Last week at a screening for “Green Book,” a new film set in the South during segregation, co-star Viggo Mortensen uttered the word “nigger” in the context of responding to a question regarding how America had changed since that period.

As will be surprising to few, the veteran actor was roundly excoriated for doing so and later compelled to issue an apology. The n-word had passed the lips of a white man!

As tweeted by a freelance director who attended the screening, the “oxygen immediately left the room” after Mortensen’s comment.

Little matter that what Mortensen said was in context, as opposed to using the word in a derisive manner. But that doesn’t matter these days; the reasons why and the dangers they represent are what I shall address here.

Once upon a time, it didn’t matter if colorless folks uttered the n-word, as long as it was understood that the speaker wasn’t using it in a descriptive or derogatory manner. But this has obviously changed, with hypersensitive liberals across the ethnic continuum considering it being spoken by whites as grave as speaking the name of some dark eldritch demigod from an H.P. Lovecraft novel who might hear such an utterance – even if it is whispered – and show up to blast the planet into little bits of cosmic debris.

The current status of “the n-word” in our society is wholly a function of the machinations of the political left. Unfortunately, as a result of our compassion and good intentions as a nation, we’ve played right into their hands regarding its use and implications. Obviously, the word is offensive and evokes raw emotions on the part of most Americans; this is why we curtail its use, and it is not tolerated in polite conversation. The hypersensitivity and impulsivity that exist around it, however, have been carefully cultivated in order to influence us and our worldview.

It bears mentioning that all of this didn’t happen in a vacuum, and it didn’t happen overnight.

The phrase “the n-word” came into being in 1995 during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles, when the presiding Judge Lance Ito employed it regularly during testimony addressing the racial insensitivities of certain police personnel. The phrase caught on, with the press quickly substituting it for the word that could not be used in polite conversation – or in newscasts. This was rather fortuitous for the left, in fact: They could now employ the word as often as they liked without actually employing the word, and continue to engender anger and resentment on the part of blacks, something eminently important to the left.

In the following years, we began to see less and less tolerance for use of the word “nigger” uttered by anyone other than blacks, who use it quite freely. In 2010, talk-radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger was driven off the air after uttering the word several times (actually, 11 times) while responding to a caller’s question. What she said was in context, in that she was pointing out the hypocrisy of blacks being fine with casually using the slur among themselves, but that it was deemed inappropriate when whites used it.

Schlessinger discovered how inappropriate use of the word was. Within four months, she was off terrestrial radio, despite the fact that at its peak, “The Dr. Laura Program” was the second-highest-rated radio show after Rush Limbaugh’s.

Of course, it was during the Obama years that racial sensitivities were abraded raw. President Barack Obama, his surrogates, the press and the left at large did their level best to foment racial tensions from Day 1. Whether complaining that police acted stupidly when dealing with blacks, defending the New Black Panther Party or declaring guilty white defendants standing trial for alleged crimes against blacks, these agencies not only rekindled racial tensions between blacks and whites, but indoctrinated an entire generation of young blacks into racialist paranoia and a belief that not much has improved for black Americans since the Civil Rights Movement.

It has been my observation over several decades that despite the tremendous social gains since the Civil Rights Movement, many blacks have elected to carry a chip on their shoulder which, among other things, predetermines that any white person they encounter is more likely to be bigoted than not. While this was understandable in 1975, I never found it to be particularly constructive.

Thanks to the efforts of the political left – and these cannot be overstated – millions of young blacks now espouse black nationalist philosophies which rival that of their 1960s counterparts.

One upshot of our unfortunate tolerance for this leftist wordplay is the increased intolerance for certain language. Indeed, utterance of “the n-word” by a white individual, even in context, is now an implicit indication of their bigotry. Mere allegations of such bigotry have ruined careers, and mainstream Americans of all hues remain reticent to address the hypocrisy and social engineering in this regard for the same reason they absolutely would not call Barack Obama out for his high crimes: They’re afraid of being summarily labeled as bigots by the very people who are perpetuating the hypocrisy, engaging in the social engineering and keeping the flames of race hatred burning.

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