Before you answer that question, there needs to be a few ground rules. Using a word like that is like being a little pregnant. You are or you aren’t. You have or you haven’t. Yet people love to qualify. “Yes, I’ve said the word but, you know, there are two kinds of black people. There are black people and there are N******!”
No more excuses.
And there are no more excuses because we all know the origins of that word. We know it is a word steeped in hate, prejudice, oppression, regression, depression and anger. It is an ugly, unkind word.
Full disclosure here: Have I ever said that word? Even once? Answer: No. Not once. I was raised better than that. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve said plenty of things that would not make my mother happy. But because I was also reared in a home that taught me to respect all humans, because I was reared by two people who believe all people are created equal, that was a word that was never allowed. Therefore, in no time in my life when I was faced against a rude or mean or scary or pushy person who happened to be black did I utter that word. I did, however, eloquently call them out for what they were. “Hey, rude face!” or “Hey, mean guy trying to cut in line …”
No matter how you try to justify it, there is no excuse. Further, I have never understood how people who profess to believe in God and worship Him can justify using such language against one of His children. It is a conundrum. A hypocritical conundrum.
Recent events in the news have shone a spotlight on this awful word and those who use it once again. Currently, professional football player Riley Cooper has been called out for its use. He was recorded yelling that he would beat any N- who was around him. This is funny because he was at country-singer Kenny Chesney’s concert. Seriously? That’s like me threatening to beat up a straight man at a Justin Bieber concert. But I digress.
Here is another hypocritical conundrum.
After Riley Cooper’s racial rant, Marcus Vick, brother of Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick, known user of the N-word, was infuriated. Vick sent out a tweet asking that someone hit Cooper hard on the field. In big people world, this is called a bounty. In fact, Vick even tweets, “Hey, I’m putting a bounty on Riley ...” Uh, hello? Apparently, Vick can use the N-word while others cannot AND put out illegal bounties on other football players. Jeepers, it must be nice to live in your own world.
Because the N-word has been so widely accepted in the rap music world by African Americans, the word is gaining more and more popularity. Yet those of color protest its use by whites. And although the word is used mostly by young African Americans, it is also used by some older African Americans as well. I asked a number of friends who happen to be educated African American professionals and was surprised by the answers. Several agreed that if pronounced, “Nigga,” (by an African American), this word was not derogatory but a term of endearment.
Just as I wonder how many would explain themselves in the presence of Jesus Christ, I wonder how any self-respecting “Nigga”-user would explain him or herself to Martin Luther King Jr. And I believe that is why most older African Americans do not use the word.
For, during the Civil Rights Movement, MLK Jr. and other civil rights leaders trained their protestors to remain calm, civil, even loving in the face of oppression. Dr. King called this the “process of purification,” reminding all of the Bible’s command to love thy neighbors. So much so that during the 1963 sit-ins at different stores in Birmingham, Ala., police used high-pressure hoses and dogs on these quiet protestors, some of them children. Each was dressed in his or her finest attire. They were quiet, respectful (merely sitting) and polite, yet they were attacked. Pictures later depicted to a nation and the world the unjust and unprovoked attacks on peaceful protestors. For what did they really want? hey simply wanted respect and equality. By the end of the campaign, many business leaders took down their “Whites Only” signs, and the Civil Rights Movement began to taste its first real victories. As MLK had predicted, racism and an unjust society would never be won through incivility and violence, but through peace, civility and moral courage.
We’ve lost that. Black and white. When we accept vulgar and hurtful terms as terms of “endearment,” or as jokes, when we use and reuse derogatory language in music, writings and greetings, we lose civility and reason, for we teach the next generation disrespect toward one another.
No matter how you pronounce it, how you use it, how you mean it, what excuses you may make for it, use the word and you lose. We all lose.
Now residing in “the nicest city in Texas,” Alexandra Allred is the author of numerous books, including White Trash, Damaged Goods and the Allie Lindell series. Visit her website, www.alexandratheauthor, or Twitter @alexandraallred but always check out her column the WDL as she ponders all things Waxahachie and beyond its borders.