Sunday, December 23, 2012

Being clear on what is OK

"It is OK," displayed on my 2nd Generation Kindle.

Last June, I published an ebook called It is OK. It took some time to grow, but I was proud when I finally formatted it for different venues (Kindle, Nook, Smashwords).

Six months later, I had second thoughts about one of the listings. I went back to the Word file. It wasn’t worded exactly the way I thought it was (I’m the kind of writer who often forgets what I write once I publish), but the spirit of the message was the same.

It went like this:

It is OK to laugh at a joke that contains the word “nigger” – even if you’re not black.

When I wrote this, I was imagining jokes from black comedians like Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. Two of Pryor’s albums, in fact, had “nigger” in their titles. Those were the only jokes with “nigger” that I was familiar with.

I hadn’t thought of the other jokes which contain the word “nigger.” The mean-spirited ones told by ignorant people who think it’s OK to judge people based solely on skin color.

Is it OK to laugh at those jokes, too?

It’s not the worst thing one can do, by any means. But I don’t want to imply, not one bit, that negative judgment based totally on race is OK.

And even if you’re not black, it’s possible to tell a joke with “nigger” and not be mean-spirited – for proof, view this scene from Kentucky Fried Movie (1977):

I thought about rewriting the entry:

It is OK to laugh at a non-mean-spirited joke that contains the word “nigger” – even if you’re not black.


Some of the funniest jokes are insulting in some way. Comedy is not pretty, and it’s not often nice, either. Don’t tell me you’ve never laughed at a mean-spirited joke about a politician you don’t like.

Then, I thought about writing it this way:

It is OK to laugh at a non-racist joke that contains the word “nigger” – even if you’re not black.

What’s wrong with that?

People have different definitions of the word “racist.”

My definition is negative judgment of a person based solely on actual or perceived race.

Your definition may be any use of “nigger” in any context.

There’s perhaps no accurate way to convey what I mean here.

So, I decided to just remove the entry altogether – and replaced it with an entry about, appropriately enough, Christmas.

What is it?

You’ll just have to buy It is OK to find out, at the low price of $2.99 :)

P.S. I wish all of my readers happy holidays, whatever one it is – and even if you define “holiday” as a day off from work.

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