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Paul Harvey

"At that moment a boy went by on a bicycle and shouted at me, "Nigger!"

That boy would move to America, where he fell in love with acting. Many years later he ended up playing a wacky neighbor on a sitcom, because that boy was none other than Michael Richards.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Andrew Denny

It's not the power of context, it's the power of emotion. I can't forget the line in Owen Wister's 'The Virginian':

"When you call me that, smile."

As comedian Reginald D. Hunter pointed out last week, the real offence of Michael Richards wasn't simply to use a word, but to use it in anger, to use it as a weapon.

'Fuck' was once an unforgiveable word. Comedians like Lenny Bruce pointed out that it represented an act of love. By disapproving of people saying 'nigger', we listen to the hatred instead of paying attention to the person at whom it's aimed.

Unfortunately, as soon as one word comes off the euphemism treadmill, we sentence another to take its place.

David L Nilsson

What a load of crybaby dreck. No wonder Americans can't win wars any more.

'Mommy, someone called me a horrid name! Who do I sue?'

'Hush, darling, remember that if anyone insults you it means you must be a warm, wunnerful human being.'

'Yeah, yeah, I know all that. Hand me the goddam Yellow Pages, I wanna look up the shysters who specialize in hate speech.'

David Wayne White

With tears in my eyes I write, remembering the racism I was raised with, my struggle to recognize it, and the remorse I feel for having been an ignorant part of the problem. "How can people be so ugly?" And, even now. Do we always need a "them?" Is it how we ultimately define "us." Is this not the biggest obstacle to our evolution? Is it not the point where we are most easily manipulated? ... Where is freedom?


"What a load of crybaby dreck. No wonder Americans can't win wars any more."
That completely made sense. I am overwhelmed by the logic of pointing out bigotry as the reason the US loses war. Brilliant !

David L Nilsson

It's not bigotry that loses wars, it's carefully cultivated over-sensitivity.

Real men shrug off insults. 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words... that's a $20m lawsuit for creating an uncomfortable social space!'


Most of the posts here come down to “ain’t it awful!” By God it is, but what’s more “awful” is the amount of power you assume ‘must’ be given to another person and their words.

“Bury a word.” What a singularly unique bit of nincompoopery! I’m forced to ask you to what end are you ‘burying’ a word? Until what?… the next word and the next and the next…? Boy, wouldn’t Socrates love to ask Smith some questions… Um, and his publisher too.

Viktor Frankel in his book “Man’s Search For Meaning, based on his concentration camp experiences, said (paraphrasing) that no matter what anyone does to you or what your circumstance there is one freedom that can never be taken from you and that is the freedom to choose your own attitude.

When some drunk on the side walk, swimming in his own urine, describes you with an astonishing string of curses because you won’t give him money for a bottle of wine; is your day ruined? Are you “devastated” (one of my favorite wuss words) until you can ’drag’ yourself back up?

I’ve never made the cover story as “The Sexiest Man On The Planet”, in fact I didn’t even get into the top 100,000,000 and so I’m sure you’ll believe when I say that I’ve never gotten as much sex (what a saint I am not to have used the “P” word) as I wanted, when I wanted it and in some instances been told that was the case ( …not if you were the last man on… ) in the rudest terms their sweet little mouths could project. So then what? She has defined ‘me‘, defined me as a person in any meaningful way? Phuuullllease! No one’s words have any power over you except that which ‘you’ assign them and you alone. “Tha… tha… tha… That’s all folks!”

And guess what, there ain’t none of it easy; if it be easy you be looking for lads try another universe.


...I'm still on Leonardo DiCaprio set to play Malcom Gladwell. Heh? Why not, say, Wentworth Miller, the young star of the movie, The Human Stain? Talented, bi-racial, good looking. Next thing you know they'll remake Dreamgirls with Cameron Diaz.


Oh wait, Hollywood already did that remake when they dumped Lena Horne for Ava Gardner who played the mixed race character Julie in "Showboat." We've come a long way, baby!

Lena talked about it in her Broadway show back in the '80s..."They whipped up a foundation make-up called 'light Egyptian,' then they took my light Egyptian and put it on Ava Gardner."


I would say that if there is a basic fundamental difference between "painfulness" and "harmfulness", it exists merely by a thin thread. By human standards of behavior, in most cases the intention of doing harm is to cause pain and suffering. Likewise, inflicting pain on someone is very likely to do harm. The two are like evil twins.

I found it interesting that this insulting, hateful comment was hurled at your mother at a moment when she was MORE vulnerable. In her account, she said that she stayed behind with the baby to rest. So I gathered from that, that you mom was probably physically tired and probably not as alert as she would have been, had she been well-rested when this incident occurred. This is so often when things like this happen. We're caught at moments of physical fatigue, when the assault can have the greatest effect. Call it, the "devil's stategy" if you will.

I would also like to add that I have personally come to believe that hateful, insane, psycho-wacko insults like what your mom experienced, can only be truly effective if the target believes the accusation. For example, if a poor man angrily accuses a rich man of being "poor", of course the rich man is going to scoff at such an ineffective put-down. He would swat the accusation off (as one would a fly) and maybe even laugh at it and the accuser for the foolishness that it is. What the intended targests of such racist, worthless comments have to remember, is that there is absolutely NO TRUTH in these kinds of accusations. In reality, there is no such thing as a "nigger"--never was and never will be. But getting back to what I remarked before, perhaps your mom was caught off-guard just in that moment because she was physically tired.
Her story sounds interesting. I'll have to pick up a copy of her book and read the rest. Thanks you Malcolm, for sharing a portion of it with us.


Your arguments still hold up well, in lights of debacles like this: http://edition.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/TV/01/18/greys.anatomy.ap/index.html

There can be no words that, in and of themselves, are so bad that they can't ever be spoken.


out of sheer boredom, i typed in the word "nigger" to see what pops up on the search engine. i got this site...so, somebody sure as hell used the word "nigger" as a meta tag for this site. anyway, most of the posts here are from silly ass people who really have no purpose in life other to sit and whine and "anaylze" everyone else and i guess this gives these people an elated feeling of self worth. how about you fuckers get a job and work, contribute to society, and you wont have the time nor the energy to worry about dumb shit


Thank you for sharing the beautiful passage from your mom's book. I'm in an interracial marriage and have a wonderful five year old son. So far we have not been the brunt of racism (at least that we're aware of). I share your mother's faith and assume she looked at people like the boy on the bike the same way I consider many who have commented here -- with sadness. Sadness because the do not understand the kind of brotherly love our God tried to teach this world.
Keep using that brilliant mind of yours for good!


Impact is in the ear of the beholder. I am appalled that blacks continue to assign such power and influence to this verbage, there is no other way to describe it. If somebody wants to get under your skin (no pun intended), of course they are going to use the most effective weapon available. In my high school we called the owomen athletes amazons, which was not a compliment, but when they started calling themselves Amazons all of the power to insult was lost. Besides I just thinks blacks are pissed because they can't come up with an effective rejoinder: "cracker", "honkey", etc. are ho-hum. We are just about up to the 7th generation since slavery ended, so can we please move on to something more interesting? Interesting to note that black and jewish comedians are funnier as a rule, but rants like Festlers make me laugh my ass off.


I've come inadvertently across this blog and I'm horrified by the extremely racist posts of the person who calls himself "Dan Festler". If the author of the blog has some human decency, he should immediately delete these posts. I wonder if the individual called "Dan Festler" would be just as cheerful if his own family members have been cruelly killed and/or raped.

Shan Fin Rothen

I am extremely impressed that Mr. Festler could write so much about a subject that is apparently so close to his heart. As a black man...oh excuse me...as a nigger coon, chimp as you put it, I can only hope to be so elequant and passionate. In all seriousness, I found it funny. I've never seen the word nigger used so much, and in so many different ways! Swamp Nigger? HA! Creative!
I'm not offened at all, since I don't consider my self a "Nigger" nor do I use the word. But I bet some person, well, some "Nigger" who reads your very passionate words may be a little upset. I really don't care about your views what so ever. But, it is true that Europeans have made a mess of most African countries. It begs to question what would Africa have be like without European intervention. I often wonder about this. What would South Africa have been like with out Europeans settling there, bringing with them aparthied. India and America without the British, and Australias' Aboriginees. South Americas' Incas, Samoans, Hawaiians...the list goes on. What would the world be like for that matter, if all the countries Europeans want to make "Civilized" were given the GOD GIVEN RIGHT to advance through life and history at its own pace, without a European arriving to point a finger and say "Savages!"? Unfortunately we will never know, European desire is pretty strong.
Though your words are sure to make every European person beat their chest and grunt. They really don't matter...because if you study your history, and think about it a bit, most of the problems that you are upset about are the children of European ignorance and bigotry. However, I still applaud you for showing bot sides of the "Nigger" conundrum. Even though the ultimate wet dream of every European Bigot, like yourself, may never become reality (extermination of all non Europeans), I can bet you that all the coons, swamp niggers, chimps, and towel head niggers (i made that one up), will be the first ones at the table to come up with a solution to the problems that Europe has still not taken responsiblity for. Until this happens all the sites on the internet that spouts the same rhetoric mean absolutely nothing, only to those that write it. And if your black, and the word nigger really upsets you, its time to take a good look at yourself and decide if you are what that word means.

Cross dressing Coons go Congo Bongo!! Too Funny!!! HA!

Philip Davis

I just finished your audio book, The Tipping Point. As the owner of a self-publishing company, your ideas are very relevant to authors and I appreciate the insight you’ve provided me.

I just finished Harriet Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I was just wondering if you’ve looked into this book as the Tipping point to the civil war. Abraham Lincoln himself said that she was “the little lady who started a war.” I’m convinced that her book helped end slavery and her story fits with your definition extremely well. Her book was second in sales to the bible. She was just one “little lady” but she influenced not only North America, but most of the world.

It’s exciting to listen to your book while driving around and reading a book like Uncle Tom’s cabin before falling asleep and seeing the correlation. Thank you.

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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

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