Friday, December 10, 2010

The Late, Great Richard Pryor Takes On The N-Word

When Richard Pryor died - on this day in 2005, nine days after his 65th birthday - one of the brightest lights in American culture went out... Of course, it was akin to a miracle that he'd managed to live to the ripe old age he did in the first place, all the while shining that light into the darkest parts of the American psyche, but the fact remains that he did and so deserves to be celebrated for it.

In this clip Pryor - who was never one to shy away from controversy* - takes on the perennial hot button issue of the N-word; endlessly argued over by everyone from identity politicians to semanticists, grappled with by philosopher and pundit alike, extolled as a reclaimed word and hurled like a weapon, with an elegant turn of phrase Pryor helps it all make sense. 'That's a word that is used to describe our own wretchedness,' he explains, in his 1982 concert Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip. On that stage he promised to never use the word again to describe another black man, and so far as I can ascertain he never did...

*That the preceding statement is an epic understatement cannot be overstated...
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