I first saw it at All about Race, and I was struck less by any original insights offered by The View crew into the use of that contentious word than by the interactions between these black and white women as they discussed the issue. Despite the persistent efforts of Whoopi Goldberg to add some substance to the conversation, Elisabeth insists on being the center of attention. As she does so, she demonstrates very well a common white pathology that often emerges in such discussions, something I call "center-stage sickness."
I've reprinted below this video-clip the comment that I left on this phenomenon at All about Race. What do you all think of Elisabeth's performance here? Did it seem especially "white" to you? And aside from her dominance of the discussion, what do you think of the points she makes, or that Whoopi and the others make?
At All about Race, Carmen D writes, "My perpetually unanswered question to all of the white people who make this complaint ["Why can't we use it too?"] is why in the world would any racially sensitive white person want to use the ‘n-word’? Why does this particular double standard tick you off so much?"
I'm reposting my comment on this (which will make a lot more sense if you first watch the six-minute video) from Carmen's site to provoke discussion here about a common white mode of behavior. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on an apparently sincere white woman who's at least trying to grapple with racial issues, but Elisabeth's paradoxical combination here, of white dominance and something like victimhood, really gnaws at me:
I think it’s pretty damn presumptuous of Elisabeth, or of any other non-black person, to say anything at all about whether blacks should use that word, or about how they use it. What the hell business is that of white people?
I also think Elisabeth’s performance here, though probably not staged, is a perfect instance of white center-stage sickness. When it comes to racial discussions, our tendency is to jump in and dominate the discussion, all while talking, paradoxically, about OTHER people in terms of race, instead of about ourselves in terms of race–about what being “white” actually means for us, about what being trained as white has done TO us.
That latter proposed move wouldn’t be so appropriate on Elisabeth’s part in this particular discussion, since the topic IS the n-word, but dominating the discussion in the way she does is such a common white form of behavior in these kinds of mixed race discussions. The basic message, again a terribly presumptuous one, is “I need to tell you how you should live your life. And if you try to complain or explain what race means in your life, I’m going to tell you how you’re wrong about that too, because somehow, I just know more about what it is to be you than you yourself do.”
How sad that the other women there (Whoopi excluded) let that discussion, on THAT WORD no less, be all about poor widdle white Elisabeth.
[The View crew also discussed the n-word, with far less drama, in February. I'd also like to add that the term and concept of "center-stage sickness" is not original on my part. I remember the term "center-stage phenomenon" from another writer's book on whiteness, but the title and author escape me. If anyone else knows of it, I'd be grateful for the information.]