Sunday, July 16, 2006

Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished, That Is!

The Next Logical Step In The Evolution Of The Brand

I’d like to begin by saying that this is one of those topics that I generally try to avoid. Not because I think it’s completely unimportant. It’s just that I assume it should be obvious to everyone that white folks who don’t want to be mistaken for Klan members or neo-Nazis should avoid using the term nigger – or any of its derivatives – like they avoid E. Lynn Harris novels. Of course, by now, I should know better than to assume. I received this little gem in my email inbox a few days ago.

Now, I can almost hear some of my brethren saying, “See!?!?!? If WE didn’t use the term so liberally, then white folks wouldn’t have any excuse!” I’ve heard a few white people make this claim myself. After all, nigger is one of the few words that many of them still dare not say in mixed company. For well-meaning whites, it’s become taboo. So, when they hear some black people using it without forethought, they feel, somehow, cheated. They think that if it’s OK for us to use, it should be OK for them. Fair is fair.

Forgive me for saying so, but this is simply bullshit. White people have never needed any rationale for applying the term nigger to those of us with dark skin. Even if every loudmouth knucklehead and Post-Tupac MC on the planet placed a moratorium on the usage of the word, many white folks would still (some amongst themselves, some not) gleefully refer to black folks as niggers.

Fundamentally, I think that many of them are simply fascinated by the word and the power that they have, when they use it, to disrupt the equilibrium of black folks and others who might be offended by it. The word nigger, in the mouth of a white person, is a grenade. I don’t know of any black person who wouldn’t react to it, to one degree or another, if he or she overheard a white person saying it. Even those of us who haven’t the words to articulate it inherently know that when a white person says “nigger” he or she is affirming kidnapping, The Middle Passage, slavery, rape, murder, castration, branding, mutilation, lynching, eugenics, Jim Crow, white supremacy, segregation, Plessy v. Ferguson, Poll Taxes, dogs, hoses, profiling, etc. In short, whenever a white person, no matter how thoughtlessly, uses the term, they are shouting, “WHITE POWER,” loudly and decisively.

I have the feeling that this teacher who casually called his student a “nigga” knew exactly what he was doing. Even if he heard thousands of his black students inquire of each other, “Can a nigga borrow a pencil?” he should have known that this didn’t give him any unwritten permission to invoke the term. He was simply doing what whites have done for hundreds of years. It’s just too bad that he’ll probably get away with it.

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At 5:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I don't even know what words to say...

At 10:57 AM , Blogger Changeseeker said...

When I first saw this bit of film, the show "Black.White." was all up in the news, including a segment that had to do with the White guy on the show wanting to use the n-word. I said what I had to say about the matter here.

In a nutshell, I totally agree with you. The school teacher in question, in my opinion, called himself trying to look hip, slick, and cool to his students and it backfired all over him. The thing that kills me about it, though, is that even after the fact of his suspension, he was still trying to explain himself. As if! Anyone with one ounce of consciousness would have said, "My bad," sat down and shut up. But noooo, he's White. He's gotta wave his ignrnt ass all over the television, humiliating himself and everybody else who looks like him.


At 3:17 PM , Blogger Breez said...

I would have felt better if he had just said, "I just always wanted to call a student a nigga."

Thanks for visiting my joint.

At 3:51 PM , Blogger Stephen Bess said...

It's a word that the racist system created so they feel at liberty to use it. We just took it and made it our own like basketball. The post was very thought provoking. I use to write thought provoking post??? What's happening to me? :)

At 6:06 PM , Blogger Professor Zero said...

Good God. He is being disingenuous. Of course he knows what he is doing. Can this really be the first time he's been called on it?

At 11:16 PM , Anonymous The Mad Rapper said...

He used a slang word that is used by his students, apparently, in the same manner that they use it. White people are told that they can't use any form of that word, apparently he didn't get the memo.
A word is just a word. The context in which the word is used, and the intent of the user is what gives the word meaning, in my opinion.
A somewhat similar situation happened in Major League Baseball where the manager of the Chicago White Sox called a reporter a fag. I say similar because it's controversy over a word, not the intent or context of the word, just the fact that the word was used.
A lot of people are just too damn sensitive. Take a deep breath people, relax.

At 12:46 AM , Blogger Professor Zero said...

apparently he didn't get the memo

everyone has, and he will have done for sure, being his age and a schoolteacher

intent of the user is what gives the word meaning

if you've been asked not to use it and you do, part of your intent is to disregard the request of the person or people it offends

[that is part of plain old manners, no reason why those shouldn't apply to this situation]

At 11:06 AM , Blogger David E. Patton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:57 AM , Blogger David E. Patton said...

I hear black people use the word and I ask why?
One brother once told me that we as black peoples have the right to clam the word as our own. But the word was given to us, we didn't come up with it and then the white man took it over. As a poet I know the power of words and there as few words as charged as the one in question. I don’t think that anybody should use it but, as black folk use the word we poet are bound to reflect it in our poetry. I have written a poem about the word which can be found on my site and I think that it says it all. Its not like we are reclaiming the word from white, it is their word not our and I disagree with its use by any one (unless they are bringing attention to the word). As a black gay man I feel the same way about the word fag and punk. Maybe my age is showing but I have never been one to use any of the words mention unless I was try to focus attention on the word themselves Good post man I am glad that I came across your site. Peace

At 11:34 PM , Blogger hexyhex said...

I keep having people tell me not to get upset when white people use that word around me because "it doesn't have the same implications in Australia."

Black is black. Racist is racist. It's an awful, racially loaded word regardless of who is saying it and who is listening.

At 4:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends, if some white guy says to a black guy "hey nigga, sup man" or sumthin like that he obviously isnt trying to be racist, its how the black person takes it, Sure u can get all pissed off but isnt u gettin angry at a white person for saying a word a form of rasicm so u would be a pretty big hypocrit if u did get pissed. On the other hand if it is used to desriminate than that is just plain out racism, but i will add it usually isnt used to discrminate.


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