Hodgepodge atorium 12.08.03

Nigger

Six letters. Six letters yet it has the power of a thousand alphabets. You’ve heard that when separate components are combined, the can become more powerful that the sum of their parts. Those six letters exemplify this theory. Those six letters in that combination become more than a word, they become a weapon, a philosophy, a symbol of a tragedy that occurred before any of us were born, yet a reminder that it did.

Clearly with a word this powerful there are a variety of opinions on it’s use (and since it s primarily a Black/white issue we will focus on those opinions.)

Many Blacks and whites agree that the word is a slur, and generally refrain from using it. They acknowledge it’s history, and understand it’s power. If you use that word, in any variation around them, you will be greeted with a uneasiness, and appalled stares. For these people, the word conjures up memories of hate and fills them with a feeling that escapes description. These people don’t particularly care for the word.

Now there are other whites (and some Blacks) who fully acknowledged the strength of those six letters yet still use the word. They use it in the vain attempt of de-powering the word, to rob it of it’s sting. Their belief is that to deny the word of it’s power is to make the world a better place and create help heal the racial divide in the country.

Then there are those Blacks who use the word indiscriminately, as others would use the terms “guy” or “man.” When it’s used amongst them, while it may not be a team of endearment it is certainly one of camaraderie. Some of them even allow close white associates in on the fun. But if a white from outside their circle say the word all of it’s power returns usually to the detriment of that person.

Which brings us to those whites that are oblivious to the power in those six letters. Those people are so enamored with Black American culture (the music, the fashion, the attitude) that they almost feel entitled to use the word. After all the word pops up frequently in their favorite Hip Hop songs. And they aren’t saying it in a mean way, and they are down with the culture, why shouldn’t they be able to say it?

Um, because they’re white.

Now I’m assuming that English is the first language of everyone reading this, but if English isn’t your first language perhaps you can help me prove a point. In a country where we have an insanely complex language, with frustratingly difficult grammar rules, that don’t always apply, why is it so difficult for whites to realize that it is never ok for that word to cross their lips? If our brains can process homonyms and synonyms then surely whites can understand that context is hugely important when that word is used.

First and foremost, there is no slur that is comparable to Nigger. I could run down a list of slurs and none of them has the same impact as those six letters. But more specifically no slur against whites has the same impact. Except maybe cracker, because that does dreg up memories of when whites were stolen from the fatherland, and had their families torn apart for the financial benefit of Tanzania. Oh wait, that never happened.

It really is different if two Black guys say it to each other. Now maybe whites can’t understand this because they don’t think communally or as a race, but the underlying notion is that one can’t be talking down to the other because he is essentially talking about his “brother.” When used between two Blacks that word serves as a link, a verbal connection that links all sons and daughters of slavery. That word is a constant reminder of what transpired hundreds of years ago, and why they are where they are at that precise moment. It is a uniquely American concept, the unification through shared suffering.

What is really amusing is when whites claim that it takes a sick mindset for two Blacks to say it to each other, as though these people are unaware that words can have multiple meanings. Sometimes “bass” is an instrument, and sometimes it’s a fish. When a white person says those six letters the message received it “Black, less than me.” When to Blacks use the word the message is “Black, just like me.” I just find it odd that a white person is trying to verse a Black person on the heritage of the N word.

Whites need to understand everyone isn’t allowed to do everything. Guys can call women “bitches” and get away with it (unless you are a rapper or gay.) Women can joke with each other like that. They can call each other “slut” and “whore” and be just kidding. But the second those words come from a person with a penis the entire context changes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel that the N word should be as prevalent as it is today. It has certainly gotten out of control, as whites are now using it among themselves, and not in the good ol’ boy way either. I guess on some level that is a good thing, but I’m completely against it. I’m really afraid that five years from now the N word will be said on prime time television and no one will care, just as bitch is today.

Those six letters must retain their power. There are very few direct remnants of slavery. We read about what happened in books, and watch the occasional movie on the subject. But that word has the power to bring that horror to the tip of your tongue. Hearing that word from white lips is the closest that we will ever get to being in our ancestors shackles. If that word is allowed to lose its charge, then it’s like forgetting what happened all those years ago. It’s like forgiving for something no one made amends for.

Now knowing the response that the word brings up, you have to imagine the heart of the white person who uses it in anger. That person is intentionally trying to harm it’s recipient. No white person can claim ignorance to the meaning behind that word.

I have been open with my views that Eminem needs to make amends for saying the word in a rhyme. Some people have pointed out the Fat Joe and J-Lo both said the word with little or no outcry. There are two differences. The first and most important is the context. Clearly Em said the word as an insult, and Joe and J-lo were speaking in the vernacular. The other is that despite the J-lo and Fat Joe are both Puerto Rican. Remember what I said earlier about the “shared suffering?” The N word coming from a Puerto Rican doesn’t pack the same punch, because they probably have a cousin that resembles you to an extent. And they didn’t even use it in that context.

Have I used the word? Yes. I have when in the company of friends. I don’t use it often it rarely comes out. But I’m careful never to say it around whites; lest they get the impression that it’s cool to say to me.

So to summarize whites can’t say the N word, and it should never lose its power. And if you think that saying whites shouldn’t be allowed to say a certain word makes me racist, then you seriously need to get your head checked. Seriously.