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I am an authentic American Negro. I'm descended from freemen and slaves, slave bosses and slave owners, and the Native people who gave them sanctuary, family and hope. I say all this to offer my credentials, my Certificate of Authenticity, so you know I'm qualified to speak for at least one Black person: me. Now, so you don't get confused, that doesn't mean I'm suggesting that I am authorized to speak for all the Negroes of the Great Diaspora (settle!), but as a wise, old white guy (Carnegie, Zigler, Bozo? I'm not sure and don't care to look) said: "I've lived this life and I have the right to talk about it." The current debate over the use of the "n-Word" (that's "nigger," in case you're confused) has become so nettlesome that it has set the flower of fecund, white womanhood tearfully a-twitter.

Pay close attention, people. This is terribly important and very few of my ilk will say this, even in sotto voce.

The "n-word?" Use it. You have my express permission. Let me break this down.

I usually don't watch The View. The idea that a revolving group of imitation Sistah-friends can sit in an ersatz living room talking about mostly nothing but babies and menopause and trifling shit gives me the dry heavie geebies.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck hates "nigger" so much so, in fact, that when her attempts to tell two grown Black women not to use it weren't immediately met with gladsome sighs and "Thank you ever so for liftin' that heavy burden, Liz, we's a-feeling better now," she began to sob. And I, the teetotaler, began thinking about the location of the nearest liquor store.

Co-hostesses Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd tried, instead, to check that chick with the usual: "You don't understand, Elisabeth. We're Black and looking through the white prism into the Black experience is shortsighted, blah, blah, fucking blah." Frankly, watching these women try to explain the value of a word that has simply no equal in the English lexicon was otherworldly.

See, Jesse Jackson, in a video clip that sent the good people at Fox News into a masturbatory orgy, was overheard saying Senator Obama deserved an involuntary sex change for "talking down to Black people." The women of Da View were "discussing" it. Pointlessly and poorly.

To put this into ghastly perspective, Reverend Jackson is on record for not being a friend of the "n-word." Here's Jesse holding forth about the use of the n-word, the h-word (shit! "nigger," "hoe," and "bitch" -- those euphemisms are tiresome) after having successfully lobbied for Don Imus' firing over use of the same a year or so ago. Lest Fox let us forget, here's part of Jesse and an unknown guest discussing the merits of emasculating Senator Obama and the latest revelation: Rev. Jackson suggested Obama was "talking down to Black people, telling niggahs how to behave." Guess Reverend Jesse is the "n-word's" Superfriend: "Power of...hypocritical irony!"

In a written apology, Irreverent Jackson said:

"I am deeply saddened and distressed by the pain and sorrow that I have caused as a result of my hurtful words. I apologize again to Senator Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, their children as well as to the American public" Jackson said in a written statement. "There really is no justification for my comments and I hope that the Obama family and the American public will forgive me. I also pray that we, as a nation, can move on to address the real issues that affect the American people"

Huh? As if the swirling, sucking eddy of psycho-ontological despair that is the state of our ability to discuss race relations isn't a "real issue" that's effecting the American people. Pish! And, yeah, I said "pish!"

Truth is, as a people, we Black folk have got nothing on white folks, who gave us such pejoratives as (avert your eyes) prick, cunt, bitch, kike, wop, dago, gooks, jungle bunny, sand niggers (appropriate for use in sunny Baghdad), jiggaboo (my all-time favorite), porch monkey, wetback and the like. The best race and gender related comeback we have? Whitey, cracker (and crackah or cracka) and hoe (which should be disqualified as a riff on an existing favorite).

To my fevered mind, the issue isn't getting Black people to stop using "nigger." It's getting white people to use their considerable verbal prowess in more wholesome ways. To break that down for you, in case there's any confusion: Stop making this crazy, fucked up, insulting shit up and, maybe, we won't have it to use... on anybody.

Now, the truth is Black people were just as offended by Irrelevant Jackson's use of "nigger" in person-oriented public parlance as anybody else (including Juicy Fruit Hasselbeck). For most of us, being called "nigger" will get you sent to the trauma center, in separate, tidy little Ziploc bags. I don't call people "nigger" and my Momma, a believer in the tenet "It's not what you're called, but what you answer to," taught me not to respond to "nigger." "That's not what I named you," she'd say after listening to me regale her with tales of white kids at school trying to wreck my day.

Aside from the ample Mother Wit she was blessed with (Mother and Father of the Universe keep you, dear lady), she was later a brilliant psychotherapist and knew that the word had the fetid stink of internalized self-hatred on it. But she was quick to point out that, as a corollary to her statement above, "There will be those who will try to call you 'nigger' and others who will just treat you like one." To her, and to me, name calling is on a sunnier circle of hell than race-baited ill treatment. Still horrible, though.

To be clear here, I'm not, on the other hand, afraid to use the word... to turn it over and examine it... to place it in history and society, but never to use it on anyone (still thinking about "Negro, please," though). But I'm not going to pretend it's an anachronism to be assigned to the reliquary. It just won't stay there.

Back to the Goldberg-Hasselbeck smackdown. Elisabeth really took up her rant when Whoopi suggested that we have different world experiences and, therefore, live in different worlds. "It isn't balanced, and we would like it to be, but you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we're telling you there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us," Whoopi said. "We don't live in different worlds," was Liz's thoughtful and heated reply. Explain to me why even brand spanking new immigrants, when asked, will tell you they may have it rough, "but at least they're not Black" or why North Africans, darker than Whoopi will ever be, will soon be listed as Caucasian (!) on census forms.

More from Elizabeth (watch the video and the Young Turks' take on it):

"When we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term, and we're trying to get to a place where we feel like we're in the same place, where we feel like we're in the same world... how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?"

Ever so troubling is what Elisabeth is pointing to: white kids like hers are/will be taking the worst out of the American subculture and adding it to the crazy quilt which is whitespeak.

This from GQ:

Other words say the same thing as bro but don't stimulate the same level of derision. The king of slang pronouns, of course, is dude, which now competes with the F-word for its sheer number of meanings and uses. ... You can get away with man, but steer clear of my man. Careful with pal and partner, you could sound like you walked off the set of Mayberry RFD. The word guy sounds precious. Buddy can be smarmy. You still hear lots of suburban white guys coopting gangsta speak like dawg, nigga, and homey, and they always come off moronic doing so. Brah is lame when used by anyone but a real Hawaiian. Holmes? For some reason, white guys can use it but black guys can't. Do not even think about home slice. One of the best things a guy can call another guy, I think, is bitch. 'Sup, bitch? It's cool.... If you coach high school football, go ahead and use chief. Otherwise, no.

At this point, I find myself considering the merits of Everclear as a means to "take me away," but there's been a recurrent battle cry throughout segments of the white world of late: "If rappers and poets and plain, ole Black peeps on the street (Note to white people: drop peeps, 'cause you've ruined it, too) can use 'nigger' then I don't understand why I can't." Which brings me back to my main point: You can.

In fact, I'd like to urge you to use "nigger" and its legion derivatives in every way you can -- adjective, noun and Lolly-Lolly-Lolly-get-your-adverb-here. Try it out on as many people as you can and in as many circumstances as you can. Start with work and church, oh and see what happens after you call your boss or priest -- or better yet, your momma -- "My niggah."

I'll be watching and eating popcorn and calling for a mop.

What whites fail to understand about "nigger" is that it's an "as is/no warranty" kind of word. They don't see the beat-downs that happen on playgrounds and parking lots when we use it on each other. They fail to recognize that, aside from a perverted view of "what's cool," those Blacks found using it publicly are considered diss-grace-full (gracefully full of "diss?").

But still, all that being said, have at it. Enjoy.

This guest diary comes to us from Lalita Amos, Founder and Managing Director of Total Team Solutions, LLC, a 12 year old leadership and team development firm offering strategic planning and executive coaching to entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs and runs Like Nobody's Business, a blog and podcast of the same name, where she challenges conventional business wisdom in an unconventional business world.

Visit the Bilerico Project for daily queer commentary.

Originally posted to The Bilerico Project on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:53 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  people probably think I'm weird (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      liberalis, The Bilerico Project

      but I fully support the rights of people (even the dead) to be called what they want to be called. Negro, Black, AfricanAmerican. For me, it don't feel right to call someone what they didn't ask to be called.

      Nobody asked to be called the n-word.

      Thanks for the diary, well spoken indeed.

      Jesus ain't comin', go ahead and put the Nukes back now.

      by RisingTide on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:15:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  nah.. (0+ / 0-)

    Negro???  Its a scientific term to identify sub-species of the human race in order to create a social heiarchy.

    Same as Caucasian, Caucazoid
    Same as Mongoloid
    Same as Negrito, Nigress,

    It's outdated and you/we need to get past it.

  •  This is the best diary I've read in a long time (5+ / 0-)

    on a very ugly word.

    Even THINKING the word makes me feel like a redneck.

    Nothing worse in life than a Hypocrite. Nothing.

    by lrbreckenripple on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:03:01 AM PDT

  •  If Twain hadn't called him Nigger Jim (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    liberalis, Stranded Wind

    the assininity of slavery wouldn't have been on full display. Sometimes nigger can be a good thing.

  •  If a white person uses Nigger (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stranded Wind

    Isn't the jig up? I mean, you already know that that person is a complete trainwreck of the human race, so you can automatically write whatever they have to say off.

    Nothing worse in life than a Hypocrite. Nothing.

    by lrbreckenripple on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:13:04 AM PDT

  •  Two N words.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stranded Wind

    that younger people see differently than older ones. They are "Nigger" and "Negro"  For those who lived before and during the civil rights era- late 50s thru 60s- there is a clear distinction.

    Negro was the respectful term to define a race.  Rather than continuing to deal with the ongoing issues of race-caste-ethnicity, many have tried to use language as a proxy.

    So even my use of the word "race" will be seen by some as a sign of "racism."  If we can imagine that race is a myth, then certainly, ipso facto, racism is forever gone.

    This ends with the absurdity of African American, the only approved term, being used on strangers, who one has no idea of the "American" component.  But better safe than sorry.  

    Especially if you have to run for public office.

  •  I have (3+ / 0-)

    tipped and rec'd without hesitation. Very well done.

    It amazes me that this still has to be explained to people. If you think about the word itself and all that it implies, you realize that there is no other word available in English that delivers the same degree of impact (nevermind a corollary expression for white people, as you mentioned). It is the final word in a racially charged melee. Based on that alone, it's impossible to deny that Black America lives in a reality mostly hidden from Whites. It's something Whites have to deduce, if they care to. Not unlike how the Moon affects the tides. Though it seems obvious enough to me.

    "Nothing destroys irony like having to explain it."

    by liberalis on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:21:55 AM PDT

  •  Can't imagine how much more damaged my self estee (0+ / 0-)

    This is definitely an issue to be addressed, although, as a white person having a different experience of life, I hesitate to speak.  Because no matter how much I am in sympathy with those oppressed, and even though I became a social worker and a psychotherapist based on my natural empathic tendency, I didn't live that life and cannot imagine how much more damaged my sense of self worth would be if I had, how much more incapacitated I might feel to "succeed" in life.  And by "succeed", I mean "thrive" and survive--prevail would be way out on the horizon.

    As one who grew up in the 50's/60's in Texas and graduated from high school outside of New Orleans in 1964 the spring after Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, I did not miss out on how it was--from the eyes of a naive and idealistic white girl.  I didn't miss the colored and white drinking fountains, restrooms, cafes, or even the unspoken unwritten rule of where one was to sit on the bus.  I didn't miss the racial slurs slung carelessly from the lips of my own family--the ones who took me to Sunday School and taught me about being kind and fair and loving.  Those who taught me the value of sharing and the blessedness of freedom in our country, which had "higher" moral/ethical standards than those where communism and dictatorship ruled.  And believe me, I recognized the hypocrisy and spoke out against it at every opportunity.

    I didn't miss the "shanty-towns", the abject poverty, the observation of this by my social class as no different from observing how our pets live in dog houses and crap in the yard.  (Yes, these places had no running water or plumbing facilities.) I didn't miss the patronizing attitude of the "ruling" classes.  I didn't then, and I don't now.

    There are white people of all kinds in this country who have experienced oppression, social and economic deprivation, who can identify through their personhood being discounted and diminished.  There are definitely white people who have been cruelly used and abused as children and as adults--by those who had power and dominance over them in one way or another.  But there are no white people who have experienced the diminution and relegation of their humanity to the level of lesser beings--work animals--mules, oxen, dogs--by a whole culture, by a whole country of social and economic "elites".

    It made me ashamed to be white, to be southern-born, and to feel captured within that category for life. I do recognize the pain of Elisabeth Hasselbeck breaking through in conversation with Whoopi Goldberg. It is painful that no matter how hard I pressed for the freedom and social justice for all of oppressed humanity, then (as a child), later as a young social worker, or do now for my clients who have been cruelly abused, I will be forever prejudged as as one who's empathy/sympathy is somehow unauthentic, hypocritical, invalid, or uncertifiable.

    But I understand why that is...

    ...even though only a year ago, I thought whites and blacks had come to a place of social and class equality in living, working together.  Maybe there were still "class" differences, but the racial issues were dying away.  Still a sensitive area, but, that for the most part we could relax around each other in full awareness of what we've all been through to make the changes that we can see today. Conditions so different from before all the massive changes resulting from the movement in the sixties.

    But I found out in no uncertain terms that there is still mistrust and misunderstanding quite prevalent--and there is no relaxing the rule of separation.  I found out by "coming out" in print for the first time with my own personal expressions of pain and frustration (I cross-posted the diary here ) over feeling caught and oppressed by a Catch-22 situation in the healthcare "industry".

    In my long and rambling work I mentioned how ashamed I was of my classmates in south Louisiana when they cruelly and immaturely railed out their epithets against Kennedy being a n-word lovah when a school announcement told us of the shooting in Dallas.  "Yea, the n-word lovah's dead" was the appalling quote I gave forth from my own frustrated experience. Only I used the "word", itself, it being a quote. I also reported how disgusting the word was to me. I had an email-list readership at that time and one of the young (African-American/black/substitute whatever is most ethically correct here to designate the condition I'm attempting to describe) woman wrote me and told me to remove her from my list.

    This was a young woman with whom I'd been in classes and had had a number of personally intimate conversations.  I responded to her after great deliberation about what could've prompted her cutting me off--because it was short and terse, but didn't say why.  I asked her what was it that offended her and wondered if it ad been the quote.  I assured her I had meant no offense to her and that it offended me too. She never responded and avoids me, doesn't speak to me.  That hurt me--did I deserve it?  I didn't think so.  I found out later through some investigation that the NAACP had just "buried the n-word" in a symbolic ritual at their most recent meeting--then I got it. That use in any form of this word was going to be considered taboo.  At least to white people.

    I thought to bury the word would be like trying to bury any ugly traumatic experience--it would find its way back up to sabotage and destroy the one who tried to hide its ugliness and its meaning.  Sometimes speaking the horror of something is a means of making it real enough so that noone ever forgets to protect against it.  Like remembering the Holocaust--oh, I guess there are some white Americans who have experienced being dehumanized as a cultural group by an entire nation (and world by proxy).  Not that I forgot about that--just was thinking about the issue at hand regarding the n-word and black/white relations.

    I'm sure I've offended in how I've spoken here, now, but I can only say I have done the best I can with the circumstances life I was born into and were presented to me along the way, and with the personal resources I've had available in each moment to deal with them.  I hope to always honor the humanitarian values and principles I hold dear.

    But sometimes it just doesn't come across that way.

    Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

    by In her own Voice on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 12:19:09 PM PDT

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