Often, when I post something on Facebook in which I’m speaking of “What’s On My Mind?” as it asks, there’s often someone who comes on to try and “school” me on my thoughts and/or opinions. Not simply to share their own opinions (whether they agree or not), which is just fine, but to try and teach me something as if I’m less than intelligent.
While I find it humorous at times and often just let it slide, I will preface to say that this isn’t one of those times. “Schooling” is the absolute last thing I need right now.
Not on THIS topic.
That doesn’t mean you have to agree. Many of you won’t and that’s fine. Again, that’s different than trying to “teach” me something.
I am a black man. I will be 38 years old next month. Race relations, to include the use of the “n” word, isn’t exactly something I need to be educated on.
Also, I’ve been married for 18 years next month to a woman who happens to be white. For those who think that minimizes my opinion or means I cannot speak on this, wrong answer. That won’t happen, either. It doesn’t make sense, mainly because of this. How does marrying a white woman somehow minimize what I’ve experienced as a black man or takes away from what has happened during my life? It doesn’t. Period. So I won’t even entertain comments to that effect.
If you’re reading this, chances are, you’re already aware of what comedian and political commentator Bill Maher said on HBO’s Real Time. He stated, while talking to Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger.” Of course, he immediately called it a joke, as was expected.
Maher being white (obviously), it goes without saying that a lot of folks were outraged, though they weren’t all black people.
I could write about this forever, but I will do my best not to. The bottom line is that if you are someone who likes to use the word, then you really can’t be upset about him using it. We have ourselves to thank for it.
Personally, I don’t use the word. It’s pretty simple to me. If I don’t want it used on me, then I’m not going to create some “scenario” where it should be allowed for me to use it on others. It doesn’t make sense.
I’ve heard just about everything there is to be said about this, so again…save the “schooling.” You very likely will not tell me anything different. But it wouldn’t shock if someone still tried.
I don’t buy the “only black people can say it” argument. This word eventually became intended to degrade us. So how in the world do we decide to make it something we are okay saying to each other?
“But Robert…it’s used as a term of endearment.” Nope, this one doesn’t cut it, either. So what…a white person isn’t allowed to use this term of endearment on us? Why not? Because of its meaning? But didn’t we sort of change the meaning by making it acceptable to use on each other? So, the n-word means something different based on who’s saying it?
Even if I am to accept that, here’s my issue. As adults, most of us are smart enough to understand tone. So we can easily tell the context in which someone uses this word. There’s a big difference between someone saying “You stupid nigger!” as opposed to “I love that guy. That’s my nigga!”
And yes…the pronunciation and spelling. Nope, I don’t accept that one, either, and there’s a simple explanation for that. It’s simply how many of us as black people speak. What I mean by that is, it’s not as if there was some “meeting” that took place where we all decided to change the spelling or the pronunciation of the word just to differentiate it from the original. It just became how we said it. Many of us don’t pronounce the “-er” at the end of words anyway. They often sound like they end in “-a.” So from my perspective, that’s how this came to be.
The reason tone makes such a difference to me is because many claim that’s why this word isn’t acceptable to be used by white people. That and the pronunciation. I don’t know, but personally, I don’t like either. The definition of the word punches me harder than who said it or how the ending sounds.
That being said, I don’t lose sleep over hearing it. I’m a big boy. Folks will use it for whatever reason they choose to use it. But I’m not about to lose my mind over Maher saying it when I hear it from our community all day, every day. Every other rap song has it. Some have even made the mistake of saying it to me, in which case, they were promptly corrected. I don’t play when it comes to that. I told a woman just the other day that I have not yet seen the movie The Color Purple. Yes, you can beat me up for that. Been there, done that. She said to me, “You haven’t seen it?! Every nigga has seen that movie!” I said, “Number one, I’m not a ‘nigga’. Number two, I just haven’t seen it.”
To me, it’s about setting a good example. While I’m not a perfect person by any means, I don’t like to hear the word, so I won’t say it. Period. I don’t need my own words to separate myself from white people. I thought we already had that problem several decades ago. If I remember correctly, some folks sort of fought so that we wouldn’t have to worry so much about segregation anymore. Didn’t white people find all these ways to do this to us back in the day? So now it’s okay, just because we’re the ones doing it? So what some feel is this…the solution to that is to not only take a word and make it “our own,” but to use a word that was meant to degrade us and somehow change that one to be okay.
Someone is likely reading thing and thinking that I “don’t get it” or that I “will never understand” or as stated above, that because my wife is white, I am somehow less qualified to speak about this. I dismiss that with the quickness. Every time. To me, it’s a copout. Being married to my wife hasn’t somehow taken away everything that has happened to me in the past or even happens to me sometimes today. My wife doesn’t provide me with some safety “shell” to where racism just doesn’t happen to me anymore. On top of that, I married her at age 20. So does that somehow mean that I couldn’t have experienced this before meeting her? How does that make sense?
People want to have a reason to be upset about this and I get why. I just don’t buy it. To me, it’s the equivalent of saying a white person can’t come into my house to steal, but it isn’t so bad if a black person does it.
I’ll say this again…DO NOT try to come on here to “school” me on how other people feel. I AM the “other people” you’re going to try and school me on. You think that just because I’m saying this, that means I don’t get racism or how much of our community feels? You think that just because I don’t carry myself as a “typical” black man, that this is all somehow above me in some way to where I don’t get it? There’s no logic there. Just because you want to consider me as an “Uncle Tom” (yep, I’m going there) means nothing. That says more about you than it does me. I’ve experienced the same or even worse than many of the black folks who would have a problem with this has. Just because I don’t play the victim 24/7 doesn’t say otherwise. I just choose to not let it cripple me.
I’m not making excuses for anyone. I’m just saying that if we can lose our minds over Maher saying it, let’s save some of that for when we say it. Because to me, the fact that it comes out of our mouths makes US wrong, number one, because it’s a word meant to degrade and even if that’s not the intent, then number two is that it’s a word intended to keep us separated.
Before you say, “No it isn’t!” ask yourselves why it’s a problem for Maher to say it. Then remember all the times we’ve been (or ARE still) told that we “can’t” do or have this and that and our race is largely the reason. Now tell me that it’s okay for us to do the same back to them.
If you want to think of it as a “revenge” thing, then fine. Say that. Just stop making it about a moral obligation to do or say what’s right when the very thing we are upset about is something we do every damn day to each other.
EVERY. DAMN. DAY.
TO. EACH. OTHER.
Let that marinate.