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June/July
1999 Articles:

Art Censorship
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Notes from the Cultural Wasteland

Mindpower:
The N-Word

Pain & the
Human Race

Death with Dignity ... or a .22?

Quickies
(music reviews)

Manifest Destiny in the Balkans

The Cost of a
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The N-Word

One day on Massa's Plantation (Wal-Mart), I was talking to a white assistant manager. For those of you who have been following my articles, this is the same guy who still thinks Trent Lott is a great man after I had told him of Lott's ties to a racist organization. The manager told me he had just seen Life, the latest Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence flick, and asked had I seen it.

I hadn't, but my mother and younger brother had.

Then, he told me about the African-American actors usage of the n-word (nigger).

"Now, why is it," he started, "that you guys can use the 'n' word, but white people can't?"

Despite the fact that this guy is a staunch Republican, I always get along with him. We're almost the same age, have almost the same sense of humor and have a respect for each other's differences. So, when this question came out of his mouth, I wasn't shocked or offended. I just saw this as a friend asking another friend a question.

"Why would you want to say it?" I asked.

"No," he answered, "I don't want to say it. I'm just curious."

"Those that complain about it usually want to say it."

Really, I just said this to get a rise out of him.

"No, that's not true."

"Yes, it is. You must want to say it."

"I just don't think it's right that you guys can say it but white people can't. That's wrong."

I was enjoying this. This was one of those few times in which I had the upper hand on whitey. I had control on what the white man can and cannot call me. It was a guilty pleasure. Still, it felt good.

"Well," I said, "don't white people call other white people cracker? That's what they call native Floridians. I always hear them talkin' about the Florida cracker culture."

"That's different."

We were interrupted by a customer and went our separate ways. He went back to work. I went home.

Later, I told my mother about the conversation I had at work.

"Yeah," she said, "they were using that word."

When I hear other blacks use the n-word, I am not offended. Usually, blacks use it in non-white supremacist terms to describe a dumbass member of the black race. Also, they use it as a synonym for the word brother.

There are some instances where some blacks use it out of self-hatred. For a black to hate his or her own people is nothing but self-hatred.

One black friend of mine never uses the n-word in a positive manner. Most of the times, it's always something negative. I often wonder if he includes himself when he talks about how "niggas" is.

One thing that definitely irks me is when brothas use it in front of white folks. That's a no-no in the black community. Maybe we can say it on the rap records. Maybe we can say it in the movies or on the stage, but no way in hell is a brotha supposed to call another brotha a nigger right in front of white folks.

The reason for this is if someone white hears you saying it, they think they can say it, too. No matter how down they are, it's asswhuppin' time when whites say it. Black folks still can't take a white person using the n-word.

White folks saying the n-word brings back all the history of being considered less than human. Ever since slavery, a nigger was considered stupid. Nowadays, a nigger is a lazy, unpatriotic, violent criminal......with a big dick.

Even if the stereotypes may have changed, there is still nothing lower than a nigger in this society. Even the filthiest, inbred, redneck, trailer-park-living white trash is considered higher than a nigger. No matter how many kids they have from their cousins, trailer park white folks can always look down on the nigger and be happy that they are white.

This is why I have problems with some of them on Massa's Plantation. Not only am I forced to give them customer service, I also have to work with some of them, too.

Another reason why the n-word is less harmful coming from other blacks is the pronunciation of the word. Usually, blacks say nig-guhs. Whites say nig-gers. The "ger" is what makes it asswhuppin' time.

I remember being at a pool party. An older white guy was lecturing two black friends and I.

"You see," he starts, "a nigger can be any color. White, black ... it doesn't matter."

"You mean to tell me," my friend, Ross, started, "that if someone told you that a group of niggers was round the corner, you wouldn't think they were black?"

That silenced that discussion.

I was glad Ross asked the question. I have heard this kind of talk too many times. I heard it right along with the "there's niggers and there's black people."

Slur words aren't meant to be intellectualized; the n-word was used to dehumanize and disgrace one group of people, black folks.

The reason black folks started saying it was to take the pain out of it, to take the word and twist it to where it means something positive. That something positive could be a rap group called Niggers With Attitudes or a blaxploitation film called The Legend of Nigger Charlie.

Many times when I write, my superfly, bad nigga side comes out. What I mean by that is being outspoken, saying what I feel like saying and not bowing down to please other people. This is what a bad nigga would be in the 'hood.

Even Martin Luther King Jr would be considered a bad nigga. Violent or non-violent, any brother that stands up to the white man is considered a bad nigga.

I ask myself, should African-Americans stop saying the n-word? Yes, even though I say it myself, I think we really should. Us saying it only makes white people think it's okay for them to say it, too. Also, I'm tired of hearing white hip-hop kids use it.

Email your feedback on this article to impact-press@mindspring.com.

Other MindPower columns by Patrick Scott Barnes: