Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crocodile tears?

So, I was checking my e-mail earlier today and someone sent me a link to watch a video of Elizabeth Hasselbeck crying on The View - again.
The unique thing about this is her tears came during a heated discussion about use of the word Nigger, Nigga or however you want to spell it. One of the hot topics was of course the video of The WRONG Rev. Jesse Jackson using the word at the same time he mentioned his desire of neutering the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Since there are now two black women on the show, of course the entire panel was looking to them to "explain" why it is OK for black people to use it but not white people. This probably the dumbest segment of hot topics I've ever watched.
Take a look:

Of course, anytime the word nigger/nigga comes up in conversation amongst a crowd of racially mixed people it's going to get heated. I didn't expect Hasselbeck to cry and I didn't expect the ignorance that flew from Sherri Shepherd's mouth on the subject. I have heard the argument that Whoopi Goldberg has about the word having as much power as you give it. I've listened to my brothers and my cousins and in some cases some of my best friends who defend themselves by saying "it means ignorant" and they grew up using it.
I got news for some of you guys who think the word nigga means ignorant. That's not what it means. Take a few minutes and look the word up in the dictionary, it'll piss you off.
The Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines the word as:
nigger:1. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a. a black person.
b. a member of any dark-skinned people.
2. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a person of any race or origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc.
3. a victim of prejudice similar to that suffered by blacks; a person who is economically, politically, or socially disenfranchised.
In the description, states that nigger is probably the most offensive word in the English language. I'm going to have to agree with that. How is that word endearing?
I think it is agreed that words do have power. I think that we as bloggers have no choice but to agree because why else would we further exhaust ourselves after a full day's work, some of us write for a living, just for the sake of putting words together.
Since we know words have power, we should assume that their definitions and origins should as well. I've already addressed this in a much early post but since this keeps coming up, it may warrant redundancy.
The word nigger is derived from the Latin word nigre which means black. Some where around the 1700s, some southern slave owner got a hold of the word and butchered it and it derived into the racial slur that it is.
I don't, won't and will not ever use the term "the n-word" because I think it takes away the power and seriousness of the word. It should never be shortened or otherwise disregarded because it does carry a lot of weight.
The first time I ever remember hearing the word in a song was in Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman." After that, rappers picked it up and you started hearing it in all their songs. Rappers began describing themselves, their friends and their enemies as niggas.
Personally, I think the gratuitous use of the word is a testament to the hate that so many black folks have for themselves. Whether it is sub-conscious, subliminal or blatant, a lot of us do hate ourselves and how could we not? It's what we've been taught and fed throughout history. It's in everything that we do.
Going back to slavery, our ancestors were not viewed as people, they were viewed as livestock and treated as such. They were beaten and degraded and they passed that along to their children who in turn passed it on to their children.
We have come a very long way and I am thankful, but there are some things that we have yet to let go of and this word is one of those things. It saddens me that we continue to degrade ourselves and piss on the memories of our great ancestors with not only this word but some of the downright ignorance that we subject ourselves to on a regular basis.
I don't want to get up on my soapbox but I think it is high time we kill the word. Hell, the NAACP had a funeral for it, buried it and everything and it has risen again. How in the hell do we expect the rest of America to stop treating us like niggers when we insist on identifying ourselves as such and acting that way?
Because of this, I can see why some white folks in America would be confuzzled as to why they can't use it. Hell, I wonder the same thing. I get offended when anybody, and I mean anybody calls me a nigger. If you call me a nigger/nigga, be prepared to fight me.
I won't lie, I've used it before. People in my family, my parents included, use the word - often. But I'll tell you what, if I call somebody a nigger/nigga, I mean to offend them. Shoot, every time I hear somebody use it, I take it as a teaching moment and tell them why I don't want to hear it. Now, they get tired of me bringing it up and now I rarely hear it when I'm around. We've got to police ourselves.
It's going to take some of us "educated and enlightened" folks to keep saying until it gets on their nerves to the point where they will stop saying it. Better yet, let's try to get us all some help to deal with why it is we hate ourselves so much that we have to to degrade ourselves every chance we get. Then, let's stop using it. Let's start one person at a time and we won't have to have dumb ass conversations like that one.


12kyle said...

I saw clips of this on the news. I found it interesting that they were looking for Whoopi to justify her using the word. Gimme a break. LOL

Personally, I use the word with my friends in social settings. Never in public. I am very mindful of those folks who don't use the word and offended by it. I understand and respect your point, tho.

Eb the Celeb said...

See... I couldnt have said it this well... Sherri pisses me off everytime she opens her ignorant mouth. She is blatantly on the show so that white america can continue to poke fun at black people. Nothing she ever says sounds educated or has any precedence. I mean Joy is a comedian too but she still comes off educated in her jokes. I wish she would just shut up sometimes because her opinion does NOT need to be heard on every subject. Now on to whoopi, whom I adore... she hit the nail on the head. Why are we suppose to just forget that slavery happened. It is apart of our history, our culture and white people feel like we are just suppose to forget that our great great grandparents were slave, that our great grandparents werent allowed to vote, that are grand parents grew up in segregated schools, and that I still have to deal with ignorant people who dont feel like I am competent enough to work in sports because I am a black female. We still have a long way to go and yes black people we may have forgotten... but white people we will never forget...

We will continue to use the word whenever and however we want to yes we will and you will not ever be able to use it... Just face the facts... just like I faced the fact that I will never be the head coach of an NFL team you need to face the fact that you better not ever say that word publicly...

OK I think my rant is over.

Dianne said...

I came by last night and saw that you were going to post about this and was really interested in what you had to say.

I grew up in a very prejudiced enviorn - my father basically hated everyone and used deragatory terms for them all. I'm white - half Catholic/half Jewish and my father would say the most disgusting things about Jewish people because he hated my grandmother.

I guess it was there that I learned the power of hate in words. I was married to a black man and have a son. My ex and his family used nigger/nigga all the time - and even though I was family and felt accepted I never knew where to put myself when these conversations started.

I feel that nigger/nigga is NOT my word to use but I have used it when fighting with someone over treatment of my son. He has recently married into a very racist family and I have heard them use the word and then turn to me and say - but of course we don't mean Jeffrey ... WTF!? I have taken to calling it the "nigger we know syndrome" - they have decided they should be applauded for 'accepting' him and he's now one of them. Again I say WTF!?

I'm trying not to have this comment turn into a post ;) and yet wanted to share my feelings

I worry about censorship so I'm very conflicted in banning any word in the context of art, music, comedy BUT I also know, from the hurt I've felt for my child, the power this word holds.

To make this white person even more confuzzled - my son and his friends tell me I make too much of it.

Is that generational? I saw more hatred than they have?

thanks for letting me express myself - please do let me know what you think, it would be appreciated.

Smarty Jones said...

Thanks to all of your for your opinions.
First off, I'm not for censorship in any form. I want folks to be mindful of what they say when they say it, that's with any of the words they use.
Kyle, I think you've mastered the 'time and place' way of freeing yourself that so many of us have had to master. It's fair to say that we (young black professionals) have a way of conducting ourselves out in public and around our friends. I don't think I've ever heard the word being used out in public within that social group. When it's used it's almost always in a social setting with other folks who have just accepted it.
Way to rant, Eb! LoL. I see your point, I just think that a lot of white people, particularly those with young children and teenagers want to make sure that their kids aren't going to get their asses beat because they're walking up and down the street singing the lastest 50 Cent song. I think they pretty much want to allow for slip ups.
Dianne, I applaud your comments. And I'm sorry for all you and your son have had to go through. This is proof positive that racism comes in all colors and cultures.
To answer your question I think it is generational. I'm not sure how old your son is, but I'm 26. I think my generation is the first to have grown up with rap music.
Around the early 90s, gangsta rap took over and then it crossed from inner city neighborhoods to surburbia and it was laced with the words nigga, bitch and ho and for whatever reason, kids everywhere adopted it as acceptable language.
Now that rap music has become pop music so has the vernacular and slang used in it. It's not right, but it's what happened.
You did see more racism and you recognize that you're not that far removed from it. Our generation on the other hand have only had to deal with few "off-color" comments and a little bit of descrimination.
I am in no way trying to downplay what some of us have been through, but it is certainly nothing compared to what our parents and grandparents had to endure.
Your son, like all young people, thinks you as his parent is making a big deal about nothing. I don't think so, you know what it was like, you know that what he went through could have been much worse.
I'm worried whether or not we're headed back to our racist roots. As the saying goes, "those who don't know their history are bound to repeat it."
I think we don't know it because it's only brought up during Black History Month and we have short memories.

Dianne said...

smarty - thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I too am worried that we're heading backwards and that the younger ones aren't paying enough attention - but then there are a lot of young people like you. My battle right now is getting people to look at what racism is and can do - I want my future grandchildren to feel proud of all the roots they will carry with them. By your response you have made me feel so much more confident that I'm not making a big deal of nothing.
Thank You :)

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

she is so fake and i thought she was an actress

Anonymous said...

It's really strange how this word has a race split; some like it, some don't- some will use it, some won't. It would be refreshing and empowering if all African Americans came together and vowed to never use the word again. Let's face it, the word does come from a time of extreme prejudice, hatred, and brutal treatment towards blacks. But some people say that they are taking it back to give it a positive definition, although it is only fair for those within the black race to use it. At the end of the day, I see that it will be hard to get the entire African American race to agree on what to do with the word. But it is not impossible for me to raise my children to learn to respect their past and not use the word if God blesses me with little ones.