We have two stories about the N-word making news this week.
The first has to do with a young country music star, Morgan Wallen, who has been dropped by his record label and overall cancelled because someone filmed him coming home apparently drunk after a night on the town, using the n-word to say goodbye to his friends. They were loaded and acting up; a neighbor recorded them, and leaked it to TMZ. You can watch and listen here. From TMZ:
The country star and a group of buddies had just spent a night out in Nashville. When they arrived at Morgan’s home at around midnight, they were extremely loud … honking horns and talking loudly … loud enough to piss off neighbors. One of the neighbors began recording the antics.
As Morgan appears to stumble toward his house, he tells someone to watch over a guy in his group. He says … “take care of this “p****-ass mother******” — and then goes on to say, “take care of this p****-ass n*****” … before finally heading in.
He apologized publicly for what he said, and he should have done. But Wokeness knows no mercy. From The Ringer:
I know next to nothing about country music, but I have learned this morning that Wallen is the biggest new country music star on the scene right now. He is a 27 year old mullet-wearing white dude from Tennessee, the son of a Baptist pastor, who has suddenly found superstardom. He got loaded and acted a fool, saying something ugly and wrong. He apologized for it. But now the Woke, and woke capitalists, are trying to ruin his career.Yeah, that’s the way to teach this young white man the error of his ways: don’t correct him and lift him up out of his sorrow and repentance, with grace, but destroy him for good.
The industry blowback to Wallen has been swift and severe. Big Loud, his record label and management company, announced that it had suspended his recording contract indefinitely. The radio conglomerates iHeartMedia and Entercom both pulled his songs from the airwaves in more than 150 stations, alongside fellow major outlets Cumulus and SiriusXM; cable-TV powerhouse CMT pulled his videos from all platforms, and the Academy of Country Music announced that it would “halt Morgan Wallen’s potential involvement and eligibility” in the ACM Awards scheduled for April. Spotify (which owns The Ringer) and Apple Music both pulled Wallen’s music from playlists, an especially significant blow given that much of his recent chart dominance owed to his popularity on streaming sites, a rarity within a county ecosystem still largely driven by CD sales and ticket bundles. If not for the pandemic, Wallen would very likely be headlining a blockbuster arena tour right now, and that tour would be in grave peril.
I listened to some of Wallen’s music this morning. He’s really talented. He also got arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct last year outside a Nashville bar. He might have a drinking problem. I know, it’s shocking: a music star who drinks too much and gets rowdy, and gets ugly. Never heard of that before. This could be an opportunity for real repentance, redemption and restoration for that troubled young man, but Wokeness is not going to allow it.
He said an ugly word. That’s it. He hit no one, physically hurt no one, abused no one. It’s insane, the standards elites impose for what is beyond the pale. The super-successful Florida rapper XXXTentacion, who was murdered in 2018, cultivated an outlaw image with one violent act after another, including beating a pregnant girlfriend (read his Wikipedia; this guy was very bad news). From Wikipedia:
On October 23, 2018, Pitchfork released secretly recorded audio of 18-year old Onfroy talking with acquaintances around the time of his October 8, 2016, arrest. Pitchfork claimed that in the recording, he had allegedly confessed to domestic violence, and had described an incident in which he stabbed nine people. The tape was considered a confession by the prosecution and defense. An extended version of the audio later released included moments after when Onfroy clarified in regards to his ex-girlfriend, “I didn’t touch her. I forgave her.” One especially fraught conversation about Onfroy’s ex-girlfriend took place on the afternoon of October 26, 2016 when he told a woman, “I already got what I wanted, I already bashed her face—her face on the internet, bruh, I done made her look bad on the internet, bruh.” Later that day, an audio clip from the call was posted on Instagram of Onfroy saying he “bashed her face” without the hurried clarification.
That was just a single awful thing he did, out of many! Did XXXTentacion get cancelled? Of course he didn’t — he’s black, and the music industry and the media hold black artists to different standards. If he had not been permanently cancelled by the thief who shot him, this scumbag would have continued on with his career.
To be clear, I see no reason why Morgan Wallen shouldn’t suffer some consequences for what he said. But cancellation? Why is being drunk and using the N-word a career-killer for a white country artist, but black hip hop artists can get away with actual violence without hurting their careers? Fans of Wallen seem to be rallying to his side. Billboard reports that though his radio play has collapsed, sales of his albums are skyrocketing.
Good. Who made these wokescolds gatekeepers to artistic talent? What drunk-ass Morgan Wallen said was awful, and he deserved to apologize for it, and get his life in order. But the music industry and the media are trying to break a butterfly on a wheel here, and I’m glad fans are pushing back.
The other incident is going on at, where else, The New York Times, where one of the paper’s stars, the science reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr., is facing an internal pogrom over having used the N-word in a discussion about racial prejudice. The Washington Post reports:
Tempers are once again flaring between staff and management at the New York Times, this time over the publication’s handling of inappropriate comments allegedly made by high-profile science reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. during a trip to Peru for high school students in 2019.
In response to a letter from staffers “outraged” because they believe the paper didn’t take the McNeil incident seriously enough, top managers replied late Wednesday that they “largely agree” with staff sentiment and promised to “examine the way we manage behavioral problems among members of the staff,” according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.
“We are determined to learn the right lessons from this incident,” they wrote. “You will see results.”
Last week, following a damning report in the Daily Beast, the Times acknowledged that McNeil “had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language” during the trip, on which he served as an expert and that managers had investigated and disciplined the writer.
Executive editor Dean Baquet said that he had determined that McNeil’s intentions were not “hateful or malicious” and that the reporter should be “given another chance.”
But that wasn’t enough for more than 150 staffers, who wrote to management on Wednesday saying they “feel disrespected” by McNeil’s actions. “The company has a responsibility to take that experience seriously,” they wrote. They said they want a further investigation of what happened and an apology from McNeil.
The Daily Beast, in reporting on the controversy:
In a note to staff following last week’s article, Baquet said that upon hearing the complaints, he was outraged and initially intended to fire McNeil. But while the top editor acknowledged that the award-winning science reporter had made offensive comments, he said that an investigation by the paper found the reporter did not act in a hateful manner.
“I authorized an investigation and concluded his remarks were offensive and that he showed extremely poor judgment, but it did not appear to me that his intentions were hateful or malicious,” Baquet wrote.
But the company’s conclusion about McNeil’s intent was “irrelevant,” the irate staffers wrote in the letter, adding that the paper’s own harassment training “makes clear that what matters is how an act makes the victims feel; Mr. McNeil’s victims weren’t shy about decrying his conduct on the trip.”
Signees called on the paper to study how racial biases affect pitches, editing, and sourcing, and reiterated a commitment to the paper’s existing non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.
The letter also called on the Times to reinvestigate the 2019 trip as well as “any newly surfaced complaints,” noting that in the days since The Daily Beast’s article, current and former staffers have also said that McNeil had shown “bias against people of color in his work and in interactions with colleagues over a period of years.”
“Our community is outraged and in pain,” the signees wrote. “Despite The Times’s seeming commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have given a prominent platform—a critical beat covering a pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color—to someone who chose to use language that is offensive and unacceptable by any newsroom’s standards. He did so while acting as a representative for The Times, in front of high school students.”
We still don’t know precisely what McNeil said. If Baquet, who is black, is satisfied that McNeil did not intend to be hateful, and imposed disciplinary actions on him for his poor judgment, then that should be the end of it. It’s hard to imagine how any white person, even one in his late sixties, can fail to recognize that using the N-word is a bad idea. But last year, a white UCLA instructor was investigated by the university for using the N-word while reading aloud from Martin Luther King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,” and for showing a documentary about the horrors of lynching, in which the narrator used the word.
King’s “Letter” is one of the greatest and most heroic documents in American history. Here is the offending passage:
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
The ugliness of that word is necessary here, because it highlights how dehumanizing white supremacy was. You can see in King’s usage why it was so wrong for someone like Morgan Wallen to use that word. But to trash a white professor for quotingMartin Luther King?! It’s insane.
Again, we don’t know specifically the context in which McNeil used the word, but it is almost always a bad idea to use it while white. But the fact that Baquet intended to fire him, but relented after hearing his side of the story, indicates that context really mattered here.
None of that matters to the woke mob inside the Times. They are “outraged and in pain,” and underscore in their complaint that context doesn’t matter — what matters is how others felt, and feel about what the white journalist said.
For this, the Times leadership faces a call to cast aside one of the paper’s most distinguished science journalists, its top Covid expert, to satisfy the passions of the mob. If Baquet and Sulzberger do this, it will be yet another damning capitulation to Wokeness.
We had been living in a culture that, however poorly, attempted to live by a fundamentally Christian virtue of mercy. We know that everybody is susceptible to sin. We used to train ourselves to treat others as we would like to be treated — and that includes offering mercy and forgiveness to wrongdoers who are truly repentant, because we would want the same for ourselves. Any person with the slightest sense of moral awareness understands that the day is likely to come for them when they will have done a bad thing, and will need the mercy of others. There’s a shocking scene in the Apple TV comedy Ted Lasso in which a major character apologizes to sweet, corny Ted for having done him very wrong. He forgives this person unreservedly, explaining without any special flourish that he has suffered too, and he knows that when you’re in pain, you can do foolish things.
It’s shocking, because it is so wise and, well, Christian, even though faith is not part of the show. The joke is that Ted is a cheerful, Ned Flanders-like fool from the American Midwest who comes to England to coach a soccer team, and is set upon by cynical Brits — yet somehow keeps defeating them at their own game. Ted does this because of his Teflon naivete and inherent sweetness. His deepest motivation is to see others succeed. If he can help others be better by withstanding their contempt, and not letting it defeat him, and by offering forgiveness when his enemies lay prostrate at his feet, he’s going to do it, and he’s not even going to pat himself on the back for it. Ted figures that this is what decent people do.
Who actually wins if Morgan Wallen and Donald G. McNeil, Jr., go down here? Will America be a less racist place, one where people are reconciled, and live in respect for each other? Or will the merciless standards — including double standards — of the Woke drive us closer to violent conflict?