Friday, September 07, 2007

Nigger Doesn't Live Here Anymore




















This nig..um African-American might as well start looking for a new job right now.



Apparently, not even black people can use the "N-word" anymore.

That's what Eddie "Undercover Brother" Griffin found out during a performance at a Black Enterprise Magazine sponsored event in Doral, Florida last week. Griffin, who's built his career on embracing and fleshing out embarrassing racial stereotypes, was pulled off of the stage after repeatedly dropping the N-bomb in front of a crowd presumably comprised predominately of middle and upper middle class black folks. This episode comes fresh on the heels of the NAACP holding a mock funeral for the word. I guess Eddie didn't get the memo.

Wow. OK. My first reaction to this news was wishing I could have been there to see the look on Eddie Griffin's face. PRICELESS, I'm sure. He's probably still wondering what he did wrong. 'What kind of topsy-turvy world am I inhabiting,' he must be saying to himself, 'when I can't repeatedly refer to my fellows as n-words?' My second reaction was wondering what the hell the organizers of the event were expecting. I mean, they booked him right? I can't imagine him just happening to be there, milling around in the crowd, and deciding to jump on stage and nigger it up, for lack of a better description. Hadn't they seen any of his stand up? Did they find him in the yellow pages? Were they expecting him to pull out a sledgehammer and start smashing watermelons? Honestly, I almost feel sorry for Eddie Griffin. For going on two decades he's been allowed, no encouraged (rewarded with money, fame, movie roles, etc.) for doggedly sticking to his routine. He's never bothered evaluating himself about his usage of the word, or any of his other coonery, because, for one, he hasn't had to and for two, he's not a top-tier comedian.

All of the great stand-up geniuses, at one time or another, come to a point at which they question their own integrity. The dearly departed Richard Pryor, in whose godly image current black comedians have unsuccessfully attempted to mold themselves, went to Africa at the height of his popularity, came back home, publicly retired the word from his vocabulary, and said simply "I didn't see any niggers in Africa." Chris Rock, whose penetrating, Bring The Pain routine, "Black Folks versus Niggers," regenerated his career in the mid-'90s, decided that he would no longer perform it because he feared it was being misinterpreted. Most recently, Dave Chappelle, the man whom Pryor said reminded him most of himself, completely abandoned his show once he began feeling that some (himself included) were confusing his art with minstrelsy. Ironically, in Griffin's best work, DysFunktional Family, he pays homage to Pryor and refers to him as the greatest comic of all time. Yet, apparently, although Griffin was heavily influenced by his idol, he and other black comics of his generation failed to pick up on one of Richard Pryor's most important lessons.

One More Thing: In this Post-Nigger World of mock funerals, bum-rushed comics and almost daily Al Sharpton grandstanding, I can't help but wonder if we're fighting the wrong battle. I know, of course, the power of hate words. They are, as Saul Williams articulated "shards of metal DROPPED from eight story windows." But I'm still left cold by this suddenly amped up movement to cull the word from our collective vocabulary and cast it down the memory hole. Perhaps it's because it seems to be yet another way for the black middle/upper middle class - who're at the heart of this campaign - to police the actions of the people beneath them. Maybe it's the dull realization that eliminating the n-word won't put the kibbosh on white people's usage of it. Or maybe it's because, as Breez (she's brilliant, check her out) puts it, "Zero tolerance almost always equates to zero Negro tolerance." Just ask Eddie Griffin.

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5 Comments:

At 8:34 AM , Blogger Rich said...

I know it’s probably not cool to post urls here but I really think this link ties in nicely to this discussion. I shot most of it last week right before Edie worked his comedy magic in Miami.

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid900837105?bclid=900668361&bctid=1178178663

 
At 10:38 PM , Blogger Clifton said...

I have mixed emotions about things like this. On the one hand I think comedians and other entertainers have based thier whole act solely on the use of the N-Word and that has caused America to get too comfortable with it. On the other hand, I am afraid that the deep rooted social and economic problems black people have in this country are being minimized by too many symbolic stands like the N-Word funeral. The challenge is going to be how do we get a balance.

 
At 10:51 AM , Blogger John said...

Wow, Eddie got booted off stage eh? First I heard of that.I definitely have mixed emotions about the word. As for myself, I have let it become ingrained in my psyche and vernacular just as America has. Therefore, I am guilty of spreading the poison as well so it would be hypocritical of me to damn the usage of it now. However, when I look at my son and think about my 2nd son soon to arrive, I KNOW it is not a word that I want coming out of their mouths regardless of the context. The sheer thought of my children being subject to the N-Word hurts me at the core and I only I have the power to stop that feeling. Ever since the "psuedo-funeral" of the N-Word my wife and I have made concerted efforts to lessen our use of the word in our lives. I have to admit, it hasn't been easy. We have been trying to substitute the word "brother" or "sister" or "dude." Anything to help us quell the usage. All we can do is our part and raise our children to do theirs. That is our contribution. And although we felt the funeral for the N-Word was rather silly, it was still a good display of symbolism that it was time to put an "old and dying friend" to rest.

Peace,
Brotha

 
At 9:38 AM , Blogger Breez said...

*blushing @ the compliment*

I saw Eddie Griffin on some show (Geraldo maybe? Don't judge me, I was flipping.) The word according to Eddie, is that he said "nigga" twice. Now, there are some who feel that's two times too many, but I just figured I'd add a context. In the spirit of Eddie Murphy in raw, he didn't "give a [nigga] show."

But seriously, wasn't inviting that dude tantamount to having Jenna Jameson host a church picnic - then getting pissed because she dipped off and blew the deacon?

"Maybe it's the dull realization that eliminating the n-word won't put the kibbosh on white people's usage of it." Ya KNOW! I'm not sure where the white-people-say-it-because-we-say-it mentality comes from. Was a "Nigger Usage Waiver" found amongst slave documents and I was not notified?

The use of this word in entertainment stems from one of the oldest humor tricks in the book: take what is most hurtful and use it as a weapon. To a certain extent, it's a coping mechanism.

Frankly, if you don't approve of something, that's well and good, but the "set-up" of a semi-famous comedian does NOT a political statement make. Sorry Black Enterprisers. It's actually kinda wack. Could this time not have been spent trying to figure out why black children in the South are receiving disproportionately harsher sentences for school infractions (read: Shaquanda Cotton, Jena 6)? Since they're business folks, maybe discussing banding together with other minority groups would have been a good idea? (Latino, Middle Eastern - contrary to popular belief, these people do not ALL hate us. Ever think how misinformation like that gets spread? Hmmm.) Or, just for shits and giggles, maybe they could have discussed why crimes against black people go notoriously unpunished (and slaps on the wrists are NOT punishment) and that the only seeming hope for improvement is if we somehow learn to morph into dogs?

Okay...this comment has run waaaay too long. My bad.

 
At 9:41 AM , Blogger Changeseeker said...

I am SO glad to read this. Aside from being really funny and really true, it's exactly what I was thinking when I heard about what happened to Griffin. I felt sorry for him. It seemed to me like a set-up -- for exactly the reasons you so hilariously outline. They absolutely KNEW who they were hiring and then they chose to slap him down in public. It had to be devastating to him on so many levels (personally, professionally, etc.). Still and all, I guess we learn what we learn one way or the other. If we don't pay attention, we get the lesson a little stronger. At least, that's been my experience. But I hadn't heard anyone else say what you've said. Thanks.

 

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