Sometimes, as a writer, I get a little sick of having to report the repeated and desensitized usage of racism that plagues our society. I’ve been feeling like our world is regressing when it comes to the color lines that seem to get bolder. A young Black man gets shot and killed by a White and Hispanic neighborhood watch captain and the tragedy ignites a racial conversation that’s never quite found a resolve. Another conversation that’s followed the Trayvon Martin tragedy’s lead is the use of the word, “n*gger.”
Here’s my take on it. Yes, as Black people, we sometimes use the word as a term of endearment, punctuation and even a term of hate, but it’s ours. It belongs to us. No, White people, you cannot say it–at least not around us. Use it all you want around your White friends, but don’t let the poison-soaked words escape your lips when someone in the room has more melanin than you. It’s ONE word that we simple request you just not say around us. Is it really that difficult to comply to this simple request? Is the word so damn tasty that you need to feel it in your mouth?
These are the questions I want to ask people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Tim Allen and many of the other White celebs who feel like it’s their duty to open up the word into their culture in an acceptable way. We will never accept you using it. Your ancestors used it enough and met their quota. You’re good.
Recently, Tim Allen–you know that loveable dad from “Home Improvement” thought that racism didn’t apply if “n*gger” slipped from his lips:
“I’ve had this argument on stage a million times. I do a movie with Martin Lawrence and pretty soon they’re referring to me, ‘hey, my nigger’s up.’ So I’m the ni**er if I’m around you guys but seven feet away, if I said ni**er, it’s not right. It’s very confusing to the European mind how that works, especially if I’ve either grown up or evolved or whatever, it literally was growing up in Colorado, with Hispanics and Anglos, that’s all I remember.
In Webster’s old dictionary the word ‘ni**er’ means unemployed and indigent dock worker. That’s one definition. So I said, (to my brother) in that case … he lives in Boston and he’s not employed … so you’d be a ni**er. And he goes, yeah. If my brother told me not to call him a dingleberry in front of my mother, ’cause I knew it pissed him… pisses me off. As soon as Mom left, and I wanted to piss him off? I’d say ‘dingleberry, dingleberry, dingleberry.’ So if you’re around a word to be problematic for you and low intellect or uninvolved people find that out, they’re gonna call you ni**er all day long ’cause they know you don’t like it.
You want to take the power away from that word so that no one is offended by it,” he added, telling a 50-year-old joke by Bruce about how President Kennedy could defuse slurs by using them to describe Jewish, Italian and black people in his cabinet. ‘If I have no intent, if I show no intent, if I clearly am not a racist, then how can ‘n—–’ be bad coming out of my mouth?’”
His logic seems as if he’s saying that if everyone is allowed to use the word “n*gger,” then it won’t bother anyone anymore. What part of the game is that? The word holds a heavy weight from the torture of our ancestors when it spills from White people’s lips. In all honesty, I still feel the stin
g when my brothers and sisters say it. But at least, coming from them, there’s no venom there.
Oprah recently stated in an interview with Parade Magazine that the word holds too much power and that if you want to be her friend, you’ll strike it from your vocabulary. “You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. … I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree.”
Truer words never spoken. When Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, Riley Cooper threatened people at a Kenny Chesny show, saying that he would “fight every n*gger here.” The comment cost him his job, his pride and his respect in the sports community. I want to know–was it worth it? This question isn’t just for Cooper. It’s for all of the White folks out here who feel this term is so important that they need to have on-going conversations about how they can’t use it, even though we do. Is it?