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?