I wish I could muster up some outrage to Gwyneth Paltrow's recent use of the N-word on Twitter, but I simply can't. Since Monday, I've heard countless takes on whether the actress was in the wrong to tweet the name of Jay-Z and Kanye West's song "N---as in Paris" on June 1. The actress had the privilege of actually seeing Jay perform the hit song in Paris and tweeted this photo caption of herself with Jay, Beyonce and Kelly Rowland at the concert: "N---as in paris for real."
After sending sent out the tweet, Twitter followers inundated Paltrow with negative feedback that eventually made headlines in publications such as the Daily Mail and Ebony and became the center of discussion on shows such as ABC's "The View" and CBS's "The Talk." In her defense, Paltrow responded to her critics with: "Hold up, it's the title of the song!" Surprisingly, I agree with her--at least to an extent.
I've pointed out over and over again on this site that I don't think anyone--white, black, etc.--should use the N-word. I also blogged a couple of years ago about how Oprah Winfrey called Jay-Z out for his use of the N-word when he appeared on the "Oprah" show, and he basically responded by shrugging his shoulders. If Jay-Z wants to use racial slurs in his raps, he has every right to, but when you include such a slur as the title of your song, you're practically begging all of your listeners, regardless of race, to say it too. And Paltrow followed suit. Now, could she have tweeted, "Got to see Jay-Z perform in Paris" instead of what she really wrote? Of course, but she was trying to sound cool by playing on the song title and the fact that she had the opportunity to hear a song that references Paris actually performed in the City of Lights. While she should have thought twice about tweeting the N-word, I think she believed the song title would not cause offense.
I know a lot of people loathe Paltrow. They think she's pretentious, a snob and a product of nepotism. They hate her cookbooks and they hate her lifestyle website Goop. The fact that she was born with privilege and made a name for herself appearing in lily white flicks with ties to William Shakespeare and Jane Austen makes it that much harder for people to stomach her using the N-word in any fashion. In contrast, when Jennifer Lopez repeated the slur in a song years ago after rapper Ja Rule penned a single for her, she faced very little outcry. Obviously, Lopez isn't white, grew up in the Bronx and has been tied romantically to black men such as Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. Unlike Paltrow, Lopez isn't perceived as an outsider in urban circles. I get that, but I'm willing to cut Paltrow some slack in this instance. That's partly because I think that Jay-Z and Kanye West deserve some blame in this situation also. They should know that making the N-word part of a song title is totally different than including it as a song lyric where listeners who sing along can presumably skip over the slur if they like. Jay-Z and West may have no issues with the N-word, but they know that other blacks do because they've been called on it. If they're not willing to retire the word, they could at least not tempt those who have no business repeating the slur to do so by including it in song titles.