No word, not even the N-word, should be banned

There is something both delicious and disturbing in watching the loathsome Bill Maher apologize for saying the "N word" on his show, when he joked to Senator Ben Sasse that he could never work in the fields of a farm because he would be more comfortable as a "house n*gger":

"Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I'm up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn't have said on my live show," Maher said in a statement Saturday. "Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry."

Bill Maher, left, speaks with Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska during a segment of his "Real Time with Bill Maher" on June 2, 2017. (Janet Van Ham/HBO via Associated Press)

What? What is Maher apologizing for? He doesn't even reference the word he is apologizing for.  Have we really reached a point of exquisite sensitivity where a person cannot even say what he is talking about?

Even worse, Maher did not say the "N word" to disparage anyone, except perhaps himself. Meanwhile, a large segment of the black community says "N*gger" all the time. A quick search of Google shows tons of songs, many written by black people, which use the word.

In fact, when black people use the word, apparently it actually means a term of endearment.

That African Americans (and some Latinos) are able to use the N-word freely while others are not is, I take it, an obvious fact.  In one particular form, the N-word carries connotations of camaraderie.  The expression is used, as rapper Q-Tip has pontificated, “as a term of endearment.”  

I think "N*gger", like some other words, is inappropriate much of the time and shouldn't be used. It certainly should not be used in a way that offends black people. But as we have seen, in a friendly context, some black people actually like the word "N*gger."  Also, depriving us of the word leaves us unable to even explain when other people use the word, as Bill Maher's Orwellian apology, which apologized without saying what he was apologizing for, amply demonstrated.
For another thing, how are we going to teach people not to say "N*gger" if we can't even say the word that people aren't supposed to say?

It's all gone too far. And it's not just "N*gger". Oriental used to be a fine word, to describe Chinese, Japanese, or Koreans. Now it's become a forbidden word, except in reference to carpets.

"Illegal Alien" is well on its way to becoming a forbidden term; even Republicans are afraid to use the term now.

"Colored People" is clearly a banned phrase, unless you're black and work at the NAACP.

"Negro" is also a banned word, unless you work at the United Negro College Fund. Since Negro is forbidden too, how are we to know if the "N word" refers to "N*gger" or "N*gro"? Perhaps we need to refer to them as the "Ni" word and the "Ne" word.

Or perhaps we should stop banning words altogether and not be afraid to use them, as long as we use them appropriately and without malice. We are all grown up individuals and yet, for this entire article, I have been unable to write the word "N*gger", even though nearly this entire article has been about the word "N*gger". Isn't that ridiculous? When certain words become forbidden, we start down the road towards ideological toltalitarianism.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at