This past Monday night, Miami State Senator Frank Artiles went to a members-only club in downtown Tallahassee with two of his colleagues, fellow Senators Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston. Senators Gibson and Thurston are black. Senator Artiles is not. While the three enjoyed cocktails, Senator Artiles took it upon himself to treat Senators Gibson and Thurston to a curse-laden rant in which he called Senator Gibson a “girl”, a “f***ing a**hole” and a “b***h.” The icing on the cake was when he referred to six other colleagues as the n-word—but apparently he meant no harm because he used the n-word that ends with “a” instead of the n-word that ends with “er.”
Artiles has since apologized for his foul tirade. He explained that he grew up in a diverse community where he and his neighbors shared “each other’s customs, cultures and vernacular.” In other words, he said the n-word back in the ‘hood so since he was with black folks and he was “down” then he had carte-blanche to use said word with them as well. And call the black woman a girl, an anus and a female dog too. To her face.
“I realize that my position does not allow me the looseness of words or slang, regardless of how benign my intentions were,” he said. Sure. Every woman loves to be called a girl, an anus, and a female dog by a coworker because it is oh so very benign.
First, I’m baffled by the ridiculously lax behavior and morals of today’s modern elected official. From President Trump on down, the status quo seems to be to do and say whatever is felt regardless of who it offends or why. This new norm in expression is supposed to fly in the face of political correctness and instead embrace the truth and reality of the world in which we live. It seems to me however, that such freedom of expression means we have ceased to live in a world of mutual respect or politeness or civility or common decency.
I was quite bothered to see several folks on social media in favor of Artiles’ colorful language. They cited freedom of speech and the fact that the conversation was private as justification. But Frank Artiles, in his capacity as state senator, represents nearly 500,000 people of varying ages, races, backgrounds, religions, political leanings and perspectives. And as such a representative, he is held to a higher standard. He is supposed to stand for the very best of what America offers—a commitment to the kind of morals, ethics and careful consideration that is meant to unite and lead people to their best chance of attaining their own versions of the American dream. Cursing out his colleagues, calling them out of their names and then invoking a racial slur, whether in private or public, is not living up to that higher standard.
Social media chatterers also claimed that Artiles should be free to use the n-word because black people use it amongst each other freely. I am so sick of hearing this stupid, ridiculous, asinine argument. For the kajillionth time, the n-word in every form and iteration is never going to be okay coming out of the mouth of a person who is not black. Period.
For white people in particular, it will never be okay. Why? Because white people initially created it as a slur, as an indication of their racial superiority over black people, as confirmation of their higher status in society as white masters to black slaves/servants. The word was never intended by them to be anything else. They created the word to hurt and subjugate. Their ownership of the word will never ever be regarded as friendly or benign. They can thank themselves for that. As far as blacks reclaiming and using the word, anyone who is not black will never understand the emotional, compassionate, empathetic or commiserative nature behind our use of it with each other. Just like I will never understand what it is to be some drunken idiot of a state senator who cursed out his colleagues in an exclusive club in Tallahassee.
Finally, what is with this incessant need for people who are not black to use this word? It is the most ridiculous thing for me to hear groups of non-black kids referring to each other as n-words. Besides wondering why the heck they do it, I can’t help but be baffled by first, an utter lack of creativity in coming up with their own friendly slur to throw around amongst themselves and second, by this ongoing mission to appropriate everything black. They seriously want our music, fashion, hairstyles, lips, backsides AND our painstakingly reclaimed racial epithets too? How is it that everything about us is cool except for actually being us?
The Florida Democratic Party has called for Senator Artiles to resign. If he does, I’ll be surprised. The guy obviously can’t tell the difference between doing the right thing and causing a good portion of Florida (and perhaps the nation) to be utterly disgusted with him. But then again, he seems to be in good company on all government levels.