Countless groups of people do the same thing. Call it self-defense or a sense of humor if you like. The same word can mean different things when said by different people or in different situations, and this is no exception. To a lot of people, nigga and nigger mean very different things.
And I don’t think pizzabrat was calling you racially biased. The bias was about the issue of “why can black people use the word?”
I really don’t think it’s a black/white concrete issue with a general set of rules and protocol. The most accurate generalization you could make the word “nigger” is that it’s a slur. And a participant in polite society doesn’t go around using slurs comfortably. Other than that, you just have to take individuals as individuals, which is why it’s pointless to try to get us to extrapolate the intentions of your friends and the random blacks you’ve overheard using the term. Maybe (probably) they’re just crass, boorish people who don’t give much thought to what they say in general, and it’s not more complex than that.
When I go to gay events the comedian nearly always uses the following words: homos, queens, fairies, and fags. Especially the latter. I have Arabic friends who call each other “terrorists” or “Araaybs” (poking fun at the offensive mispronunciation of the word by many people in the U.S). If you were to say that to them and you were not apart of their group, they’d probably be offended.
Unfortunately pizzabrat’s comment about Black Enterprise, a magazine which caters to educated, high middle class blacks, went underappreciated. You’re more likely to find blacks like Obama, Cosby, Winfrey subscribing to Black Enterprise than you would someone like Lil’ Jon or Eddie Griffin. The pulling of Eddie Griffin wasn’t an attempt to shield the audience from the “N-word” it was probably because no one in the audience thought it was funny. This may surprise you, but most educated, affluent blacks don’t sit outside with a forty ounce peeling off the N-word with their homeboys. Sorry to disappoint.
You know how some employers have overly-restrictive rules that everyone ignores, but can be grounds for dismissal? Those are to give a valid reason to fire somebody that the entire staff absolutely hates (or, in this case, isn’t funny), but can’t come up with an otherwise valid reason for dismissal.
Next up? Martin Lawrence!
Now, if Comedy Central would only do this to Carlos Mencia.
Hey, I was a bad comedian once. I’ll take a shot at answering the OP.
In my view, if anyone should have been mindful of Lenny Bruce’s admonition with respect to the word, it was Eddie Griffin. And he wasn’t. Quite the opposite.
Lenny Bruce advocated the defusing of an inflammatory word, and the method he suggested was that it be used consistently, prosaically, matter-of-factly, by persons of every color, by authorities and celebrities as well as middle America and what is now humorously called the “street,” in an effort to normalize it and rob it of its power to shock or offend.
Eddie Griffin, in his role as comedian/would-be iconoclast, used the word not to sap it of its shock value but to exploit it, as he has countless times in the past and undoubtedly will countless times in the future. If the word “nigger” were ever to lose its evil magic, if our visceral reaction to it disappeared, it would likewise vanish from the repertoire of the Eddie Griffins of the world, and (mostly) they would fade away shortly after.
The people who run Black Enterprise might have liked Lenny Bruce’s thoughtful and humane take on the word just fine, I think. The fact that they didn’t rally round Griffin’s flogging of the word as a combination punch line/identity balloon/verbal tic hardly puts them on the wrong side of the debate.