Saturday, August 2, 2014

The N-Word and the Headline "Fail" of the Decade

So the truth is, I rarely watch the news anymore. No, I'm not burying my head in the sand, I am simply tired of the negativity. There is no good news and what news there is has gotten so biased that in order to watch it, I feel I have to fact check everything. It is exhausting. That being said, Saturday's I like to write about what is going on in the world so not watching the news means I have to do research. Trust me, there are no shortage of political stories I could write about or Ebola stories or immigration stories, but frankly they have been done to death this week, so I decided to research a little further. I happened upon an article in the New York Post about an article that ran in the WestView News in NY. The headline in the WV News read "A N***** in the White House," referring to current president Barrack Obama. The article was written by James Lincoln Collier who seemed to have been writing this as a pro-Obama piece showing that racism is still alive and well in the world today. Apparently though, people of the West Village and around the country didn't take too kindly to the headline, regardless of Colliers intent.

The n-word. As a child in the last days of segregation, the word was still used but mostly by older people. They also used terms like "boy" referring to a young black man and "negro" referring to the race in general. Like the other n-word, "negro" could be used in a derogatory manner, but when the n-word was used among themselves, blacks didn't seem to find it as offensive as they did hearing it from outside their race. The first time I realized the term was negative was when my mom and I were reading "Huckleberry Finn," a literary classic by Mark Twain. One of the main characters was N***** Jim. Being somewhat socially conscious at the time, my mother took the time to stop and talk to me about the word. She explained to me that I would likely hear that word out in the world and it would be directed at blacks, but it was not a term to describe a race. It was a term to describe an attitude. She said that in her book a n***** was someone who was lazy, worthless and without character and that anyone regardless of skin color could be a n***** if they held those traits, but that it was a bad word that people should not call each other. I sort of understood but I liked the character N***** Jim and I forever hated his name after our talk. I NEVER have nor will I ever use that word to describe another human being.

All this being said, the n-word is just that.....a word. It is no more or less racist than Cracker and I have heard blacks on the news spewing the word "Cracker" and it was simply ignored and life went on. You would think that these words would only have the power we allowed them to have, however....the n-word seems to pack quite a powerful punch to the point of provoking riots, lawsuits and a national tongue lashing from Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. So if the word is so degrading and so racist, why do blacks use the term among themselves and called it their word and not ours? I have always wondered this and a few years back I had a young 30 something black man in one of the college courses I took. One day, the conversation turned to the n-word and I asked him why blacks called themselves that. He told me that only the "low class" blacks did that, referring to the bangers and the uneducated or under educated. He said it was more a street/gang word and regardless of what they try to tell the world, it is just as degrading and racist if not more so, when a black man calls another black man the n-word as it is when anyone else does it.
So I asked...."Why do blacks call it their word?"
He just shook his head and said, "It shouldn't be anybody's word with in the modern day definition," and then he went on to talk about when blacks were brought over as slaves. He said the n-word was a common word at the time and used not as a racist term but more as a class term. Blacks were viewed as property and were viewed nowhere near the class of the white man. There were masters (the whites) and n*****s (blacks). It was almost a hundred years later before the term racist became common and the term n***** became the #1 word on the forefront of racism. I then asked him if he was offended by the n-word and he told me that he found it far more insulting to hear blacks calling each other that than he did to hear a white man call a black man that. The reason was, when a white man calls a black man that....then the white man is speaking in ignorance, but when a black man calls another black man that, then he is showing no pride for his race, no respect for himself or his race and no desire to better himself or his race. Then he asked me, how many college educated black men I had ever heard using that word.
When I thought about it, I really couldn't think of any and he shook his head and said....."And you won't, because they are proud, respectable and respectful men. They want to bring their race up not hold it down with self hate and self prejudice."
It was one of the most interesting and educational conversations I have ever had. His goal was to go to law school and then go to Georgia where he had family and practice law there. He said there was a lot of racial ignorance in that part of the world and he wanted to help change that. I have no doubt that he is probably doing that as we speak.

So is racism still alive and well in our country? Yes and I think there has been a strong resurgence in the last few years like this country hasn't seen since the 1960's. I believe there are many reasons for this and a black president is one of those reasons. Having our first black president laid racism wide open. When Obama ran the first term many admittedly voted for him not because they felt that he was the best man for the job but because he was black. Many believed that it was time a black man was president and if you weren't on board with that or possibly questioned whether he was the man (regardless of color) that we needed at the time, then you were viewed as racist. Ever since, that sentiment has only grown stronger and where in the past, you could openly disagree with a president or even say something negative about a president now it is viewed as racist. No one wants to be viewed that way, but people are getting tired of not being able to speak out about something that has nothing to do with the color of the mans skin and everything to do with the kind of job he is doing, for fear of being labeled. In my opinion....racism has become a smoke screen for the current administration to hide behind and it is something that needs to be addressed to ensure the success of another president of a race other than white or even a woman. Credentials are what a presidency should be judged on, not race or sex or any other factors that have nothing at all to do with the job.

Now tell there really a place in modern society for the n-word? Does it add to our culture? Does it make our world a better place? Should it be used for whites to degrade blacks or blacks to degrade each other? No, to all of that. I do not judge a person by the color of their skin but rather the strength of their character and no man can grow strong in character if he is constantly degraded and put down by his own or by others. No.... I am not a fan of Collier's headline, regardless of the intent and while I am also not a huge supporter of the current administration and president, calling him a n***** in print, shows no class and great disrespect not just to the president but to all black people in this country. Colliers article may have been written with the best of intentions, but his headline in my opinion, was nothing but one huge  fail! 

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