The Hypocrisy of the “N” Word: A Reflection of the People

NWord

Written by Cheats – Contributions from Mike “Mikemetic” Williams, Ms. Maat Free, Julian Payne, Chance Fischer & Duron Chavis #WESEEIT

With growing debate around the NFL’s proposal to penalize the use of racial slurs on the field, the “N” bomb is hot right now. There have been “Outside the Lines” specials, PTI debates, and commentaries from writers and pundits all over, most of them asking the question, “Is it the NFL’s place to regulate the “N” word?”

Let’s face it, debating the use of the “N” word is not new, nor do I believe it will be brought to any form of resolution in my lifetime. It’s the most polarizing word in American modern society. And while it’s easy – and creditable – to point the finger at America’s unresolved racial history, I believe the future of the “N” bomb rest solely on the shoulders of the people of today.

And I’ve got to tell you – We the People of Today – are full of contradiction and hypocrisy when it comes to the use of the “N” word.

I find it best that I start with myself as Exhibit A of hypocrisy. I am a 35 year old – African American male – and I try not to use the “N” bomb in any circumstance. Yes, I said try – which means – I have used it in the past and can’t promise that it won’t make its way out of my mouth in the future.  And to be honest, that upsets me.

I strongly believe that there is no good that comes from using the “N” word.  I don’t think black people should use it, I don’t think non-white minorities should use it, and white people – in 2014 – you should know better. It’s not funny; it’s not cute; using it does not mean you’re down or accepted, I don’t think the word should be used. My brother – Richmond Renaissance Man – Mike (Mikemetic – NATIVES) said it this way when describing how he would teach his young son about the use of the word, “I will tell him that when people start to identify too deeply with bad things, those things can start to affect how they act and how they see themselves. It’s also a word that serves no specific functional purpose that can’t be replaced with a variety of other terms.”

Yet, I fully admit that when it comes to the “N” bomb – I’m extremely passive, it’s in the music I purchase/download, it’s in the movies I pay to see; it’s used at concerts I attend; it’s used by the artist I write about;  and often it’s in the music I post on this very site.  Is that not the definition of hypocrisy?   

 I understand most people around age, my race, and my education level, are aware and understand the difference between the worst form the usage – the dreaded “er” and it’s more endearing counterpart “gga.” Those distinctions alone are problematic for me. I have a 9 year niece and I don’t care how she would dare use the “N” word, she will not using “ga” around me – or around her mother or our neighbor’s  – you get the point. That’s not acceptable to me. But when we hop in the car and Jay and Kanye’s “N**GS in Paris” comes from my Ipod (unedited I might add) we are both nodding our heads in approval of the classic. And there lays even more of the hypocrisy; right.

Even with my strong opposition to the use of the “N” bomb, the reason why I can’t guarantee that it will never surface from me ever again is because I’m a fan of hip hop.  It’s my favorite art form. Hip hop is my culture. And the “N” bomb is ingrained in the fabric of the culture. It’s ingrained so much that I don’t see the “N” bomb going anywhere – anytime soon. Mikemetic came back to add, “The music is what has made its (N Bomb) use so popular. Hip hop is a powerful tool and it is being used more maliciously than ever these days by people who want to undermine its positive potential for change and enlightenment.”  

Right now on commercial radio there is a hit songs by YG called, My N**GA and another by Nicki Minja called, Lookin A** N**GA. And that’s on commercial radio. And for those of you who hate on today’s hip hop, go back to the golden era of Biggie, 2Pac, Jay, Nas, Wu-Tang, Snoop, and Dre, they all overused the “N” bomb. Even more socially aware artist like Common and Mos Def have used the “N” word in their music. Are they hypocrites? Are they part of the problem? Is hip hop culture part of the problem? In Common’s defense, he justifies the use of the “N” bomb as speaking the language of the culture. Do you accept that? Should I accept that? In many ways I do.

Or is there a larger – more intellectual – issue here? My brother Julian Payne (Capoeira Angola Liberation Movement) said, “In the use of the word ‘Nigger/Nigga’ we must understand the long history it has traveled. Long before its negative connotations it was used to describe a place (Niger), then a color of a people (Negro, Negra), then a label to devalue a human being (Nigger). In Amharic (Ethiopian language), Negus means king…” He went on to say, “The power of this word lies in both the user and receiver of the word. Education of the word can strip the word of its power and fear of it…I personally choose not to use it in this country out of respect for those Africans and  African- Americans it has hurt in a system that has used it as a tool to invoke hate, fear, and power over another race.”

Ms. Maat Free (founder of #untoldrva) weighed in on a more spiritual level, speaking of KUJICHAGULIA (self-determination), “Once you realize the value of cultivating your own knowledge of self and you begin to understand that you’re the product of a great and mighty lineage, the next thing you know, you’ll start referring to yourself and others as Brothers, Sisters, Kings and Queens. At that point, KUJICHAGULIA has successfully inspired you to elevate your consciousness and become the antithesis of the N word, making the whole situation one great big ole moot point.”

Hip hop is one of the most honest reflections of the black community that exist in America. The reason that the “N” bomb is ingrained in hip hop culture is because the word has been ingrained in the black community. The only way to remove the “N” bomb for music, or the NFL, or any organization is to remove it from community. And how do you do that? Your guess is as good as mine – but my guess relies heavily on family (traditional and non-traditional), friends, and modeling positive behavior.

One of the most talented young hip hop artists in RVA is Chance Fischer (@Chance_Fischer). Chance hit me up on this topic, “I’ll preface this by saying the N-word or any of its permutations cannot logically be defended. With that in mind, I will not defend my usage of the word, but rather I’ll provide insight as to why I choose to employ it. The environment in which I was raised allowed for the n-word to be used colloquially as a term of endearment; where any semblance of recognition was a beacon of light in a mired city. I cannot speak to the intentions of reclaiming the word for good; it was just something I grew with.” Chance continued to say, “People defining meaning. Words aren’t born in and of themselves; people create them and use them how they wish to.”

I agree with Chance. I identify with Chance. And while I commend the NFL because I believe examples can be set in a workplace (the NFL is a workplace), I truly believe the only way to make real advancements on this topic is to model positive behavior. What do I mean?  I try not to use the word at all. Most of friends don’t use the word and what I’ve noticed is that other friends – when they are around us – don’t use the word; because they don’t feel comfortable using the word around people who don’t use it. That’s it. That’s all it takes. It sounds simple but some circles are much harder to crack; right.  

But that’s just my opinion and my experience on the use of the “N” bomb and as you can see there are no definitive answers with my words, just my observation.  I turn the last words of this post over to Brother Manifest Duron Chavis (Happily Nature Day), who believes, “We can’t police word usage. I am more concerned about the treatment of my people than being called the “N” word. We got bigger battles to fight.”

 What battles are you fighting? What behavior are you modeling? How are you making you community better? #WESEEIT @CheatsMWC

2 Comments

  • Kimber says:

    “I will tell him that when people start to identify too deeply with bad things, those things can start to affect how they act and how they see themselves…” Truth. (FULL STOP) We need to use this quote, verbatim, when we hear this vile word.

  • Eva says:

    This was a fantastic piece. I share your perspective on the use of the word by white folks, and I do my best as a white woman to listen to and heed the perspectives of those whom this word directly refers/targets. I don’t mind giving my mind to other white folks who carelessly and ignorantly toss around heavy language. I think it’s unfairly easier for me, though, to avoid using and hearing the word because hip hop is not my culture – I appreciate hip hop culture, but as a grateful outsider. I really appreciate your sharing such varied perspectives, too… Reminds me a lot of the discussion of the B word among the many generations of feminists. This stuff is hard. Thank you! Wish I’d had something of this quality to share with my 10th and 11th graders when I was teaching in Philly — every year I’d facilitate a multi-day conversation with student multimedia presentations about this word, its history, and its present. Teenagers have pretty awesome perspectives on this stuff, too.

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