Thursday, June 21, 2012

Niggers, Crackers, and other Unsavory Types

It was a simple enough question. "Are white people offended by 'nigger', or embarrassed?". I specified that I did not want answers from non-white people. I mean...people struggle to think/speak for the hell can they speak for anyone else? (put a pin in that thought...i'm coming back to it). So the poll came up with about 30 different answers ranging from "the word is just a word" to "I'm appalled when ANYONE of ANY race uses it".

Somewhere mixed in there was the question of Black people using the word and it being a double standard that white people can't. Dammit. I thought this had been addressed. But fuck it, let's address it again. (side note: if you're open enough to read a blog about "nigger" and the word "fuck" offends you...tell your captor to remove the gun from your head that's forcing you to read this...with your Ozzie and Harriet ass).

Let's be clear...all words are just words. Some words come with historical uses that make them less than positive. Others are viewed negatively, because they associate a behavior with a group, even when used by people not in that group ("faggot" is used to "accuse" a straight person of acting like a homosexual by some). I've even been told by a self-described feminist that using "pussy" to denote weak behavior is demeaning to the vagina (which I love...I'm sorry vagina...I never meant to hurt you). So, even though I personally believe words are just words, I'm aware that they impact people...sometimes profoundly.

How does nigger fit in this equation? Well...nigger (i'm not distinguishing between the various endings) has been used historically to refer negatively to people of color by white people. It's still used by some white people for the same reason. It's also used as a term of endearment in general conversation by black people (yes, i go back and forth between capitalizing Black/black...because I'm not convinced that it's supposed to be capitalized like Moroccan, Mexican, or Munk...). That's where the problem comes in. Some white people are outraged that we use it and they can't. "I's a horrible don't hear us calling ourselves's a double standard". Namaste, my melanin deficient homies.

I won't wax poetic about "taking the word back and owning it". Nor will I use the recently minted acronyms like Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. But let's be can't say it openly if you're not black. Why? The simple answer is...we don't know your intentions (and you might get your head cracked open). You may be a true believer in post-racialism (or the myth of...) but I don't know you. Your wife may be black...all of your friends (especially some of your best friends) but...there is an inherent distrust that comes with being a minority group. I can hear the cries of "oppressed how" coming from those who don't know what it's like even in 2012 to be viewed as a nigger, faggot, wetback, etc...shhhhh...sit your paternalistic ass down for a second and recognize that this isn't a debate that you should control. I asked white people how they felt for a reason...I honestly wanted to know, from them, how they felt when they heard the word. I, infamously, did a comedy rant about the use of "real nigga" that went semi viral (160k views between wshh/youtube). In the video I suggested that black people use real MAN in place of real nigga when referring to themselves. With that said, when I hear the word from a black person, it doesn't bother me. You know why? Because i KNOW their intent. For some that reeks of hypocrisy. For me, it reeks of reality.

Reality is...I've used the word "faggot" before. I've even used it in my standup. If a gay person tells me it offends them, I can accept that. It's offensive to them because, in their words, "it's been used as a form of hate speech for years". Some have been attacked physically while their attacker hurled the word as a form of salt to pour in the wound. I've also heard gay men refer to each other as "bitch". Point is, if I choose to continue using the word, I'm using it with the understanding that some people will be offended. There is no double standard. People are policing their communities. How many of us are running up on Asian people in Chinatown and telling them it's a double standard that they can refer to their whole area as Chinatown when  all of it's residents aren't Chinese? Exactly. There's an inherent paternalism that will be fought against whenever a privileged group attempts to dictate to a marginalized group.

One day I'd love to see people viewed as people. Today isn't that day. In the meantime, Black people have to be the ones to police themselves. Get out of your feelings. Oh...and stop pretending like cracker really hurts your feelings. As the very brilliant comedian, Louis CK, quipped "oh're taking me back to a time where I owned people and property". Stop It can't commit the crime AND choose your sentence. If you think it's a dirty word...don't use it. If it doesn't bother you...use it. If some black dude splits your head open...tell him he's being a hypocrite.