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More From Jennifer Kabbany

"Intelligent Design" Theory is not Creationism

America: Love It or Leave It

In Defense of Slurs | August 30, 2001

IT’S COMMON KNOWLEDGE nowadays that Black Americans are the only humans allowed to say the word “nigger.” Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary even goes so far as to explain why: “Originally simply a dialectal variant of Negro, the term nigger is today acceptable only in black English; in all other contexts it is now generally regarded as virtually taboo because of the legacy of racial hatred that underlies the history of its use among whites, and its continuing use among a minority of speakers as a viciously hostile epithet.”

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Keeping this in mind, let’s examine the recent Idaho case in which a white man faces felony charges, up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, for calling someone a nigger.

Long story short, there was a football game in Adams County, Idaho, in which some locals thought the referees, brought in from Boise, might be calling the game in an inappropriate manner. A local female journalist (Kimberly Rae) took a picture of the referees after the game, at which point one of the referees (a black man) tried to take the camera away from her. She screamed for her husband who came running and the scuffle quickly ended. Then the referees walked into the locker room.

As the dust settled, the journalist’s husband (Lonny Rae) noticed red burn marks from where the camera strap had been grabbed from around his wife’s neck. According to ABC News, the furious husband ran to the locker room, where Adams County Commissioner Ray Stoker was standing. Mr. Rae said to the commissioner: “You bring that nigger up here. I want to kick his fucking ass.”

No surprise in this politically correct nation, a few weeks later it’s Lonny Rae who is in big trouble with the law, not the referee who grabbed and wrestled with Kimberly Rae. Mr. Rae is facing felony charges because of this Idaho statute: “It shall be unlawful for any person, maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin …”

The Idaho prosecutor’s chutzpah in this instance is unbelievable. Here is a man whose wife had just been insulted and manhandled. Mr. Rae, in his anger, had called the guy a nigger. This does not imply that Mr. Rae is a racist, and that he wanted to beat the referee up because he was black. Mr. Rae simply called him a name in quite justifiable fury after finding visible marks on his wife.

But, alas, this is where the absurdity of so-called “hate-crime” legislation has brought this great country. America has become a nation of whining, thin-skinned victims. (Our forefathers are rolling in their graves.)

Certainly the word nigger is a horrible word. It should not be used, not by white people, not by black people, not by people of any race. But, I don’t blame Mr. Rae for being very upset at what happened to his wife, and I don’t blame him for his unfortunate slip of the tongue. Sometimes the word nigger is used. It happens. People should not face five years in jail or $5,000 in fines for using it. If the referee’s feelings were hurt, that is unfortunate, and perhaps an apology on both ends is in order. But jail time for this? C’mon people, wake up and smell the Orwellian Coffee.

It is important to note, however, that Idaho has some of the strictest hate-crime legislation in the country, due to a heavy population of Aryan Nation communities. In 1989, the “five years and $5,000 fine” punishment came about as a direct result of skinhead shenanigans. Many Christian and Mormon groups offered their support of the bill to offset the Nazi negativity. But that was more than a decade ago. This old law does not take into account the mitigating circumstances surrounding Mr. Rae’s case.

Moreover, in the end, a crime is a crime is a crime. When I was in high school, people used to make fun of me. Because my last name is Kabbany, they would call me: “Kabbonster, Kabboobie,” etc. Sometimes, they’d called me “Sand Nigger,” because my father was born in the Middle East. Now, I never got more upset, and thought people should have more time in detention hall, for calling me “Sand Nigger” as opposed to “Kabboobie.” I was just upset in general that I was being called names.

In the same sense, legislation that calls for more jail time because someone called someone a nigger, as opposed to calling someone, say, an asshole, illustrates the same absurdity.

Moreover, name-calling is an all-American sport. Name-calling is a right of passage. Name-calling is something that has been around since the dawn of man. Name-calling is part of growing thick skin. Name-calling helps one to learn what to get upset about and what not to get upset about. Name-calling passes the time in locker rooms, long car rides, and boring parties.

America needs to grow a backbone again. America needs to get its priorities straight again. America needs logic instead of feel-good idiocy.

And as for Idaho, America needs to let this state’s representatives know that politically correct kangaroos courts will not be tolerated! Support Mr. Rae and call Idaho’s four Republicans in Congress: C.L. “Butch” Otter at 202-225-6611 or 208-336-9831; Mike Simpson at 202-225-5531 or 208-334-1953; Larry Craig at 202-224-2752 or 208-342-7985; Michael Crapo at 202-224-6142 or 208-334-1776.


Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of Readers may e-mail her at

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