Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The NAACP will hold a symbolic funeral for the “n-word” at the organization’s annual convention in July as a part of its national Stop Campaign to end the prevalence of racist and sexist language, images and concepts in the media.

“Our unit in the youth and college division is directing this, and they are focusing on how badly blacks and other ethnic minorities are treated in the media in movies, on television and in the music as well,” said Hilary Shelton, the group’s Washington Bureau director.

Holding symbolic funerals to demonstrate the end of a racially discriminatory practice is common practice for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when they begin a campaign. In the 1960s, the NAACP held a funeral for the segregationist Jim Crow policies in the South, and most recently held a funeral for voter apathy.

“The funeral for the ‘n-word’ has been part of the NAACP national programming for the last several months,” said the group’s spokesman Richard McIntire.

He said the first one was held at the Mid-Atlantic regional conference in Chattanooga, Tenn., followed by a second at the New England regional conference in Hartford, Conn.

The campaign emerged after radio personality Don Imus made disparaging remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

“It fits very well with our Stop Campaign turning the corner and going beyond the Imus controversy and taking personal responsibility to stop the derogatory speech and images in hip-hop music and videos and other media,” Mr. McIntire said.

The targets of the campaign are the record and television industries, recording artists and the black community. Its mission is to get those industries and black people to voluntarily stop tolerating the use of derogatory terms for women — commonplace in popular rap recordings — and to stop supporting or excessively portraying hurtful images of the black community.

Mr. Imus lost his television and radio shows after his remarks were denounced as racist by the National Association of Black Journalists, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Both critics and supporters of Mr. Imus called attention to the fact that his remarks about the Rutgers women were similar to those used by many black hip-hop performers.

But the NAACP’s campaign goes beyond Mr. Imus and the uproar caused earlier this year when comedian Michael Richards — who played Kramer on the popular sitcom “Seinfeld” — responded to hecklers by shouting racial epithets.

The NAACP’s campaign calls on young people to stand up against anyone who argues that words are not hurtful, and calls for increased diversity in the music and television industries.

“As African-American people with a proud heritage and promising destiny, we have to respect ourselves and stop disrespecting each other,” said NAACP National Youth & College Division Director Stefanie L. Brown. “The time has come for us to stop using and responding to derogatory words.”

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