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Old 12-14-2005, 07:58 AM   #1
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Richard Pryor And The N Word

"Talk about reinventing the N-wheel. All these things were precisely what the comedian Pryor claimed at the beginning of the 1970s when he made a conscious decision to splatter his routine with the word. In his autobiography, ''Pryor Convictions," he said, ''Nigger. And so this one night I decided to make it my own. Nigger. I decided to take the sting out of it. Nigger. As if saying it over and over again would numb me and everybody else to its wretchedness. Nigger. Said it over and over like a preacher singing hallelujah."

Pryor claimed, ''Saying it changed me, yes it did. It gave me strength, let me rise above . . ."

Pryor rose to commercial stardom. Like many African-Americans, I bought his albums in my teens and early 20s, and no one was more brilliant on a dazzling variety of political and social topics. At a more immature time, he seemed to me a rugged complement to my Bill Cosby family-life albums.

As the 1970s wound down, it was spectacularly evident that embracing the N-word did not give Pryor the strength to rise above demons. His dismal childhood among whorehouses and barroom violence in Peoria, Ill., mushroomed into Hollywood drug binges and threats to wives at gunpoint. My black friends, particularly women, grew weary of his persona and his equally offensive use of ''bitch." I stopped buying his albums.

Amazingly, Pryor matured on this issue, making me sing hallelujah. In 1979, he flew to Kenya. It was a trip recommended to him by his psychiatrist after his wife Jennifer hauled him out of a house full of hookers and drugs. After touring Kenya's national museum, Pryor sat in a hotel lobby full of what he described as ''gorgeous black people, like everyplace else we'd been. The only people you saw were black. At the hotel, on television, in stores, on the street, in the newspapers, at restaurants, running the government, on advertisements. Everywhere."

That caused Pryor to say: ''Jennifer. You know what? There are no niggers here. . . . There are no niggers here. The people here, they still have their self-respect, their pride."

In ''Pryor Convictions," Pryor said that he left Africa ''regretting ever having uttered the word 'nigger' on a stage or off it. It was a wretched word. Its connotations weren't funny, even when people laughed. To this day I wish I'd never said the word. I felt its lameness. It was misunderstood by people. They didn't get what I was talking about. Neither did I. . . . So I vowed never to say it again.

Today Ice Cube is 36. Nothing about the N-word or B-word has helped black people to rise above achievement gaps in schools or helped black males to be respectful to women and responsible to babies they father out of wedlock. Russell Simmons said the use of the N-word makes black people ''special." Pryor decided 25 years ago that it was stupid

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Old 12-14-2005, 10:42 AM   #2
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Pryor offers some valuable insight. If the word should not be said, it should not be said by anyone.

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Old 12-14-2005, 11:45 AM   #3
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there is some creedence to the argument that blacks took the word and made it their own as a way to combat the use of the word by whites.

speaking of pryor... anyone see the "I Ain't Dead Yet, Mothafucka" special on comedy central? top quality stuff.

richard was a true comic genius.
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Old 12-14-2005, 12:57 PM   #4
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People mellow over time, Prior in his 40's or 50's probably had a different view than in his iconoclastic take-no-prisoners youth.

I think it is a bad idea frankly if certain words become unutterable or beyond the pale.
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Old 12-14-2005, 01:00 PM   #5
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Originally posted by financeguy
People mellow over time, Prior in his 40's or 50's probably had a different view than in his iconoclastic take-no-prisoners youth.
Though, Pryor started out fairly mellow. He was "discovered" by Merv Griffin.
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Old 12-14-2005, 06:45 PM   #6
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The drugs didn't make me funny. God made me funny. The drugs kept me up in my imagination. But I felt … pathetic afterward. Drugs messed me up.

~Richard Pryor in The Washington Post

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