(The Guardian) — Even though I have never liked the sound of the N-word, and have only ever personally experienced it in a negative context, I could not have been more moved by Larry Wilmore’s use of the word in his closing remarks as host of the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night.
Wilmore said to Barack Obama: “Yo Barry, you did it, my n—a,” pounding his chest and going in for the brother-love embrace. Doing so, he broke comedic character to tell the president, to a large extent on behalf of black America, how meaningful it has been for us to have seen him in office for the past eight years. Whether viewers agree or disagree with his policies, as Wilmore noted earlier in his bit – “I agree with the policy that he’s black” – the embrace represented a moment filled with the vulnerability, truth and power of two black men seeing each other in an America that devalues, profiles, incarcerates and kills them at a startling rate.
I was introduced to the N-word long before I had any real understanding of its association with blackness and black culture. Certainly, when I first heard it from the mouth of a white playground bully in the fourth or fifth grade, I knew it was not meant as a term of endearment.