Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Strom and the "N" Word

Regarding the use of the "N" word in from "Dead Centagenarians"

I must respectfully disagree with the "modern" way some people are hearing Strom's 1948 speech. I'm not the first one to the offensive word, nor am I the 1st to notice the cleansing of Strom's actual language (see below). Not only does Strom clearly utter that infamous word (at least its clearl to my Yankee ears).

Indeed, there are several mentions of a modern cleansing of Strom's language prior to his death.

The Baltimore Times Online noted the politically correct editing: "Media Cleans Up Strom Thurmond's Racist Quote" by Hazel Trice Edney (NNPA Washington Correspondent) seven months prior to his death. (posted here on 1/2/2003).

"In the wake of the controversy surrounding racist language recently used by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, news outlets and web sites have focused on the words spoken in 1948 by retiring Senator Strom Thurmond.

Publications such as The New York Times and the Washington Post and all national news networks have purported to quote Thurmonds views at the time regarding the Negro race. There is only one problemthats not exactly what Thurmond said.

According to an excerpt of the speech, which was posted on NPR.org, Thurmond says:

And I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that theres not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theatres, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches.

That speech was made July 17, 1948, as Thurmond championed his platform of racial segregation. At the time, he was accepting the presidential nomination of the States Rights Party, more accurately called Dixiecrats."

Indeed, the editing caused one journalism professor to comment:

A. Peter Bailey, who teaches a journalism class at the University of District of Columbia in Washington, says he first heard the recording last week on The Joe Madison Show on WOL-AM in Washington, D.C., hosted by civil rights activist Joe Black Eagle Madison. The thing that the newspapers do that absolutely violates Journalism 101 is putting it in quotes, Bailey says, referring to the word Negro. They might say, you know, We didnt want to use the n-word or whatever. But there are times when you have to tell the truth.

Even before that, Tom Gorman at counterpunch observed on December 13, 2002:

". . . These accolades are given to a man who said, while running for President in 1948, "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the nigger into our homes, our schools, our churches." (Most recent media accounts of this speech have been sanitized, replacing the word "nigger" with "Negro." Audio recordings of the speech have Thurmond saying the more offensive term. This in itself shows that Lott's desire to look at Thurmond's record through rose-colored glasses is by no means idiosyncratic.)"
-The Hypocrisy of Lott's Critics

Slate's Timothy Noah, who pens the "Chatterbox" column (Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics) also questioned the transcriptions:

"Pedantic aside: Standard accounts of the speech render "Nigra" as "Negro," but when listening to an NPR sound clip, Chatterbox wondered whether the word Thurmond uttered was "nigger." In transcribing, Chatterbox gave Thurmond, who even in his worst days was not known publicly to throw that ugly epithet around, the benefit of the doubt. To judge for yourself, click here.)
-The Legend of Strom's Remorse

Supporting Noah's assertion that "even in his worst days was not known publicly to throw that ugly epithet around is the the book "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word," by Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy. The Washington Post excerpted it:

Partly to distance themselves from this ilk, some whites of higher standing have aggressively forsworn the use of [the word] nigger. Such was the case, for example, with senators Strom Thurmond and Richard Russell, both white supremacists who never used the N-word.
-Randall Kennedy, Washington Post, January 11, 2001

I give Strom credit for learning to change as he aged, and how he became more accountable to his black constituents; However, his flagrantly hateful speech, even though its 50 years old, simply cannot be ignored . . .

Posted at 09:00 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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