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The S-Word/Transcript

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Anchorman 1: It's a derogatory racial remark that has divided people for many years.

Anchorman 2: And a J. Edgar Hoover Elementary teacher's now been suspended over calling a student the N-word. Stacy Renee investigates what happened and why.

Renee: And what did he say specifically to you?

Riley: He said "Sit down, nigga."

Renee: Riley Freeman is a third grade student at J. Edgar Hoover Elementary School. He's a basketball player, an avid reader and one day hopes to spread his philosophy through rap music. He was in class when he had a verbal exchange with his teacher, Joe Petto. But Mr. Petto said it was Riley who used the N-word first.

Petto: So, I told him to take his seat and here comes this barrage of insults. I mean, some of the words I've never heard before and I was just stunned and I said "Well, sit down, nigga!" I just repeated the insult back to him because that's what I've been trained to do.

Richards: That is not what he's been trained to do.

Renee: School superintendent Donald Richards says all teachers are taught to use appropriate hyphenated euphemisms instead of racial slurs.

Richards: We have a very strict policy against teachers using the N-word or any other racially insensitive words. The district's policy is that teachers should always say "N-word" instead of the actual N-word or "S-word" instead of saying the actual "S-word".

Renee: What is the S-word.


Renee: "Spearchucker"?

Richards: Yes. See, we would encourage our teachers to say "S-word" instead of... "spearchucker".

Renee: And how often do you have a problem with faculty saying "spearchucker" to students?

Richards: We don't. That's what I'm saying. They would say "S-word".

Renee: But Riley Freeman denies he used the N-word first.

Riley: He said I used the word before, but I didn't. I wouldn't use that word ever. That word hurts people.

Granddad: Oh, I remember those proud days. Marching with Dr. Martin Luther King. We used to hear that hateful word all the time.

Renee: Robert Jebediah Freeman, Riley's grandfather, says the incident takes him back to the Civil Rights Movement.

Granddad: Oh, what sad times these are, when educators can go around willy-nilly calling our kids the N-word. Me and my boy have suffered tremendous unspecified mental and physical damage from this.

Renee: Mr. Petto claims the version of "nigger", ending in "ger", is the racial slur. But that he was using a different version of the word ending in "ga" that means the same as "buddy" or "best pal". He insists that he was using the friendly version of the N-word to better relate to Riley.

Petto: I used the word. I admit it. I thought there was a difference between "nigger" and "nigga". I thought I understood this whole thing but I guess I don't. I need help! Whenever I hear the rappers, they say "Nigga!" It's in all the music. Look, look, look, rap songs that use the word "nigga" in a positive way, there's tons of them. Look, "Real Nigga Roll Call", "Niggas Bleed", "Jigga My Nigga", "Niggas for Life", "Real Niggas Don't Die", "Shame on a Nigga", "Suck a Nigga", "Ain't No Nigga".

Renee: The school is investigating the incident, but in the meantime, Mr. Petto has been put on unpaid leave.

Riley: I just couldn't believe it because nobody ever called me a nigger before.

Renee: And how did it make you feel?

Riley: Like I was less than a person.


Huey: Despite news reports to the contrary, my family was handling this particular racial incident quite well.

Granddad: Whoo! I can't believe it! I always knew you'd do something right!

Riley: And you know what's crazy? I didn't even mean to.

Granddad: What's wrong with you, boy?

Riley: Uh-oh, here comes Huey McHater again.

Granddad: Be happy. Your brother was called a nigger by a white man. Not just any white man, a district employee. We're rich! It's like winning the lotto!

Huey: How?

Granddad: Restitution. Look at your brother. He's traumatized.


Huey: Granddad, Riley's doing the celebratory booty dance.

Granddad: He's traumatized on the inside.

Huey: You both say the word "nigger" all the time.

Granddad: I do not!

Huey: Riley thought it was his name until he was 3.

Granddad: Well, that's different. See, it's okay between us behind closed doors. We flipped the word into a term of endearment. That's what I call my homies. You feel me? My nigga. Hey, after a lifetime of being treated like a nigger, if I catch a break off the word, good for me. Shoot, all the years I've been on this earth, do you know how many times I've been called a nigger for free? Back in the day, when a white man called you a nigger, you couldn't do nothing but go around a corner and cry. But now, we can fight back.


Granddad: Did you hear what happened to the last black man who was called a nigger? Huh? Last year, Terrence Kensby, a 35-year-old Wal-Mart employee was called a nigger by a supervisor.

Huey: So, if somebody calls you a nigger, you get a mansion, a yacht and two white women.


Petto: What I don't understand is, that if it is so offensive to them, then why do they say it over and over again?


Petto: He says it every morning. He calls me nigger, he calls the other kids nigga, he calls himself nigga. All the time. "Nigga this", "Nigga that", "Nigga, please", "Bitch nigga", "Nigga, have you lost your mind?", "Nigga, check that ho", "Nigga, you bullshit" and "Break yourself, nigga". He says it so much, I don't even notice it anymore. Last week in lunch, Riley said to a classmate, "Can a nigga borrow a french fry?" And my first thought was "Oh, my God. He said the word, uh, the N-word". It was now "How is a nigga gonna borrow a fry?" "Nigga, is you gonna give it back?" I'm telling you, my inside voice didn't talk like that before he got in my class.

Riley: He said I said it first? Man, I'm telling you. I've seen the hatred in his eyes the first time I walked in the class. All he saw when he looked at me was a black nigger.

Tom: I don't know if you have much of a case, Robert. The guy just seems kind of dumb. And he's already apologized.

Granddad: Damn it. I wanna get paid. I'm gonna call a press conference.

Tom: About what?

Granddad: I don't know, but I'm calling one.


Granddad: Rollo Goodlove? What's that two-bit hustler doing here?

Goodlove: You have assaulted this fine family's dignity, you have assassinated their pride and you have hurt their feelings. Now, somebody's gonna pay.

Granddad: Hmph. I could've said that.

Goodlove: Now, we demand the school offer an apology to Riley Freeman, to Robert Freeman, to the ghost of Martin Luther King, and an apology to me, Reverend Rollo Goodlove, star of the upcoming BET show "My Dad Rollo". And we also demand that the offending teacher be terminated immediately so he can no longer spread his hateful bigotry. And finally, we demand that the Freeman family be compensated for their extreme distress throughout this difficult period. Have mercy.


Huey: Don't listen to him, Granddad. He just wants to use us to get press for his stupid sitcom on BET.

Goodlove: Or maybe, I'm using my stupid sitcom to get you some press, boy.

Huey: But you're not.

Goodlove: Or am I.

Huey: No.

Goodlove: Or yes.


Coulter: All I know is they better not stop this war in Iraq, or I might have to start stripping.


Renee: So, what about Rollo Goodlove's demand for financial restitution to the Freeman family?

Riley: You mean we did all this for nothin'?

Coulter: Sorry, guys. We tried our best. You'll get them next time. Hey, Abdul, I see you over there talkin' to that white bitch. You ain't slick.

Granddad: That's it? We don't get nothin'?

Riley: That's a damn shame you can call a nigger a nigger and keep your job. That's a damn shame.

Granddad: Come on, boys. Let's get the hell out of here. We don't need this shit.


Huey: A fake protest? Granddad, you can't go around hustling controversy for profit.

Granddad: Why not?

Huey: You're messing with forces you can't control, Granddad.

Goodlove: I'm telling you, Robert. They are on the ropes, man. We just gotta apply a little more pressure.

Huey: Granddad, you're not getting paid. Just let it go.

Granddad: Nah, I think maybe Huey's right. Yeah, I think I'm done. Come on, boys. I guess I was wrong about the mansion and the white women. I miss those flat butts.

Goodlove: Well, fine, fine, then. More money for me. Uh, hello. Hello, Chauncey. Hey, now, Chauncey, you've got them extras ready for the protest, man. No, them niggers don't get no dinner, just lunch... ables.


Renee: Bob, what Rollo Goodlove didn't know was that the Sisters of the Second Amendment had scheduled a completely unrelated protest right across the street.

Betty: We reserved this spot three months ago, and that black nigger came and stole our press with whatever bullshit he's protesting over there.

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