The effort to ban the word "nigger" from the NFL is not just, as Richard Sherman smartly points out, borderline racist but actually racist. Any effort to raise a standard for African-American humans that does not exist for non-African-American humans is racist.

As I've explained before, the meaning of human language changes with context. That is why you may call your wife honey, but I probably should not. That is why Toby Keith referring to himself as "White Trash With Money" will never be the same as me accusing Toby of being "White trash with money." That is why Dan Savage proposing a column entitled "Hey Faggot!" will never be the same as me seeing Dan Savage on the street and yelling "Hey Faggot!"

This is how humans use language, and it is wholly consistent with how Black humans use language. The effort to punish this use, like all respectability politics, is an effort to punish Black humanity, is racism.

It does not matter that Black people of a certain persuasion are making this charge. Black people of a certain persuasion also supported the kind of laws that now find one third of all Black men under state supervision. This is not an appeal to a crowd, it is an appeal to the basic rules of language, without which we would all be soon reduced to babble. When people claim that the word "nigger" must necessarily mean the same thing, at all times, spoken by all people, one wonders whether they understand how the very words coming out of their mouth actually work. The great Harry Carson illustrates the point here:

I find it very disheartening that in our society today we're having a debate about the n-words being used as a term of endearment. If that's a term of endearment, go up to your grandfather, or an elderly Black person, and use it on them. See how they react. For those who use it, I say they have no sense of history.

This is deep ignorance masquerading as expertise. As anyone who's spent time with African-American history, and specifically with the literature, testimonials, and music of enslaved Black people, knows the use of "nigger" by Black people to describe themselves is ancient. And as anyone with any familiarity with human beings knows, there are great many things you would not say to your grandfather that you would say to your friends, your wife, or your brother. And as anyone familiar with Black people knows, many of our grandfathers certainly used "nigger" themselves.

Read it at The Atlantic.