Tuesday, July 31, 2007

rocks. trees. words.

the question was posed on a message board i frequent: a poster was asking what she was missing - why do some black people use the n-word knowing how it is an insult to our ancestors. i got a bit long winded, as usual, but i thought it'd make a food for thought blog post. liketa heah it heah it go:

my take on it - some folks aren't impressed with the "what about the ancestors" argument. to some black folks, it sounds like some old "i celebrate kwanzaa and eat bean pies and so should you" argument (no offense to those reading this who do, but you know that isn't popular in black mainstream thought, and that's my point). some folks are actually eager to forget the ancestors. maybe remembering slavery makes them feel inferior, so they don't want to acknowledge it??? maybe their background and society teach them there is no value in the past of their people - not in a black history month, who invented this or that type of way, but more in a black people, living or dead, are not inherently valuable type of way.

neither are some of the people who use the word moved by the "the word implicates us all argument," (especially since they are either convinced that there really is a group of black people superior to another and they belong to it, OR that they are in fact a n*gger and "what's so wrong with that?"). they see the word as just a word. that's it. like "rock" or "tree." it fits the bill for what they're trying to say when they're trying to say it - much like any cuss word may fit the bill when you stub your toe unexpectedly, or when they're trying to describe something and free association just floats that particular word up first. for example, my argument for using the word "sh*t" is that if it fits the bill, why not use it (as long as it's the right place and time)? it seems lots of people who use the n-word feel the same way. thing is, "sh*t" doesn't lynch the esteem of a people - my own people - every time it's said.

once upon a time, calling somebody black instead of Negro or colored was an insult - fighting words. then somebody decided "black is beautiful" and folks were digging that. it grew into the colloquial use for black people that i just used and you probably didn't even notice just now because it's so commonplace.

similarly, someone has decided that n*gger isn't something we need to be insulted by... as long as it doesn't come from a white person. this double standard totally negates the point of saying it shouldn't sting, by the way. it doesn't take the sting away - it reinforces our acknowledgment that white people and other non-blacks have a uniquely owned ability to sting us with it.

i'll never forget, they had this show on a while back where a black family and a white family changed races with makeup and went out into the world. the black family's teenage son was hanging out with some white kids while wearing makeup that made him look like another white kid. one of the other white kids said "n*gger" about someone else, and the black kid didn't blink. he didn't think to mention on GP that word isn't right to use. it wasn't because he was trying to play the role of a white kid since he had the makeup on, but because, as he explained to his irate parents after they found out about his passive acceptance of the word and called him on it, it's just a word that doesn't mean anything to him. his parents were crushed and embarrassed. they questioned how they brought the boy up that he could hear a white guy use "n*gger" in context and not feel anything...

similarly, i wonder how black people can use it on each other and not feel anything... i guess if you have no or low esteem for your people, why would you care if each use of that word attacks their value?