Is Getting Your Ass Beat Justification for Saying the N Word?

By: Pouty Saudi

I was in the US for a few weeks visiting friends and family. It was an enriching experience (really, no sarcasm) to take part in some cultural exchange even though it was one-sided. I didn’t get to experience much of what the country has to offer in terms of all-American activities like going to a firing range or celebrity worship like copping a MAGA hat to bring home as a troll souvenir. I did, however, get a truck from the rental by accident when I booked a sedan (end sarcasm). But near the end of my trip I went to a club in downtown Denver where I witnessed three fights and one arrest over a fifteen-minute span, all a block apart. A three-block stroll resembling a conveyor belt of debauched drunkenness. America…I am disappointed.

There were two incidents that I witnessed where the N word (no R) was spoken in the proximity of though not directly to a black person and this got me thinking. If you got your ass pummeled if overheard saying the N word, is it necessarily a bad thing? I’m talking about a situation where someone says something unwittingly or unaware and are now facing the prospect of a response by an uninvolved third party.

While having a cigarette inside the club, a white dude scrawny and socially inept asked for a smoke. I gave him one. His friend, also frail and awkward, sees this and asks the same thing. I told him he can share the one I just gave his friend. Nearby were two black guys smoking quietly not bothering anyone. Almost as if they’re not from the area. What does this second guy then say in response to the cigarette he didn’t get? I’ll give you a hint. He didn’t try to ask someone else.

What did he say? You know the word. I forgot the entire sentence but it sounded like a pop culture reference or a catchphrase but he was speaking to me. No harm, no foul? Immediately I thought of two things: 1) I sure as hell wasn’t the only one who heard him and 2) in about two seconds a fist might hook around my face to land on his. Seriously, that’s how close we all were but to my amazement nothing of the sort happened. One of the dudes made a gesture for him to cut the lip. Maybe he kept saying “Don’t. Don’t.” The entire time I kept looking back at the kid thinking he’d better see a lesson in this. It took him a minute to bug off elsewhere and I still felt he may need another slip-up that won’t diffuse so gracefully for that to happen.

It was the most cringeworthy thing to butt in with. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue or a habitual speech pattern or a tick coming out unfiltered. And we all picked up on it. Unintentional? Maybe right then it was, but it felt more borne out of a prior history of intentional utterances in private circles. And here it came out in a Freudian slip. I believe everyone saw this except for the person that initiated the interaction who was, and probably remains, oblivious to bounds and safe amounts of alcohol to consume in public.

Yet I pose the question again, had he gotten manhandled back in the smoking section, would that have been a bad thing for him? Something tells me a nuanced reality check can work depending on the encounter.

I got to see this lesson taught a different way later. Apparently an Uber was trying to make a turn while a group of pedestrians entered the intersection. But it sent one particular drunk white guy through the roof for some reason. When I noticed the fracas the Uber was already inside a parking lot with the drunk swinging at the window and yelling the N word at the driver as if it was part of his vernacular (ie dropped R). The driver wasn’t fazed by any of this, but he did try to drive away without breaking any traffic laws. No joke, he stopped at a stop sign on his way out onto the street as drunk wailed on the back window. This went on an entire minute without snowballing into anything physical between them. Until he was jumped by a black guy, who made it all the way from the other block to make a point. That’s how loud the commotion was.

The funny thing about all this is that driver was Mexican. But to the guys delivering the punches, that couldn’t have been known beforehand and I can’t see why they wanted to verify. I mean for all they knew he was making a bad impression of an angry black guy drunk in the street. The fucked up thing is the first encounter I witnessed is clearly the more egregious example whereas in this fight it was simply two dudes looking for a fight and getting matched. In this second case you can almost absolve the guy for being too inebriated to appreciate the favor. Was he worth going to jail over? I don’t know. It was a hilarious comeuppance arriving from his blind side but something tells me this guy probably gets in losing scuffles every other weekend that it won’t matter. You know the type, the kind that revels in violent hazings while drunk because the masochistic kick is a sign of masculinity. Anyway the entire time the brother kept saying “Watch your mouth, bro” as he kept wailing on his head.

I don’t think the responses were handled poorly in either case but what do you think? Should “getting my first ass kicking for saying the N word” be a thing? Should we keep a tally for repeat offenders? Should it be an achievement to unlock for either party like on a PlayStation profile? Better yet should people have their firsts and, should one retaliate, would they relish being someone’s first? To my satisfaction I was glad to see no concessions being made as to which version of the word was said. While I won’t advocate taking a hit for the wrong team and spending a night in jail and enduring a slew of court appearances, I think it’s worth exploring the public service implications if the receiving party appears receptive and the risks are minimal.

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