The N-Word.. Should it die?

So it turns out when ole Jesse Jackson was at Fox News network talking about Barack Obama’s nuts, that he may have also slipped out the ole n-word too. Honestly, I am not surprised, I guess if you are gonna talk about another man’s balls, why not drop the ole n-word in while you are trying to make a fool of yourself.

I am not interested in whether Jesse said it or not, but as I surf around in cyberspace, its been interesting reading various folks opinions on the use of the N-word especially as it relates to us Black folks using it. Before I start I must confess, I was raised by parents who made liberal use of the n-word, in fact I still try to tell my Pops that we aren’t supposed to use it and as he tells me “Why?. Good question, why aren’t we supposed to use it anymore.

I know, its a word laced with history and negativity. I technically know why we shouldn’t use it but as a reader and writer, I am not particularly fond of censoring words even ones that as a woman make me cringe such as c**t. Words are words on one level and they only hold power if we give them power, that said, if a white person were to haul out the n-word, I suspect that is a white person who would be tasting my red toes. No, that is definitely not what I am talking about, for me white folks don’t ever get to use the n-word, sorry, you just can’t….

That said, it seems in the Black community at times the idea of whether or not the use of the n-word seems to break down around class. See, back in my old neighborhood in Chicago, folks used the word and no one ever thought anything of it. However as I went to college and started interacting with more solidly middle class Black folks is when I noticed that if the word came up folks visibly got uncomfortable. I definitely noticed upon moving to Maine and interacting with Maine Black folks no one ever ever uses the N-word, I will admit that I still suffer lapses and occasionally the word comes out much like the b-word comes out from time to time. In my defense, I have a potty mouth in general, what can I say, cussing comes easy to me and I have to work at it much like I work at maintaining a decent weight.

A few years ago, comedian Paul Mooney who I love said he was no longer gonna use the n-word and truthfully I was bugged, I know it was in response to Michael Richards tirade at a comedy club a few years back. Clearly Richards was in the wrong using the word but did Mooney really need to retire the word? Mooney’s comedy came about in an era with great artists such as Richard Pryor and honestly I can not even imagine how funny Pryor would have been without the use of the n-word. Maybe that makes me small minded but its my feelings.

No, the current crusade against the use of the n-words by Black folks sometimes feels like a class struggle at its roots, I am not saying there are not working class Black folks who don’t cringe at the mere mention of the word but there definitely seems to be a connection with the more education/more income one gets, less of a desire to use that word.

Over the years, younger Blacks have changed the word from n***er to n***a, some folks feel it doesn’t matter since its still the same word.. yet on a certain level I am not sure its the same word. I wonder if its a way to reclaim it and use it in a way where we own it versus the traditional use where it was a label slapped on us. Just wondering out loud…

That said at the end of the day, I do think there are a lot more things to get pissy about than whether or not we should be angry about this word. I say for those in the middle class who get disgusted at the use of this word maybe we should look at the circumstances that continue to produce folks who cling to this word. I suspect that much like myself if one is surrounded by folks who no longer use this word that eventually it will fade away, there may be the occasional lapse but it will become less common.

So tell me should this word die?

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child..Maybe Not

Like a lot of Black folks, I grew up with parents whose primary form of keeping me in line aka disciplining us kids, was to spank us, no correction was to whup the shit out of us. My two earliest childhood memories, go back to when I was 4 and 5 and involved me getting spanked. The first offense was for picking my nose and eating boogers, yeah pretty gross and I can see why my folks didn’t want me to do it, but was a leather belt across the ass really the way to handle it? Next big spanking was for going in my Mama’s purse… don’t know why I wanted to go in, but having kids myself now, I suspect that Moms purse just looked enticing. The penalty for that was getting whupped with an extension cord, and my ass still gets twitchy when I think about that spanking.

All that said, when I had my firstborn at 19, this was back before the internet and the age of easy information, when it was time to lay down the law and discipline my son, I chose spanking. Probably the first time I spanked my boy, he was probably 2 and my guess is he was probably spanked for doing something a 2 year-old would do. After all 2 is a funny age, kids really are still babies yet to many adults, there is a message that we must lay down the law or else the kid will get out of control. From a Black perspective, its always been if you don’t get em in line now, you will end up with a kid like that bad ass white kid in the grocery store throwing a tantrum in the aisle. The mythical little Johnnie bad ass, that we use as an example of why we must whup that ass.

Well, I will say that between the ages of 2-5 when I did spank my son, I often felt bad afterwards but figured it was part of parenting, hell my folks used to give me that sorry line when they were beating me, that it hurt them more than me.. really well how come it was my ass that hurt for days afterward?

Thankfully by the age of 5, I never spanked my son again, granted his Dad did but at a certain point I started to feel spanking was not effective as a discipline tool. Truth is all the spankings my Dad gave me simply made me sneakier and as I was growing up really made me think how the hell can I relate to a guy who will stomp a mudhole in my ass for simple shit?

Well when I got pregnant 3 years ago with my girl, I made the announcement to the spousal unit, that I did not want to spank. He was supportive though uneasy since he felt spanking could be a good tool in a pinch.

Now you may be thinking but these kids today are bad, they need to be spanked, that’s what’s wrong with em, not enough spanking. Historically Black folks in America were whipped by slave masters to keep us in line, one could say it did not keep us in line, it only helped to increase the tensions after all how the hell can you have respect for someone beating your ass? I can’t. (I am not still mad at my Pops, I know he did the best he could, but its taken years to get to this place) Later on, I believe we carried the lessons learned at the hands of the cold-hearted masters and transmitted it to our children in this new land.

Moving ahead though to modern times, we have prisons filled with Black men (I know the justice system is unfair but that is another post), Black folks in general are in a state of disarray, sorry, but I think its time to toss out hitting folks as a way to discipline them. Spanking as a form of discipline has never gone out of style in the Black community like it has in some parts of the white community, yet we got more issues, more drama. Perhaps that is because we have stopped taking care of one another like we used.

Once upon a time, we looked after one another, we cared, we nurtured each other but somewhere along the way, Mamas and Daddies and the extended family stopped doing their job. We used to understand we needed a village to raise each other and our kids, instead the village fractured, yet we were still spanking and guess what it don’t work.

Now let me just say that just because you don’t spank a child does not mean wild kids running around, a parent who is a true parent and there for their child can let a child know they are an authority figure without ever laying a hand on a kid. I will admit, it takes time and its a lot harder though than spanking and I say this having an almost 3 yo who is what I lovingly call high spirited.. mini-me can work my nerves but I love this child too much to want to break that connection and break her spirit by spanking. Old folks used to say we could break a child’ s spirit by spanking, but why the hell would we do that? We need to raise hard headed kids who will turn into hard headed adults who have heart and will not take no when they are out in this world. What we want to do is channel that energy and drive that makes us want to tap that ass into more positive channels, yet to do this type of work takes energy and time, something so many of us as parents are short on.

What we need is a village, we need each other, not only for ourselves but for the kids too.

We must take care of ourselves

Today was a rare type of day for me, both the spousal unit and I were not working today, so I had the time to do some serious reading on-line and checking out other blogs. That said, there were several blogs I read by fellow sista bloggers that really hit upon something that has been deep in my spirit since turning 35 earlier this year.

Black women, sistas, we must take care of ourselves. I know personally I have a tendency to put everyone else before me even to the point of causing myself panic attacks. I had my first panic attack at 19, about 6 months after elder child was born. That first attack was so bad, I had to call an ambulance, I just knew I was dying.. after many hours and many tests, it was determined that I was just stressed out. That initial attack set the stage for something that I have lived with ever since.

In the sixteen years since that initial attack, I have had some good years and some bad years, the worse bouts were about 5 years ago this summer when my Moms got the news she had lung cancer, the time from diagnosis to her death was about 8 month and let me just say that during that time I was in full superwoman mode. After she died I was numb but I soldiered on becoming the matriarch of the family at 31, less than 3 months after she died I bought my first house and a few months after that I got pregnant with mini-me. Can you see where I am going with this? Never at any point did I stop and process any of it, I was like the energizer bunny, even after mini-me was born I threw myself 150% into parenting the second time around.

 Well the crash finally came, last year when I was teaching a class, in the middle of a lecture I nearly fainted, I figured it was an anxiety attack so I ignored it. Well, I will spare you all the details but a sista ended up being carried out of the classroom by the paramedics and rushed to ER. More tests, and once again the diagnosis was a panic attack, ended up getting some heavy duty drugs in ER to get me to unwind.

It wasn’t long after that attack at work that life hit me with some changes that made me cool my role as my Granny used to say. I lost my job and in the process of losing a job that sucked the life out of me got a whole new outlook on life. It hit me that I had to start caring about me, don’t get me wrong I love my family and friends but I can no longer give so much of myself that I have nothing for me. As Black women we have a tendency to love hard and sometimes that love is not returned as hard as its given.

How many times have we given emotionally and financially when deep down our spirit was saying hell no? I have done it too many times and I doubt I am alone. Yet how many times do we feel we can call on each other when we are in need? Probably not as often we like. I say this in light of a sista who died alone on a floor in a place that should have helped her. Esmin Green was at a psychiatric hospital in NY and from the reports on the news it sounds like a sista was having troubles, yet when she died alone on that floor, I want to know why the hell she was alone? The report I read said she had 6 kids, belonged to a church; where where the sistas and brothas from the church? Now I am not trying to slam anyone but as another blogger put it and I agree, any of us could be Esmin, as someone who suffers from panic attacks reading her story brought me to tears.

No, this is not right.. sistas not only do we need to take care of ourselves and recognize when we have reached our limits, we gotta take care of each other. As women sometimes we get caught in competition and games but as Black women we need each other, we need each others strength. Maybe if Esmin had had a sista-friend there, maybe she would still be alive but at the very least she would not have died on a cold hard floor all alone.

To many of us have forgotten that once upon in this country the only way to survive was to care about one another, all we had was the strength of our ancestors and each other. We need that once again, sistas we have to to care of ourselves and one another.