Here lies one bad n-word
Two things: This Saturday, March 2, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nate Holden Theater-Ebony Repertory Company, 4718 Washington Blvd., the first presentation of the movement to create a national African American commemoration day: March 6, Reparations Demand Day, will occur. It will be held on March 2 because March 6 falls on Tuesday. It is free and open to the public. There will be videos and expert panelists discussing the significance of the effort in the context of where we are as African Americans today. Please come.
Secondly, as African American History Month, 2013, recedes this year, can we finally lay to rest the relentless controversy over the use of nigger (nigga) in the language? Indisputably, the word is odious, was created historically to be so and to disrespect African Americans, and there is nothing we can do to defang the word, try as we might. For all the pleasantries we try to associate with the word (as a term of endearment, etc.), its history negates all of that, and Black folks should simply stop trying to resuscitate a word created for an evil purpose. There is just not enough positive light in it to save it, and we continue along a very foolish, besotted path every time we use it with or without our White companions. The word is replaceable.
Until we, as a community, have simply walked away from the word, stopped our youth in mid-sentence when they try to use it, refused to purchase songs and videos when usage of the word is on them, and other such actions, then we must simply grin and bear the continued disrespect that will flow from everybody else regarding Black folks as the prime representatives of that label.
Clearly, when we can’t show respect for ourselves, why should others respect us? Trying to tell White folks not to use nigga (nigger), when they invented the word is ludicrous in the extreme. We must stop using it in order to have any moral authority in trying to stop them or to be insulted by them when they use the word. What part of that do we not get?
Recently, another one of those Twitter controversies surfaced when comedienne Lisa Lampanelli sent a Twitter picture of herself a few days ago posing with Girls star and creator Lena Dunham. The photo, of Lampanelli smiling broadly, with Dunham standing over her holding up bunny ears, was accompanied by the caption “Me with my n***a [Lena Dunham] . . . . I love this beyotch!!”
A firestorm of commentary has ensued, with many people demanding apologies from both women, insisting that the words were insulting, offensive, hurtful and racist. But Jay-Z and Kanye West just made a ton of money from a publicly distributed album called “Niggas in Paris.” It was even nominated for an Emmy this last go-round.
A Jewish congressman just wore a blackface costume to a party in New York, and six sorority girls dressed up as blackfaced Cosby kids at a southern college party, saying they were positive niggas from the ’80s. In the media, these were all seen as being racially insensitive and even just racist, and Black folk have demanded apologies, ad infinitum.
The point is, however, when one continues to address himself/herself in condescending ways, how can one expect the public not to repeat the behavior, since the racial joke will always be on the initial perpetrator?
Wake up, Black folks! Hip Hop has done us no favors with this negative role-modeling. Kill the n-word!! We don’t need it and we sure can adopt an alternative. We need not be addicted to this self-hating epithet.
Let’s not just celebrate real Black history, let’s make some. Bury the use of nigga (nigger). Remember the example comedian Richard Pryor once gave us? He had built an entire comedic career from using the word in very funny ways, but after a long, thorough conversation with members of his Black community, he came back publicly and announced he would never again utter the word. He did that in mid-career, and kept going strong creatively, leaving a legacy as one of the best known and loved funnymen produced by the African American experience.
Let’s try something together. Every day for the next week, try to not use the word anytime on any day.
Catch yourself and stop yourself if you forget. Tell your friends to stop you too, and do the same for them. We can get through this, folks, together. Let’s have a New Orleans funeral for the nigga (nigger) in us all in 2013.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank, which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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