

Firstly I would like to make the point that if another offensive term had been used I am sure no action would have been taken. Having once been particularly small for my age, I know how offensive and hurtful it can be to be labelled a midget. however if a term like this had been used against a big brother house-mate, i can confidently say no action would have been taken. Surely in many ways this is worse than simply being called a nigger. For example being called a midget can really damage a person's esteem and confidence, and lead to deep-rooted depression as was the case with me. When one is physically inferior to those around, it is more damaging to be bullied about this than the colour of your skin, as racist comments are more related to fear of the unknown and different, than simply through people's wishes to ascertain the status of alpha-male through completely emotionally destroying a lesser, beta-male.

I think people can now see that Israel can do no wrong on a global scale, as the West feel the need to make up for the holocaust. Well the same is now the case with the black community. They constantly reap the benefits of positive discrimination as the West try to make up for centuries of slavery and negative discrimination. I feel this is sad as it shows we have still not accepted these people as equals, as they do not receive equal treatment.

So back to big brother. I think Emily should be reinstated as what did she really do wrong? It was all just a bit of friendly banter that was blown completely out of proportion by the politically correct producers, and admittedly the other housemates, namely shabnam (she must go). Emily was already up for eviction so i think the public should have had the chance to decide whether what she did was really that bad. I'm sure it would have made far more interesting reading than the views of a narrow-minded channel 4 executive.

  • 47.
  • At 07:30 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • David Butler wrote:

If the word is used as a term of racist abuse by one person to another, then obviously it's wrong. But does political correctness now mean that this word can never be broadcast? If that's so, then the film "The Dambusters" can never be shown again (it was the name of Guy Gibson's dog and a common name for black dogs in the first half of the 20th century).

  • 48.
  • At 07:35 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

After the contestent, Emily, used the word in question, the housemates discussed it using more obscenities than non-obscenities to describe their views, but they did this in a non-confrontational way, merely a discursive manner. This was exactly the same manner in which Emily had used the word 'nigger' - casually, whilst in conversation. Channel 4 has no qualms with any other swearword, yet a housemate gets removed for one with racial intonations. To be so cripplingly afraid of what certain self-appointed representatives of minority communities might pronounce upon the network is bad for society.

Additionally, when Jade Goody used her racially abusive language in the recent Celebrity Big Brother Channel 4 did not evict her, and chose to hide certain outbursts from the public, denying their existance until recently. It is the producers of Big Brother who should be relieved of their jobs.

  • 49.
  • At 07:36 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Barbara wrote:

Bearing in mind that "people of colour" use this word frequently to describe one another is it any wonder that the offending word was used?
When people hear offensive language in the media and among their friends they adopt it into their vocabulary without thinking.
Perhaps if we were not bombarded with foul language in song lyrics, films, TV etc it would not be so widely used.
I find the antics of the contestants on Big Brother offensive but my complaints against them are moralist rather than racist so are apparently of no consequence.

  • 50.
  • At 07:42 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Brian Abbott wrote:

I'm amazed at how this has been focussed on. It's a nothing. Sure she shouldn't have said it. But the extent to which C4 and other news organisations, inclusing the BBC, have gone into a paroxysm of PC navel gazing is really sad. Banishing words from the lexicon takes you back to Germany 1933.

  • 51.
  • At 07:46 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

In my view saying a word is not offensive unless designed to be when it is a racial term. This is political correctness gone mad. The world is full of it. I know somebody...of African origin (ps I hope that is OK :S) who finds it more offensive to have the word black avoided in his presence in case it could offend him. I have to agree. Avoiding reporting this word simply 'alienates' them further. When meant offensively then yes its awful and rude and unnacceptable. But Afican Americans often refer to eachother as my n*****. There is a song by rapper 'Naz' called last real n***** alive (and yes I am leaving these starred out incase there are those with a different view to me). This indicates to me that they aren't really all that worried about it if not meant offensively. If I was them I'd be offended that I wasn't treated like everyone else. Not reporting the word is ridiculous.

  • 52.
  • At 07:48 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Adrian wrote:

This issue does pose some serious cultural questions about the acceptable and unacceptable context for using certain words, especially in the media spotlight. The "n word" in white society is one of the most taboo words, on a par with the "c word" - I have overheard conversations about this topic and people never use the actual word. It has a bad association with white supremicist thinking. But language changes. The word "crap" has seeminly become acceptable, even for content aimed at children. Teenagers often use the word "gay" to mean something "rubbish" instead it having a homosexual reference. The BBC has a responsibility to use language with consideration - their action to mention the word in one place and not another is sensible.

  • 53.
  • At 07:51 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • alex gibson wrote:

wasn't there a story about a black artist using the word in his adverts on the tube last year?..
I'm white working class and me and my white working class friends use the word about each other sometimes, mainly because of the film shaun of the dead not because the working class are all closet racist..my mother in law who is also white and middle class once asked me what I called my black friend and my answer was Richard because thats his name.. maybe we should just stop trying to be right on and just grow up and get on with each other instead then it would never be an issue..

  • 54.
  • At 07:56 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Sean McKay wrote:

I think there's far too much political correctness in this world.

  • 55.
  • At 08:03 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • insertname wrote:

It is obvious that there is a double standard. Nothing racist was said about Shilpa Shetty (as, for example, eating habits have nothing to do with race), yet there was a huge outcry, but when a racist comment was made by Jermaine Jackson (white trash) nothing was said.

  • 56.
  • At 08:05 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • northern bloc wrote:

There’s no shortage of people looking for things to be offended about, and the BBC seem to have done a pretty good job of reporting this story without treading on one of thier mines.

I’d like to make a comparison between the medias use of the words “chav” and “the n-word”, but will leave it at rather than risk being misinterpreted.

It’s a sorry state of affairs.

  • 57.
  • At 08:10 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • John wrote:

Recently, I was asked by a coloured friend to copy some music onto her ipod for her. The music was full of the N word and indeed, it seems to be used by certain ethnic people in a similar way as Londoners would use the word "mate".

Big Brother decided that using the N word constituted a serious offence. However, in implementing that rule they implemented "use of the N word if you are white" is a serious offence.

I mix with a whole range of people from all over the world. I was intrigued by a comment from a Phillipino friend who said "I'm almost black enough to use that word."

And that is my question. If use of the N word is disallowed then it should be applied across the board. If, however, it is disallowed except for "black" people - then how black? Phillipino? African? Jamaican? Blackpool Sun Tan.

My concern is that if we have a rule, it should apply to all people regardless of race, color, creed etc.
Indeed, one of BB's comments was that "using the word may be offensive to viewers". In that case, everybody who used the word should have been evicted (3 people).

Otherwise, BB should publish a list of nationalities and which words they are allowed to use.

  • 58.
  • At 08:37 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Noel Phillips wrote:

There is nothing wrong with the word nigger, or any other non PC words used these days, only the context in which such words are used. To use it in a news broadcast should not cause offence to anyone and is an entirely correct way to use the word.
Having to report such matters says all there is to say about such mindless shows in any event.

  • 59.
  • At 08:42 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Noel wrote:

The real issue is how the N word is spoken, not what is spoken. The N word can be used in a derogatory fashion or in a friendly banter. There is a difference.

  • 60.
  • At 08:47 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Ramsey wrote:

The word in question comes from the Latin 'niger', meaning black. It is historically a derogatory term, but it is a joke to make such a fuss of it when much worse is shown on tv all the time in films and dramas - more extreme language, violence, depictions of rape, etc. Had the shoe been on the other foot and someone had called someone else a 'cracker' - a racist term for a white person - it would have gone completely unnoticed. The whole point of Big Brother is that it is a window onto real people. If anything they should be given greater immunity to behave as normal for them - whatever that is - rather than censor them. It is supposed to be an open social experiment, not an example of modern paniked censorship. In real life those two friends would have had to talk about what happened and agree not to use the word. The offender would not be banished completely from society as happened here courtesy of Censor 4 - sorry, Channel 4.

  • 61.
  • At 08:52 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • ben wrote:

The problem is when we try to be too politicaly correct.The word is a racist word if used in the wrong way, but it is also used as a word of unity,it is often used like calling sombody your brother.
it is just a word and as the hip hop culture is a big part of life from music,films,the way we dress...and the way we talk! the word is used or heard a lot more in main stream.ingorance is the biggest problem,this girl on big brother used it in a mannor of jehst but her ignorance meant it was used in a way that could be offensive,just as devina macall did a few years back 'for shizell my nizzell' which due to pure ignorance it meant on live tv she was saying 'for sure my nigga'
but that is not racist, its ignorant.
so when so much attention is given to these stupid moments of ignorance i feal it is doing more harm than good.

  • 62.
  • At 08:53 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • N REDDING wrote:

why even report on such a program?

  • 63.
  • At 08:56 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Clothilde Simon wrote:

"Nigger" presumably comes from the Latin "niger", meaning (shock horror!) "black". I would like to be able to see the word used without people being offended.

  • 64.
  • At 08:57 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Offensive is just offensive.

Regardless of who uses 'the N word, black or white, and regardless of how 'acceptable' it has become, the fact remains that this word and it's origins are fundamentally derogatory.

Going back to the days when having a 'n****r' was no different to having a horse or an ox. To use that word today perpetuates the ignorant myth that black people are somehow less that human.

Though offended by the comments made by the girl in the big brother house, I am not entirely surprised. As politically correct and tolerant as we appear to be, we are not even 2 generations away from the time when boarding houses would accept neither Dogs nor Blacks.

Those landlords will now be parents and grandparents, and will have consciously or subconsciusly instilled these values in their children. Children who will now be our educators, employers, and broadcasters; alienating and though not using the word n****r, certainly make blacks feel that way.

The generation of militant, educated, articulate black British, who would never have tolerated, much less used the 'N word' seem to be in the minority now. Instead we now try to make it cool to use the word 'nigga' while we make that money that keeps us in bling bling and driving Cadillac Escalades.

Until we understand where we have come from, and by the example of our lifestyle dispel the negative stereotypes, we will always have to struggle to get to where we want to be in educaton and the workplace.

It's not impossible though, it just takes a few people to make a real effort to get to know one another...

Sermon over :-)

  • 65.
  • At 08:58 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • cleve wrote:

As long as this word is allowed to be described and treated as a weapon, or an orb to be touched by a few, it will cause offense. If the 'victims' of words like this make it special, protected, and frightening, it will continue to cause them pain.
It is nothing more than a vulgar word hurled at others, and amongst each other. It, like many, many words, Neither appropriate in polite company and conversation, nor intrinsically evil or dangerous.
Oddly enough, even back in the 70's it was NOT on the famous George Carlin list: "Seven dirty words"

  • 66.
  • At 08:58 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Frederick wrote:

Please don't use the term "people of colour". I find this racist phrase extremely offensive, as my skin is most certainly not colourless: it's a nice slightly yellowish shade of pink.

The only word I find more offensive is "white", since it even less descriptive of my skin colour, and furthermore has very unpleasant connotations of cowardice which I deeply resent.

But I guess I'm not a member of an ethnic minority, so my feelings don't matter in this age of "political correctness".

  • 67.
  • At 08:58 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • dominic stockford wrote:

You don't even think about any issue with using blasphemy - 'Jesus Christ', or 'Oh my God' - words frequently used in news and in programming at all times of day on the BBC, words which cause Christians just as much offense as the word 'nigger' causes black people. To wonder whether it is right to have a news report about someone using a piece of racist language without actually mentioning what it is becomes meaningless and hypocritical in that context.

  • 68.
  • At 09:03 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Shaun Donnellan wrote:

I think this whole reporting of this story is political correctness gone mad.We live in a free press state and the news should be able to report incidents as they happen.It seems that it is ok for one person or race to use the word nigger and not another.I think that the girl in the show is a young naive person who is used to hearing the word in modern RnB music or from one black person to another.I dont think she knows the real significance of the word and in my opinion didn't mean to cause racial offense.I don't advocate the use of the word but it is used widely as is Paddy,Frog,Kraut,in other TV programmes.

  • 69.
  • At 09:08 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Malcolm Parker wrote:

Congratulations to Ch4, more free publicity for Big Brother with the absolute minimum of effort. And the media went for it hook, line and sinker.
The media decides which stories to cover and continues to focus on those that it thinks will be popular rather than those which are really newsworthy. The media wins by attracting viewers & listeners, society looses by becoming focused on trivia which is excused as covering an 'important' issue. This n-word debate is popular racisim for the masses or racisim-lite. It fudges the real problems, improves ratings but ultimately solves nothing.

  • 70.
  • At 09:12 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • David wrote:

While I do not consider it right to use the N word here in the UK it was interesting for me to see in Rwanda when I visited a few years agao that theRwandans and I understand many central africans are proud to be called N's and even have a "white man" equivalent in "Mzungu". I even spotted a barbers called "N..... Boys".

  • 71.
  • At 09:17 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Peter Relf wrote:

This has been blown out of all proportion by Channel 4. The best thing they could have done would have been to ignore the use of the n-word completely. Then it would have been forgotten about after 5 minutes.

BTW: I find the continual use of the "F" word offensive. Why aren't Big Brother contestants thrown out for continually using that ?

Peter Relf.

  • 72.
  • At 09:20 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

I would personally prefer not to hear this word. I think that it carries hundreds of years of hatred and ignorance with it, and I'm dreading when my 4 year old asks me what this word means (a day brought ever closer by the morons who use it in everyday speech, and subsequent incessant reporting of these morons). I understand that the event has to be reported, but I can't help feeling that the wanton use of this word (during the initial reporting, and then reports on the reports) is a morbid excuse for creating controversy.

  • 73.
  • At 09:26 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

I agree with Matt and Bernard.

A word is just a word and it's people that give words power.

Used in context there are many many more words that can be considered offensive by someone somewhere.

From what I saw this word was used in a 'Hip Hop' style context, which in itself celebrates a bright, vibrant but predominately black culture and is used as a term of endearment or even respect.

How does this become racist?

Is it because a white person said it to a black person?

If so, does this mean that it's fine for a black person to use this word but not for a white?

Is that not inherently racist in itself?

I think that we all missed the point and that is that an unscrupulous program maker has seized upon an opportunity to use the media and the general public to spotlight an otherwise dreadful series this year.

The evidence for this will have been the difference in ratings between Wednesday nights program and Thursdays.

By their course of action they gave her words power and themselves a ratings boost.

  • 74.
  • At 09:26 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Abi wrote:

'People of colour' DO NOT frequently describe each other as nigger. I'm African and nobody I know has ever called me that, neither have i ever called anyone the same. It must be the type of people you have been exposed to that would use such a term.
I do agree that we have been bombarded with foul language in the media but i believe most of us are intelligent enough to sift through what is right and what is wrong. There is also a lot of violence in the media but none of us (I assume) think violence is right simply because the media is propagating it.

  • 75.
  • At 09:29 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Natalie Johnson wrote:

Barbara, do you not think that using a phrase such as "people of colour" is just a little bit offensive? I'm Caucasian, my skin is colourful with hints of pink, so do you mean to include me in your remark?

If you are talking about black people then there is nothing wrong with using the word black, just as there is nothing wrong with using the word white.

I think the BBC made the correct decision, I would be disgusted if you had bowed to political correctness in your news reports reports and failed to use the word in full. Reverting to "the 'n'word" was sensible during times children were watching as much for their sake as the parents (who probably wouldn't welcome having to explain the word to a 5 year old).

  • 77.
  • At 09:42 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • alun wrote:

While I agree it was totally wrong for Emily Parr to use that word. Channel 4 are totally hypocritical in the way she was treated. Channel 4 broadcast(twice) this week a program called Gods Waiting Room. In that program the driver of a hearse asked what was wrong with using the term nigger in the description of a colour. The driver made no apology for using the word.

How is it possible for Channel 4 to treat Emily Parr in the way they did whilst allowing this man to express himself in this way in a documentary program?

At least Emily has appeared contrite and appologised for what she said!

  • 78.
  • At 09:44 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Colin wrote:

It is my personal opinion that NO word, in itself is offensive, racist, or can have any negative, or positive connotation. It is, and always should be, the way in which that word is used that carries the true meaning.

In the interests of not over-sensationalising the word itself, I'll use n***** - however - we all know what I mean.

A man says to another man "You're a stupid useless n*****" in an aggressive and derogatory tone - this is blatently an offensive statement and an offensive use of the word. However, my 10 year old son asks me "Dad, what does n***** mean?" and there is no offence whatsoever meant, nor could a reasonable person find any without really looking very very hard.

Again, as stated above, this is just my personal opinion but I think it's a common sense matter.

If a news report is to be complete and accurate, it needs to be just that, complete, not abbreviated or sanitised - I for one wholeheartedly agree with the use of the word WHEN it is used purely as an accurate report of events which have passed and are "newsworthy" enough to be included in a broadcast - the sensible avoidance of the use where it will heard by children who may not know better that they shouldn't use it casually, is again, in my opinion, simply common sense.

  • 79.
  • At 09:51 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

As an anglo-saxon with fair skin and red hair it is seen as funny to have the BBC support comedians calling me a 'ginger-nut' etc. I was born that way due to my ancestors. National ridicule is fine for people of my race, even though I am in a minority. I have grown up with bullying and name caliing.

The BBC seem to have no problems with some minorities over others - my race just isn't news worthy \ trendy enough.

  • 80.
  • At 09:55 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Hiddenobserver wrote:

Why does anyone even bother watching Big Brother in the first place? In the obviouse moral sense, it is beneath the dignity of any self-respecting human being. In a darker sense, it plays its part in drawing humanity down into the sludge of a collectivist state whose inhabitants are scarcely more than farm animals.

As for the furore over the use of the 'N' word, it may be unpleasant, but it serves its purpose - namely to provide an excuse for phoney moral outrage. Were the word to disappear entirely, the conditioners would soon think up a new word - 'black', maybe, who knows? - to take its place as an inculcator of guilt and fear.

The whole charade is too pitiful for words, but all the same gives a good indication of the depths to which we have sunk.

  • 81.
  • At 09:56 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Richard Bradfield wrote:

I am somewhat saddened at not just another example of going "over the top" with PC, but also a fine example of how we seem to live with double standards. What about the constant stream of sexualy crude and vulgar language, both verbal and written, that is found in all forms of media today (including the News)? I happen to find that still very offensive to my ears and to my families ears. But what response would I get if I complained about that I wonder?

  • 82.
  • At 10:01 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Andi wrote:

PC has outdone it again. As it is said in Romania, my native country: "It is the tone that makes the music". Unfortunately, it is perfectly true that many Caucasian youngsters, for whom in N America the term "whigger" was invented, are using the word in the black-community meaning: of endearment rather than a racial world. I believe that if, like in South Park, somebody would try to clean up the language of all the words that are offensive to somebody, somewhere on this planet, we might end up with "S..." as our only allowed word. I think a warning would have been enough.

But that comes together with other BBC policies that caused me to not submit any ore comments: any free and informed discussion about subjects PC consider offensive are censured and I think this deepens the societal rift between its different groups. Just because extremists use these discussions to spit out their uninformed opinions, it doesn't mean a responsible, intelligent, informed adult cannot infringe a taboo.

When I immigrated to what I used to call "free world" I encountered as much frustration with its PC-censorship as I did with the Communists censorship.Sweeping such topics under the rug or - even worse - giving voice to only a single side will make things worse.

  • 83.
  • At 10:03 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Peter Kelly wrote:

I find it strange that one word is so bad, & it is bad but the F word is ok to use,if they sacked everyone who used any bad language there would not be a bad brother show, (bliss) bigest load of rubish on channel 4

  • 84.
  • At 10:05 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Jean wrote:

Latin for black is nigre, which I believe is what people of that colour are, and which is said to be the correct word rather than 'coloured' so what on earth is the problem?! I am white or pink, but would have no objection to being called blanco, whitey or rosy, because that is the colour I was born. I had no say in the matter! Why should nigger be derogatory? If it refers to slavery, and therefore supposedly inferior persons, there are plenty of people in 'service' who are white and pink!

  • 85.
  • At 10:10 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

When all the shouting is over its just a word. A word that has been used in literature, film, music and comedy for centuries. You can find it in to kill a mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Songs by artists as diverse as Elvis Costello and NWA and Eddie Murphy has practically made a career of saying it.We should either ban its use completely, including all those uses mentioned, or allow its use completely and live by the 'sticks and stones' mantra.

  • 86.
  • At 10:12 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Roy Silverthorne wrote:

I present the afternoon drive time show on the largest English network radio in Spain.
I am fortunate to be able to decide what I broadcast and the the tone of the broadcast.My report included the word in full twice,and,after inviting listener comments,not one complaint was received.However,a heated on air phone in dealt with who should decided what is spoken/published.The conclusion.
Play it by ear !

  • 87.
  • At 10:14 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Pete, Scotland wrote:

I think, as a country we have entered into George Orwell's Animal Farm.

1. First, make deeds against the State Defined Morals a crime.

2. Second, make speech against the State Defined Morals a crime.

3. Thirdly, make thoughts against the State Defined Morals a crime.

Shame on New Labour for creating this situation.

Even more shame on the older members of the Labour Party for allowing this to happen!

If we are going to integrate as a nation then people of all nationalities, colours, religions, long hairs, baldies, tall people, short people,etc,etc have to get used to the idea that being called a name is not a criminal act against you but just part of life.


  • 88.
  • At 10:19 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Krisnah wrote:

I am neither black nor white, but I find it ridiculous how people cannot understand that the word in question is offensive if someone who isn't black says it, but is not racist when someone black says it.

There is a distinction between racism and offence.

When Charley said the n-word, she may well have offended the viewing public (of any racial background), for which Big Brother may have asked her to curb her foul language or thrown her out. It was offensive, but not racist.

When Emily said it, offensive and racist. Naive though she was, Emily would not have used the term with anyone else in the house. Or if she did, it would have been to connote the person was 'acting black'. Again, racist.

In this incident, Big Brother is acting against racism. Offence, through bodily exposure, blasphemy, expletives etc, is within the accepted limits of our culture. Racism is not.

The only good that may come from this, is that the next generation realise that certain words cannot be jokingly bounded about. They're asssigned to races for derogatory purposes, and that is racism.

  • 89.
  • At 10:20 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

I agree with Adam (comment 1) wholeheartedly.

It's the context that dictates whether something is offensive: not the word itself.

  • 90.
  • At 10:31 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Suzie von Pflugl wrote:

This a 19 year old who is now being branded a "racist". Shame on you. Apparently she has plenty of black friends - like most of the young today & guess what - they call her names too.
1. It is not what you say - it is the way that you say it.
2. There can be people around who are "racist" who never say anything offensive, but may just think it.
3. Big Brother is tries to create controversial situations by the very nature of it's programme - & then cries foul when it happens.
4. Channel 4 have only reacted like this, because they had opprobrium last time - so are being ultra sensitive out of fear.
5. Let's stop using the word "racist". I for one am heartily sick of it. Most people react to others because they like or don't like - not because of their skin colour.

  • 91.
  • At 10:34 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Audrey wrote:

Why is it we are encouraged to believe that language is a living and therefore changing thing? But we are still so over-sensitive to certain words. The context in which some words are used is offensive however. When these words are directed at a specific individual meant to ridicule. humiliate or taunt the perpetrators are offensive. Used to describe or explain is acceptable. I used this philosophy for many years while working with secondary school students as a liberal tolerant librarian in an atmosphere which encouraged communication. Their language was controlled and no name-calling happened.
Racial intolerance is never acceptable and those guilty should pay for that intolerance.

  • 92.
  • At 10:38 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Vaughan wrote:

Consider the following two sentances.

Nigger is a term of racial abuse.

The 'N' word is a term of racial abuse.

Which would make most sense to someone, most likely a child, who had never heard the word before? Say what you mean and mean what you say. Anything else is for politicians only.

  • 93.
  • At 10:41 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Tamara wrote:

I think that Big Brother is an appalling show and there is no justification for that sort of voyeuristic rubbish on television.

However, if the BBC wishes to do a report on this issue up to its standards, it should consult with one or more academic linguists to discuss the ways in which language changes... there is clearly ambiguity in the way that this word is used; your readers' comments reflect that ambiguity.

I am old enough to remember my (white, in the barely-post-segregation US South) grandmother using the word in a way that was completely offensive to me even at a young age, but which she did not find offensive at all - it simply meant that those people were inferior to us; doesn't everyone accept that? I was brought up to think of it as a word that one doesn't use, at all, ever. Now it's been "taken back" by those it used to insult and its meaning has changed.

So we have those (like me, I'll admit) that think it should never be said under any circumstances, and younger people who see no problem with it. My grandmother's generation is gone, but they would have been surprised (at least) by the usage in which it is now acceptable. It's difficult to accept language change, but it happens whether we like it or not.

An analogue to this is the evolution in English of the word "silly"... it derives from the same root as the German "selig", meaning "holy." That was the original meaning of the English word... in Middle English one would speak of "the silly virgin Mary." (I'm modernising the spelling.)

Then it lost the meaning "holy" and simply meant "innocent"... an example from Shakespeare, in "Two Gentlemen of Verona", when banished Valentine agrees to join some outlaws provided they "do no outrages on silly women or poor passengers." Speakers of modern English think they know what that means, but they don't - it just meant "innocent women, those that had done nothing to you, mate."

Finally from innocent (similar to the etymology of the word "fool") it became "mentally simple"-- the modern meaning of silly.

Language change happens, this controversy needs to happen too, but the change will win. You can't stand against the tides of language change - ask any grammarian from any age who insists on "one correct way". It always fails.

  • 94.
  • At 10:49 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Davis wrote:

In response to all the news coverage, my 8 year old daughter has asked what the "n" word is. Can someone advise me on how to respond as I don't want to offend anyone or leave my daughter exposed to offending anyone? My question is a serious one. She knows what the "f" word is and why it is not nice to say it, she has heard in the street. Is it right to tell her what the "n" word means and why it is wrong? Maybe we should draw up a list of offensive words and treat them all in the same way.

  • 95.
  • At 10:51 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Cat wrote:

As a black person, mid 20's with an array of friends from different backgrounds I have to say I am horrified at the ignorance of some people. Neither I, my friends nor family use the "N-word" as a term of endearment. Yes, SOME (not all) US 'rappers' may use this term frequently in their songs and I like a significant amount of black people find this offensive. In the same light, some of these "rappers" use extreme misogynistic terminology which is offensive - rap music was never a marker of what is acceptable language or behaviour and what is not.
Emily went into the house claiming she was 'educated' she clearly is not.
Up and down the country, in towns and cities where ethnic minority communities are small (even in Bristol), the term is used frequently to alienate, degrade and hurt individuals of the public. Just last year there were two prolific, racist murders that gained coverage in the media. Racism is not dead. Yes the use of this word came about during the times of slavery but has not been put to rest, you have only to look back at the last international football event in Germany where black players/fans were warned against visiting certain parts of that country.
Emily may not be racist but she sure is ignorant, whilst she apologised for her use of the word, she continued to try to justify it and seems to demonstrate no understanding as to why her use of the word would genuinely upset some members of the public.

  • 96.
  • At 10:52 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Wonderer wrote:

Considering the enormous emotional charge attaching to the use of this word, except by one black person to another,it should generally be avoided. If you have to REFER to it, as opposed to using it as an epithet, then just call it "the anagram of ginger".

  • 97.
  • At 11:13 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Denise wrote:

Many things are offensive - to some, but not to others. I find the fact that the housemates see others more in terms of sex, gender, and sexuality, rather than individual and personality!! I find their judgements offensive. I found Davina McCall's dismissal of Gerry's articles on Bronze's offensive, when she said that it was boring!!
Racism is offensive, as is racial hatred, but, as others have said, there are many issues in the house that could be considered offensive. Emily is a sheltered and immature girl, and her behaviour reflects her background - but this is Big Brother - it is what it is about, after all.
Nonetheless, there has to be a boundary drawn, and perhaps in this instance big brother was right. But - it has been sensationalised beyond the reasonable level.
I just wish that these people would yearn for something more than a page spread in a gossip magazine - THAT'S OFFENSIVE!!!

  • 98.
  • At 11:14 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Geoff wrote:

I find it rather precious that the code of practice is so scrupulous about the watershed regarding the use of taboo words, and yet the BBC 6 o'clock news is unfussed about dishing out carnage and horror when inevitably some little munchkins will accidentally be in the room. Last week my little daughter overheard a news report and asked me what `sexual abuse' was. Thanks BBC.

I don't buy the line that because it is `news' it is exempt from the watershed. Either there is a watershed, or there isn't, and if there is then all early evening programmes should be safe for toddlers and kiddies to watch.

A father

  • 99.
  • At 11:16 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Earl wrote:

I'm not surprised to see so many racist queueing up to support the use of the N-word, and to applaud the BBC in broadcasting it. I'm a young African Caribbean man who finds the n-word deeply offensive regardsless of who uses it.

  • 100.
  • At 11:33 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Chris Melville wrote:

I totally agree with Adam.

Any "offensive term" is only offensive if it's used in such a manner. As a word in a news story, it's only a word. There's a world of difference between announcing:

"Today, a group of young n****rs...", and
"There's a row over the word 'nigger'..."

Anyone who would complain about the latter usage clearly has no sense of context or perspective.

  • 101.
  • At 11:50 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

I'm reminded of the shock I got when rewording a George Bernard Shaw quote for a female friend:

"The reasonable woman adapts herself to the world,
The unreasonable woman adapts the world to herself,
Therefore all hope of progress lies with the unreasonable woman."

Somehow, the thought of progress at the whims of an unreasonable woman is somehow much scarier than if it were an unreasonable man (although, in later life, I'm not quite as "unreasonable" as I supposed myself to be in my youth).

Words are context driven. African/Caribbeans using "the N-word" amongst themselves is distinctly different to the case where it is directed at them. In much the same way that the use of the word "Pom" is viewed with amusement (and bemusement) by people who live in Britain, and yet is regarded as offensive by some expatriate Brits living in Australia who experience the word every day.

  • 102.
  • At 11:50 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Sandra wrote:

It would be nice to know when this word did become racist. I certainly remember it being used in connection with a colour - a lovely shade of brown, rich and true - so what is that colour called now? To me, it seemed more a term of endearment, something like paddy, jock, limey, kiwi and so on. There was another n word which ended in 'o' which also appears to be a no no now. I would love some guidance as to why words which to me were never 'racist' are now banned and I doubt if I am alone in this.

  • 103.
  • At 11:58 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Josh wrote:

The word needs to be printed for people to understand the context of what was said. I think that there should not be an issue with using the word to show how it was used offensively in an article demonstrating how the use of the word was inappropriate and unacceptable. I admire the comprimises that the media have generally come to in their reports of the incident this week in limiting their use of the word, but still incorporating it into their reports to try to ensure people do not get false impression of the situation which occured.

  • 104.
  • At 11:59 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Paul Wright wrote:

It is a word. 6 letters arranged in a certain order.

I wonder for the sanity of mankind when in this day and age people get that wound up about it.

I believe if it was used more often then the value of it as an offensive word would diminish.

P.S I notice now it is not possible to post more than *one* comment within a short space of time.

Do you not consider that people often read a batch of posts at once? As you vet and remove all critical comments as it is I hardly see why it matters how many us license fee payers submit for deletion...

  • 105.
  • At 12:05 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Alan M. Watkins wrote:

No, it's just indicative of the fact that the BBC is a third rate news source if anyone wants to know seriously what is actually going on.

They live on a reputation they no longer deserve.

They are, day after day, blasted off the internet by countless others and on spot news frequently left behind by Sky which is hardly the highest art form of media.

Alan M. Watkins

  • 106.
  • At 12:07 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Mo Husen wrote:

The whole purpose of "Big Brother" show is to shock it's viewer by doing unusual , cheap & childish things in the name of entertainment & no doubt quite a few ignorant morons who watch the show supposedly enjoy it, if only to gossip with their fellow moron friends.
There is nothing skillful, educational, informative, inspiring, moral or ethical teaching in the programme. Its just full of cheap loud mouth offensive insults & pranks played by so called grown-ups spoiled prats, mostly unemployed or unemployable unskilled brags picked of the streets hoping to become untalented The Sun/Daily Mirror type "Celebritiy" and earn big bucks. If only our Nurses & Teachers could earn so much money & recognition for their skills & hard work. This is the state of our society to-day, no wonder kids do not value education anymore as they all inspire to become "celebrity" & earn pots of money for no effort or skills.

  • 107.
  • At 12:07 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • tony wrote:

Does this really have any impact on anyone's life . Is this form of derision any worse than that which we are all subject to at one time or another e.g. white trash , lofty , baldy , skinny , big nose , fatty etc.etc. Where do you draw the line?

  • 108.
  • At 12:15 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • ED wrote:

To read comments from mainly white people who say they do not have a problem with the word n***** and are not offended by it beggers belief.

  • 109.
  • At 12:15 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Verity wrote:

It looks to me to be a simple fact of PR/saving face on the part of C4 given its history over racism. Its bound to have double standards because its a show for entertainment and will always be steered that way and in reaction to the public that watches it. Its all about ratings, not social conscious.

As for the word it self, from my experience its not appropriate for a white person to say this, its generally a word used amongst black people.

The PC gone mad issue is ever present and I see signs of Orwell's 1984 in the way our language is dictated by social conduct in what we can and can't say in an ever increasing nanny state.

  • 110.
  • At 12:18 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Simon West wrote:

Reacting so strongly to the use of this term only enboldens its offensiveness. And why treat this ethnic minority with such unique care? I, being a christian and therefore the member of a 'minority', am most offended when 'christ' is used as a swear word - do the media care? Do they heckers!
Also, what are we to do with literary works that use the term; for example Joseph Conrad's 'Nigger of the Narcissus' or the works of Mark Twain riddled with 'Nigger Jim'?
And finally, as a teacher, I know that some children, who previously had never thought of using the term, now have a new word for the playground.

  • 111.
  • At 12:30 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Lizzie wrote:

One hundred messages debating the 'N' word, but no-one has made the obvious comment.....that it is mindless, dumbed-down, lowest common denominator 'reality' TV programmes that are more offensive than anything! If you are going to rely on the general public to provide your TV 'stars', then you must expect gross stupidity and offensive behaviour. If you want something better, employ someone with an Equity card.

  • 112.
  • At 12:30 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

What people fail to mention is that sometimes in rap music a black artist will insult a fellow black rival artist by using the 'n' word in a derogatory way. Is this not racism?

  • 113.
  • At 01:07 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Jindy wrote:

I am English, white at that. Was brought up all over the globe, including most of my schooling in said countries, and therefore have genuinely had real friends of many origins.
I despise racism in any context, however for channel 4 to have hidden the offensive word used would have been censoreship in the highest order, we live in a country where we boast freedom of speech, or has nanny really taken over?
Viewers saw the offensive clip, make your mind up yourselves; it's supposed to be a reality show, which means unpredictable things may occur. in my opinion you have 2 choices, don't watch such shows, or get voting to remove the individual concerned. I think she would have been voted off for it, though we'll never know now.
Channel 4 hastily removing her to me is against the spirit of reality shows and indeed the freedom of speech we have in the UK???

  • 114.
  • At 01:31 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • John wrote:

Believe it or not, there is actually a book on this very subject:

"The N word:who can say it,who shouldn't,and why," by Jabari Asim.

Mr.Asim, who is black, has written a history of the word, and its use in contemporary (U.S.) society. He maintains that the word is offensive most of the time, even amongst black hip-hop artists and west-coast gangsta rappers.

He also states that it can sometimes be used by blacks and whites,and he specifically mentions Mark Twain's use of the word in "Huckleberry Finn."
Also the U.S. comedian, Dave Chapelle, is singled out for understanding the horrible meanings associated with this word, and how he uses it correctly in his stage performances.

  • 115.
  • At 01:32 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Hannah wrote:

It's a horrible word. As Chris said it's a word charged with a long and extremely negative history (not so distant either). Unlike the term 'white trash'.
Just because some (and only some, as several people have pointed out) people may have reclaimed it and use it does not mean it's not offensive.
For people to claim that it's 'racist' for a white person not to be allowed to use it is missing, or avoiding, the point utterly.
Recaliming derogatory terms and using them as slang is a linguistic and cultural process. It's also very personal and specific and this Emma girl should have known better. Let's face it, it was an ignorant and insensitive thing to say, and she's rightly sorry.
People have brought up 1984 and book burning. So having consideration is being oppressive?
I commend the BBC for opening the debate on how to report this. Personnally I believe it's better to play safe rather than risk upsetting people for the sake of freedom of speech. Or where does it end. I repeat: consideration.


  • 116.
  • At 03:06 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Jill wrote:

Quite frankly I think that if you are secure in who you are, you will take all of this with a pinch of salt....no matter what the colour of your skin.

The word 'nigger' apparently came around during slave trade times.
People...this is the 21st Century!!
Ok I agree you should never forget your history, but surely it is not good to let it imbed itself so deeply that it makes generations to come insecure about such silly little things as a word.

Have you never heard the saying 'Sticks and stomes will break my bones but words will never hurt me'

Racism is not just about white people calling coloured people names. Get a grip!!!! It infuriates me that people make out it only works one way.

Charlie is the perfect example. She was hardly genuinely offended until she realised she could milk the situation. That doesn't strike me as someone who has been REALLY offended.

  • 117.
  • At 07:42 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Gavin Thomson wrote:

Emily used the word in a way that has offended many people, not because of the context, but because she deemed it appropriate to address someone else by that term.

The BBC have reported the story using the word and have clearly highlighted that its use is not appropriate. The wider audience need to know exactly which word is being referred to so its use is necessary.

Channel 4 / Big Brother, on the other hand, should have beeped the word out each time it was mentioned on their shows. I think the excuse that it had been left in so that it was 'in context' was a weak argument to cover their desire to shock and cause reaction, and then BE SEEN to do the right thing and eject Emily.

Also they said 'The word will be aired the first time it is used, to give the context of the conversation, but will be cut thereafter.' - this was not they case, the word was repeated over and over by the housemates on the highlights show.

  • 118.
  • At 12:44 PM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Andrew Smith wrote:

The 19 year-old is removed from her bed in the middle of the night (with no knickers on) - as though the house needed to be cleansed from some kind of virus. And all she did is repeat a word that some young kids think is cool and "street" to use with her friends because black Rappers use it all the time.
Seems to me multiculturalism looks more like fascism every day.

But it's peachy for the media to promote Rap musicians who glorify violence (including sexual violence) - in fact having convictions is a badge of credibility - and use the same word.


  • 119.
  • At 02:50 PM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Will wrote:

Just to add my opinion.

I think that Channel 4 have just used Emily as a scapegoat to create media attention. I agree that that would should not be used, but not only by white people but by all races.

It is viewed as racism for white person to use this word to a black person, even though the black person would use it in the same context to a white or black person. By making a distinction that the white person has made a racist comment in my view transfers ownership of the transgression to the accuser because they are making the act one of race. In the context of the channel 4 show I believe the word was said in friendly banter and was blown out of context by Charlie to gain more press coverage at Emily's expence.

If Emily was evicted for the use of this word then Charlie should also be evicted since she used the word on many more occasions than Emily.

This word should not be used in the public domain and should be band from all media including song lyrics.

  • 120.
  • At 05:18 PM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

I haven't bothered to read all the comments - so I'm sorry if I'm repeating what anyone has said.

I'm just shocked that so many people don't consider this an issue. It isn't "political correctness gone mad" to repremand someone for calling someone else a nigger. It is political correctness working in the way it is meant to. That is what political correctness is for - to stop offensive behavior.

The arguement that "Charley used to word too" doesn't work either, because she didn't CALL anyone the name. As pointed out in the BBC regulations - what is offensive and what isn't is a matter of tone and context. It may not be offensive to call oneself a name, or to repeat in a news report that said name has been called (as the BBC did[and what is more, it still may cause offense to some]), but it is obviously offensive to call someone a name and that is why Emily's actions were inexcusable and why it was right she was removed from the show.

I would also like to point out that the word used as slang and as a term of affection in hip-hop culture is "nigga" and not "nigger". It is pronounced with a soft -a sound and not a hard -er and has evolved into a different meaning. Simerly, "wigga" is the term of affection to a white hip-hipper as opposed to "wigger" the offensive term. The semantics and etimology of these term's aren't widely discussed to my knowledge - and cirtianly Emily Parr didn't know the difference.

  • 121.
  • At 08:18 PM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • ken wrote:

l think its best for everyone not to use the word.wether you joking or not or you have black friends that doesn't give the right to use the word.

  • 122.
  • At 01:50 PM on 10 Jun 2007,
  • Matt wrote:

40 In response:

How ridiculous! Yes it may have been a derogatory word in the past and in some cases present day. Yet you say that black people use the word nigga instead of nigger.

Do these people spell the word out when they say it to differentiate between the two? I think not!

How can you say that it is OK to use the word nigga and not nigger? They sound the same and how do we know Emily didn't say nigga??

  • 123.
  • At 09:38 PM on 10 Jun 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Of course racist language isn't appropriate. Nor is killing people. But just as you have to report murders, if you have to report incidents involving racist language you have to make it clear what you're talking about. Personally, I believe that it was necessary to actually broadcast the excerpt, as the context, manner, etc is vitally important - not because it makes what was said acceptable, but it mitigates its use and makes clear that the person was not trying to offend, or abuse - that she is ignorant and stupid but not malicious. That doesn't come across in transcripts, and it certainly doesn't c*me across when you c****r the de****s of w**t was a******* s***.

  • 124.
  • At 08:57 AM on 13 Jun 2007,
  • Ashley Tiffen wrote:

There was absolutely no need to use this very offensive word at all. To use it during the day on News 24 and the One O'Clock News was indefensible.
Yet another arrogant example of BBC managers playing lip service to, no only decencly, but their own rules ("We must not include offensive language before the Watershed ")

  • 125.
  • At 02:54 PM on 15 Jun 2007,
  • sandra wrote:

it is interesting that white people seem to be the ones to tell us black people whether we should be offended or not by the use of that word. i am black and have been for 40 years...i have never heard that word used by any of my family or friends ...so the arguement that it is used extensively in the black community is wrong...i would say a minority of young black people think it is cool to use the word..the majority of black people find it extremely offensive..and to also use the arguement that rappers use it ...are we rappers? and since when have we taken anything a rapper has to say as gospel....maybe if radio stations stop playing songs with that word in it then rappers may stop using it in their songs...i suggest people look into the history of the word and maybe then they will realise why we find that word offensive...

  • 126.
  • At 08:10 AM on 16 Jun 2007,
  • WInston Nelson wrote:

I find I have to write in about the N word.

I wonder how many black people have responded to this, would be interesting to find out..... why? well as a black person I find the word totally offensive, as a young child in a white neighbourhood I was subjected to daily taunts of being a N*****.

I have a wide circle of white and black friends and I do not know any of them that would use this word in any context, nor do I know of any black people that find this word acceptable. Therefore the reporting of this word needs to be sensative to its audiance, bearing in mind its multi racial target audiance.

  • 127.
  • At 05:53 PM on 30 Jun 2007,
  • Jada Harris wrote:

I absolutely hate the use of the N word and thankfully have never been referred to by that name.

It is highly likely that Emily used the word innocently with no misintent but I find it interesting to note that she only apologised for using the word after BB informed her of her expulsion! It never occurred to her that she may have caused offence.

And that leads us neatly to the double standard. I find it ridiculous that certain musicians routinely use the N word together with "bitches" and "ho's". How ridicilous that such negative and demeaning terms can be popularised in modern music. And how more ridiculos that some uneducated idiots, young and old, listening to that music then intergrate the langauge into their own lives and communnities. And there are a lot of idiots out there, white, black, asian etc, who so easily soak up "popular culture" and think it normal and acceptable to use such language. Hence BB, the BBC and Emily Parr...

The musicians should assume some responsibilty and not use the N word, a throw back to when black people were regarded as subhuman and inferior. But I guess they're too busy and counting their money, gold albums and gold teeth to give a hoot. They probably don't give it a second thought. Meanwhile, here we are in 2007 hotly debating the use of the word and whether it is really offensive? Which groups of persons can use it? Should the BBC have said it?....yada yada yada. Round the musicians and shoot them all. Problem solved.

  • 128.
  • At 04:10 PM on 28 Jan 2008,
  • connor smithersmapp wrote:

Wow. Incredible. I find it quite ironic (and telling) that so many who are not part of the Black community feel they have lcense to tell the Black community what they should, or should not, find offensive.

If a significant portion of a community finds its usage offensive, avoid using it! There are a plethora of words that my Jewish and Native American friends tell me are offensive, culturally-centred word. I admit I had to be educated and informed and even if I did not feel the sting they felt when the word was used, I respected them enough to believe the most prudent course of action was to JUST NOT USE IT!

I, unequivocablly, know the gravitas of any story can still be communicated to the reader, sans the word. The “N” word is not a term of endearment. It cannot be re-apropriated. We can not "re-define" it. No word is as vile as the "N" word. It is condemned by the majority of Black persons. The fact that the word is in the lexicon of a small percentage of often, poor, uneducated persons and popularized by the commercial music genre known as rap music, does not sanitize it and nor does it make it more palatable. Those who use it in reference to themselves reveal it as an indicator of self-hatred and internalized racism. It does NOT matter who the speaker is.

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