A thin line exists between being incensed and being overly sensitive. Since the election of one Barack Hussein Obama to the highest office in the land, the United States has not become “post-racial”. In many ways, in fact, American society has become, ironically, more racially divided. One of those divisive issues that seems to get new life on a perennial basis is the use of the so called, “N-Word”. However you slice it, whether “nigger” or “nigga” or “nig” (the variation of the N-Word preferred by closet racists like Rick Santorum and Paula Smith), the N-Word occupies a dubious status in American culture. Let’s be honest. It is the one of the ugliest words in the American vernacular; moreover, the dichotomous treatment the N-Word receives in the African American community in no way removes the hateful and blood-soaked stain of the N-Word’s regrettable place in American history. Who are kidding? That history still means something today, because when most white folks use the N-Word the intent is to injure. Then again, there are those white folks like Gwyneth Paltrow who foolishly believe that Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Kanye West speak for all black folks, because who could be a better representation of Black America than the three of them? Sarcasm aside, I have the solution for African Americans who still feel the hairs rise up on the back of their necks whenever a report surfaces about a white person using the N-Word. Walk up the next white person who offends you, look them straight in the eye and in a calm, distinctly audible voice call her or him a nigga. After a while, nobody will be using the N-Word, because the only thing many white Americans can image as being worse than being poor is being black. Furthermore, were it not for the intense absurdity of American racism, the N-word would have no power. So, to people like Gwyneth Paltrow, who seem desperate to create a post-racial America without addressing the layers of pain cemented by several centuries of racial animus toward African Americans, I would suggest applying the N-Word equally to people of all races. If using the N-Word to refer to people who are not African American does not make any sense to you, then you probably should not use the word at all … especially if you happen to be African American.
When it comes to racial and cultural insensitivity, African Americans do not stand alone in the ring of dichotomy. For example, last spring, Bill O’Reilly expressed his righteous indignation over President Obama’s choice to invite Common to perform at a White House function. O’Reilly opined that extending the invitation to Common sent the “wrong message”. O’Reilly eviscerated Common for celebrating Assata Shakur, who is nothing more than a vile cop-killer in O’Reilly’s mind, together with the president for not choosing an artist “more deserving” than Common to perform at the White House. Read into that as you will, but O’Reilly even went so far as to challenge The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, to a debate over Common’s musical tribute to Assata Shakur. When Ted Nugent proclaimed that he would commit some type of criminal offense should the president be re-elected this past April, Bill O’Reilly said a little more than nothing. Consider this. When someone says or otherwise exhibits negative attitudes or feelings about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, such a person is considered to be “homophobic”. Similarly, when a person expresses negative sentiments toward Jews or Judaism, we label that person “anti-Semitic”. So, what do we call people whose manner of speech and actions seem suspicious of harboring negative attitudes or feelings about African Americans? We should call that person a nigga, because nobody hates niggas more than niggas. Alternatively, notwithstanding, we could call those folks “racists”, but we all know that thousands more people would defend their behavior, insisting their conduct or beliefs were simply “misunderstood”, because racism is such a “harsh” term. Well, what if Americans simply began referring to bigots as “niggers” or “niggas”? Apparently, since racists use the term in a derogatory fashion, a “nigger” or “nigga” is not something anyone should want to be, kind of like a homophobe or anti-Semite. At any rate, history teaches us that the most effective method to fight racism is to boycott the products and services sold by racists. Fear of financial loss forms the strongest deterrent to racial bigotry.
African Americans need to stop being overly concerned with who uses the N-Word and be more concerned with who is being heralded as the face or faces of Black America. In 2005, Dave Chappelle walked away from a $50 million contract to continue to his mega popular show on Comedy Central. Among other things, he expressed concern about his white fans using the N-Word. At the time, that $50 million contract would have made Chappelle “just as rich and famous as Jay-Z.” I love Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z for his contribution to hip hop music, but I am very disappointed with Jay-Z for the damage his popularity has done to hip hop culture. Jay-Z could use his vast influence as a celebrity and business magnate to advance causes involving social justice and healing racial divisions, but clearly his wealth is proportionate to just how nigger-ish he can be in public without exceeding the legal limit. So, unless black folks are ready to stop supporting Jay-Z, then we have no rational basis for becoming righteously indignant when one of his white friends calls him and his wife niggas, based on a song with the word “nigga” in the title.
Amir Clayton Powell is an advocate, author, entrepreneur, father, husband, servant of God, and warrior. By the by, he also happens to be the Publisher of The Old School Journal™ (TOSJ) as well as the Founder & Chairman of A C Powell & Co. LLC. Find A C on Twitter: @AClaytonPowell. Follow TOSJ on Facebook & Twitter. Find books and other essays written by Amir Clayton Powell by following this link.
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