THE BLOG
08/12/2013 11:11 am ET | Updated Oct 12, 2013

Tom Ford, the N-Word, and What Oprah Winfrey and Jay Z Have in Common

From Paula Deen to CBS Big Brother cast mates to Jay Z to Don Lemon to Rachel Jeantel, much has been said lately about the use of the N-Word. During a recent interview with Piers Morgan, soon after the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict, prosecution star witness, Rachel Jeantel broke down the difference in the "er" and "a" versions of the N-Word. Jeantel told Piers that the historically-forbidden version of the word is spelled - "N-i-g-g-e-r". Jeantel stated further, however, that the version of the word spelled - "N-i-g-g-a" has been coined by a more recent generation to mean "my friend" or "my homie". Jeantel clarified that "N-i-g-g-a" may be used by all races. In this context, one White individual may use this word in conversation with another White, Black, Hispanic or Asian individual. While it seems fairly clear that individuals outside of the black race may feel forbidden to use the "N-i-g-g-e-r" version of the word, there is debate within the black community on whether blacks should abandon use of this version, as well.

In 2009, Oprah Winfrey interviewed rap/hip-hop mogul, Jay Z. Although Jay Z charmed Oprah by teaching her how to freestyle, the two do not agree on the issue of the use of the N-Word. It seems Oprah does not believe either version of the word should be used. During the interview Oprah and Jay Z stated the following:

Oprah: I was once at a Jay Z concert, and there was a moment when everybody--including white people--was screaming the N word. I gotta tell you, it didn't make me feel good.

Jay Z: That's understandable.

Oprah: But it didn't seem to affect you. You were having a good time up there onstage.

Jay Z: I believe that a speaker's intention is what gives a word its power. And if we eliminate the N word, other words would just take its place. ...

Oprah: I'll give you that. But when I hear the N word, I still think about every black man who was lynched--and the N word was the last thing he heard. So we'll just have to disagree about this.

Jay Z: It's a generational thing.

In an interview with Parade Magazine to promote the upcoming release of her movie, "Lee Daniels' The Butler," Oprah Winfrey said "[y]ou cannot be my friend and use that word around me."

Oprah: ...Back in the '60s, black people were not calling each other the N-Word. They'd say, "Negro, please."

Oprah: With people like Jay Z--and I've had him on the show--we agree to disagree about it. You're never going to bring me to the side of "The word is okay."

I remembered Oprah's 2009 interview when I heard Jay Z's new rap song entitled: "Tom Ford" from his newly-released album "Magna Carta Holy Grail". Jay Z uses the N-Word throughout the entire song. While listening to the song for the first time, I said to myself - well I guess Oprah will probably not like this song! Although I still have questions about the use of the N-Word, I have to admit - I love the song! It has a very strong beat. The introductory lyrics are:

Clap for a nigga with his rapping ass

Blow a stack for your niggas with your trapping ass

Clap for a nigga with his rapping ass

Blow a stack for your niggas with your trapping ass

Tom Ford

Tom Ford

Tom Ford

If you agree, at first glance, that Oprah would probably not like this song - think again!? Thomas Carlyle - "Tom Ford" is an American fashion designer and film director internationally known for his offerings of luxury Men's and Women's fashions, accessories, handbags, eye-wear, fragrances and fine jewelry. During another interview this past week with ET's Nancy O'Dell, Oprah revealed a recent instance of perceived racism (involving a Tom Ford handbag) that she experienced while shopping in a Swiss boutique. Last month, while in town for Tina Turner's wedding, in Zurich, Oprah visited Trois Pommes boutique (later revealed by other sources -- not Oprah) where she asked a clerk to see a $38,000.00 Tom Ford handbag behind a glass case. Oprah described the following exchange with the store clerk:

Oprah: May I see that bag right above your head?

Oprah: And she says - to me, "No - it's too expensive."

Oprah: And I said, no, no, no, no, see - it's the black one - the one that's folded up ...

Oprah: And she said, "No, no, no you don't want to see that one. You want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You won't be able to afford that one."

Oprah: And I said well no - I really did want to see that one.

Oprah: She refused to get it. And she started to show me these other little bags.

Oprah: And I said - one more time - I tried...

Oprah: I said: but I really do just want to see that one.

Oprah: And she said - "oh I don't want to hurt your feelings."

Oprah: And I said Okay, thank you so much, you're probably right - I can't afford it. And I walked out of the store."

So it turns out - Oprah loves Tom Ford! During Oprah's interview with Nancy O'Dell, she did not disclose the name of the boutique or the identity of the designer of the handbag. Reportedly, the Swiss boutique manager has profusely apologized for the incident opining that the misunderstanding was due to language barriers. Meanwhile, the Tom Ford bag, in question, was sold and Yahoo! reports a spike in Tom Ford searches that may likely result from Jay Z's album.

One thing is fairly certain, although Oprah and Jay Z do not agree on the use of the N-Word, together, they are making Tom Ford a rich man! No word from Tom Ford on how he feels about the use of the N-Word in a song associated with his brand.

Do you think the word "N-i-g-g-a" has a different meaning from the word "N-i-g-g-er"? And when we use the term "the N-Word," is the word "N-i-g-g-a" included or do we say this to avoid using the word "N-i-g-g-e-r" only?