Calling all white people, part 4: Enjoy from afar

Calling All White People, Part 4

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: When to Stand Back, Shut Up and Just Watch

What I notice every so often about my fellow white people, even the most progressive-minded liberal ones, is how sooooo many whitefolk chafe—how they just ache and itch—about not being able to use the N-word.

It’s like some final frontier they want to explore. They complain: “Why can Black people say it and I can’t?”

In the end, it’s a ridiculous argument. Why is it so important to be able to express that word for any reason, even to be “friendly” or “part of the club?”

And besides, I can tell you why it’s not appropriate. It’s a word steeped in oppression and hurtfulness and white people have used it as a weapon and a way to dehumanize and demean Black people. We are the last people who should take that word lightly and decide how and when to use it, because we almost always misuse it.

I write fiction sometimes, so there may come a time I need to employ the word as part of character interactions (though I’ve managed to skirt it in clever ways so far even when it’s hinted); I certainly don’t need to seek out opportunities to use it as often as possible like Quentin Tarantino does. Now, a white person may have a Black friend that uses the N-word with them or even doesn’t mind if the reverse happens. But c’mon, folks: Just because one person lets it slide or gives you permission doesn’t mean you should take the opportunities cavalierly, and it sure doesn’t mean you have blanket permission to use it with other people.

Let’s take it another way: I don’t use the C-word to refer to women. Sure, there may have been one or two times it got used when I was alone in the car when I was wronged in traffic in a really egregious way. And sure, in a sexual situation where I was referring to a portion of the anatomy of my partner I was trying to pleasure greatly, that word might occur. But I don’t feel I have a right to use it generally speaking nor do I seek opportunities.

Same with the F-word variations used for gay people. Or whatever.

Now, I say all this as a really long-winded education introduction for what will probably be a shorter bit of context. Talk about burying the lead, huh?

Recently, Yahoo! made a typo in Twitter when they meant to say “bigger Navy” and instead hit the key just to the right of the “B” key. Autocorrect failed to save them and they got dragged all over the web for it.

More hilariously, though, Black Twitter (if you don’t know, that’s the people on Twitter who are Black and often have special things and inside conversations with other Black people that we whites often see anyway because, well, most of this stuff isn’t private and we’re nosy or we have Black folks we follow/who follow us) made a meme of it, with all kinds of giggle- and guffaw-inducing comments and pics and such. Much fun was had. And their hashtag included the N-word in full.

Then came the white people asking if they could get in on the jokes and/or share them and many Black people pointing out that this was a time they should just let the people who have more right to determine the appropriate use of that word have their fun in peace. Please don’t contribute; please don’t retweet.

After that, white people who didn’t get the message or give a shit about it made their own hashtag, #NWordNavy so they could get in on the fun without having to feel like they were being offensive.

Except it wasn’t their fun to get in on.

It was like (no, it was worse than) jumping into a conversation at a gathering you weren’t invited to join in on that’s happening near you by accident and you overhead, and you have little or no context or knowledge of, and then you jumping into it.

Don’t do that.

All I can say is, my fellow white people: When Black people are having fun and cracking jokes, I’d suggest that the more racialized it is (like involving the N-word, for example) the more likely it is that you should just enjoy it all from afar, laugh to yourself and stay out of any direct involvement or sharing.
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