As most people know, race relations in the United States has always been a sort of elephant in the room; it's standing right in front of us, but no one really wants to talk about it, like climate change or Sarah Palin.
Keep in mind, not every joke about racism is necessarily racist; still, race relations are no laughing matter, as anyone who followed the Trayvon Martin case or the events in Ferguson, Missouri will tell you .
However, one obstacle to overcome in the ongoing civil rights movement, aside from police brutality and prisons, is a rather unexpected one:
The "n" word.
You see, a certain term has historically been used in a derogatory manner towards black people, mainly by white people.
Today, the same white people, who themselves probably use the word when no cameras or microphones are around, complain about the supposed double standard surrounding the word.
They'll say things like, "Black people can say it to each other, so why can't we?"
Don't believe anyone really thinks that?
In 2010, conservative radio host, "Dr." Laura Schlessinger, had a black woman call in, complaining that her white husband's friends and family used the word, among other terms, when talking about her.
Schlessinger responded with a racist tirade about the aforementioned double standard, in which she used the "n" word 11 times.
She, of course, was fired.
However, in fairness, black people do have their own terms for white people, such as "cracker."
Back in 2013, CNN held a discussion entitled, "N-Word vs. Cracker: Which Is Worse?"
Safe to say, the worse word is probably the one they wouldn't spell out.
But I digress.
It's not a double standard, and here's why.
1. There are two versions of the word, believe it or not.
First is the more familiar 6-letter version, which has also been used in various connotations that aren't exclusive to race. Take, for example, John Lennon's song, "Woman Is the Nigger of the World," or the Marilyn Manson song, "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," which contains the following lyrics:
Everybody's someone else's nigger, I know you are so am I.
The second version of the word contains 5 letters, and ends with an "a," like the hip-hop group, Niggaz Wit Attitudes.
Which bring me to the next point.
2. When white people complain about the double standard, they point to rap music (and, sometimes, black comedians).
Although not all black people condone the word's use in any context, in the context of black people saying it to each other, it's usually the equivalent of "buddy" or "pal."
You might ask, why would black people use a word that has been used to degrade and dehumanize them and appropriate it in that way?
3. It's the result of a "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" way of thinking.
During the Holocaust, a gay person would be given a pink triangle badge to wear on his/her clothes, like how a Jew was given a yellow 6-pointed star (a.k.a. a Star of David) to wear on his/her clothes.
Since then, the pink triangle has been become a symbol for the gay rights movement.
Similarly, a portion of the black community will use the "n" word as a somewhat unorthodox method of expressing shared heritage.
4. It's not the same when white people do it.
In addition to the second point, white people not being able to use the "n" word is a sign, not of double standards, but of sensitivity and awareness.
White people will sometimes say, "I'm not racist, but...," and then follow that up with something objectively racist.
So the fear is not that white people will use the "n" word, it's that they'll somehow misuse it.
Consider, for example, Native Americans.
Several sports teams in the United States, both professional and otherwise, have names and mascots that Native Americans consider derogatory, like the Washington Redskins or the Cleveland Indians.
These teams will claim that, rather than adding insult to injury, they're simply "honoring" the Natives, in much the same way that Oedipus was "honoring" the 5th commandment.
Back in April, a Cleveland Indians fan, wearing red face paint and a fake feather headdress, was photographed in front of Robert Roche, a member of both the Apache Nation and the Cleveland American Indian Movement.
If you never get a chance to see the photo, let me tell you: Mr. Roche does not look particularly "honored."
The larger point is that, while words have no intrinsic meaning, they do have power.
And as any superhero's dead uncle will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility.
White people sometimes overlook that, which is essentially the core of this whole controversy.
Once we as a society fully understand that, we can question how we think of words like the "n" word.
Maybe then, we can start thinking about race relations in general.
Maybe then, we can no longer imagine race relations as the United States' figurative elephant in the room.
Maybe then, we can truly make a change.
But, unfortunately, there will still be YouTube comments.