Bill Cosby has spoken up about it. Chuck D has spoken up about it. I’m of course talking about the N-word. While everyone knows what it is, few people, even African-Americans, truly know the origin of the word or how futile any attempt to “defuse the word” is.
For about ten years, I’ve wondered what the value of “taking the word back” from white slavers was. One of my good buddies is African-American. Only he doesn’t call himself that. He calls himself Black. He doesn’t even use American. He’s proud of his heritage and he likes hip-hop music. He lived in the inner city for most of his life. I met him in college and he had a dream. Getting a degree and doing it all by himself. This was strange enough for a person of color but it wasn’t what set him apart. What did? One day, he and I were riding the bus and a group of high school kids hopped on. They began cursing and yelling at each other, speaking in the dialect of the inner city. The N-word was used more than a few times and my friend became incensed. He interrupted their conversation and said, “That word is ugly. You shouldn’t use it. It makes you look ignorant.” One of the kids sneered as only teenagers can and said, “We jus taking it back from the cracka’s!” I kid you not. I’m writing it the way he said it.
My friend laughed and told them that if they want to take something back from “the man” they should start with their self-respect.
That seriously made me realize how different he was than many of my friends. Not just my black friends but also all my friends. He was educated, passionate and not afraid of bucking the system and his peers when it came to social issues.
I caught some of Cosby’s speech where he blasted young blacks for their continued apathy. Since May, Cosby and a small number of black entertainers have repeatedly attacked black Americans for their whining, belligerent, attitude towards education, hard work and grammar.
Honestly, if more prominent blacks would speak out on the issues of education, self-respect, hard work, social reform and non-violent conflict resolution, the US prisons wouldn’t be filled with young blacks.
This weekend on TRIO TV will feature an entire schedule programmed by Chuck D. On Sunday, The N-Word a film that traces the history of a word that was once among the most reviled words in the lexicon of America. The fact that teenaged white kids throw that word around at each other either signals that the word has lost its power to insult or that the efforts of black America to take the word back has truly backfired. I for one would love to see the word disappear.
I for one would love to see black teenagers speaking as if they spoke English. I know that the popular excuse is that they don’t want to speak the language of the slave traders or that they are non-conformists breaking out of a cycle of subjugation by rich white aristocrats
I for one would love to see colleges and universities abolish affirmative action plans. They have done more to harm minorities than anything before the civil rights movement.
I for one would love to see a greater movement towards self-respect which begins with personal responsibility. Black America has got to stop blaming white America for teen pregnancy, low test scores and high-school dropout rates. Those are all things that can be easily remedied by a commitment to education. It begins with the parents! When you have two illiterate parents showing apathy towards the value of education, you can be assured that the child of such a household is destined for unemployment.
Anyone care to disagree?