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Brazoria proposes a ban on the 'N word'

 By Rucks Russell / 11 News

January 1, 2007
Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley

The city of Brazoria is proposing an ordinance outlawing the “N word,” but not everyone in town is on board with idea.

Mayor Ken Corley hopes the usage of the notorious racial slur will soon be a thing of the past in his city of 2,800, a relic as distant as the old Jim Crow laws that once ruled the day here.

“Obviously, I’m not black, but if I was and the word was used at me, it would offend me seriously,” Corley said.

Under his proposed ordinance, a person would be committing an offense if he or she intentionally uses the N word in an “abusive, indecent, hurtful, degrading or insulting way” in public. Violators could face fines of up to $500.

And if the ordinance passes, it won’t be the first time Brazoria has been a leader in passing high-profile restrictions – they were the first city in Texas to pass a law prohibiting sex offenders from living near children.

The mayor’s plan has already won the backing of some on the city council, as well as a group of prominent local black ministers.

“I applaud him for having the courage to bring this to the forefront,” ******* said.

Opinions on the ordinance differ with many in the population, but the mayor insists that the ordinance will make his city a better place to live.

“This is no doubt a quality of life issue,” he said.

A quality that could cost some people a lot to maintain.


By Sara Bonisteel


It's one of the most reviled words in the English language, but if one Texas mayor gets his way, getting caught uttering the "N-word" will hit offenders where it hurts.

Mayor Ken Corley of Brazoria, Texas, has proposed a city ordinance that would make using the word in an offensive fashion a crime equal to disturbing the peace and punishable by a fine of up to $500. But legal experts said it's unlikely the law will stand up to the First Amendment.

"I would like to, if possible, ban all racial slurs," Corley told "We chose this word because it's the most controversial issue throughout the United States today."

Corley said the city would like to go after the use of other racial slurs, "but we want to take this one step at a time, depending on public opinion."

The 62-year-old mayor, who is a self-described "middle-class white boy," got the idea for the ordinance after watching Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton discuss banning the N-word on TV after "Seinfeld" comedian Michael Richards used it in an act last November.

"The word is not used or abused in the streets of our town; it's more, amongst the black community, as a term of endearment, OK?" Corley said. "But it is a national issue, and I would like the city of Brazoria to take a leadership role throughout the nation in banning the use of this word."

Corley polled his constituents and found "overwhelming support" for the ordinance. Brazoria, with a population of around 2,800, is an industrial city nestled about 50 miles south of Houston near the Gulf of Mexico coast. About 10 percent of the population is black.

Under the proposed Brazoria ordinance, users of the N-word would be fined only if a complaint were filed against them, thus protecting those who think they are using the word as a term of endearment.

"This is government trying to take the easy way out," said Judge Andrew Napolitano, a FOX News legal analyst. "When people use words that are harmful, they lack civility and they lack education, but they don't lack the right to say it."

Bishop Ricky Jones, a black minister and the head of the Living Word Fellowship Christian Center in Brazoria, "wholeheartedly" supports the ordinance and the mayor, though he doesn't agree with the "term of endearment" loophole.

"It's trying to be made a term of endearment in the black community, the way it has been used so loosely, but I for one, when I look at that word and look at the history of it, it has been used to demonize, demoralize and degrade black people as a whole."

Jabari Asim, a deputy editor at the Washington Post and author of the forthcoming book "The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't and Why," has traced the American arrival of the word to 1619 when a Jamestown, Va., diarist, John Rolfe, noted: "We got 20 niggers today on a Dutch man-of-war."

"That's the first recorded instance of African captives arriving to British North America and that was the word used to describe them," Asim said.

Over the last 25 years, the hip-hop community has sprinkled the word throughout its anthems.

"It's really important for people to realize that the history of the word goes so far back that recent developments in the past 20 years [of] casual use," Asim said. "There is no god higher than history and I don't think recent developments are strong enough to overcome the centuries of hatred that are attached to the word."

Brazoria's proposed ordinance is the first time an American city has tried to ban the word, though groups such as Abolish the "N" Word have lobbied for its permanent retirement, Asim said.

"Calling for societal change is one thing, but calling for legislation against speech is quite another," he said. "That's practically anti-American to say that we're going to allow the government and Uncle Sam determine how we speak to one another. It's counterintuitive to me. It's best to lead by example than by legislation."

Napolitano doubts the ordinance will stand up in a court of law.

"You can't just pick a word because then you're granting more protection to the victims of that word than you are to victims of other words, so you really open up a Pandora's box," Napolitano said.

The ordinance is on shaky ground legally because of a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision, R.A.V. vs. the City of St. Paul, said David Hudson, a First Amendment scholar at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn.

"Fighting words are not protected by the First Amendment, and a lot of fighting words are face to face personal insults," Hudson said. "But in 1992, in this case, the court held that selective banning of fighting words, in other words, singly out, for instance, fighting words based on race and sex, that that constituted viewpoint discrimination and violated the First Amendment.

"It's a well-intentioned effort, but it's a well-intentioned unconstitutional effort," Hudson said.

Corley said that while he has "some concerns" about the law's legal standing, the city attorney is confident it will pass muster.

A public hearing will be held Thursday, before the five-member city council decides on whether to pursue the measure. Last year, it was the first city in Texas to pass a sex-offender ordinance.

City Council approves banning the "N-word"

Measure askes New Yorkers to voluntarily stop using racial slur
February 28, 2007
Eyewitness News
(New York- WABC ) - The City Council today approved a symbolic resolution to ban "the 'n' word" a racial slur that has a painful history intertwined with slavery.

The non-binding measure calls for New Yorkers to voluntarily stop using the slur against blacks, which has more recently been adapted among entertainers and youths as a term of endearment.
Councilman Leroy Comrie, the sponsor of the bill, says people are also denigrating themselves by using the word, and disrespecting their history.

The effort began weeks ago at the start of Black History Month, and has gradually gained nationwide notice and support. Other municipalities have passed measures similar to New York City's, and a historically black college in Alabama recently held a four-day conference to discuss the slur.

I n New York, supporters gathered at City Hall today, many of them wearing small pins featuring a single white "N" severed by a red slash and circle.

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