Obviously, a lot of people were confused, including White House press secretary Jay Carney, who complained to the cable network about Halperin’s remark. MSNBC evidently agreed, issuing a statement calling the comment “completely inappropriate and unacceptable.” The cable outlet suspended Halperin indefinitely, and in an apologetic statement of his own, Halperin said his suspension was “totally appropriate.”
Still, I was perplexed. While calling someone what Halperin did may not be the term heard in high-level discourse, it simply is not among the words of choice used by folks of my generation and racial persuasion to show disrespect or disdain. The term’s just not in our arsenal of insults.
As obnoxious words go, it isn’t saying much of anything.
In fact, in my neck of the words, and under certain circumstances, one, being called such, might take a bow.
So my gripe with Halperin is not his use of the term (it’s rather lame), but, rather, his deployment of a word that is not universally understood and accepted as offensive and insulting.
That, Mark Halperin, was culturally insensitive.