OK to Say Negro
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Ford here defends his usage of the word ‘negro’ and unflinchingly states that race relations in the U.S. will only improve if we stop “tippy-toeing around each other for fear that we’ll give somebody alarm.”
Ford feels that one of the responsibilities of writers is that of language and quotes French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who said that “writers are supposed to renew the language of the tribe.” Mentioning the ‘United Negro College Fund’ as an example, Ford maintains that he does not consider the usage of ‘negro’ to be pejorative. When people – for political reasons – want to remove the word from the vocabulary, he is adamant: “I refuse to take it out of the vocabulary until somebody can tell me something other than they themselves feel perfectly offended by it.”
Richard Ford (b. 1944) is an American novelist and short story writer. Among his best-known works are his short story collection ‘Rock Springs’ (1987), the novel ‘Canada’ (2012) as well as the novel ‘The Sportswriter’ (1986) (proclaimed by Time Magazine to be one of the 100 best novels written in English) and its sequels ‘Independence Day’ (1995), ‘The Lay of the Land’ (2006) and ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’ (finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction - 2014), all featuring Frank Bascombe. Ford is the recipient of several prestigious awards such as the 2013 Prix Femina Étranger (for ‘Canada’), 2001 PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in short fiction, the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award (for ‘Independence Day’) and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (for ‘Independence Day’).
Richard Ford was interviewed by Synne Rifbjerg at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2015. The novel referred to during the interview is ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’ (2014) by Richard Ford.
Camera: Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015
Supported by Nordea-fonden