Sunday, May 13, 2007

Laying the N*gger to Rest

After the fall-out over Don Imus's ridiculous comments and his subsequent dismissal from MSNBC and CBS, the Black community, lead by Al Sharpton and others, has taken on the Hip Hop community in an effort to lay the N-word and all other derogatory images to rest.

Now, I agree that holding our musicians accountable is a great idea. However, it does border censorship and is close to violating the 1st Amendment. I find that the problem isn't fully the fault of the Hip Hop community, but that of our own as consumers as well.

Artists make music that sells - plain and simple. It it weren't trendy or cool to portray these skewed and misleading images of Black women and Black culture, the artists wouldn't do it because we as the consumers wouldn't support it. The sad thing is that we live in a society where sex, profanity, and anything else that 'pushes the envelope' sells - and it sells very well.

Al and the gang have taken this war against rap and run with it. He's lead marches, pickets, and even mock funerals - yes funerals ( in front of some of the big record headquarters. Even the NAACP has joined in on the crusade to bury the N-word and has announced it will hold a symbolic mock funeral of its own at an upcoming National Convention to mark the end of the infamous racial slur (

Perhaps it's the cynic in me...but a mock funeral? Is that supposed to move enough of is to stop using this word?

Words have power - far more power than we give them credit for. I don't think we as a people fully understand the gravity of using the N-word and the collective damage it does to us as a society. Yes, I understand the logic that we have adapted the N-word to take on a seemingly 'harmless' meaning...But if were truly harmless, then why are we so protective and choosy as to who can and can't say it and when, where, and why?

Whether we like to admit it or not, the N-word has the power to evoke pain, hate, and anger within all of us. In the 'wrong hands' it has potential to harm us and make us feel shamed as we recall a time in our history where we were treated inhumanely and were looked upon as being the lowest of the low in this country.

So why do we continue to throw such a potent word around so carelessly?

It's obvious we are still sensitive to the word's meaning, yet we somehow justify its usage amongst our own. That's not only hypocritical, but it's also rather illogical. With so many words in the English language, why do we choose to use that one to communicate brotherhood or a communal bond? Have we really short-changed our intelligence so much that we've actually convinced ourselves that a word that used to degrade us is now somehow acceptable for us to use when addressing one another?

Irregardless of how you say/spell it, the word is dangerous and we need to understand why...why we shouldn't use it, why it does us more harm than good, and really why we thought it'd be a good idea to use it to begin with.

H. Lewis Smith wrote a good article on the 'N-word Syndrome' as he calls it, and I encourage you to read it ( We need to stop pretending as if the N-word doesn't have weight and begin to hold ourselves (and one another) accountable.

If we want to be heard and to move forward in our struggle for equality and self-respect, we as a people need to grow up and stop turning a blind eye and deaf ear to language and actions we know to be detrimental to us as a community. It isn't just the rappers who ought to be changing for the better, it's us too. Each one of us needs to make a conscious effort to move away from the negative images and stereotypes that plague us, and move towards taking steps to uplift one another.

It's time for us to wake up and lay the n*gger to rest once and for all.


philosopher said...

I love this post. I completely agree.

That Ambiguous Look In Your Eye said...

nigga please, lol.

ok, my bad, but seriously I feel you. i realize that even when joking around, the meaning it conveys is one of stupidity...lacking seriousness. And that's what makes not using it so difficult for some people. When used "correctly" it conveys the exact meaning it's meant to but not in a racist way [consider two brothers using the word when one does/says something dumb/funny..."nigga please!"]. But then it becomes racist in the mouth of white person [i say white as opposed to "non-black" because depending on your neighborhood, latino/filipino brothers and sisters are still considered fam], but "whitey" is the undisputed devil [if one exists] of black people so the word cant come out of his mouth at all. But it's not really a double standard because this "whitey" can also be on the receiving end of the word. Consider saying this to Tom Green, "Damn, you stupid, nigga."

Yeah, it's bad, but we need to figure out why people won't stop saying it. What makes it so appealing? Like how people have this compulsion to eat Mickey D's french know you're not supposed to eat that crap, but it smells so good, and a small is only $1.00, and Mickey D's is never too far away when you're really hungry. And no matter how many times you watch Super Size Me [or read CongoBrava's blog] the craving still remains.