An Open Letter To David Simon About His Foolish N-Word Tweet

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Dear David,

I can call you David, right? After all, you’re being very informal at the moment so I figure we can do this on a first name basis. This isn’t meant to scold you or put you or punish you because I’m sure you’ll be put over enough knees today. This is, however, an attempt to explain why people are so disappointed in you. As the creator of The Wire, The Corner….yeah look, you created The Wire so there’s really no need to throw the rest of your bonafides out there. You were a journalist in Baltimore long before I was even a twinkle in anyone’s eye and did it for 13 years.

That’s 13 years of being knee-deep in a facet of African-American culture that not even some of us have any experience with. I’ve gone to Baltimore for a comic convention, to see the Yankees whoop on the Orioles, and to walk around the harbor like a good little tourist. But that’s where it stops. You know the people, the culture, the lingo, and you know the rules of the road. So it’s troubling to people like myself when you seemingly break those rules.

Actually, to say you “broke” anything would be doing a disservice to the word and what you actually did, which was more like taking the rule book and wiping your ass with it. It’s one thing to say the word you said but it’s another thing entirely to explain to the rest of the world why it’s cool that you said it.

I get the joke you were going for. I’m sure most of us do because even though it’s the internet, not all of us are idiots. Sean Hannity moderating a town hall at a black church in Detroit is asinine. The Trump campaign should be ashamed of themselves but I’m honestly not sure that’s something they’re capable of. I’d be surprised if they can even spell the word much less know the meaning of it. You’re 100% right to call them out for it. But the form of satire you chose to use is not the road you should’ve gone down.

Establishing your credit in the black community doesn’t give you free reign to to do what you want. While many of us are eternally grateful to you for creating what is possibly the greatest television drama of all time that just so happens to have our culture at the center of it, you’re not immune to falling into the trap that’s very easy for a white person such as yourself to fall into. Because you know the people and advocate for criminal justice reform and an end to the war on drugs, you believe that makes you the world’s foremost expert on black culture.

The problem with that thinking is, you can’t be the first guy talk shows go to when they want to discuss black issues because you’re not black. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying you have no knowledge and shouldn’t speak up. What I am saying is that as a journalist, a television writer, and a director, you get to go home at the end of the day. And I’d be willing to bet you several steak dinners that your street doesn’t look at all like the streets depicted on any episode of The Wire. You don’t have to live in a world where people who don’t look like you are constantly discussing–among themselves because why should we be included–whether or not they can use the n-word, and how it makes them “cool” to use it when they attach the “a” to it.

You don’t have to worry about bananas being thrown at you or your daughter simply because of the melanin in your skin. By the way, this happened in 2016. At my grad school alma mater, which is in Washington, DC, not too far from the Baltimore streets you’ve chronicled your entire life. Racism is still right outside of your door and the way to defeat it isn’t to crack jokes with it and explain to the rest of us how you two were just kidding.

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What makes all of this a profoundly punctuating predicament is that you should know better. The reason no one balked at a white man creating the words for Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale is because it felt authentic. The characters and how they spoke to each other signaled regardless of your race, you understood this particular community so well that no other person could tell the story. You didn’t have the apprehension Spielberg did when he directed The Color Purple. You went in with a Michael Jordan level of confidence all while being respectful. Don’t throw that away all because you’re too proud to admit you made a mistake.

Don’t be that guy who fronts like his sh*t don’t stink even though his head is so far up his own ass, you’d think he’d smell otherwise. Make a sincere apology, don’t condescend, and for the love of everything that is holy, don’t call your detractors “hall monitors.” Speaking as a writer, you’ve written dialogue that sings so if you’re going to insult people, think of something just a tad more clever.

David, if seasons 3-5 of your show have taught us anything, it’s that even the noblest of white men can fall due to their own hubris. Do us all a favor and resist the urge to become Tommy Carcetti.


My name’s in the byline.

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