Why does Jessica Nigri think thinly-veiled nigger jokes are funny?

Not only does she have “Nigri Please,” a play on the phrase “Nigger, please” as the title of her F.A.Q. webpage, she has a Nigri Please banner above her booth at Emerald City Comicon this year. Not only is this callous, inconsiderate, and hateful behavior, it made for an unpleasant convention experience for me as a black woman—a convention I spent three weeks of my salary to attend. I flew all the way to Seattle expecting a pleasant vacation to be disrespected by this woman’s racism.

This is the kind of microaggresive and distressing behavior fans of color have to put up with from white fans—and now professionals. And it is why so many of us distance ourselves as consumers.

ETA: I received the following message in my mailbox after the above post.

hate mail

My initial reaction was simply cynical laughter rather than the anger and discomfort that arose when I saw Ms. Nigri’s banner. On the Internet, racism is expected. Those too timid to delight in the disrespect and denigration of black people in public will generally jump at the chance when anonymity is offered. In the wake of the controversies surrounding Paula Deen and several contestants on Big Brother, so many individuals who aren’t black have strangely questioned why they cannot say the word nigger—as if they have somehow been banned from doing so. They have not. Their real questions are as follows: why can’t I say nigger without large numbers of black people recoiling from me in disgust? Why can’t I publicly use racial slurs against minority groups without my coworkers and employers distancing themselves from me immediately? Why can’t I treat black people as if they are not worthy of respect as human beings and suffer no social consequences for it?

For all their cries of free speech these people cannot grasp that others exert that same right—that their actions will provoke reactions in others. Some simply cannot comprehend that the term nigger is a sign of disrespect—as are all racial slurs. To ask why one cannot say nigger is to have a childish fit at the fact that a black person might dare be offended by a word that was created and is still used by those who are not black to insult black people. Slurs are invectives that extend far beyond a personal attack to target an entire racial group.

As for me, I was not expecting to encounter racism (unintentional though it likely was in hindsight) when I attended the convention. I suffered for my naivety. When one is not prepared for it, the damage done can be severe. My solution is to speak out against racism in fandom when I encounter it—calmly, clearly, and without anger—then remove myself from the arenas where it is perpetuated. Doing so allows me to stand firm in my beliefs without infringing upon the freedoms of others or subjecting myself to abuse.