Don’t bleep the N-word

Can you try to so hard to defend civil rights that you actually undermine them?

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This afternoon, CNN bleeped US Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who is African-American, for saying that dozens of rioters on January 6 called him the n-word. (As the original video came from ABC, it’s possible that they were the network that censored Officer Dunn, and CNN was simply playing the original ABC clip, already bleeped.)

“I got called a n***** a couple dozen times today protecting this building. Is this America? They beat police officers with Blue Lives Matter flags. They fought us, they had Confederate flags in the U.S. Capitol.”

Should a national TV network censor an African-American — or any minority — for describing what amounts to a hate crime?

As a white man, I’ll put the moral considerations aside, and leave it to my Black readers to decide whether it is ever morally justified to quote someone using the n-word without a bleep. But as a longtime civil rights advocate, and gay man, I do know a thing or two about the marketing of equality. And you set equality back when you censor bigotry.

One of the most effective weapons we have as civil and human rights advocates are the words of our oppressors. Nothing shows people that hate truly exists like hate itself. I’ve long been a fan, for example, of quoting the homophobia of the Westboro Baptist Church — and its then-pastor Fred Phelps (may he rest in hell) — expressly because their words were so hateful, and so extreme, that they shocked the conscience, and made it impossible for any viewer to remain on the sidelines.

Here, for example, are a few photos I took of the Phelps clan outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments on Proposition 8.

Member of the Westboro Baptist Church protesting outside the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2013. Image by John Aravosis.
Member of the Westboro Baptist Church protesting outside the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2013. Image by John Aravosis.

The images are so profane that they make my argument for me.

READ MORE — You can read the rest of my story over at my new Substack, CyberDisobedience. Thanks.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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