Her name was Jessica Doty Whitaker. She was 24 years old. She was an American mother of a 3-year-old child, living in a major American city.
She has been murdered for saying the “wrong words.”
After she and two other people were shot dead over 4th of July Weekend, we were told that this act of slaughter was justified in Whitaker’s particular case because she, or someone in her party, uttered the dreaded “n-word.” No other word in modern imagination is treated with so much caution; no other word holds so much power over us. The dirty little fact that none of us wants to acknowledge is that the reason this word is so powerful — the reason uttering this world, even when using it as an example of what not to say, can cost you your job and destroy your life — is because certain people in our society fly into a murderous rage when they hear it.
We’ve given even oblique references to this word the power to destroy livelihoods. In Rochester, New York, a pair of radio show hosts made references to “the n-word.” By that I do not mean that they said the word; they used the euphemistic phrase referring to the n-word. That was enough; they were fired immediately.
I’ll spare you the usual low-hanging-fruit when it comes to the hypocrisy on this term. No, people of good conscience generally are not comfortable saying it out loud, any more than we would use racial epithets for Jews, or Hispanics, or any other group for whom such terms have been coined. Yes, it’s true that the people who take the most umbrage at utterances of the n-word seem to use the term freely in their own entertainment and their own conversation — but this is understandable, given that there’s a difference in hurling invective from outside an in-group and terms used within the group itself. And yes, the same people so offended by the n-word seem fairly quick to use terms like “cracker” these racially charged days but, be honest: is there a white person alive today who feels particularly offended by that insult?
It is inescapable that using the n-word as an insult is indeed a racially charged act. It is equivalent to shouting, “F–k you!” at another person. In self-defense circles, the f-word is something to avoid, because it escalates situations and can provoke violence. Using the n-word in mixed company is the same. It is part of a long tradition of what our legal system has recognized as “fighting words.” These are words that, while they do not excuse violence, certainly can be seen as provocation.
Here’s the thing, though. You and I did not wake up today in the Wild West. We do not live in a lawless state of anarchy. In our society, we forego our right to pursue retributive justice, deferring instead to designated, legally vested authorities. That is to say that even if someone provokes you by saying something offensive to you, you are committing a crime if you engage in violence against them.
If a man insults your girlfriend or your wife while you are standing there, that is provocation. Those are “fighting words.” But if you initiate a physical assault in retribution for the insult given, you are committing a crime. There is no state in the United States where you would walk out of a courtroom an innocent man after being arrested and tried for punching someone who only spoke to you.
Unless, of course, you spoke the “n-word.”
We’ve hit a very dangerous crossroads in the United States. We’ve decided that certain racial epithets are at least tacit excuse for committing violence. After Jessica Whitaker was murdered, there were pundits on social media who actually said her 3-year-old child had learned a valuable lesson in “what not to say.”
Jessica Whitaker may have uttered the dreaded n-word, you see, and she definitely said that “all lives matter,” which means in today’s socio-political landscape she apparently deserved to die. That is, at the very least, the implication made by some thugs, some barbarians, some absolutely soulless monsters who believe that physical violence is the only answer to any expression of opinion with which they happen to disagree.
And that, of course, is where the Left has dragged us. They’ve preached for years now that any speech they don’t like is violence, any violence is justification for self-defense, and thus assaulting someone for disagreeing with you is a transcendent moral good, a kind of preemptive self-protection.
That’s why, when a pair of thugs beat a white Macy’s employee and recorded it while he screamed apologies at them, all they had to do was lie and claim he said the n-word. That was enough to forestall charges or an arrest for an impossibly long period of time. Only when national outrage threatened to subsume the local authorities did they actually do something.
Today’s popular culture, today’s news and entertainment, pumps out a steady stream of hateful invective. Its goal, its stated purpose, is to vilify white people for the original sin of being born white. The accusation is dressed up in pseudo-scientific terms like “white privilege” and “microaggressions,” but the result is the same: It is the blanket accusation, the presumption, that all white people have done something wrong, have benefited unfairly, and thus owe everyone else some form of recompense.
Against this backdrop, anyone who wants to get some payback, anyone who wants to commit violence against a white person, needs only the thinnest of excuses. He can commit assault; he can commit murder; he can engage in arson and domestic terrorism. All he need then do is scream, “Raaaacisssm!” All that is required of him to get out of jail free is to explain that the person he attacked used the n-word. “They had it coming, you see,” he’ll tell the authorities. “They thought or spoke the wrong words, and I made made them pay for it.”
This is the stark reality in which we all now live. It is not sustainable. Before we’re done, more innocent people will be hurt because of it. But that, too — just like Jessica Whitaker’s death — will barely be news.