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Mitchell: The n-word shouldn’t be used by anyone

In this publicity image released by NBC celebrity chef PaulDeen appears NBC News' 'Today' show with host Matt Lauer Wednesday

In this publicity image released by NBC, celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, with host Matt Lauer, Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past. The celebrity chef, who had backed out of a "Today" interview last Friday, said she was not a racist and was heartbroken by the controversy that began with her own deposition in a lawsuit. Deen has been dropped by the Food Network and as a celebrity endorser by Smithfield Foods. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)

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Updated: July 30, 2013 7:55AM

Paula Deen is Exhibit A in the case against black people who are still using the n-word.

In her tearful interview with “Today’s” Matt Lauer, Deen appeared to defend herself against allegations that she used the racial slur by pointing out that black people who worked in the kitchens at her restaurants frequently used the word.

“It’s very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other. . . . Because I think for this problem to be worked on, that these young people are going to have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throwing that word at each other. It makes my skin crawl,” an emotional Deen said.

It was the one thing that rang true for me in the entire interview. I feel the same way when I hear young black people call each other n - - - - -.

While I have no doubt that Deen is trying to save her own hide, she raised a point that some of us have been raising for years.

As long as black people are calling each other n - - - - -, we can’t really expect white people to get bent out of shape when another white person gets called out for uttering the slur.

When black people use the n-word, it gives cover to people like Deen.

If Deen’s use of the racial slur is enough to taint her as a racist, then shouldn’t we be as hard on the black comedians and rappers who use the word?

So it’s not surprising that despite Deen’s fall from grace, her supporters are lining up to eat at her restaurants and are putting pressure on the companies that have decided to disassociate themselves from the popular cooking star.

I understand the arguments blacks make about why they can use the word and non-blacks cannot.

For instance in a tweet from kings_coaching, he argues that Deen does not have the right to ever use the slur:

“[W]hether we like it or not the word has many connotations; the way she used it was demeaning . . .” .

Granted. But black people also use the n-word to demean others.

The ugly word may not pack the same punch when it comes from the lips of a black person, but it still shows a huge amount of disrespect.

So much so that in 2007, the NAACP made a big show of symbolically burying the n-word at its national convention. The mock funeral included a coffin, flowers and a headstone. Both Jesse Jackson Sr. and Al Sharpton challenged the entertainment industry to stop using the slur. The industry just blew them off and kept churning out lyrics that spew the n-word and a host of other obscenities.

Too few black people seem to care that an 80-year-old grandmother is forced to listen to this century-old slur when she’s trying to get to church on Sunday mornings and some idiot drives past with the car windows rolled down and filthy lyrics blaring.

And too few black people are upset by the fact that black youngsters don’t appear to have a clue about the word’s racist roots.

I’m sure white teachers who have worked in schools with a predominantly black population have heard this rancid word so many times they are no longer shocked by it.

In fact, the only people being held accountable for the using the n-word continues to be white people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing Deen’s use of the racial slur, though it doesn’t surprise me that someone who came of age in the Jim Crow South would have referred to black people as n - - - - -.

My point is: To persecute one group of people for using the slur while giving another group a pass is a double standard, and people resent double standards.

Thus, instead of the Deen controversy sparking an honest dialogue about race, it is likely to drive a deeper wedge between the races.

Those who are genuinely offended by racist language need to take a stand no matter who uses the n-word — not just when a high-profile white person gets caught in a racial firestorm.

The n-word should leave a bad aftertaste regardless who says it.

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