No place for black people

No place for black people

The casual use of the ‘N’ word has one viewer vowing to leave ‘Fargo’

By Angie Comer 05/07/2014

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I felt a sudden gush of excitement when my clock hit 10 p.m. and “Fargo,” a takeoff on the hit 1996 Coen Brothers movie, made its debut on FX. I could not resist lawless Billy Bob Thorton leering with emotion. A few minutes later, as Sam Hess (played by Kevin O’Grady) pounced on poor Lester Nygaard (played by Martin Freeman) like an amorous leopard, a memory trickled out and slipped into gear; the first time a white man called me a “nigger.” 

At the edge of every experience, there are moments that are sleeping in their subconscious caves.  Many years ago in Hollywood, when I decided not to make a left turn one afternoon, the driver behind me was furious. He followed me for a half-mile, honking and yelling.

After I picked  up my mom  from a bus stop, he suddenly flew out of a bank driveway,  blocked my car and  barked out every variation  of the “N” word that he could  come up with. I had no clue there were so many. Archie Bunker would have been proud of this foolish brute. This encounter that was forced upon me lasted less than a minute, but his words cut like claws scratching my face.

This spasm of emotions reemerged as I watched the pilot of “Fargo.” It was a swift kick to my gut as the scene played out and  Sam Hess dropped the “N” word a grand total  of three times — once was for shock,  twice was for the glory of its impact, and  the third time was … what? Necessity?

N is for “nigger” and “necessity.” So, calling anyone a “nigger” today — black, white, or even Asian — has quickly become a TV necessity to prove some point to validate an instant in time.

Why is it that we frequently hear “nigger” on TV, but the concoction of other ethnic verbal cruelties are almost nonexistent? When was the last time you watched a series and heard the words “chink,” “sand-nigger,” “wetback” or “honkey?”

I wondered if writer/producer Noah Hawley had a cocktail of reasons for hyping- up this reunion scene with a former bully by showcasing such a demeaning word. I sat there in my mental huddle, wrestling  with the scene I just witnessed and  I know that  the intent  of Sam Hess would not have  been lost if the writer made the creative choice  to spare the hurt feelings of every black viewer and not use the word “nigger.”

Is Lester’s last name Nygaard a spin on “nigger?” Are we to expect more of this from the world of Minnesota Nice? Sam Hess wore his feelings toward Lester Nygaard like a neon sign. If the “N” word had been eliminated from that scene, I would have said, “I get it, brah! You’re a bully. You get off on it. You have a tiny penis and your mommy never loved you, right? You still hate Lester.”

The on-the-nose writing of that scene was a harrowing excavation of pain for me. I simply don’t like to hear that word. Actually, I hate it. I’m exhausted by its frivolous use. Everything changes and something inside of me shatters when I hear it. Melodramatic, perhaps, but I’m a woman and a screenwriter. I don’t two-step around my feelings, and the use of the “N” word is simply lazy.
It’s not the word by itself, but the context of its delivery. A spoiled brat football player becomes irate with a bouncer and fires back by calling him a “nigger.” Alec Baldwin did the same thing to a photographer. And a thought occurred to me; “nigger” is the new go-to word.

When I heard that word on “Fargo,” it ripped right through me. This series, clearly lacking in diversity, so casually dropped this verbal diarrhea of hatred, and for what purpose? Hawley is responsible for the characters in “Fargo.” Maybe if he did some due diligence, there is the possibility that his dialogue would speak more of Sam and Lester’s larger issues and not some cruel word masquerading as edgy.

I believe that every writer pulls, or at least attempts to pull meaning through their fingers to engage audiences with an elegant corruption of words and style. As the world of “Fargo” changes and crises come and go, will blacks be belittled again with this worthless phrase? I’m not waiting around to find out. I’m leaving and I’m not looking back. “Fargo” is not a place for me.

When I watch TV, it is a brief abandonment from driving, surfing the Internet for jobs, writing opportunities and sometimes dates. I don’t  need to hear  that  sound byte  of road  rage  when I am on the prowl for a new series  to watch. Why would anyone?

If some things are better left unsaid, why couldn’t we let the “N” word be one of them? 


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posted by hlewissmith on 5/08/14 @ 04:21 p.m.

Are you serious? If you are going to take everything literally in the tv show, you are ok will cold blooded murder then? That doesn't offend you? Stabbing people in the head or shooting someone point blank with a shot gun is ok with you? But its the N word that offend you on a TV show? (just FYI a TV can be not real). I guess what you are saying is you want to censor what the writers of the show want to write so you feel better? Would you want your writing or expression of opinions to be censored because someone else got offended by a word you use? You use the N word more than the TV show, by the way. And the best totally want to alter reality by adding in people of different race into a part of the country that is not diverse. Part of the point of the whole story is that the area is nearly inbred and they are clueless and isolated from the real world. Dude, you are so amazingly lost, you should write to National Geographic and ask why they don't put more diversity into their photos of African natives in the jungle. Please, don't multiply. You might also take a look at your TV remote. You say you don't want to hear certain words. Try the channel change button or better yet, the power button.

posted by Jose1989 on 5/08/14 @ 09:29 p.m.

It's a real last name: Nygaard, Nygård or Nygard all have a Norwegian, Danish, or Swedish origin and mean "new homestead" or "new farm". - Wikipedia.

Maybe research your points a bit before you write.

Notable people with the surname include:

Agnes Nygaard Haug, Norwegian judge
Anne-Pia Nygård, Norwegian writer
Arne Nygård-Nilssen, Norwegian art historian, publicist, and magazine editor
Camilla Martin Nygaard, Danish badminton player
Damien Nygaard, Australian football player
Eldon Nygaard, Democratic member of the South Dakota House of Representatives
Eline Nygaard Riisnæs, Norwegian pianist and musicologist at the University of Oslo
Gulborg Nygaard, Norwegian politician for the Liberal Party
Gunhild Nygaard, Norwegian fashion designer
Gunnar Nygaard (broadcaster) (1897–1997), Norwegian radio broadcaster
Gunnar Nygaard (phycologist) (1903–2002), Danish phycologist
Hjalmar Nygaard (boxer), Norwegian boxer who competed in the 1920 Summer Olympics
Hjalmar Carl Nygaard (1906–1963), United States Representative from North Dakota
Jeff Nygaard, American beach volleyball player
Jens Nygaard, American orchestra conductor
Jens Nygård, Finnish footballer
Jorun Askersrud Nygaard, Norwegian cross country skier and athlete during the 1950s
Karl Emil Nygard, American communist politician
Kristen Nygaard, Norwegian computer programming pioneer and politician
Kristen Nygaard (footballer), Danish football (soccer) player
Marc Nygaard, Danish football (soccer) player
Marius Nygaard (academic) (1838–1912), Norwegian educator and linguist
Marius Nygaard (judge), Norwegian judge
Mathias Nygård, also known as "Warlord Nygård," vocalist of Finnish folk metal band Turisas
Nils Nygaard, Norwegian law professor
Olav Nygard, Norwegian poet
Peter Nygård, Finnish-Canadian fashion executive
Petri Nygård, Finnish rap artist
Rainer Nygård, Finnish guitar player
Richard Lowell Nygaard, United States federal judge
Roger Nygard, American film director and producer
Trygve Nygaard, Norwegian football (soccer) player
Vanessa Nygaard, American basketball player and coach
William Nygaard, retired head of the Norwegian publishing company Aschehoug
William Martin Nygaard (1865–1952), Norwegian publisher and politician
Åse Nygård Pedersen, a Norwegian handball player

posted by PasadenaF on 5/09/14 @ 02:26 p.m.

You're absolutely right. I was watching this my wife and turned it off after the first time it was said. Can't understand why they felt they could go on and say it two more times.

Then we googled the imbd info for the show and saw the all white production and cast. Then googled reviews that mentioned the racism, and only yours came up.

So disappointed that a show people have been raving about is so clueless about race and the world. Like the commenters below.

It's sad how racism gets this automatic defense, while truth and justice is such a slow fight.

I'm a white man, and we're not all like these people in Hollywood, or like these anonymous little monsters on the internet. I'm sorry for your hurt, and thank you for writing this.

posted by taller_far on 12/10/15 @ 07:00 p.m.

"If some things are better left unsaid, why couldn’t we let the “N” word be one of them?" This is so basic, so very basic. And yet I still here it: usually somebody who thinks its funny. It's NOT funny! I haven't seen the show nor would I be inclined to watch something that sounds so contrived. Please let this show and this word die!!

posted by donethat on 2/22/16 @ 04:10 p.m.

btw Just to be clear to all I am NOT alright with cold blooded murder and all the violence on TV either. If anything contributes to senseless gun violence it is the senseless sensationalized violence on TV and all the other extreme caricatures that are just an excuse for poor writing abilities.

posted by donethat on 2/22/16 @ 04:22 p.m.
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