New York's resolution is not binding and merely calls on residents to stop using the slur. Leaders of the nation's largest city also hope to set an example.
Other municipalities have already passed similar measures in a debate that rose to a fever pitch late last year after "Seinfeld" actor Michael Richards spewed the word repeatedly at a comedy club in Los Angeles.
At New York's City Hall, supporters cheered passage of the resolution, with many of them wearing pins featuring a single white "N" with a slash through it.
Hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow Walker said blacks need to stop using the word so "we can elevate our minds to a better future."
Others argue that use of the word by blacks is empowering, that reclaiming a slur and giving it a new meaning takes away its punch. Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, for example, said he would not stop using the word, and did not see anything inappropriate about blacks using it within their own circles.
But in the uproar over Richards' outburst, black leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and California Rep. Maxine Waters said it is impossible to paper over the epithet's origins and ugly history of humiliating blacks. They challenged the public and the entertainment industry to stop using the epithet.
And can we please take poor Michael Richards out of the stockade. That he has become the emblem for racism is, well... deeply indicative of the real problem.
I absolutely believed Michael Richards when he said he was not a racist. I think that's why he upset people so much. He reminded us all of what lurks in our deep subconscious, in that dark place right next to our fears. A friend of mine calls them "isms." My friend is a gay man who speaks of his own subconscious homophobia. He points out that these are inculcated attitudes that we ideologically and intellectually deplore. They can snap to the surface when we're triggered, as Richards was, by aggressive heckling.
What's worse. Richards's meltdown -- explained beautifully by Elayne Boosler -- or this:
State Senators Robert Ford and Darrell Jackson are considered key black political leaders in South Carolina because they backed John Edwards in 2004 and managed to hand Edwards 37 percent of the vote in a state where half the primary voters are black.
For those of you who don't understand why we keep harping on early primaries, it's simple. If a presidential candidate wins an early primary state -- like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- deep-pocket donors keep funding their campaigns.
The losing candidates are well on their way to becoming also-rans.
So you tell me why Ford and Jackson found it necessary to tell reporters that they were driving Miss Hillary so early in the game.
"It's a slim possibility for [Obama] to get the nomination, but then everybody else is doomed," Ford told a reporter with the Associated Press on Tuesday.
"Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose because he's black and he's top of the ticket. We'd lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything," he said. "I'm a gambling man. I love Obama," Ford said. "But I'm not going to kill myself."
This, from a man who claims in his bio that from 1966 to 1972, at the height of the civil rights movement, he was arrested 73 times as a staff member with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Here's a tip. One has tangible consequences.
Anyone who thinks we can unwrite our "isms," or thoughtcrimes, by excising a word from the lexicon is naive. We would do better to grab hold of teachable moments, like Richards's outburst, and open a real dialog. Anything less is just sticking our fingers in our ears and going, "la, la, la, la!"