The ugliest part of the ugly Miami Dolphins mess is the way in which at least one white player called an African American teammate about the worst thing a non-black can call a black person, under the assumption that rather than a slur, the n-word is all part of unexceptional locker room banter.

Here's the rule:  Save for rare circumstances, nobody who isn't black should ever direct the word at anyone.  Period.  It's also lousy and offensive for blacks to use it, but that's another matter for another moment.

By "rare circumstances," I'm thinking of occasions, for example, in which playwrights or screenwriters deem using the word artistically essential, but not much more frequently than that. 

Is this rule an example of P.C. in overdrive?  Not close, as it's fundamentally a matter of historically required decency, and anyone who doesn't grasp the difference has less than a sliver of a clue about our country's past of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow and what African Americans were called during each every day.

One might hope that Americans, regardless of race, both in and out of locker rooms, would be sufficiently respectful of fellow citizens (and others) not to sling historically suffused epithets.  Or if not virtuous enough, than at least educated sufficiently.

Mitch Pearlstein is founder and president of Center of the American Experiment, a nonpartisan, tax-exempt, public policy and educational institution committed to building a culture of prosperity for Minnesota and the nation.