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Paul Coletti | 17:59 UK time, Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Tonight we discussed Afghanistan and the N-word . . .it was a great debate.

Reginald “Whass happenin’?” Hunter is in the studio explaining his reasons for his show: “Pride and Prejudice and Niggas.” Which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe this August. He’ll be on in the second half of the show.

Reginald: “It has upset people ‘cos of the use of the word niggas. There was no incident regarding the title when I was in Edinburgh. The fear that someone would be offended has caused them to do this. It’s a business decision. It’s impractical for them to promote something that might affect business. I’ve heard it all my life. I belive it’s the context in which the wiord is used. Some people think having the word in thtretitle is tantamount to calling people that. Where I come from, Georgia, a lot of people are referred to as niggers.”

This topic will be provocative so be warned . . . A text is in already:

“Racism will never end because it is a sin problem.”
Kelvin, Zambia .

Alastair Leithead: our man in Afghanistan.

Alistair: “I’m in Camp Bastion in Helmand province. It’s a bleak place.”

Paul in Canada: “What is troop morale like? What do the soldiers think their chances are and what do they need from us?”

Alistair: “Morale is very high. At least here there is a chance. There is a democratically elected president and parliament and still huge [problems but the soldiers are saying that their plan will take the country forward.”

A text is in:
“How did the normal Afghanis feel about the Western military presence? Did they think it was helping improve their plight or simply delaying the inevitable of continual poverty and undesirable regimes?”
Steve, Utah, USA

Richard: “Do our troops have the right equipment?”

Alistair: “Every soldier says ‘we could do with more’. That’s a British attitude.

An anonymous text:
“Now that Rumsfeld is gone, is it not time to bring the Taleban into the main stream government with a compromise as they have good support locally...hence stop this clash of civilizations. We as Muslims has seen the slaughter of our Muslim brothers a lot since the bush became the president. It’s about time to stop.”

Sue is asking: “Can women wear what they like?”

Alistair: “In Southern Afghanistan people are very conservative. It’s the norm. In Kabul’s it’s perhaps different: over a 20 minute period I counted all the women I saw and over 50% were covered. It’s just the tradition

Nisa, originally from Afghanistan: “What are the strategic difficulties faced by the troops?”

Alistair: “The strategy is to try and win people over. The Taleban operate over many places. The fighting that’s going has led to civilian deaths and forced people to move. The nature of the fighting, bringing the security, has in fact caused trouble for the very people they’re trying to win over. Getting the balance right is what it’s all about. 80% of people are floating voters and will go with whoever is winning.”

Two more texts just in:
“Convey my love 2 British troops in Afghanistan. I probably would be one of them had it not been for not knowing anybody in the UK. “
James, Entebbe.

“The ‘N’ word: whose word is it anyway? Has it’s becoming taboo somehow diminished/disappeared numerous other derogatory terms that no longer seem2B heard?
Caro, NYks

John wants to know: “Are we getting sanitised feedback with embedded reporting?”

Another text, this time from Africa

Alistair responds: “It’s very mixed. Sometimes you’ll get grins and waving, sometimes icy stares. That’s a problem.”

Some questions via e-Mail:
“Is there actually an overall strategy - rather than just tactics - in Aghanistan?”

“My question is: could you give us an example of how the troops operationalize their ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of the Afghan people? How are their armed operations aimed at minimizing civilian casualties?”
Arnav, Montreal, Canada

Julius, has phoned in from Switzerland: “How do the local population react?”

Alistair responds: “The presence of the forces is overall welcomed across the country. If they pulled out tomorrow it would be absolute chaos so there is generally a feeling of support for the international troops. People are perhaps disappointed by the corruption. People don’t see the effects of the money.”

Ros - a trained Beeb presenter – wants to pose a Q and he knows how to get to the jugular: “Alistair, were you scared….?”

Alistair: “Often you wouldn’t realise how dangerous a situation was until afterwards.”

Is usage of the N-word ever justified?

We’re back after the news and our phone lines are ready for your calls. The number is on the right hand side.

Reg: “I understand. I’m not too surprised. I don’t want that word having power over me. If you want the word to lose its power then remove it from its special place.”

T is in Detroit: “I disagree with the use of the word. Not everybody may have the strength he does to not let it get power over them. He’s from a Southern state – I don’t get it. Not everybody is capable of using common sense. . . .

Reg: “There’s a reason why people can’t use common sense is cos there’s an unofficial reaction we’re supposed to have.”

T: “Look at other slang words like spic . . . you don’t hear that. There are too many young people who don’t know what it means. I hear N-word this N-word that in Coney Island all the time . . the word has been popularised? If you have a feeling about expletives, the N-word is just like an expletive.”

Reg: “Hearing a word uttered doesn’t give me the right to get with piissy with someone.”

Lee Jasper: “Trying to having a post modernist understanding of that word is just not a believable premise. It is a word imbued with so much pain and anger. Attempting some sort of liberal reclaiming of the word flies in the face of . . . it isn’t popular in the UK”

Reg: “That’s a bold assertion. Have you heard rap music in the UK?”

Emails are flying in:

“Words have the weight and importance we give them. I don't and wouldn't use any language that I consider offensive in reference to anyone else, but find that use of the word "nigger" by others is useful, in as much as it alerts me to what sort of person I am dealing with, black or white.”
Gladys, Berlin

“I believe the word ‘nigger’ should be stripped of its negative connotations by bringing it out in the open - you hear it a lot in New York city but only among some groups of people - it's like anything else, if you try to hide it, it becomes taboo.”

“I think there's a variety of uses of the ‘n-word’… the offensiveness-level really depends on the context. For example it can be used as a derogatory and racist term, or in a more funny way to tease someone or to rag on what someone said.”
Arnav, Montreal, Canada

Kwame: “Reg is finding himself in the position of defending the N-word. I applaud TFL for being aware that this word causes offence. Whether we wish to reclaim it through the prism of rap is a separate discussion.”

Reg: “I’m not upset with TFL’s (Transport For London) decision.”

Lee: “This word is racially codified. I haven’t seen the show so maybe the show would give me some context. But when you advertise with this word or title with this word then the first caller from the US was right, some people are not gonna handle it well.”

Reg: “That’s part of your job to keep the peace. My pov is a more artistic mandate, Through comedy I like to point out certain things in society.”

An e-Mail:

“It is about intent!! If someone uses that word with me, they MUST know that it is ok. If you don't know whether it is ok, you DON'T use it.”
Errol, Boston, USA

Reg: “There is a thing sometimes about American black imperialism. Anyway, the irony for me is that I know people who are racist but who would never say the word nigger. People think by not saying the word racism will disappear. That’s just not so.”

Ros: “Did you do this for publicity?”

Reg: “It was genuinely an attempt to do a piss-take on Jane Austen. Sometimes you forget other people don’t have your sense of humour. I am quite surprised at what’s come back.”

Jean in the Netherlands but originally from Africa: “I’m a bit surprised that it is a big issue. I am proud to be a negroid. It should be ok . . . it’s what we are.”

Some e-Mails:
“I live in the Caribbean and we do not like anybody to use that word. It is derogatory like Coolie and Buck. Black Americans seem to enjoy self mutilation. It does not matter how wonderful the literary work, it cannot wash away the history of that word.“

“I always thought n word was uniquely identified with African American and not other cultures, but a friend told me that poor/disadvantaged Arabs are referred to as sand n word. It sounds bad all around to me.”

A caller from the states: “This discussion is Richard Pryce, Lenny Bruce, Richard Wright . . . these people taught me how to understand that word. The rest of the world can carry right on along.”

Lee: “I find it difficult to conceptualise that this word is an advancement for black people. It is a summation of the worst aspects of our own character.”

Final word of the night goes to the man himself . . .
Reg: “Pain is pain. There’s no such thing as Jewish, gay or black pain. Claiming we can ‘t say this word is like saying it’s black pain.”

. . . apart of course from our numerous texters and e-Mailers:

“Using ‘n...’ word by the black is a sort of masochism; used by the white is a kind of sadism.”
Krzysztof, Poland.

People who were architects of slavery would find such terms to be offensive,its a very liberal term by my standard.
Weaver Mumba,LSK,ZAMBIA.



“What one culture finds offensive, another acceptable. What is the big deal as long as the user can handle the repercussions?”
A CRACKER from phoenix.

“So many lives were lost in the attempt to get words of such negative connotations to be banned. Why is Reginald, a black man at that trying to reach back and pick up such an offensive word to embrace? If anything he should ask himself if Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and other black civil rights leaders would approve behaviour.”
Alfred, Chicago, USA

“I think that one should not feel offended by this word. That way nobody would want to use it to offend...”
Kenechi, Nigeria.

“Ridicule the offensive and we ridicule those who offend! Go for it - with respect and care, but go for it! “
Nick, Norway

“As a homosexual, i and my gay friends use liberally words like queer, fag, and the like, because they are ours, and i think using them that way weakens their negative affect, as the gentleman says. he has the right to use it, but i probably wouldn't.
Stefan, Prague

“For God's sake - it's not the WORD, it's certain USES of the word that are problematic. 'People of colour' (now we can't say 'black' either) have every right to use the word as they choose - and they do. Watch some African-American films, listen to some, er, 'coloured' music. It's up to African Americans. Great publicity for the show, but Get Real!!!”
Martin, Amsterdam

Some final texts to this stormin’ debate:

“The word does offend many people and as such one generaly should not use it.your program shows how much emotion it can raise.
JOHN -zambia .

“Reginald you do not have self respect that is why you use the n word but not all BLACKS are fools like you.“

“How will u feel if a white person call u a n word .....?”
oshoke, from Nigeria

“If a black person uses the N word,it would not sound offencive to me. But should a non black use the word,it would be offensive”

“Since African Americans hypocritically use it, no matter. Now since Brit Blacks dnt like it. Changed name ova there. DAHHHH !”
Henry Mang. Jos, Nigeria.


“In the Gettos, N.Y. Florida they coll each other N. I called some of my black friend, whats up my 'neger'!?”
J-the incorrecto.

“Dis comedian being a Black American isn't likely to cause offence using d nigger word. As a Black I'm not offended by it.”
Lamii Kpargoi in Monrovia

“I think it isn’t offensive as why does hip hop artist use the word so often in there lyrics and yet most people envy the music and most hip hop artist are blacks.”
Am Tito nyatta in MOMBASA KENYA.

That’s all folks. A great debate I think you’ll agree. Goodnight and sleep tight!

PS It's James here, just finishing up at WHYS HQ, where the emails and texts are still coming in. Here's the last of them:

I am a black person in the US. I find it absolutely offensive when people use this word. There is nothing funny about it at all. Is there anything funny about using the B-word?

Why make such a fuss? If the show is any good,let's hear about it. Not ONLY about one word which is used in the shows' title and has been the subject of many discussions for many,many years. What's new??

Keino in Kenya
Hi whites calling blacks Niggers should stop arguing about human rights. All beings are equal.

Peter, Calabar, Nigeria
Blacks should outgrow reacting angrily to name calling. They have acclimatized better to Western-style democracy than have - say - Arab/Muslims who are near neurotic in matters like this. Blacks should use this as an oportunity to demonstrate their coming of age.

Beno, Nigeria
The 'N'word is common among African Americans especialy rap musicians who actually promote its use.Its unfortunate that blacks use this ofensive word.


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