xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml'> Thinking Out Loud : The N' Word


Sunday, August 15, 2010

The N' Word

Dr. Laura Schlessinger
The latest in the saga of the N' word leads us to popular radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger. According to reports, Talk radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has issued an apology for saying the N-word several times in an on-air conversation with a caller who she said was "hypersensitive" to racism. When a caller asked if the N-word was offensive, Schlessinger said "black guys say it all the time." She did not direct the epithet at the woman, but said she used it to suggest how often she hears it, and that it should not automatically be cause for offense. Schlessinger said on her website Wednesday that she was wrong in using the word for what she called an attempt to make a philosophical point. She said she "realized I had made a horrible mistake, and was so upset, I could not finish the show."  I'm not here to question whether Dr. Laura's apology was sincere or not, only God knows that. But, what concerns me is how as much and as often a controversy this word has caused for other ethnicity's that have used it, why hasn't anyone wised up? I mean why do we still see talk show hosts, comedians, entertainers, politicians and the like still "slip" up and use this word given the ignorance of their peers? One would think that after Michael Richard's tirade in a comedy club a few years back and the backlash he received behind it, white America would never evoke its presence again. By the way, has anyone heard from Kramer lately? The careers that this word has ruined should be enough evidence to remove its use from the vocabularies of ever race and ethnicity's in the world.

Actor, Michael Richards -"Kramer"
But, was Dr. Laura right that because she's heard it said so much by black people that the sting of its use has somehow been removed? Is she right in  saying that because she's heard black folks call each other the N' word for so long; if nothing but for a term of endearment, that the venom of the word has forever been neutralized? I wonder is there is any truth to that statement? Could this be the reason for her Freudian Slip on her radio show? I always believed that we-as Black Americans, were just as culpable for the use and the mis-use of the N' word. Using it in songs, among friends, or whatever way we choose to use it as a community would prove detrimental to the overall perception of this blatantly derogatory word. Our constant use of this word is perceived by many as an open invitation for everyone to use it, thereby causing more controversies like this to arise. However, I still wonder about the frequency of this and how the backlash hasn't created more of an impression with those who might potentially use this word in open forum? To me this speaks to a more systemic problem rather than a racial one, inasmuch as it seems that the venom of this word has not reached the masses and this could be the reason for these slips ups in public view.

The venom or the sting of this word is tied directly to its origin. The roots of the N'word date back to slavery days and it was always considered derogatory. White slave masters called their black slaves by this word. It came to be known as someone who is "lazy, trifling, and shiftless" which is became unduly associated with "black people." Which is completely ironic, seeing as though this country was built on the backs of the very people this word was used to describe. So you can see how the sting of this word would still resonate with black people today, many of whom were not privy to its use on the slave plantations of the South in the early 1800's, but still find this word offensive. This definitely speaks to the power of the word as well, because even though it is now used as a term of endearment amongst blacks internally within their own circles, whenever it is used by someone outside of the black race the same venomous history that it is attached to rises up all over again. So what are we going to do?

Back in November of 2007 the NAACP came up with an initiative to "Bury the N'Word." This march was held in Detroit, MI. Thousands of people joined together to help bury this historically derogatory word. Here's a clip of the ceremony:

Out of this ceremony was suppose to come a solidarity and unity on the elimination of this word from our vocabulary. This ceremony sparked a nation-wide debate about the N'word and its use not just from people outside of the black race but even from within our own race of people. A young man by the name Jonathon McCoy; who I had the pleasure of meeting a few months ago, started a campaign to eliminate the N'Word from the vocabulary of Black America. Understanding that the only way that we can see real change as a community is for us to eliminate its use and then every other ethnicity and race will follow suite as well..

Here is a clip of his speech called "The Petition"

This clip has gotten over 1 million hits on YouTube and this should become an affirmation for us as a people. I agree with Jonathon that if we want to truly see this word eliminated from the vocabulary of other races than we have to commit to not using the word ourselves. Although, this obviously is not an easy thing to do, because again this word is used quite often within our own community. From Hip Hop artists to comedians, even though the intent of its use may not be entirely negative but its always in "poor taste." One such comedian who is notorious for its use during his comedy shows, was taught an important lesson on tolerance when he was removed from a performance because of audience intolerance of his use of the N'word. Comedian Eddie Griffin; during a 2007 performance in Miami Florida for Black Enterprise Magazine, was booted by the magazine's long time publisher Earl Graves for using the N' word. According to reports Earl Graves received a standing ovation for the comedian's removal, which could have been an insight into the black community's rising intolerance of the N'word.
Comedian Eddie Griffin

Are we nearing the end of its use? Not sure. No one knows what the future holds for this word. But, I was always taught as a child that it's not what you're called, but it is what you answer to! So, you can be called alot of things by people, but it only matters what you answer to that makes the difference.  I choose to completely ignore its use, inasmuch as not only do I not answer to it, but I don't believe it defines who I am. So, my interpretations is and has always been that any derogatory word is only offensive to those who are insecure enough to  feel they are identified by it. It is a matter of personal preference, which is really what it boils down too. Because in the grand scheme of things, it is only when we make the individual and personal choice to eliminate this word from our vocabulary then and only then will be start to see a change. Mahmta Ghandi said something quite remarkable regarding this subject of change; he says, "we have to be the change we want to see in the world." This simple statement makes everyone accountable for making the change we want to ultimately see in the entire world.

My question is what personal changes are you going to make in order to see change on a much larger scale? What ways are you trying to eliminate the use of this word from your vocabulary? Or do you feel that it doesn't need to be removed at all? 

Your thoughts?

Pastor Michael S. Nimmons

1 comment:

  1. Evangelist Beverly BrownAugust 19, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    Great commentary Pastor and I agree with your comments that the change of the use of the N word must start within the Black race.The N word is most often used derogatorily.We as a people in this 21st century should have the mindset of mentorship,discipleship as well as being supportive and positive within our communities.The putdowns and the use of the N word and other disparaging posturing behind the mask of comedy and entertainment is old and stale.
    I will refuse to support any entertainer or comedian who continues to use the N word.If we as a people will band together and refuse to tolerate the use of the N word we may see the verbage or garbage possibly eliminated from our vocabulary.
    We as a people must realize we have a generation of young people who we are leading.Do we want them to continue to perpetuate this negativism?Let's bury the N word once and for all.The change must start within us as an individual.
    I remember as a child loving King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table and the Three Musketeers.They would band together to uphold what they felt to be righteous.Their creed was "One for all and all for one"as they fought together for what they believed.
    Come on my Black people we have come to far to be dragged back by a substandard mindset that comes from some of the rap songs,and entertainment etc.Let's rise together and carry a renewal of our mindset as a people.One for all and all for one.


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