Richard Pryor: Not So Crazy After All

Don Chapman
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November 14, 2007
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The whole N-word thing that’s gotten my cousin the Dog into so much trouble should have been settled 30 years ago.

That’s when Richard Pryor, on his brilliant but short-lived (just five episodes) The Richard Pryor Show on NBC in 1977 said that he would no longer use the term that had played a part in many of his bits and monologues.

The title of his 1974 masterpiece album was even titled That N——-‘s Crazy.

I can’t recall Richard’s exact words from 30 years ago, but it went something like this:

I’ve decided to stop using that word. I heard a white man use it on a black brother, and it hit me - that’s not a word that we made up and chose for ourselves. It was a term made up to express ridicule and hate, and to hurt, and it was forced on us by people who had made us their slaves. I’m sorry that I ever used it to refer to another black person, and I’m not going to use it again.

The same message should get passed along to the black rappers who have sadly “popularized” the term all over again - while calling black women ho’s.

The N-word is a term that should die, and the only way to make that happen is for everyone of all races to follow Richard Pryor’s example and simply refuse to utter it, no matter the context.

To quote another of my favorite entertainers, Aretha Franklin, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T ...

* I was discussing this last week with Cedric Petty, a close friend who happens to be black.

“It’s a hot button with me,” he said of that term.

For Dog or anyone else not to realize that the N-word is an insulting and hurtful term, well, Cedric was having a hard time believing that.

“I used to be a big fan of Dog’s,” he said. “But that’s all changed.”

Lest any of us feel too superior to Dog, Cedric, a warehouse supervisor at Hagadone Printing and father of two great boys, says he sees subtle and not-so-subtle signs of racism on a regular basis.

“Awoman sees you on the street and crosses the street to avoid passing you. And there’s ‘The Look.’ It says, ‘A black person, what are you doing here?’ You wouldn’t believe how often I get that one.’”

There are a lot of stupid things in the world, but there are few stupider than judging a person’s character and worth on the basis of the color of their skin - or for using racial terms that insult and injure ...

* I’m not always a big ‘Olelo person - only so much TV you can watch in a day - but I do plan to watch town hall meetings discussing the city’s rail plans on the next several Monday evenings - and hope you will too. It is the biggest economic question - and potentially an economic disaster - facing our city and state. The shows air Mondays for the next three weeks ...

* Played golf with UH hoops coach Bob Nash - what a gentleman, a class guy all the way - in the recent Ito En charity tournament, and he told me a spooky story. He and son Bobby, one of the team’s stars, were at home taking apart a rebounding machine, meant to increase Bobby’s jumping ability. They unscrewed a bolt and it suddenly shot at Bobby like a bullet and hit him in the middle of the forehead, drawing blood. “We didn’t realize the thing was spring-loaded,” the coach said. Thankfully it didn’t hit an eye ...

Anyway, geev ‘um, Coach!

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