The "n-word" is dead according to the NAACP, which staged a mock funeral for the racial slur during its annual convention in Detroit yesterday, complete with a horse-drawn caisson, black roses and a plywood casket.
"Today, we're not just burying the n-word, we're taking it out of our spirit," Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told hundreds of enthusiastic mourners, who slowly marched in the quarter-mile-long procession downtown.
"We gather burying all the things that go with the n-word. We have to bury the 'pimps' and 'hos' that goes with it. Die, n-word, and we don't want to see you 'round here no more," Mr. Kilpatrick said.
"Good riddance to this vestige of slavery and racism and say hello to a new country that invests in all its people," said Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, who shared the dais with the mayor and Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The epithet and other unsavory terms have gotten considerable public attention recently.
After a rant using the n-word during a Los Angeles comedy club tirade, "Seinfeld" actor Michael Richards made a contrite public apology on late-night television and went into counseling. CBS radio host Don Imus was fired in April after describing black female basketball players as "nappy-headed hos." Similar terms continue to pepper the lyrics of black hip-hop and rap music.
The NAACP, however, is adamant about changing the habits of performers, music producers, comedians and filmmakers of any race who have casually dropped the notorious n-word into videos, songs, stand-up routines and other creative works for a decade. The funeral was staged by the NAACP's Stop Campaign, an initiative critical of the media and entertainment community's portrayal of black women.
"Images reflected in songs and music videos that show half-dressed African-American women being objectified or demeaned by men, or young African-American men as thugs must stop," said Stefanie L. Brown, director of the NAACP youth and college division.
The 98-year-old civil rights organization enlisted the help of veteran rap artist Kurtis Blow, disc jockey Eric "Eric B" Barrier and rhythm and blues singer Eddie Levert to get its point across.
"This is not just about burying the n-word. This is more importantly about burying the attitude and behaviors that cause you to act like or be like that word," noted Mr. Barrier.
Mr. Blow, meanwhile, said he had recorded more than 150 songs without using the n-word.
"Today, I'm truly happy at a funeral," he said. "I'm living proof that it's possible to rap or do hip-hop and not offend anyone."
Smaller-scale faux funerals were also staged recently by NAACP members in Bradenton, Fla., and Pearland, Texas.
"The first documented use of the n-word was 1786, which we lay to rest today, 7-7-7," noted organizer Tammie Campbell during the Texas event Saturday.
Meanwhile, the funeral theme has historic significance for the NAACP, which staged another symbolic funeral in Detroit more than six decades ago, "putting to rest" Jim Crow laws which imposed segregation of blacks shortly after the Civil War.
And while he supports NAACP causes, one North Carolina-based writer had a public query for the organization and its name yesterday.
"It's a tough question, but someone has to ask it. Is it really fair to come down on ... using the 'n' word, when in 2007, you still refer to black folks as 'colored people?' " asked Paul Scott, who yesterday filed his query at his blog www.nowarningshotsfired.com.