Beyonce, Jay-Z, Gwyneth (photo: Dave M. Bennett, Getty Images)Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has come under attack for using the N-word when referring to a photo of two of her African American friends Jay-Z and Beyonce.
When partying on stage with the couple during a Jay-Z and Kanye Watch The Throne stop in Paris Friday, Paltrow tweeted a photo with the message, "Ni**as in paris for real @mrteiusnash (the dream) tyty, beehigh."
Many who took offense to Paltrow using the derogatory term slammed her online. Amanda Seales called Paltrow's comment "wreckless." A post on popular African American blog site, Bossip.com, said "Gwyneth might be getting a little too comfortable around her black friends …"
On Sunday, Paltrow defended using the word. "Hold up. It's the title of the song!" she said in response to a post from blogger B. Scott.
Gwyneth tweet [photo: WhoSay]"Single Ladies" producer The Dream came to Paltrow's defense. "WE GIVE THE WORD TO MUCH POWER!" he wrote on his Twitter page.
As an African American person, I agree that Paltrow's use of the N-word was inappropriate. But I believe I understand why she thought making the reference was okay.
During the U.S. run of Watch The Throne tour, Jay-Z and Kanye closed out the show with the infectious sing-along song. They performed 9 encores in Los Angeles the night I attended. If you've gone to a hip hop show, you know that crowd participation is mandatory.
Several years ago, I saw Kanye perform "Gold Digger" in concert. Part of the chorus goes, "I'm not saying she's a gold digger, but she ain't messing with no broke n-gga." Before Kanye performed the song, he told the crowd that they had his permission to use the N-word that night. I cringed amongst an audience of mostly non-African Americans.
Based on Paltrow's stage photo, she was likely caught up in the "N-ggas In Paris" moment, especially since the show was taking place in France.
But Paltrow isn't the only person confused about the etiquette for using the N-word. There's one simple rule. If you are not African American there is no instance for using the word that is not going to be taken offensively. It doesn't matter if you're friends with the most prominent African Africans on the planet, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Oprah or President Obama. Don't. Use. The. Word.