Tuesday, May 3, 2016

NIgga What? Nigger Who?



A lot of people are talking about Larry Wilmore’s performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It wasn’t all the CNN jokes he dropped. THey were only okay. Everyone is in a tizzy because he punctuated the conclusion with, “Barry, you my nigga”.




As expected, EVERYONE got a raging angrection™ about it. Black leaders admonished WIlmore for using that type of language to refer to the commander of the Free World. White pundits were mad that he used a word that they use under their breath to refer to him when concocting hyperbolic stories about his bend toward fascism. Piers Morgan did the Piers Morgan thing that he usually does regarding feminism and women’s roles and vomited words into the Daily Mail that showed how completely clueless he is, admonishing him for using such language and announcing that he will never call Obama OR Wilmore “n****er”.


You hear that, black people? A white man told us how to talk! We can all rejoice now! Praise white Jesus! OK, UK. When are you going to apologize for Piers Morgan? I know a lot has been done in the Kingdom’s name, but can we PLEASE deal with Morgan (#PratsOfTwitter)?


First of all, no one asked Piers Morgan to call Larry Willmore OR President Obama ANYTHING. Also, Larry WIlmore came to his own defense by going after Piers Morgan for his grotesquely uneducated pot of word vomit. He designated that there is a difference between “nigga” and “nigger”, that “nigga” is black people’s appropriation of a verbal weapon used to oppress us, and “nigger” is said weapon, used to denigrate us. Either way, Morgan has no business using either conjugation. Larry’s words were, as always, brilliant funny. It was also kind of bullshit. There is no difference between “nigga” and “nigger”. Colloquialism is not conjugation. That would mean police officers would be going around amongst each other saying, “What’s up, my troopa?” That is not happening.


Ask 100 black people how they feel about the word “nigger”, and you will get 100 different answers. We are not Borg. We do not have the same opinion. There is not a secret cabal of black people that meet to decide everything for the black community, contrary to what you hear on Twitter. One thing is for certain, though. No matter what they say, every black person feels some sort of way when the word is said.

A lot of black people speak of eliminating the term. I saw at least two articles by black commentators about how Larry WIlmore set us back 50 years. There will be more. That is a ridiculous notion, though. The Supreme Cuurt set us back 50 years, and the only black person on there had already set women back 50 years. “Nigger” was used as a weapon, and it should be eradicated, they say. For them, it will always be a word of hate, and there is no redemption from it. I feel them. I respect their opinions. I really do. But it’s a bit quixotic to get everyone on board with eliminating a word in their native tongue, especially the ones who have grown fond of it, and the ones who hate black people. The people who use it now will likely not change. Black people will be all, “Nigga, please!” Racists will be all, “Nigger, please!” (See what I did there?) Also, I’m not big on censorship. For example, I am all for getting rid of confederate flags on state capitols, but I am okay with them being available for private consumption, because then we can see who the racists and oblivious idiots are!

The word “nigger” has its root in Spanish (negro), French (negre), and old English (neger), and we all know English is bastardized German. It wasn’t a bad word initially. It was just a word to identify dark people. Throughout early slavery, it was just that, and then pseudo-science came in and popularized it as a designating term. It wasn’t until the 1800s that it was actually truly weaponized as a pejorative term, over 100 years after its birth. It was used to address people who were thought of being not much more advanced than animals. Given the projection of history in America, I would not be surprised if black slaves used it among themselves. It’s a standard pattern of abuse. Keep drilling it into a person’s head what they are from birth, and they usually will internalize it.



However, I’ll bet that it’s been used as a term of endearment as long as it was used as a term of derision. If you don’t have control over a situation, you mitigate as much as you can. Taking a word and flipping it is not a difficult task. That is how a language evolves. Even after slavery was over, when Jim Crow was abolished, when the Civil Rights Act was signed, when the first black president was elected twice, “nigger” has survived, both to denigrate these accomplishments and to big up the people who made these accomplishments happen. “Nigger” as a term, in whatever form we hear it, is here to stay for the time being. There is truly no getting rid of it. Even if it WERE possible to put the racist toothpaste back into the tube, Those who use it to insult have an entire lexicon of epithets that they’ll use: jigaboo, porch monkey, ape, spear chucker, eggplant, sambo, boy...shall we incite vocabulary Crusade on all of these terms? Will we have to order an aubergine parmigiana from now on? We’d be fighting word wars for years. Racial epithets are like cockroaches wearing little white hoods: if you kill one, 20 more are under the surface, waiting to pop out and torment you.

How do I feel about this? Pretend you care for a minute…There is a long trend of words falling out of favor by the groups who were described by them. The words didn’t go away. They became essentially curse words. “Nigger” is a curse word now, no matter how you pronounce it, so it shouldn’t be said in certain realms. I used to call Hoteps “Ankh Niggas”, but I found out that they gain power from it, much like Scottish people when they behead each other. I know that on the opposite end of the spectrum from “eradicate the word” is the Tupac theory. Mr. Shakur made an album called “Strictly for My N.I.G.G.A.z”, which fueled the fire of my teenage angst. Tupac was a beacon of hope for many young black bastards who lived in abject poverty. He appropriated the word and made it a bacronym: “Never Ignorant; Gettin’ Goals Accomplished..Z”. I like what he did, but it still makes one queasy saying it. I am more and more in A Tribe Called Quest’s “Sucka Niggas” camp, I flinch as I try not to say it. I try to not say it as much, but it slips. When I am mindful, I replace it with a worse word: motherfucker. So perhaps I should calm down and realize that it is a word, and its only power is the power I give it, and the only time a white person should say it is when they are referencing Hitler, and they preface it with “Fuck that…” I’ll do my best to not say it, but I know it will slip, because I’m human, and I don’t give “nigger/nigga” the power it used to have...I don’t know if Japanese people have this similar with the J-Word or mentally disabled with the R-Word...

...But seriously. UK, apologize for Piers Morgan. We won the last war, and we’ll win the next. Punk ass niggas.

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