‘Re-Nig’ is Racist? Who Knew!

‘Re-Nig’ is Racist? Who Knew! March 22, 2012

Holy shit. In the annals of stupidity, this one should get its own entry. I’m sure you’ve seen those racist bumper stickers that have the Obama logo on them and say “2012: Don’t Re-nig.” A Forbes writer interviewed the woman who sells them and she says they’re not racist at all.

Paula Smith of Hinesville, Georgia has a company called Stickatude.com. And they’re selling their own version of an anti-Obama bumper sticker that reads “Don’t Re-Nig 2012.” Ms. Smith told me in a telephone conversation on Saturday afternoon that the bumper sticker has been in their inventory since June 2010, but just in the last few days it’s started selling. The price is $3. Ms. Smith insisted that the bumper sticker is not racist. I asked her about the “N” word, for which “nig” is the shortened version. “According to the dictionary [the N word] does not mean black. It means a low down, lazy, sorry, low down person. That’s what the N word means.”

Let me tell you what “fucking moron” means. And she has more stupid excuses too.

The Smiths own a well known paint ball field in Hinesville — a town near Savannah. Mrs. Smith said customers come from all over the world. Ms. Smith said she is not racist, she just wants Obama out of office. She tells me she doesn’t have a preferred replacement candidate. “And besides Obama is not even black. He’s got a mixture of race. It’s his choice of what his nationality is. I’m a mixed breed. I call myself a Heinz 57,” she says, referring to an ancestry that’s part of French, Scottish, and German…

“I do find it amazing and entertaining that one of our stickers has become a racist thing,” Ms. Smith told me. I asked her if she thought the “N” Word was a bad word? “No,” she said, ” because I don’t use it. I have kids here around me that are black kids. I call them my own kids. I’ve helped black families…to guide them in the right direction. Paintball is one of these things. We like to laugh and have a good time. That’s our way of life.”

Reminds me of that idiot in Louisiana who said he can’t be a racist because he’s let black people use his bathroom.


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  • The word is ‘Re-nig’ is clearly a racist take on the real word- ‘renege’ which means to go back on a promise, undertaking, or contract.

  • F

    Yes, someone do explain to her what “fucking moron” means.

  • If non-sequiturs were an Olympic sport, this idiot would at least get a silver medal. All she’d have to do is throw in something about hedgehogs, crop-circles, and the price of tea in Baghdad, and she’d definitely win the gold (and that’s only because of stiff competition from other Republicans).

  • What the hell dictionary is she using? By origin “nigger” means exactly, precisely, and unambiguously “black”, and by extension, dark-skinned people (like, the name of two countries in Africa). As I understand it, it wasn’t even an insult at first, just a literal description (but it’s been unambiguously a racist insult since…well, before I was born anyway).

  • tfkreference

    The word is ‘Re-nig’ is clearly a racist take on the real word- ‘renege’ which means to go back on a promise, undertaking, or contract.

    And as a comedy writer on TV last night pointed out, to renege in 2012 would be to change course. Not to do so would be to vote for Obama.

  • Michael Heath

    The moronic racist Paula Smith states:

    “According to the dictionary [the N word] does not mean black. It means a low down, lazy, sorry, low down person. That’s what the N word means.”

    I think we can safely assume Ms. Smith and her ‘Re-Nig’ bumper sticker is only modestly more transparent form of racism than that displayed by nearly all conservatives. Which explains why she too publically argues she’s not racist just like nearly all contemporaneous American racists.

    Specifically because conservatives criticize President Obama by describing him in a manner that is simply not true like I quote here; leaders would include Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney. If nearly all conservatives are going to almost exclusively depend on falsehoods regarding the president’s character and performance, why wouldn’t the reasonable person conclude it’s probably for reasons these people would prefer not to overtly concede? In this case the most parsimonious reason is they’re either:

    a) racists benefiting from promoting racism or,

    b) so unconcerned about the interests of the country they’ll gladly and effectively promote racism. The former reveals they’re racists and the latter reveals they’re effective racists.

  • A Forbes writer interviewed the woman who sells them and she says they’re not racist at all.

    Of course not. Racism officially ended decades ago thanks to conservatives. Today, the only racists out there are liberals who get snippity when you call someone a nigger.

  • valhar2000

    The word is ‘Re-nig’ is clearly a racist take on the real word- ‘renege’

    I don’t if they are as smart as that.

  • weaver

    The position that “nigger” is not a racist term referring to black people, but instead some sort of race-neutral comment regarding perceived laziness or some such, is a commonly held position among a core group of racists I’ve encountered in the South and Midwest.

    Many times, after I objected to hearing someone refer to another (always black) person as a “nigger”, it was “explained” to me that they had no personal racism, that the term applied to all races, and that there were plenty of “white niggers” too.

    I note that I have NEVER heard any of these racists actually refer to a single white person as a “nigger” – it was always an explanation without grounding in fact.

    So any time I hear someone claim that “nigger” isn’t racist, but instead , I assess that the person making the claim is indeed a pretty strong racist.

  • When I saw the headline, I thought it would be rich. Arguing that “nigger” is not a racial slur in general is perhaps the most daring tactic she could have taken. Also, if I’m reading that last paragraph right, she’s not racist because she’s condescended to black people in the past by getting in their business and telling them how to manage their families. I don’t even know how to parody this.

  • Who Knows?

    Yes, someone do explain to her what “fucking moron” means.

    Someone would have to make it their life’s work, and they would still be doomed to failure.

  • So would it be racist of me to make Anti-republican stickers that say, “Don’t be a cracker backer?” After all crackers are just a type of biscuit.

  • laurentweppe

    Let me tell you what “fucking moron” means

    Is she: I’d say that she is smart enough to Play Dumb convincingly enough to fool you.

  • Eamon Knight:

    “As I understand it, it wasn’t even an insult at first, just a literal description (but it’s been unambiguously a racist insult since…well, before I was born anyway).”

    I was at a civil rights rally in an all-white county in North Georgia back in the 80s.

    One of the dumb fucks had a sign that said “Go home nigers.”

    … I’m guessing he’s a teabagger now, with that level of spelling skill.

  • Pieter B, FCD

    Michael Heath:

    If nearly all conservatives are going to almost exclusively depend on falsehoods regarding the president’s character and performance, why wouldn’t the reasonable person conclude it’s probably for reasons these people would prefer not to overtly concede?

    QFFT. Hammer, nail, head.

  • F

    Area Man #7

    Of course not. Racism officially ended decades ago thanks to conservatives. Today, the only racists out there are liberals who get snippity when you call someone a nigger.

    See also: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blackskeptics/2012/03/21/calling-out-racism-on-the-rdf-site/

    Who Knows? #11

    Someone would have to make it their life’s work, and they would still be doomed to failure.

    Well, yeah, there is that, you’re right.

  • jesse

    @Michael Heath–

    The Southern Strategy existed. And if that doesn’t show the racist underbelly of the post-1964 GOP, I don’t know what does. It’s just that now it’s harder to hide it since all the rational at-least-not-rabid racists in the GOP were purged in the 1990s.

  • @14: In my case, “before I was born” means, at least the 1950s ;-).

  • magistramarla

    Please allow a Latin teacher to weigh in:

    The N word most certainly does mean black. It is the English version of the Latin word NIGER, which simply means the color black. Thus, the Niger river appeared to have black water to those who named it.

    When I taught my students the Latin words for colors, we always had to stop and have a long discussion about this word. Once they got over it, they would proudly label a picture of MLK – magnus niger vir, or great black man.

    By saying that the word means lazy, etc, she is implying that she considers all black people to be low down and lazy. I find those bumper stickers and the woman who sells them to be offensive.

  • eamick

    The word is ‘Re-nig’ is clearly a racist take on the real word- ‘renege’

    I don’t if they are as smart as that.

    I think you’re underestimating them, given that “renege” can be pronounced “re-nig”.

  • This is pretty much the same as those people who say “cunt” and “twat” are not sexist slurs, and it’s okay to use them because their girlfriend will testify that they don’t hate women, and everyone uses them to mean low down, lazy, sorry, low down person despicable or idiotic person where they come from. I think I’ll bookmark this and point him (almost invariably a him) here next time I encounter such a bigot.

  • Well I think that she is a niggard—which definitely has nothing to do with blackness (it’s probably from Old Norse hnøggr ‘stingy’, with a cognate in OE hnēaw).

  • troll

    Jumped up jiminy christ! People actually openly put that shit on their cars outside of the deep south? I must be spoiled here in VT; the racists I’m accustomed to tend to be rather more circumspect.

  • thomaspenn

    I’m always struck by the lack of self-awareness or self-examination after these events. People are accused of racism, and their knee-jerk reaction is to defend whatever racist thing they did and explain why it actually isn’t racist, and couldn’t possibly be racist because they aren’t racists. Whereas one would think that if a mature non-racist was caught doing something racist, they would say “Shit, that was racist. I’m sorry. I won’t do that anymore because I’m not racist.” But it always seems to be the other way around.

  • I think I heard the N word for the first time when I was two years old. I asked my mother what it meant, and, in order to keep the explanation age-appropriate, she told me it was a very bad word and it hurt people and I should never use it. It was like trying to explain the word “fuck” to a two-year-old. You don’t need to go into the mechanics of sex to get the point across. By the time I was four I realized that it was a term used to put down black people. Before that my brothers and sisters and I used to call each other the N word whenever we were angry with each other. It very well could be that Smith still has the intelligence of a two-year-old.

  • MikeMa

    Hudson has to have some excuse to continue to sell that crap to the racist buyers. Ignorance fits her well. She has a limited window of opportunity and clearly not much hope of earning a living without this.

    She could target local and state races where there are black candidates after 2012 but that would take work and she’s a nigger lazy asswipe.

  • Back when I was growing up in (then) lily-white Toronto, when we did “Eeeny-meeny-miny-moe”, we caught a “nicker” by the toe. I had no idea what a nicker was — it was a nonsense rhyme, it didn’t have to mean anything — and I don’t know if any of my playmates did either. I suspect someone’s mother had heard their kid using the N-word and insisted they use a sanitized alternative. I’m not even sure when I became aware of the N-word.

  • MikeMa

    Sorry. Said Hudson instead of Smith @#26. Reading too many posts at one time.

  • Who Knows?

    Growing up in the Midwest, we used the actual n word in “Eeeny-meeny-miny-moe.” But that was over 50 years ago.

  • frog

    I assume the people who are buying these things live in (and stay in) all-white neighborhoods of equally racist shitheads.

    Who would seriously have the nerve to put this on their car? Don’t overt racists believe that all black men are horrible criminals who would not hold back from a little property damage?

    They’re probably being bought for “private display” in various clubs.

    This sort of thing just flabbergasts me, and I’m too old to be easily flabbergasted. Where I come from, the overt racists have the good sense to know that most of the people around them would disapprove. This causes them to STFU and minimizes their opportunity to spread their poison to young people.

    Whereas this woman’s local area must be overrun with assholes who are free to spread their shit to new generations.

  • Eamon Knight @27:

    Growing up in New Hampshire in the late 80’s/early 90’s we used to use the word ‘tigger’ instead of the N word in that rhyme. It made sense to us as children and I never even realised the racist undertones of the rhyme until I was much older and stopped saying it altogether.

  • Michael Heath

    jesse @ 17:

    The Southern Strategy existed. And if that doesn’t show the racist underbelly of the post-1964 GOP, I don’t know what does. It’s just that now it’s harder to hide it since all the rational at-least-not-rabid racists in the GOP were purged in the 1990s.

    Except I don’t think the GOP was by attribute racist in the late-1960s. Instead back then they exploited racism to win elections while also taking some actions which harmed blacks, but so did Democrats. I think that’s changed over the course of the last 12 – 18 years; the GOP is now a racist organization, not one who just panders to racists.

  • New bumper sticker for my car: Honk if you don’t want a re-Honk in 2012!

  • Eamon Knight @27:

    Where I grew up: Catch a piggy by his toe. Fits perfectly. I’m sheltered enough to never have known there even was a racist version until this moment.

  • scienceavenger

    So THAT’S what Santorum was going to say. He started to say a word, and it wasn’t “bla… people”, it was “niggers!”

  • scienceavenger

    Growing up in the south, the word was commonplace. Ever hear the one about Daniel Boone? The bear was bigger…hard to replace that rhyme.

    The explanation that ran in my circles was the Chris Rock argument: it was a perjorative towards blacks the same way “cracker” or “white trash” was a perejorative towards whites. Problem is, “cracker” never meant “subhuman unworthy of the rights others have”.

  • Trebuchet

    Please allow a Latin teacher to weigh in:

    The N word most certainly does mean black. It is the English version of the Latin word NIGER, which simply means the color black. Thus, the Niger river appeared to have black water to those who named it.

    I always thought it was a mispronunciation of “negro”, which is of course Spanish for “black”. Same root anyhow.

    Am I the only one who’s disappointed that the original photo of the bumper sticker didn’t include the license plate?

  • TCC

    On the “eeny-meany-miney-moe” rhyme: We used “tiger” (close to maxhannan) when I was young (the ’90s in rural Illinois). I seem to be vaguely aware that the racial slur had been used in it, but I certainly don’t think I had any idea as a child.

  • Nomad

    I’m not trying to excuse this behavior, but I’m starting to wonder if there are people so desensitized by the way the N word is habitually used in some cultures that they honestly have forgotten that it had a racial meaning.

    Make of this what you will, but I was playing a computer game with some strangers online, and one of them pulled out the N word to refer to the computer controlled opponents we were facing. I just couldn’t let that go, I had to stop and type a super sarcastic response, saying that yes, the real problem was that our computer controlled opponents had a darker skin coloration. It was especially nonsensical because it’s a science fiction kind of game where our enemies were either robots, or else people wearing Tron style brightly colored costumes that don’t show any skin.

    His response was to act baffled that I thought that the word referred to skin color. He actually protested that that wasn’t what the word meant.

    This is not a defense of this woman, using the term to communicate your opposition to a black president makes your motivations particularly clear, especially if you have to invert the meaning of the word you’re making a word play on to do it.

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  • @31, 34, 38: I think y’all are the same generation as my kids, who used “tiger”. I’ll take it as sign of progress that the original version seems to have gotten successfully banished during the intervening two decades, at least in northerly climes.

    Of course, I’m reading Pinker’s book, so I’m feeling unusually optimistic about human nature at the moment.

  • cactuswren

    As early as the late 1960s in Virginia (!!), I heard the “catch a tiger” version.

    Trebuchet @37, this reminds me of an exchange in the movie My Sweet Charlie:

    Educated Northern Black Man: Say “knee”.

    Poor White Southern Girl: Knee.

    ENBM: Now say “grow”.

    PWSG: Grow.

    ENBM: Say them together.

    PWSG: Knee, grow.

    ENBM: Now faster.

    PWSG: Knee grow.

    ENBM: Faster.

    PWSG: Kneegrow.

    ENBM: Now, what am I?

    PWSG: You mean … nigras would rather be called Negroes?

    (This followed an exchange in which she tried to explain to him that the white Southern storekeeper who said “You be sure and tell all of your nigra friends, I always treat nigras right!” was being nice; that “nigra” was the polite formation, and if the storekeeper “wanted to be mean, he’d have said … you know. The other.”)

  • Azkyroth

    Problem is, “cracker” never meant “subhuman unworthy of the rights others have”.

    Although there was a time when “white trash” arguably did, so I’m told…

  • dingojack

    Eamon Knight (#4) – “… like, the name of two countries in Africa…”

    Ethiopia?

    Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto (#21) – like those who call a cowardly person a pussy, right?

    You’ve got them on your list/ and they surely shan’t be missed.

    Dingo.

  • jeroenmetselaar

    what is so telling to me is that the simple reason that a using a word hurts people is not enough reason to stop using it.

    Words have many meanings and everyday language is ambiguous enough to cause all kinds off misunderstanding but once you know a word hurts some people why not stop using it? Unless you don’t care about the feelings of those people, of course.

    Finding a word to refer to people of African descent in the English language is hard but no anglophone can ever argue not to know the connotations of n*.

  • WTF is going on with commenting? I’ve tried to post a comment four times and it’s not shown up yet, nor has there been any indication why that’s the case.

    It’s only got one link in it.

  • duck1887

    Thanks for that stuff about “nigra” – very interesting. In some places I believe the “polite” formation is or was “colored”, and you’ve probably heard “[person] of color”, but I think that means non-white generally, and has a formal ring to it, like “African-American” does. In apartheid-era South Africa “colored” was the official term for those of mixed race.

    Sorry, I know this isn’t Language Log, but I have another couple of data points to share. A while back Ed discussed a lesbian child-custody case, and I happened to know one of the participants, a grad school colleague. She was from North Florida, I think, and she self-ascribed “cracker”, but took offense at “white trash” as a synonym. So presumably “cracker” doesn’t always mean “racist white person.”

    Also, when I was a kid (early 70s, USA East Coast), we caught “tigers” by the toe. I remember thinking how odd it was that when so captured a tiger might “holler,” but it never occurred to me that the word might have been something else once, which I only found out much later.

    As for the original bumper sticker, thanks for the warning. I’ve never seen one, but if I had seen one first while out driving, I think I would have lost control of the vehicle. Holy smoke!

  • Victor

    I”ll accept that the racist’s dictionary defines nigger that way. Unfortunately, their definitions for “black” and “African-American” both say “see nigger”.