And spoken outside his home, to friends.
Country music superstar Morgan Wallen was suspended indefinitely by his record label and removed from hundreds of radio stations across the country yesterday. The reason? He was captured on camera saying “nigger.” TMZ posted a video this week showing Wallen loudly returning home with friends. A neighbor started recording the scene and the video included Wallen using the word. If you can tell the context of his words, please explain it to me. Was “nigger” meant as an insult, or was it used playfully? Was the target white or black? There is no evidence that he “hurled” the word, because that suggest that it was hurled at someone.
Of course, it doesn’t matter. We have capitulated to a draconian, punitive culture where a white man using a single taboo word once, regardless of context or intent, in a private setting, is considered just cause to destroy his career, though his conduct itself was legal and indeed constitutionally protected. The word is not conclusive evidence that the singer is a racist, or evidence at all. Never mind: Cumulus Media and iHeartMedia, the country’s top two radio conglomerates, pulled his music immediately, as did several other companies such as SiriusXM (which owns the streaming service Pandora). CMT stopped playing his music on all television and digital platforms; the Country Music Association took similar action. The Academy of Country Music said he will not be eligible for its upcoming awards show. Big Loud, Wallen’s independent label in Nashville, said that they made the decision to suspend him “in the wake of recent events, and added that Republic Records, the Universal Music Group-owned major label partner who also promotes Wallen, “fully supports Big Loud’s decision and agrees such behavior will not be tolerated.”
Though his latest album has been No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart for the past three weeks,Wallen’s career may be over. His obligatory and futile apology:
“I’m embarrassed and sorry. I used an unacceptable and inappropriate racial slur that I wish I could take back. There are no excuses to use this type of language, ever. I want to sincerely apologize for using the word. I promise to do better.”
It is foolish, corrosive, unfair and wrong to declare words taboo, but if that’s the stupid, primitive, slippery , road American society wants to pave, so be it. However, it that’s going to be a standard, and anyone who used the word in any context is going to be systematically destroyed, then that standard had better be color-blind. If Morgan Wallen is going to be cancelled, then Samuel L. Jackson and Dave Chappelle must be too. The taboo will still be unethical, but at least the administration of it won’t be.
The neighbor who released the video to TMZ behaved far, far more unethically than the singer.