74 y.o. African-American lectures college kids for using the n-word (video)

A 74 y.o. African-American man lectures some black college kids for using the n-word.

According to the video, he was buying the kids some beer at a liquor store when they called him “n*gger” (one presumes in a friendly way, but it’s not clear from the video).

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this video, which you’ll find below.


I think, sadly, that every generation isn’t fully aware of what has come before, in terms of overall history, but also personal history. I don’t think we entirely appreciate our forbears who lived through various wars and movements, what it must have been like, what they sacrificed to make life so much easier for us.

I think of young gay kids today.  And they don’t necessarily have it easy.  But signing an online petition pales when compared to people who were willing to publicly stick their necks out for our rights in the 80s, the 70s, and my god, the 50s.  Check this out from PBS, about the gay-rights group The Mattachine Society protesting in the 1960s in NYC. I didn’t even know NYC had done this until right now:


It definitely makes me rethink a bit the use of the words “f*g” and “h*mo” jokingly by gay people, myself included.

Now, some of course do appreciate the history and the sacrifice, I’m sure, but I’ve begun to understand more, as I age, why older people get so frustrated sometimes with the young and their sense of, well, entitlement – and their lack of respect for some of the wisdom and experience that age can bring (it doesn’t always, but it can). And I include myself among them, I was probably just as bad in my 20s.

It’s funny how your perspective changes as you get older.

Get off my historical lawn!

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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36 Responses to “74 y.o. African-American lectures college kids for using the n-word (video)”

  1. Bill says:

    For so many black men, the word ni**er was the last word they heard before they found themselves hanging from a tree.

    For so may gay men, the word fa**ot was the last word they heard before having their skulls stomped on, their teeth kicked in, their lives stolen..

    When we use these words, we disrespect the legacy of those who lost their lives.

    There is no ‘taking back’ of these words. They are words of hatred and violence.

    They DESERVE to remain so.

  2. davidinchelseama says:

    I can see how taking a word that has been historically used as a way to demean a particular group, and making that word your own, in order to diffuse it’s negative power, has some validity. Whether or not that is what people are doing is key, I suppose.

  3. 4th Turning says:

    Racism is so deeply embedded in our genes, hard-wired in our brains.
    Ever consider the subliminal messages conveyed by Popeye’s nemesis
    BLACK Bart?

  4. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I stand by mine. It seems that we’re not going to change each other’s minds. We can’t always agree about everything, and that’s how it should be.

  5. pappyvet says:

    I stand firmly by the opinion I stated at the top of this post.

  6. 4th Turning says:

    Ref. to The Little Black Sambo children’s book(s) below got me remembering
    something I read once about “rubbing the head of a little black picaninny for
    good luck”. Thought I’d see what google had to say and this was the first thing
    to come up… george-freaking-bush!

    Unfortunately “Macon” has gone on an indefinite sabbatical. This must have
    been an excellent blog in its day. Apparently he was flummoxed by the
    doc’s dark psychology commenters, too, although I loved this exchange:
    midwestwpApril 21, 2008 at 3:54 AM
    i like to pet my boyfriends head, he’s black. and i am a white guy. is that ok?Reply
    midwestwpApril 21, 2008 at 3:56 AM
    oh.. and i’m gay too.. is THAT ok?Reply
    Macon DApril 21, 2008 at 5:18 AM
    midwestwp, whether that’s okay is up to your boyfriend. Does he pet your head too?
    Your sexuality strikes me as entirely irrelevant to this discussion, but who knows, the significance of “race” IS intertwined with the significance of other categories . . .

    If you have time, check through his list of “Fellow Travelers” (blogroll) Many
    have likely retired also but you might hear of a grad student doing research?

    And this is just a bit of follow-up to your above observations.
    (The movie is excellent.) The weird coincidence of “Jimmys” is also somehow
    revealing. Like when all black Pullman porters were named “George”.


    Thomas Keneally’s THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH novel works on so many levels – a period piece, as a biting satire and as a wonderfully composed drama. This film of the same name attempts to capture the poignancy and strength of the original classic novel. It achieves this wonderfully. The film is excellently acted and the violence is both well shot and vibrantly enacted. The score is great too. Also the Australian landscape – not to mention its social underbelly, was never shot with as much insight.
    An excellent starting point to understand such great Aussie films like the tracker and rabbit proof fence.

    In 1830 a Yamana Indian boy, Orundellico, was bought from his uncle in Tierra del Fuego for the price of a mother-of-pearl button. Renamed Jemmy Button, he was removed from his primitive nomadic existence, where life revolved around the hunt for food and the need for shelter, and taken halfway round the world to England, then at the height of the Industrial Revolution. He learned English and Christianity, met King William IV and Queen Adelaide, and made a strong impression on many of the major figures in Britain, eventually becoming a celebrity. Charles Darwin himself befriended the Fuegian and later wrote about their time together on The Beagle, voyaging back to the southern tip of South America. Their friendship influenced one of the most important and controversial works of the century, On the Origin of the Species.

  7. Matt Rogers says:

    I don’t see where words like f*g and expressions like “that’s so gay” help us to be a cohesive group. We know from research that those words lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and sometimes even post-traumatic stress disorder — not just in older gay people, but in younger gay people, in bisexual and trans people, and even in straight cis people. How do any of those problems build cohesion?

    I’ve only met two gay men who used that language, and I never got together with them again. Why should I hang around with people who are going to harm me? If you’re saying those words give us common enemies, I think we already have plenty of common enemies: NOM, ADF, Scott Lively, and so on.

    Honestly, I’m also not entirely sure what you’re saying. If anti-gay words build camaraderie, how can they also be terrible words that you would never direct at your best friend?

  8. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Yes, it is, and I have no argument with those young men. Although, they may not have given it much though, they are giving a positive connotation to a word that has both a negative and positive connotation depending on it’s use. Perhaps it’s a bit like whistling as you pass a cemetery. It’s theirs to use. I believe it helps build camaraderie in a group of people. I was once called one of those names about one second before three guys jumped me, but I still feel that gay men may use that word if they want. It’s very important that we feel we are a cohesive group. Before anyone suggests otherwise, I’m very aware of our history, and I lived through a lot of it.

  9. pappyvet says:

    You must be tired. What’s it like to have a day that is 48 hours long.

  10. pappyvet says:

    Whether the N word is offensive to the young or not , they should know enough history and have enough depth not to use that thing with a person who’s age is a big clue that he is from a time where that word had but one meaning.

  11. pappyvet says:

    For once?

  12. pappyvet says:

    Yes Mike , the words are part of our culture. So is the “N” word.

  13. I got nothin.

  14. pappyvet says:

    You must have been shocked indeed. I’m shocked just to read your story. But I believe that there is a long history of racism towards the aborigines. Stupidity has no border.

  15. I’m divided about it. No decision yet :)

  16. I wasn’t sure what that was about, then again the camera wasn’t on the kids. One of the kids could have flashed a gun (I had such an experience like that in DC back in the late 90s, an elderly black man, grandpa type, in his sunday best, wearing one of those great old hats, and he was scolding a young black boy for something – the kid couldn’t have been more than 9. As he’s scolding him the kid hikes up his shirt and shows the man that he has the hilt of a gun sticking out of his underwear. We were floored. This was pre-cell-phone so we all just sat there, on the coffee shop patio, speechless. The grandpa didn’t miss a beat, he saw the gun and yelled at the kid even more – god bless him. But we have no idea what the kids did off camera (though the gun comment struck me as odd).

  17. I was in Indonesia several years back for work, and we just happened to meet two Australian couples, a few years old than us, in a bar as we were walking by. They heard us speaking Engllish and said hi. And in the middle of the conversation they start asking us questions about our “n*ggers” in America and our “n*gger problem.” (They were white.) We were floored. I love Australians, and I’m sure foreigners have had their share of racist Americans to deal with, so I don’t say this to overgeneralize, but I couldn’t believe that anyone would just assume that because we’re white, and American, we’d naturally be cool with them talking like that to us. It was surreal.

  18. 4th Turning says:

    It really bothers me how many were complicit in the construction of this-
    artists, musicians, voice-over actors, theater owners (black ticket holders
    seated in the upstairs balconies, of course), and on and on. And then there
    are the minstel shows-worse in my opinion than this cartoon

  19. The_Fixer says:

    Oh.My.God. What a horrid thing. And we had the “Sambo” books when I was a kid.

    That’s all I can say. And when you get an atheist to say that and nothing else, then you’ve really found something.

  20. Cletus says:

    And they’re wrong too for all the same reasons.

  21. 4th Turning says:

    John, don’t know if you have something special in the pipeline for st. pat’s day but will include
    this ref. here.
    Have been giving a lot of thought to what it must have been like being both gay AND part of a minority. Seems no one made the obvious connection their comments.
    That downton abbey crowd both upstairs and below never gave the Irish a break. I suspect
    because they sided with the wrong church although I’m not sure why as their church didn’t
    have much use for them either…
    In-coming hi-tech jobs reversed the country’s fortunes. Wonder if the 2nd generation will also
    disassociate itself from such a difficult, difficult past…

    At Swim, Two Boys
    Jamie O’Neill
    The massive satisfactions to be had from Jamie O’Neill’s first novel, in terms of language, character, plot, never quite stand apart from its sheer curiosity value. It’s rare enough to come upon a house built up against a church, so that the growls of the organ, mutterings of choristers, come faintly through the wall. Unheard-of to have a house entirely built inside a cathedral.

    The cathedral is Ulysses, and the overwhelming influence on At Swim, Two Boys is Joyce. Never mind that at least two aspects of O’Neill’s project – its paean to love between men, its rousing version of the events leading up to the Easter Rising – would have seemed rather foreign to his idol. So much is borrowed from Ulysses, almost page by page, that it seems impossible for the debt ever to be made good. Yet the book makes an impact far beyond pastiche.

    James O’Neill was brought up in Dun Laoghaire (once Kingstown) and what could be more natural than that he should use scenes familiar to him in his writing? Except that Joyce’s footprints were in those sands before him, and the Martello tower at Sandycove loomed over the opening section of Ulysses long before O’Neill was there to see it.

    The 16-year-old heroes of his book, shy pale Jim Mack and bold dark Doyler Doyle, childhood friends, make a pact in 1915 to meet the next Easter, and to swim out together to the distant rocks called the Muglins. The pretext is to plant a green flag there, to claim the rocks for Ireland, but there is also an attraction between them, a deeper promise to be together.

    Withdrawn, guilt-prone, motherless, Jim is like Stephen Dedalus with a heart. Even MacMurrough, an older man with designs on both boys, who gives Jim swimming lessons, is Blazes Boylan with a brain. And certainly Jim’s father Mr Mack, shopkeeper, good neighbour, interested indefatigable outsider, is Leopold Bloom redrawn. Mr Mack is an outsider by virtue of his loyalism, more a matter of emotions than politics since he was more or less brought up by the Army. Being made a sergeant cost him his dearest friendship – with Doyler’s father – and even now he harbours a futile desire to rise socially.

    Bloomish in particular is his habit of thinking up slogans and wanting to see them in print: ‘Shocks and stares – should send that in the paper. Pay for items catchy like that. Or did I hear it before?’

    Over the course of Ulysses, James Joyce made incomparable advances in realism, and then left realism behind. O’Neill doesn’t follow him so far, though he rivals some of his thrilling arias of notation: ‘A milk van round a corner came clopping, colloping, collapaling to a stop clop.’

    Dublin speech is present in strength and depth, from a saucy servant girl’s ‘giving such a slice of the ignore’ and the newsboy without even the words for his wares (‘the even papers’) to the grandiloquence fed by the ritual of worship in Latin. Mr Mack himself picks up some classical scraps, though he doesn’t quite get the hang (‘Deo volenting’, ‘cosmos mentis’). Salting the latinate vocabulary – ‘the viraginous mob’, ‘cows munched their post-emulgial cud’ – is another more local and urgent: ‘fust’, ‘scringe’, ‘stookawn’, ‘claub’, ‘kerf’, ‘sulter’.

    By limiting the action of Ulysses to a single day, Joyce foreshortened the growth-curves of his creatures. Jamie O’Neill grants himself more leisure but still sometimes seems to force the deepening of his characters. The boys’ growing confidence in themselves and each other is well managed – their sexual idealism chimes with the political climate, its romance with ideas of freedom and belonging. MacMurrough’s redemption, though, by the love he sees between them comes across as sentimental.

    Historical personages are deftly mixed in with fictional ones. Sexual oppression shadows the purely political: Roger Casement haunts the book as an offstage presence, though there is no speculation about his private life. The two strands coincide in the figure of Sir Edward Carson, a staunch Unionist in the present tense of the book but also the man who took pleasure, as a barrister in court, in bringing Oscar Wilde down.

    It’s only in the last 50 pages of the book that the magnificence of Jamie O’Neill’s rhetoric seems forced. There may be correspondences between throwing off the yoke of Empire and claiming the right to love your pal in pride and dignity, but no amount of lyrical prose can make them the same thing. It’s a shame that this remarkable writer, having poured so much eloquence into his book, couldn’t resist throwing in also his thumb on the scales.


  22. GarySFBCN says:

    In this video, I saw a man that may have had something to say, but he also threatened to shoot people because of what they said. Shame on him.

  23. Thom Allen says:

    In her case, “truth” is defined by her perception of the situation. It has nothing to do with what the definition is. Or even what is backed up by data. She’s a ‘merican and she don’t need no damn dictionary.

    She probably listens to Rush lecture on the radio all of the time. And Bachmann lecturing to the House. Santorum lecturing to the dogs that he has a sexual proclivity for. Palin lecturing to any one who will pay her to be their media wh*re. Collien is the face of the semi-literate tea party.

  24. Thom Allen says:

    Harry Hay was one of the founders of the Mattachine Society. It was named after groups of unmarried townsmen in the medieval era who were members of secret societies. These men only performed wearing masks so that no one would know who they were. Much as gays did during that period. Hay went on to found the Radical Faeries several decades later.

  25. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    John, I don’t think I agree with you about the use of the words “f*g”, “h*mo”, or “mo”, and the word “qu**r” is hotly debated. Like it or not, the words are part of our culture. I don’t hear them being overused, and the truth is I’ve used it at a very intimate moment (if you knew my husband, you might understand). I know I’m touchy about the words being overused, but I accept that they are used. I would never call my best female friend a “f*g h*g”. I think both words are terrible, but she does refer to herself as a “fruit fly”. I kind of like that, although I’m certain there are people who object to the word “fruit”. I imagine there are even those who object to the word “queen”.

  26. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    You are right. Maybe he planned on saying he was “standing his ground”.

  27. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Apparently you are unfamiliar with the definition of lecture. Although, it commonly is associated with academia, it can just be a one sided talk to a group of people. My father didn’t even need a group when he lectured me as a teen. It didn’t work very well.

  28. goulo says:

    Too bad about the angry “I’m carrying a pistol and I can whoop all your asses without moving” part… It’s disturbing and sad how commonplace and automatic it seems to be in US culture for so many people to think of using a gun and escalate the situation when they’re in an angry disagreement with someone.

  29. bpollen says:

    Go, Pops, Go!

  30. Collien Stopersmile says:

    You call this video “Lecture to College Kids” ? At what college ? where is the Professor or the podium or the audience at this “lecture.”?

    I watched and old black man buying beer, threaten to shoot 4 other black men with his hidden “pistol” at a convenience store for disrespecting him.
    Tell the truth for once .

  31. thescoop1 says:

    When it comes to the use of the n-word the
    African American community is a walking contradiction, to understand why and
    how the Black African American community came about seeing and using the n-word
    as a term of endearment, and the true
    significance of their use of the word n**ga you are encouraged to visit:


  32. pricknick says:

    If you listen hard enough, a lot of old white men and women say the same thing.

  33. 4th Turning says:

    On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have stayed in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master’s eye. These latter cruelties were witnessed by me in a Spanish colony, in which it has always been said that slaves are better treated than by the Portuguese, English, or other European nations. I have seen at Rio de Janeiro a powerful negro afraid to ward off a blow directed, as he thought, at his face. I was present when a kind-hearted man was on the point of separating forever the men, women, and little children of a large number of families who had long lived together. I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of;–nor would I have mentioned the above revolting details, had I not met with several people, so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil. Such people have generally visited at the houses of the upper classes, where the domestic slaves are usually well treated, and they have not, like myself, lived amongst the lower classes. Such inquirers will ask slaves about their condition; they forget that the slave must indeed be dull who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching his master’s ears.

    It is argued that self-interest will prevent excessive cruelty; as if self-interest protected our domestic animals, which are far less likely than degraded slaves to stir up the rage of their savage masters. It is an argument long since protested against with noble feeling, and strikingly exemplified, by the ever-illustrious Humboldt. It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter;–what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children–those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own–being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that His Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty; but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.

    Charles Darwin in his 20’s….

    Emailed one of my favorite nature writers, David Haskell to see if he had read Darwin’s
    Sacred Cause. He had and I was not surprised. Would like to recommend it here. Those
    who read history for light on the human condition know who you are.

  34. thescoop1 says:

    When it comes to the use of the n-word the
    African American community is a walking contradiction, to understand why and
    how the Black African American community came about seeing and using the n-word
    as a term of endearment, and the true
    significance of their use of the word n**ga you are encouraged to visit:


  35. Rick Roberts says:

    Good for him. I live in a neighborhood where I hear the word all the time, all from young black men. It makes me cringe.

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