You may think you haven’t, but the “N-word” is very much out there. The term “nigger” and its derivative, “nigga”, have been reintroduced into American culture, not by Paula Deen, but by some African-Americans within the entertainment industry.
Rap, Hip-Hop, and Gangsta Rap artists and producers, such as Ice-T, Run DMC, Ice Cube, N.W.A. (Niggas Wit Attitudes), Dr. Dre, NAS, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West (aka Yeezus), and, yes, Jay-Z, friend to President and Mrs. Obama, have all incorporated the “N-word” into their music – ad infinitum.
The “N-word” music is then produced, distributed, and promoted by the media companies to the general public. This perpetuation of racism, expressed within the black community, has now found its way into mainstream America and the world, all in the name of free expression, art, and money – and lots of it.
Cultivating Racist Culture
Media companies have contributed to bringing to the forefront of American pop culture the music, comedy, and other artistic expressions that include such racist vernacular as the “N-word”.
Comedy Central, for example, runs The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which provides a humorous news program, and South Park, an irreverent, animated television series that makes fun of all of us, no matter how sensitive the topic.
One of the reasons I love South Park is because they exclude no one. This is one of the great points about comedy. It levels the playing field so that we can laugh at ourselves, no matter our race, ethnicity, creed, gender, disability, sexual orientation or political standpoint.
Having said that, however, I do believe these shows can go too far.
This recently was the case in “Fried & Prejudice” on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It sought to create new terminology like “Niggerette”, a Nicorette-inspired treatment for racism. There was also the character, “Nigger Guy,” from Birth of ‘N-Word Guy’, from an older episode on South Park. And the list goes on.
It’s My Culture and I’ll Say What I Want To
Many of us, regardless of our backgrounds, believe we have an inherent right to call ourselves whatever we want within our own communities. However, when those racist or stereotypical vernaculars enter mainstream culture, problems arise. Feelings get hurt, hate crimes ensue, and division amongst the people occurs.
This breakdown in unity and the propensity towards hate for people deemed “not like us” are the main reasons we must all reconsider our responsibility to the culture-at-large, socially and linguistically.
Language IS The Culture
Our language shapes our culture. Language is a living, dynamic, and ever changing expression of who we are. So much of what we say and how we say it is intrinsically tied to our cultures.
What do African-American children think or feel upon hearing or seeing the “N-word” written in lyrics? There is negative, historical baggage that comes with this word. It’s time to put it to rest. After all, what kind of language legacy do we want to leave our children?
Destructive To Society
A few years ago, Bill Cosby discussed how young black people were (and still are) calling each other “the N-word” and how disparaging it is not only to the black community, but to American society overall.
People, especially young men, believe it’s OK to use the “N-word”. I’ve heard many a young guy from all American walks of life, including immigrants, referring to each other as “Nigga”.
The word has even been derived to accommodate racism against other groups, such as “Desert N*****” for Middle Eastern people and “Prairie N*****” for Native Americans.
Evolve The Language
While some African-Americans are propagating negative stereotyping, Native Americans are working hard to reverse it where their peoples and cultures are concerned.
Words such as squaw, redskin, and Indian giver, along with their misinterpreted meanings, have become so ingrained in our culture, it’s seemingly impossible to extricate them.
Think about the burden we are putting on our progeny – the impossible task of re-removing the “N-word” and other racist words from American language, and unfortunately, from many others, as our culture is popular around the world.
It’s time to stop using culturally derogatory words, including the “N-word”. And it’s time to get rid of the color reference altogether. Afterall, the world is not just black and white.