I would be amused at the precious sensitivity of Detroit’s public officials if I didn’t think that their reaction to Kwame Kilpatrick’s use of the word “nigger” in his state of the city speech said something really important about how Americans think about racism, namely that people think bringing up the issue of racism makes someone a racist.

This is from Kilpatrick’s speech, which the Detroit News censored, because we are all ten years old:

And finally tonight, and this may be the most talked-about part of this speech after laying out all of that, but I feel that I cannot leave this auditorium with my wife and my sons sitting there without addressing this issue. In the past 30 days, I’ve been called a nigger, a nigger, more than any time in my entire life.

In the past three days, I’ve received more death threats than I have in my entire administration. I’ve heard these words before, but I’ve never heard people say them about my wife and children. I have to say this because it’s very personal to me. I don’t believe that a Nielsen rating is worth the life of my children or your children. This unethical, illegal, lynch mob mentality has to stop.

And it’s seriously time, we’ve never been here before and I don’t care if they cut the TV off, we’ve never been in a situation like this before. Where you can say anything, do anything, have no facts, no research, no nothing and you can launch a hate-driven, bigoted assault on a family.

This is arguably, one of the only contexts in which use of the word “nigger” is appropriate, when you are DISCUSSING RACISM.

What was inappropriate was a Mayor mired in scandal and facing a pejury charge bringing up this issue in a State of the City speech. No one deserves to have their family threatened or to be attacked because of your race. But this isn’t a personal therapy session. It’s a speech about the city of Detroit. Bringing these incidents up in this context makes him look like he’s just trying to get sympathy.

This is all the more ironic because the Mayor
participated in a ceremony “burying the n-word” last year. It wasn’t dead back then, and it’s not dead now. 

The white folks outrage brigade is in full force:

Kilpatrick’s use of the slur drew a sharp response from state Attorney General Mike Cox, who called it “race-baiting on par with David Duke and George Wallace” on Wednesday and said the mayor should step down for the good of the city and region.

Really? “People are calling me a nigger and threatening my family” is on par with “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever” and black people in professional jobs are “fighting a losing battle with their genes”? Does Cox put lead paint in his coffee?

Even the governor has taken to wagging her finger.

“Gov. Granholm condemns the use of the N-word and believes it has no place in public or private discourse,” spokeswoman Liz Boyd said. “The governor was shocked that it was used because it should never be used.”

I guess Granholm  is not a big fan of Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, James Baldwin, or William Faulkner?

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