|On Beyond 'Niggardly': Hypocrisy at the NAACP (02/02/99 - dead link)
"STUPIDITY has no color but ignorance sure is transparent. And ignorance showed
through last week when Anthony Williams, the new black mayor of Washington, D.C., accepted
the resignation of Public Advocate David Howard, who is white. Howard's offense was
sounding offensive: In a staff meeting, he used a perfectly good word - ''niggardly'' - to
describe the administration of a fund.
"Mayor Williams' pitiful explanation for accepting Howard's resignation? ''I don't
think the use of [that n word] showed the kind of judgment that I like to see in our top
"In other words, Howard was, in the eyes of Mayor Williams, simply an educated fool
who should've known better than to use such an erudite word. A word, if you please, that
sounded so racially harsh in the ears of the ignorant and confused. After all, the mayor
is determined, he says, to be an arbiter of racial sensitivity, inasmuch as ''We're trying
to bring our city together.''
|Niggardly Update 9-4-02!
A teacher in North Carolina almost lost her job for teaching
her students about the perfectly good English word "Niggardly". See Niggardly in North Carolina
"Even the NAACP weighed in on Howard's side. NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond opined
that the precipitous acceptance of Howard's resignation was ''niggardly'' on Williams'
part. That was laying it on a bit thick, but Bond, the wordsmith, civil libertarian and
civil-rights leader, drew the headline he was seeking." (New York Post,
02/02/99 by Michael Myers)
Mayor Acted 'Hastily,' Will Rehire Aide (Thu., Feb.
4, 1999 - Washington Post)
"D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday that he will rehire a former top aide
who resigned last month because some city employees were offended that the aide used the
word "niggardly" in describing how he would have to manage a fund's tight
"Williams, whose quick acceptance of David Howard's resignation last month led to a
national debate over racial sensitivity and political correctness, indicated in a
statement yesterday that he had made a mistake and "acted too hastily" in
allowing Howard to resign as head of the city's constituent services office.
"The mayor said that an internal review had "confirmed for me that Mr. Howard
did use the word 'niggardly,' but did not use a racial epithet" during a Jan. 15
discussion with two employees of the Office of the Public Advocate. "Niggardly"
means miserly and has no racial connotation. Locally, [the controversy] focused
attention on Williams's discomfort over criticism from some black residents that he has
brought in too many white department managers who have little feel for their
The article also contains an excellent chronology of the 'niggardly' fiasco.
(Washington Post, 02/04/99, page A1, by Yolanda Woodlee)
[alt. version (dead link):
Demands 'Niggardly' be Prohibited at University of Wisconsin (02/03/99)
Student Amelia Rideau is upset that her professor used the 'N-ardly' word at least twice:
Once on Jan. 25 during a class on 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and once in
a subsequent class to explain the words meaning. Ms. Rideau was outraged, and
is demanding the UW implement a speech code which would punish anyone using what she
described as 'offensive' language - including the 'N-ardly' word. She urged the
university not to require proof of intent before punishing verbal villains such as her
According to the Star Tribune: "Upset about the word' s similarity to a racial slur,
Rideau talked to her professor, who then explained the word' s background, she said. On
Friday, the professor repeated the word and defined it for the class, Rideau said. Angry
he revisited the topic after she asked him not to, Rideau began to cry and stormed from
the room. On Monday, she brought three black friends with her to the class for support,
she said." (Associated Press, via Star Tribune 02/03/99)
Ancient Word Costs Man His Job
"[DC Mayoral aide] David Howard could have used the word ``miserly'' to describe how
he administered a Washington city government fund. Instead, he chose ``niggardly,'' and it
cost him his job. ``Niggardly'' means Scrooge-like. But it sounds a lot like a
racial slur, and a few of Howard's [uninformed] colleagues took offense.
"Mayor Anthony Williams, who is black, accepted the resignation of Howard, who is
white, saying initially that his aide showed poor judgment even though he 'didn't say
anything that was in itself racist.' [As an educated man, Mayor Williams should be
ashamed to offer this shallow and self-serving explanation.]
"The mayor backpedaled a bit Wednesday, the day after Howard resigned. The mayor said
an investigation was under way and Howard might return to the staff -- in a different job
-- if he's ultimately judged to have done nothing wrong.
" 'There's quite a bit of hubbub, quite a bit of buzz about it,' said Kojo
Nnamdi, black host of a public interest talk show. 'It's indicative of the state of
race relations in Washington. A simple explanation should have sufficed. When it comes to
race in Washington, apparently a simple explanation doesn't get it.' "
Indeed! (Associated Press, via Newsday.com, by Deb Riechmann, 01/28/99)
A waspish, niggardly
"slur" (02/08/99 - U.S. News)
"The nonimpeachment story of the last week of January was the controversy over the
word "niggardly." David Howard, a white mayoral aide in Washington, D.C., used
the word in conversation with a black official, who took offense because he felt that
niggardly, which means miserly or cheap, was a racist term. Howard offered his
resignation, which was accepted by Mayor Anthony Williams. The mayor explained that
although Howard didn't say 'anything that was in itself racist,' using a word
that could be misunderstood was like 'getting caught smoking in a refinery with a
"The resignation of Howard was, of course, a shock and a tragedy but it had a good
result too. It sensitized us all to the hidden and hurtful ethnic slurs that
darkenoops, sorrythat afflict American life and allow the wily perpetrators to
get off scot freeer, without any punishment at all." (U.S. News, 02/08/99
edition, by John Leo)
It wasn't the N-word!
(02/01/99) (dead link)
"Charles Dickens describes Bentley Drummle, a doomed character in 'Great
Expectations,' as 'idle, proud, niggardly, reserved, and suspicious.' In 1965,
dissenting from the Supreme Court's ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, Justice Hugo Black
argued that to treat the First Amendment 'as though it protects nothing but
'privacy' ... is to give it a niggardly interpretation, not the kind of liberal reading'
the Bill of Rights deserves. And in II Corinthians 9:6 (Revised Standard Version),
the apostle Paul writes: 'But do not forget that he who sows with a niggardly hand
will also reap a niggardly crop, and that he who sows bountifully will also reap
"It was in precisely this sense that [David] Howard used 'niggardly' on
Jan. 15 when he reviewed the constituent services budget with two of his aides, Marshall
Brown and John Fanning. 'I will have to be niggardly with this fund,' he
said, 'because it's not going to be a lot of money.'
"Apparently somebody had been niggardly with Brown's and Fanning's education, for
they were offended by what they heard. Brown - who reportedly wanted Howard's job -
stormed out of the office. At once the ugly rumors started. 'Niggardly' has
about as much to do with the N-word as 'Day-Glo' does with the anti-Italian slur 'dago.'
" (Boston Globe, 02/01/99, by Jeff Jacoby)
Resignation doesn't help
race relations (01/31/99)
"...the story about the local official in Washington, D.C., who quit his job last
week after a furor arose over his recent use of the word "niggardly." The
official, who is white, had told two co-workers that because of local budget problems, he
will have to be "niggardly" in his use of a certain fund this year.
"Niggardly, for the record, means miserly. It has always meant miserly. Niggardly has
no relation to that other word most of us find so offensive. Unfortunately, though,
the two people who heard the official's comments were unfamiliar with the word
"niggardly." They assumed it was a variation of that other word, and they
reacted in horror.
"The white official [David Howard] tried to explain. One of his co-workers accepted
his explanation. The other didn't. Soon, rumors began to spread about what he had said. So
he resigned. The new mayor of Washington, Anthony Williams, who is black, proceeded not
only to accept the resignation, but to call it appropriate.
"Which has led some prominent black leaders to applaud on the grounds that public
officials should be more sensitive and other black leaders to disagree on the grounds that
an innocent misunderstanding should not cost a man his job." (Cleveland Live,
A single word exposes
Washington racial tension (01/30/99) (dead link)
"[New DC Mayor Anthony] Williams' multiethnic and better-off backers saw his arrival
as ending the city's reputation as a national joke. But their bliss was short-lived. Less
than a month into his term, Williams finds himself in a public controversy after a white
aide used a word that sounded like a racial epithet.
"The word -- 'niggardly' -- means miserly or cheap and has no racial connotation. But
in a city with a 63 percent black majority, the misunderstanding quickly became public and
the aide resigned. In surer hands, the incident might have been dismissed as trivial and
meaningless. For Williams, who has had trouble navigating Washington's racial waters, the
episode resurrected a nagging question: Is he 'black enough'?
"Said James Wright, editor of the Afro-American, a black weekly newspaper in
Washington: 'The problem with Anthony Williams is that many people feel that a lot
of white people are pulling his strings. If you look at Tony Williams, he's a nerdy, geeky
type of person' ". (San Jose Mercury News, 01/30/99, by Tony Pugh and Tracey A.
Resigns in Language Dispute (01/27/99)
"The director of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams's constituent services office
resigned after being accused of using a racial slur, the mayor's office said
yesterday. David Howard, head of the Office of Public Advocate, said he used the
word 'niggardly' in a Jan. 15 conversation about funding with two employees.
" 'I used the word 'niggardly' in reference to my administration of a fund,'
Howard said in a written statement yesterday. 'Although the word, which is defined
as miserly, does not have any racial connotations, I realize that staff members present
were offended by the word. I immediately apologized,' Howard said. ' . . . I
would never think of making a racist remark. I regret that the word I did use offended
"When Howard, who is white, noticed the reaction to his use of the word, he
apologized to his three-member staff, which is made up of two blacks and another white. It
is unclear which two employees he was addressing when he used the word.
"Soon after the remark was uttered, the rumor mill started churning that Howard had
used the word 'nigger'." (Washington Post, 01/27/99, Page B1, by Yolanda
Mayor's white aide
resigns DC post for racial intolerance and ignorance (01/26/99)
"A member of the new [Washington, DC] mayor's executive staff resigned Tuesday
because of [extremely misplaced, ignorant, and uninformed] complaints he used a racial
epithet. But even as he stepped down, David Howard, who is white, said the word he used -
``niggardly'' - does not have any racial connotation. [Indeed, the word has NO racial
" 'Mr. Howard's resignation was prompted by reports that he made an inappropriate
racial comment,' Mayor Anthony Williams said in a statement Tuesday night. In a
separate statement, Howard identified the word he used as 'niggardly' and said he was
referring to a fund he administers. Howard said it means 'miserly'. [Which is true:
niggardly does mean miserly, or cheap.]
"Webster's Tenth Edition concurs, defining it as 'grudgingly mean about spending or
granting.' The dictionary dates its use to the late 16th century.
"Because the word sounds like a racial epithet [i.e., it sounds like 'nigger'],
Howard said, he realized other members of the mayor's staff present when he made the
remark were offended. He said he quickly apologized." (Associated Press, via
Boston Herald, 01/26/99)
NAACP Chairman Critical of
Mayor in Washington Word Flap (01/28/99
- dead link)
"The chairman of the NAACP says Washington Mayor Anthony Williams acted in a
'niggardly' way by accepting the resignation of an aide who offended some people by using
that word in a conversation. 'You hate to think you have to censor your language to
meet other people's lack of understanding,' Julian Bond said today, noting
'niggardly'' means stingy and has no offensive connotation even though it sounds similar
to a slur.
" 'This whole episode speaks loudly to where we are on issues of race. Both real and
imagined slights are catapulted to the front burner.' " Julian Bond went on to
say " 'Seems to me the mayor [Anthony Williams] has been niggardly in his judgment on
this issue,' Bond said pointedly by phone.
"In addition to being chairman of the largest civil rights organization, Bond, who is
black, teaches at the University of Virginia and is a student of language. 'We have
a hair-trigger sensibility and I think that is particularly true of racial
minorities,' he said. 'These affronts do happen, they are expected to happen,
and even innocent parties can find themselves victims.' " (Associated Press,
via Fox News 01/28/99, by Deb Riechmann)
Race Mix-Up Raises Havoc for
Capital (01/29/99) (dead link)
"The new black Mayor's decision to accept the resignation of a white aide who upset a
black colleague by using the word "niggardly" has turned into a major
embarrassment for the young administration.
"The decision of the Mayor, Anthony A. Williams, has been widely criticized from all
sides: blacks who already questioned his loyalty and think he is wishy-washy in saying now
that he may rehire the aide for another post, blacks who think he was unfair to an upright
public servant, whites who see the move as pandering, conservatives on a crusade against
political correctness and gay activists who say he might have given the aide, David
Howard, the Mayor's first openly gay appointee, a minute to explain before sending him on
"[David] Howard, who was the mayoral ombudsman, used the word on Jan. 15 in a budget
discussion with two co-workers. "I will have to be niggardly with this fund because
it's not going to be a lot of money," he said. (NY Times 01/29/99 by Melinda
In the new America, defining
dumb down (01/29/99)
Times): "The crime of David William Howard is that he paid attention in
high-school English class. He "acted white," in the argot of inner-city black
kids (but since he is white surely he can be excused). When he used a perfectly good
English word in a meeting with two subordinates -- one white, and one black who wanted his
job -- the black subordinate said he heard him make a racial slur. Two weeks later, after
a campaign of racial vilification, Mr. Howard resigned. The word Mr. Howard used was
"The subordinate, a black man named Brown, apparently presumed that
"niggardly" was the equivalent of "niggerly," though the words
"niggardly" and "nigger" are not remotely related; indeed, no one has
ever heard of an adverbial form of the ugly corruption of the word "Negro,"
which only yesterday was the word educated people --Martin Luther King, for example --
used to describe persons of African descent. (Washington Times, by Wesley Pruden,
Editor in Chief, 01/29/99)
END of DC Niggardly Controversy.