The President and the “N-Word”

The headline, as it appeared on the newspaper's website.

The headline, as it appeared on the newspaper’s website.

Last week, The West View News, a small monthly paper with circulation in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, ran a story about President Obama with a headline that read “The Nigger in the White House.” The article, written by James Lincoln Collier, a white man, defended the president and accused the far-right of racism.

“Nigger” is a piece of language so loaded, it’s not one that anyone stumbles upon lightly, or happens to use in place of something else. It’s not synonymous with anything; it’s a word of intention. A word of consequence. A word with a lot of history attached to it.

Of course, the newspaper headline sparked debate about the use of the word, and whether its use (however ironically) has a place in journalism—or any other decent public space, for that matter. It’s an editorial decision, for sure, a move that’s the print equivalent of click-bait, which has spawned coverage and think pieces about what the word means.

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Columnist Wants D.C. Football Team Renamed “The Reagans”

Salon reports that conservative columnist Michael Taube has proposed — probably tongue-in-cheek — renaming Washington’s NFL team from “Redskins” to “The Reagans.” We endorse this immediately.

Taube writes:

Democrats want Washington’s NFL team to change its name. The Redskins‘ owner, Mr. Snyder, is the only person who can rightfully do this. Hence, if he chooses to comply and pays homage to a Republican president in the process, they’re stuck with it. Any further complaints would smack of political partisanship.

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KKK Grand Dragon Doesn’t Understand Why Tacony Town Watch Kicked Him Out

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William Walters

After years of dedicated service with the Tacony Town Watch, Bill Walters was told his services were no longer needed earlier this year. The reason for his ouster? Walters is a proud member of the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, that empire being the Ku Klux Klan. And Walters isn’t just a member. No, he’s the group’s Grand Dragon, which at least sounds impressive.

“We received information that Bill had been distributing flyers in the neighborhood trying to recruit new members,” says town watch president Joe Nicoletti of the excommunication, adding that no one on the town watch had a clue about their neighbor’s association with the Klan until the flyers turned up. “And part of our bylaws state that members must promote harmony in the neighborhood, and we all know that harmony is not what the KKK is about.”

Walters has been with the KKK, which he consistently refers to as “my Christian group,” for over 30 years. He has lived in the Tacony neighborhood for the last 20, joining the town watch about five years ago. Walters also served as Republican committeeman in the 65th Ward for more than a decade until he was recently kicked out.

And Walters doesn’t get what all of the fuss is about.

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Neshaminy Schools Close to Banning Students’ “Redskins” Ban

The Neshaminy School Board of Directors is ready to pass a policy that would ban the student newspaper editors at Neshaminy High School from banning the use of the school’s mascot — the “Redskins” — within the paper itself. 

Advocates of that stance say the newspaper’s editors shouldn’t be able to impose their preferences on, say, students who want to write letters to the editor that include the term.

“Assuming that it’s a proper use of the word, such as a reference to the mascot, the school district does not believe, and I don’t believe the law allows, one set of students to prohibit another student from expressing himself or herself,” said Michael Levin, who serves as special counsel to the district.

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Photos: The KKK Showed Up at the Free Library on Saturday Afternoon

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On Saturday, the first day of summer, a handful of KKK members headed out to the Tacony branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The exact purpose for this, er, rally is a little unclear, and the KKK hasn’t returned a call we placed to their home office, but from what we hear, the whole thing started when one of the Klansmen was denied a spot on the Tacony Town Watch.

It’s fair to say that those who showed up to scream, gawk, or laugh at the KKK exponentially outnumbered the KKK slobs, as evidenced in the video and photos below.

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Ramsey’s Choice: Criminalizing African Americans

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Commissioner Charles Ramsey has made a decision: He will keep enforcing the state’s drug laws, keep arresting suspects for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana, and it doesn’t matter what Jim Kenney and a veto-proof majority of the Philadelphia City Council have to say about the matter.

“We still have to treat it as a misdemeanor until we are told otherwise by state law,” he told the Inquirer on Friday. “State law trumps city ordinances.”

That doesn’t sound entirely unreasonable, even if it does raise the question of who the hell pays Ramsey’s salary. But it does mean that Ramsey is making a choice, for which he — and Mayor Nutter, if he chooses to back Ramsey up — will bear substantial moral responsibility.

Ramsey is deciding that African Americans in Philadelphia will continue to be disproportionately treated as criminals.

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Well, at Least Donald Sterling Doesn’t Talk in Code

One of the most fascinating things about the Internet is the way it uncovers how many bigots lie in our midst every day. Especially since most of my columns are centered on the tender subjects of race and class, a quick scroll to the bottom of the page here or here or here (nope, it’s not just the philly.com that serves as venue space for digital Klan meetings), and you can see what I’m talking about. It’s not just about your standard differences in opinion; it’s a fundamental belief system that, as the late great Michael Jackson once said, is “too high to get over, and too low to get under.”

The fact that bigotry generally hides in plain sight is one of the reasons LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling is such a fascinating oddity, a walking, talking, living relic of just how staunchly committed a certain type of person can be to their indefensible racism and prejudice. His absurdity was laid bare in his recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, where he said he was not a racist and that he was with Cooper “to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people” he hurt.

Minutes later: “Here is a man who acts so holy,” he said of Magic Johnson, the man featured in the photo with Sterling’s friend V. Stiviano. “I mean, he made love to every girl in every city in America and he has AIDS.”

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MOVE Would Have Never Happened in a White Neighborhood

Let The Fire Burn

A scene from Let The Fire Burn.

A version of this story originally ran in 2012.

On May 13, 1985 at 5:20 p.m., a blue and white Pennsylvania State Police helicopter took off from the command post’s flight pad at 63rd and Walnut, flew a few times over 6221 Osage Avenue, and then hovered 60 feet above the two-story house in the black, middle-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. Lt. Frank Powell, chief of Philadelphia’s bomb disposal unit, was holding a canvas bag containing a bomb consisting of two sticks of Tovex TR2 with C-4. After radioing firefighters on the ground and lighting the bomb’s 45-second fuse—and with the official approval of Mayor W. Wilson Goode and at the insistence of Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor—Powell tossed the bomb, at precisely 5:28 p.m., onto a bunker on the roof. Read more »

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