As many of you were briefly aware, white actress and part-time black person Gwyneth Paltrow found herself in a spot of Twitter Trouble last week for hanging out with Jay-Z and Kanye West in Paris, then tweeting about it by making a reference to the title of their recent hit song:
Though she starred it out, and was only repeating the name of a song, Gwyneth raised more than a few eyebrows – and not just because her tweet was sorta redundant, Yeezy and Hov having named the song “Ni**as in Paris” because they actually recorded it in a Paris hotel room.
Over at Ill Doctrine, Jay Smooth delivered a witty, balanced, and insightful vlog post about why people got upset about her using the n-word, even when it’s clear that it was perfectly innocuous. Then he followed that up with an even more insightful clip, explaining why black people will and should always get upset when other races use that word:
I’m pretty sure you know that if I’m sitting at the bar with my date and I put my arm around them and call them “honey,” it usually won’t be awkward, but if you come up to the bar and put your arm around my date and call them “honey,” it usually will be awkward.
This upset me. But only because I’d been saying this kind of thing for years, and the butthurt hipster in me was miffed that no one noticed my awesome tolerance.
Okay, I wasn’t really upset. But I think my analogy was better:
If I roll up on my best friend and say “What up, asshole!” he knows I’m ironically alluding to the fact that he’s my bestest buddy. However, if I see you, a complete stranger, walking down the street, and I greet you by saying “What up, asshole!” you immediately tense up and go into battle mode. You don’t know me, so even though I’m smiling, I may very well be fucking with you.
But wait, Rob, you say. Everyone knows Gwyneth. We know she’s not a racist. Well, actually, you don’t. You just know the public facade she decides to show you. She’s almost certainly not racist, and given this specific set of circumstances, no, this probably wasn’t a big deal. But as Smooth points out, it’s kind of always gonna be a big deal, because that word is super ugly and has literally centuries of ugliness behind it. Whereas I know lots of places, especially in the South, where it’s perfectly acceptable for someone to call a stranger “honey.” In New Orleans, where I am from, the lady behind the counter at the gas station may very well call you “baby” when she gives you your change. And while it’s usually said in the same way your aunt might call you “honey,” I’ve actually seen it freak Northerners right the fuck out.
This brings me to my larger point: if we’re going to control public language – and don’t kid yourself, absolutely everyone does, of every race, color, creed, and political affiliation – then why can’t we agree on “asshole” as a standard word we all use when we don’t like someone? It’s easily understood, God knows; it even crosses language barriers. No one in the world wants to be thought of as the orifice poo comes out of. And, like opinions about the n-word, everyone has an asshole.
Think about it. Whenever you use a taboo epithet of any kind, you’re essentially calling your target out as lower on the totem pole than the rest of society. I mean, that’s what they’re there for – to dehumanize. “Bitch” (and “cunt,” at least in America) means “I don’t like you, oh, and also, you’re just a woman.” The n-word is used to denigrate blacks for being black. The f-word gets used on gays to imply that they’re strange and unwelcome for being gay. Don’t even get me started on “fatass.” Yes, you occasionally hear black people call each other the n-word, and women call each other “bitch,” but that’s exactly Smooth’s point, and mine: they’re talking across to their target, not down. “Asshole,” by contrast, would be the great equalizer. And while it’s usually not used to refer to women, it could be. I mean, they have them.
Smooth also says this social inequality is also the reason you can’t argue that there should be a “White History Month.” He’s right. It’s like celebrating the fact that there’s air. (Ditto for “Straight Pride Parades.” Every NFL game and almost every HBO series is a straight pride parade.) And since no group of self-identified “assholes” will complain if we all just switch over to the a-word, why not take it all the way and celebrate Asshole History Month? God knows, there’s enough of them in there.
In fact, we’re surrounded by assholes. They’re the real problem with this country, I tell you what. *spit*
Assholes have a long and rich history in America. They achieved the Presidency as far back as March 4, 1829, when Andrew Jackson was sworn in. Wikipedia refers to him as a “polarizing figure,” which in polite political circles always means “asshole.” As the founder of the Democratic party, Jackson was its first a-hole, but the Party of Lincoln certainly made up for lost time on that score, ever since Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover served back-to-back. It’s pretty much a bipartisan affair: there’s Nixon, but also LBJ. Reagan could be called “asshole-friendly,” not one in person but certainly a President who appointed a shitload of them. George W. Bush was not, despite his rep, personally an asshole, but he acted so much like one in public that he was accepted as honorary anyway, like Eminem is with blacks or Tiger Woods is with whites. (Pretty sure they’re both also asshole-American.)
So let’s expose the Brown Menace! Think of the implications! Celebrities and politicians could come out and finally admit their assholishness, even celebrate it. You’d suddenly realize they’d been everywhere all along, just as you figured: your next-door neighbor, your boss, the cop that pulled you over. They breed like rabbits. They control banking. Did you know they even have their own cable channel? It’s called MTV. (It was good once, before the assholes took over.)
By calling them out we could more easily limit their intrusion into our society. We could keep them out of Congress, which is reason enough right there. Why, we could even stop them from marrying, breeding with nice folks, and voting! Of course, all this oppression would mean we couldn’t call them assholes anymore, because that would be their word. But at least we’d know where to find them.
We should all take a cue from Dr. Martin Luther King, who once wished for a world where we all judged people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, and just be completely prejudiced against assholes of all races, creeds, etc. In fact, we could solve our asshole problem for good by just shipping them all out of the country. I mean, it’s been done before, and let’s face it, they’d be happier somewhere else, anyway. Merely to suggest a region of the world already populated by assholes is to risk racism again, however, so let’s try somewhere neutral – say, Antarctica. Then Chris Brown could join Kanye for a duet called “Assholes in Antarctica,” and Amanda Bynes could tweet about it. No problem.