The “Shizzle My Nizzle” Saga

There are a lot of angles that I was tempted to apply to this Weird Tale from The Great Stupid about a longtime, popular talking head for a Jackson, Miss. news broadcast. It is obviously a “when ethics alarms don’t ring” story, for example. It could be used as evidence of persistent racial insensitivity in Mississippi, or the South, or the nation. The episode might be cited as more evidence that public apologies are usually meaningless, and that after-the-fact trainings for employees who utter words that suggest they have, let’s say, racial, gender and ethnic biases are window dressing and just about useless.

However, I’m going to cite the episode as an example of how broadcast journalists are hired more for their non-intellectual assets than any genuine talent in analysis and reporting, and also to illustrate how incomprehensible the current rules are regarding who can say what during The Great Stupid.

Barbie Bassett (above) was a popular news anchor, weather lady and a traffic reporter for WLBT, an NBC affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi. The former beauty queen—beauty queens are innately talented as journalists, did you know that?—has been a fixture at the station for 23 years, but hasn’t been seen on the air since March 8 though the station hasn’t make any official announcement. She has apparently been sacked, since her image and any traces of her have been purged from the station’s website.

Bassett’s demise was triggered when she participated in a segment on a new variety of wine from Snoop Dogg’s Snoop Cali Blanc wine collection. (Now there’s news the public has a right to know!) Barbie was chattering away and quoted Snoop’s trademark gibberish, “Fo’ shizzle, my nizzle!” “Nizzle” is Snoop for “nigga.” Even though the rapper is featured in national TV ads for a couple of products and treated as a cute and harmless celebrity, white people aren’t allowed to say “nizzle,” though heaven knows why they would want to.

Now, I would have some sympathy for Barbie if she hadn’t relatively recently engaged in a far less forgivable gaffe with racial undertones. In October, she referred to her co-anchor, Cameron Poe’s grandmother as a “grandmammy” on the air. Yikes. That time, the station allowed her to get off with a grovel, in which she said,

“Last Friday on our newscast ‘Today at 11’, I used a term that was offensive to many in our audience and to my coworkers here at WLBT. Though not intentional, I now understand how my comment was both insensitive and hurtful. I have apologized to Carmen Poe. Now, I would like to apologize to you. That is not the heart of who I am. And for that, I humbly ask for your forgiveness and I apologize to everyone I have offended. I will learn from this and participate in training so I can better understand our history and our people. I can’t mend the hurt my comment caused. I pray you’ll forgive me and that you’ll extend grace through this awful mistake.”  

There are a lot of red flags in that apology. I do not understand how anyone who makes her living on TV and is older than, say, 12, could not know that referring to a black woman who isn’t a character in “Gone With the Wind” or the subject of an Al Jolson song as a “mammy” would be offensive. “That is not the heart of who I am” is a classic dodge that can be and often is used to minimize bad conduct of any kind. The apology should not have been issued to only those “who were offended,” which implies that her choice of words was not intrinsically unprofessional and disturbing whether or not anyone was offended by it. The invocation of “training” as some kind of panacea for cultural ignorance and deep-seated stupidity is also insulting, standard though the myth may be that such trainings accomplish anything real rather than serving as ritual balm.

The gaffe that got Barbie fired was relatively minor compared to her October descent onto antebellum terminology, but come on: if you have already been placed on employment thin ice after a race-related incident, why would you not stay as far away from black rapper imitations on live TV as possible?

Footnote: I had to check six online accounts before I could find one that reported what Barbie Bassett actually said. For example, the Daily Mail said,

Before the broadcast ended, Bassett, who is white, repeated a famous Snoop slang saying, ‘Fo shizzle, my [epithet].’The racial epithet referred to is one for black people.

Why should readers have to guess what a word is when that word is literally at the center of the news being reported? Journalism in print, online and on TV just isn’t populated by very bright or competent people, or at least not in sufficient numbers to make it reasonable to trust anything reported as news.

27 thoughts on “The “Shizzle My Nizzle” Saga

  1. One could, I guess, spend a great deal of time learning what the colloquialisms are, what they mean, and who is allowed to use them and who is not. On the other hand, the perpetually offended could grow a pair, put on the big-boy pants, refuse to get their panties in a bunch, cowboy up, get a stiff upper lip, and get over themselves.

    People are going to say things that offend. People will do so deliberately, and people will do so unintentionally. It is hilarious when Jackie Chan is being attacked by a bunch of black men in “Rush Hour” after he quoted his partner, played by Chris Tucker, to them, saying, “Wassup, my nigga?” On the other hand, in real life people could accept the situation of someone obviously out of his water and gently correcting him, and it would go a long way toward healing racial rifts and bonding us back together.

    So here’s a question. At this point, when it seems that everyone is going off the rails trying to be more offended than everyone else, is it actually ethical to deliberately offend? I’m trying to work this one out in my head. In dealing with small children, you have to be willing to endure the tantrum that comes when you discipline (like no snacks because you didn’t eat your dinner, sit in a corner because you hit your sister over the head, lose your toys because you keep stealing toys from your sisters, to name a few). Otherwise, the child knows that tantrums get them their way, and will tantrum at everything. We are definitely at the point where we need to refuse to give into the tantrums of the perpetually offended, but do we need to go a step further? Or is a step further too far?

    • I would say it’s never ethical to intentionally offend for its own sake, just like it’s never ethical to intentionally physically hurt someone just for its own sake. If someone assaults me, I will defend myself, and they might get hurt. But I would never start a fight just to demonstrate it’s a bad idea to assault me. Emotional harm runs the same way. Those who aren’t looking for a fight don’t need one picked for them.

      • Gamereg,

        I would say it’s never ethical to intentionally offend for its own sake, just like it’s never ethical to intentionally physically hurt someone just for its own sake.

        Certainly. But I think what I’m considering (and you notice how resolute I am on this!) is that this wouldn’t be to offend for the sake of offending. Rather, it would be to fearlessly engage in some of those behaviors that the perpetually offended believe should be shunned altogether. I think maybe a specific example would be a public reading of Huckleberry Finn, without censoring or glossing over the word nigger. Yes, I know that the perpetually offended will take exception to that, and yes, it is deliberately being provocative, but it is not meant to be an offense for its own sake, but to willingly take the offensive against the destructive behavior in which the perpetually offended perpetually engage.

        Those who aren’t looking for a fight don’t need one picked for them.

        Again, I agree with this, but I disagree with the application in this context. We are in a fight. Every time someone says something that someone somewhere deemed offensive, the perpetually offended flock to the fight and want to destroy the offender. And the offender will be destroyed as long as we let the perpetually offended claim the field without a fight.

        Let me pose this in a different context. My eldest is a picky eater. She fights trying something to the point that she’ll make herself throw up from trying one mouse-sized nibble of something she would probably enjoy if she just gave herself the chance. We have taken away toys, books, TV, tablets, and sent her to bed without any other dinner for refusing to eat the meal placed in front of her. She will stubbornly take all that punishment (though she will scream and cry to the heavens at the injustice of it for hours) and refuse to eat a meal. Now, when it comes to fixing a new meal that we’ve never tried before, even if it is something that she should like, my wife and I know that we could be setting ourselves up for another monstrous struggle. Do we choose to only make food that our daughter likes, or do we go ahead and fix meals that either she hasn’t tried before or has “tried” and disliked, knowing that everyone else will probably enjoy the meal, and that it would be good for our eldest to learn to eat what is presented to her, even if it is not exactly what she wants at the moment? Daring to cook a meal that we know will result in a dramatic meltdown is exactly analogous to what I mean to be willing to deliberately offend.

  2. Wait. According to, that expression means:

    “The term ‘Fo’ Shizzle my Nizzle’ is reportedly a slang expression. It is often used to describe the phrase ‘for sure, my friend’ in an informal way. According to, the term was popularized as a catchphrase by rapper Snoop Dogg and is used to express affirmation in a playful way.”

    It seems that if Snoop is now a household commodity, and he gets to sell beer and other cool things, then society has waived any complaints about what he says and whatever the hell means when he says it.


      • Actually it translates to for sure my friend.

        Nizzle is also a slang term used by some as the term nigga.

        When a word has two meanings a non-offensive meaning when used by whites or blacks and an offensive one when used by whites when blacks want to exert power then the former must be treated as the intent.

        This should be an extension of the niggardly principle. No pun intended.

  3. If an undefined term is used in common parlance within a given community and is treated as inoffensive by that community it is hard to hold someone outside that community accountable. Obviously the woman was trying to be hip. For all we know she was creating something that sounded like a Snoop Dog saying. None of his made up language is common and I might have done the same damn thing trying to make my guest comfortable. I had no idea what shizzle or nozzle means in Snoop parlance nor should I be inclined to learn it. Let him use the common language or accept the fact that others may misuse a word.

    One of my favorite misuses is when someone calls it an oscillating fan instead of oscillating.

    What if I decree that shizzel is an epithet aimed at polyamorous Pacific Islanders can we hold Snoop to that standard. Of course not. My former dentist’s name was Nitzel. When pronounces it sounds like nuzzle.

    What we are seeing is a dual lexicon being used to oppress the majority. I bet that the station was looking to replace the aging beauty queen with a newer model.

    • Hard. but if the individual already has a public record of race-related boneheadedness, the context will matter, and that is not unfair. She would not have been fired for “nizzle” if she hadn’t already used “mammy” on the air. She was on ‘Race gaffe probation.”

      • Except for one dictionary reference submitted by anonymous to slave children using the term as a reference where is it said that only blacks used this term. Ok, it is a derivative of grandmother which is an English word. Can we say that granmammy is off limits to blacks because it is not of their native language. Other derivatives include grandma, grandmama or granny
        My wife from WV referred to her grandfather Pappy and her grand mother as Nanny so it is not hard to believe that a colloquial term used in Mississippi might be one that slave children may have also used.
        I would bet there are quite a few terms that slaves learned to use that were also used by whites given that English and its various idiomatic expressions were not from their home dialect.
        I have to ask the question do whites who view this term as a pejorative or an underhanded slight derive its meaning from the blackface performance by a white Al Jolson performing Mammy or Scarlett and Rhett referring to a slave using that name . If that is the only cultural reference from which the opinion in developed it may be as culturally flawed as that which is being criticized. And, if blacks view it as a slur do they do so for purely polemical reasons.

  4. The first example word should be osculating.

    Damn AI correction’s dictionary is limited. Osculate means to kiss.

  5. I propose people of color be prohibited from using standard English. They are appropriating white culture. This woman being prohibited from quoting a line of rap is total gotcha. Hasn’t anyone seen the Snoop Dogg television commercial where he’s sitting next to a pallid, unhiply attired Jewish guy on a beach and the Jewish guy beclowns himself trying to rap like Snoop? If that’s okay, why can’t this woman simply recite a line from Snoop’s oeuvre? Corona beer can have a white guy acting like Snoop Dogg, but this woman can’t simply pay a compliment to him during a flattering story about him?

  6. This is completely idiotic (but we knew that).

    By this logic, it would be inappropriate to say “N-Word,” because of what it stands for.


      • That weather woman has been railroaded and run out of town on a rail. Of course, she probably had it coming. She’s white, attractive and not a lesbian. Oh, and she’s a uterus bearing person. She had it coming.

  7. A good friend of mine (white) and all his siblings and cousins (also white) call their (equally white) grandmother “Mammy.” It is, in fact, what many people in the community call her. Should she be offended? Should someone else be offended on her behalf? This is so confusing!

    • Thanks for making my point Jim. Many of these terms are colloquialisms that have been commandeered for political reasons.

      In some places, Bless her heart is not a term of endearment. It means the person is batty or mentally deficient. How should I take it if a black woman says “Bless her heart”?

      • In this part of the South, “Bless your heart” can have multiple meanings depending upon context. It can genuinely express either thanks, endearment, concern or dismay. My grandmother would often dismiss the shortcomings of others by saying, “Bless his heart; he’s doing the best he can with the sense he’s got.”

        • Jim
          I was imprecise. You are absolutely correct that it can be a term of endearment but it can also be suggestive of intellectual shortcomings. That is how I should have phrased it.

    • I know a lady who moved up from the South who uses mammy and grandmammy for folks in her family. They aren’t people of color. It appears to be a phrasing of the dialect from where she’s from, not a term designating racism.

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