Hey, I don’t know if I actually have any regular readers, but if I do, don’t worry I will have something for you to read in the future. This column however will be handed over to the hardest working man over at 411Music, Evocator Manes. Take it away.-mathan
A word that incites passion, typically of an angry sort and probably not particularly the best way to start off a column, yet there is no point in shying away from a subject just because it is uncomfortable. Mathan Erhardt, a fellow 411mania Music Zone writer that I consider a friend of mine, has chosen to address this word and its place in the world in one of his 411 Black columns. Go read that first, so this, what I write here, makes sense.
Before I redress his many points, some background. Mathan has managed to acquire the sentiment, if not the label, of “reactionary”, based on the flashpoint hair-trigger of his opposition to potential prejudice among the 411Music Zone staff. Maybe the tag is deserved, maybe not, but, Mathan remains unafraid to take a stance that he believes is right, even a grossly unpopular one. I respect him for this, Hell, I even admire him. I myself am no stranger to controversy or to unpopular stances. But, while Mathan has been treading and steadily soldiering this ground in the 411 Music Zone and now in 411 Black, it appears he has not grasped one critical element on this entire “nigger” word subject, which I will now supply for you and for him. Mathan is wrong.
His internet “voice”, if you will, reminds me of the militant black empowerment character from the brilliant Barbershop movie, easily one of the most staggeringly superb films of the past 50 years and one that nearly everyone slept on. If you haven’t seen the movie, you know the type (and apologies to Mathan if this does not fit him), the “too black, too strong” figurehead. This character was very well written in the movie, as it successfully captured the essence of many of the prime movers, at least in their minds, in the so-called “Black Movement”. As it turned out in the movie and in reality, many of them were not as all knowing, all seeing or intelligent as they styled themselves. A wise man once said that the Black Movement will have to punch, kick, scratch, claw and struggle its way to equality. It will have to fight harder than anybody else for smaller gains and the struggle may never end. Those words are prophetic and still as true today as ever. The attitude of ignorance forces this difficulty; the Movement fights itself while it fights on behalf of itself.
It is perhaps one of the most telling points to find, again and again all movements, while professing to be seeking equality and fairness, ultimately seek the chair of perceived superiority that someone other than themselves resides in. Ignoring the inherent duplicity and hypocrisy, to achieve equality, there definitely has to be fighting of some sort. History has well established that. However, once gains are made or achieved or created or obtained somehow, the thing to do is NOT to immediately regress. Valuation of a negative, in this case, “nigger”, diminishes gains.
Mathan somehow believes that the word nigger should be restricted from whites, but fails to realize that as long as a word is kept in circulation, it is available for everyone to use. While this attitude is at least borderline racist or perhaps colorist to insist on such a rule with race/color as the sole motive, it is also mind-shatteringly stupid. Nigger is not a nice word. Nigger was never designed to be a nice word. Trying to use nigger as a nice word equates to gross ignorance. Nigger was never even designed to be racist. Nigger was meant to be a demeaning term for someone stupid, lazy or shiftless, in general not of any worth. Why would you want to keep it?
Mathan also feels the word should retain its power (and this will only happen if the f*cking whites will just stop saying it, but this is NOT a racist attitude). His equation translates to this: Black person saying nigger = brother, friend. White person saying nigger = inferior. What Mathan does not realize is that every time it is used, no matter who is the speaker, it means exactly how I described it in the paragraph above, no exceptions. Instead of just letting it drop from circulation entirely, which will NOT happen until everyone stops using it, Mathan wants to keep it as some sort of secret stealth weapon, similar maybe to magic words (instead of Alakazam, Open Sesame, maybe Alakazam, Open Nigger?) or nuclear weapons (stop or we shall unleash our ICBMNB, “Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile Nigger Bombs” on your ass?).
The esteemed Mr. Erhardt also would like Eminem to be crucified for using nigger on an unreleased track buried in a pile of other shit, yet is content to let Fat Joe and J-Ho ride for the exact same thing, even though theirs was released commercially. Mathan’s rationale is, get this, J-Ho and Fat Joe are not white and they may possibly have a cousin who kind of looks black sorta in the right light maybe potentially. Yet, Mathan is not racist for holding this view.
Come the f*ck on. So, is it ok for Chinese or Vietnamese to say nigger? If no, why not? They are not white. Maybe it is ok, Lord knows they have never been the oppressors or anything. What if it is a white kid raised in the ghetto with black kids? Should we dig up Joseph Conrad and burn his bones for titling a book The Nigger Of Narcissus? Should we banish from hearts and mind the writings of Mark Twain, William Faulkner and nearly any other of the turn of the century “classic” authors for usage of that same word?
Before accusations start flying, let me head a few things off at the pass. When I first started writing on the net 5+ years ago, many people thought I was black. While I have never directly answered that, I doubt that is the case now, as I have been pushing the death metal front and everyone knows black people don’t like death metal. Black people can’t like death metal (for now, we will just ignore the fact that there is a death metal band composed of black cats, who are very good at it). If blacks act like they like death metal or any metal at all, they aren’t true. They’re frontin’. EM says f*ck all that. I refuse to address my race on the Internet. I never will, but not because I am ashamed. It is because I believe my race does not matter and I will continue to operate under that belief until the day I die. It doesn’t matter whether the fingers typing this and the skull that holds the mind behind it all is black, brown, red, white or otherwise.
There is a philosophical type saying that goes something along the lines of “wish for something hard enough to be true and it will be. Act as if it is and it is.” This is not idle dreaming; this is actively shaping your life. If you want equality, act as if you already have it and you will either be treated equal or often, better than equal, but there can never be a let up. One has to constantly be on guard for closet racism, but YOUR attitude will influence more than you may realize. If you want equality, start with yourself. Running around dropping nigger, then screaming racism if someone white repeats it or cracks an off-color joke will set off people’s bullshit detector and they will see you as fake or stupid, possibly both, likely both. You will be seen as a joke.
If you feel that the title, license and right to say certain words should be dictated due to skin color, face the facts. You ARE a f*cking racist, playing by exactly the same rules as those who would restrict voting, ownership of land and citizenship. If you want to say “brother”, “friend”, “comrade”, whatever, why not just say that, then? Maybe because railing against whites for using a “restricted” word would be much harder to come by if that happened. Maybe whites would start calling blacks “brother”, “man” or worse yet, something from their own vernacular, “dude”.
Mathan, you seem like an intelligent guy, so maybe this whole thing is a play to f*ck with people. If, you do believe that other bullshit as truth, sorry as I am to say it, you are indeed racist. If you think my head needs checking, come do it. Seriously. I ain’t hard to find. Or we can debate it on AIM and put it here.
And debate we shall. But dude you were so way off base calling me intelligent. That was really uncalled for, and possibly unforgivable.
Now we go to another well-written response, while not a column per say, I did feel the need to share it, as it certainly got me thinking. â€“mathan
I’d like you to imagine, for a minute, a different world:
In this world, that ugly six-letter word with the double-g – “Nigger” – never lost its original meaning of hate. It was never watered down by rap stars, by street kids tossing it about as a term of camaraderie. It never reached the point where it was so co-opted by it’s intended victims, where it became so depowered, that it could actually be turned back around to where white people, certain white people, could be “allowed” to use it in this “new way”. It never reached the point where Everlast would call Ice-T “my nigga” â€“ or perhaps even stranger, vice-versa. It retained all of its hateful power. Beyond, even. Instead of being depowered by its victims, the aggressors took the word and made it even worse. They said, “the nigger is so far beneath us, that to be referred to as one would be the greatest insult to a white man” – and so white men would toss the word out with hate not just at black men and black women, but at each other – for a white man to be called “nigger” in a bar would be reason enough to smash a beer bottle and stick it in someone’s neck.
But then, as with allpowerful words, overuse caused it to lose power anyway. It went from a serious insult to a casual one. And now, in the present day, in this other world, you can walk into any bar and watch Lilly-white frat boys push each other around, calling each other “stupid nigger” and giggling. And a black man sits at the bar, thinking, â€œthey use me – ME – as a way of saying â€˜you are less than I'” – and he could say something to them but he doesn’t. What, he’s gonna walk up to a group of frat boys who think so low of him, who have dehumanized him and all his kind and say, “hey, you offend me!” – he’s not up to having his ass kicked for being black. Better to sit quietly, and not draw attention. It’s just the way the world is.
And maybe – maybe it’s JUST offensive enough that you won’t, say, hear it on TV. But maybe it’ll be alluded to – pro wrestlers will play up their opponents as weak by maybe – just kinda suggesting, but not saying – that maybe they might be a little “black”, wink wink to the audience. And the audience, not having to follow the rules the entertainers do, might chant “NIG-GER, NIG-GER!” when said opponent takes the stage. And maybe there’s a black family watching at home thinking how WRONG this is, and they complain, but hey, it’s entertainment, it’s commercials, it’s CD sales. And hey, it’s just the way the world is.
It could be a lot worse over here in our world. Maybe “Nigger” is in danger of becoming homogenized, lost in the rest of the big stew that is American vernacular.
Maybe, as it becomes a word of friendship, or becomes completely generic – another “man”, another “dude” – we’re in danger of losing sight of it’s hateful roots, and maybe that’s something we should never lose sight of.
But maybe it’s a little better than that other world, at least, where the word has been BOTH depowered AND retains all – every little ounce – of the hate it started with. A world where you are so looked down on and marginalized that nobody sees anything wrong with throwing a “black” character into a movie for comic relief, or making TV shows for white people’s amusement featuring blacks doing typically black things ’cause hahahaha those black people are just so funny the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they act. Maybe they’ll even pass it off as â€“ wink wink – “empowerment” – and get a few real-life Uncle Toms to star in their minstrel shows.
Nah, that couldn’t happen… That’s that Spike Lee movie, right?
Oops – wait. It’s not. It’s the world we live in. I got the two worlds – my bad – mixed up. We do live in a world where a six-letter word has been co-opted and watered down NOT by the oppressed but by the oppressor. And by watering it down just driving the point home. Driving it home. Driving it home. Until it’s just accepted. You. Are. Less. Than. Us.
Whoa, that was heavy. I never looked at it like that. And I certainly appreciate the different views. I just want to thank everyone who has dropped me a line about any column, ever. I enjoy your feedback. Like I said I will have something new for you in the near future. And keep your eyes pealed for EM vs ME: The Argument via the Internet. While it’s not what my main man Fernan(dez) dreamed up, it’s the next best thing.