Transracial Parenting »

The N Word Revisited

Day Three of the NCORE conference and I have heard the N-word more times than I care to count today and I don’t mean NCORE. I took Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.’s N-word Certification Seminar, which basically means that for almost eight hours straight I was immersed in everything N-word and it ain’t pretty. Not at all. For one thing, did you know that Mark Twain used the N-word about 216 times in Huck Finn? One participant said they were made to read this book aloud in school – that’s right – picture your son standing there or sitting there and reading or hearing the N-word 216 times from his classmates. Uh-huh. Not good.

As has been the case at each of the other seminars I have attended at NCORE, a white woman shed tears today. The white woman actually said she wanted to shed her skin to get rid of the taint of 500 years of racism that this country is guilty of, but, she cried, she can’t. An African American woman said she totes two different types of guns and wanted to use one on a woman who called her the N-word but she didn’t want to go to jail over it.

Dr. Moore set the mood by turning off the lights at the start of the day and having us all close our eyes and clear our minds and then he said, “A N-word has just walked into the room, what do you see?” When we opened our eyes he was ready at the whiteboard to write down what that image conjured and do I even need to say none of it was positive – the image was male, menacing, ignorant, violent, lazy, no-good and on and on and on.

My niece used the word in a Facebook post and I asked her not to, and she apologized. Months later she used it again. Some people feel it is a word being reclaimed by African Americans and only they can use the word. Others don’t think anyone should use it. The rule for white people – NEVAH(ER) – get my drift?

Mainly the word is loaded, weighed down by its reason for being, it is derogatory, a way of denoting other, it dissociates, dismisses, demoralizes, distances, and is designed to be insidious, poisonous, toxic and dirty.

A man at my table said that his son, who is 13, was having a sleep over with a dozen boys and he was in the other room when they were all hanging out and he said they were saying, “My N this, my N that.” He waited and after they had settled in, he had them watch a clip from Roots where they take Kunta Kinte’s name from him, and then an interview with Tupac Shakur where he describes THUG life. He said it was a teachable moment. But, I asked, what about the every day use of the N-word in music, in lyrics, that come through the airwaves like muzak.

The people fueling the N-word industry are not Black people – isn’t that ironic. Not. But Black people have bought into the psychosis of the hegemonic capitalist infrastructure that is making money hand over fist on perpetuating and maintaining the N-word – as a matter of fact it seems to have ramped it up to such a high pitch, it is the norm for this man’s 13 year old’s friends to use it as a term of endearment. So while white boys in frat houses, wear their pants sagging, their baseball caps turned in their own appropriation of Black culture, the use of the N-word gets thrown into the mix as if it is theirs to use. But no one, not those 13 year olds, nor the frat boys, nor the media, nor the teachers that have you stand and read Huck Finn aloud are competent enough to unpack the N-word. None.

My take – no one needs to use this word. So why then does the media perpetuate this word, why do comedians use this word, why do rappers sing this word, why do young black men with everything on the line identify with this word? Do you know that John Lennon wrote and performed a song called Woman is the N of the World?

How about Sarah Silverman who dressed up in black face?

Damn – even people I thought I respected have succumbed to idiocy.

Well, answers to why were attempted today – I do believe the only thing the group got close to knowing is the N-word is never going to be a good word, or have endearing traits, or ever have any value in any society. At least not to people who know better – at least those of us who are taking an anti-N-word commitment.

Dr. Moore would like to put the entire country on an N-word diet.

And we need to help him.

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+ - 1 comment

July 3, 2013 - 9:12 pm

Roberta - Ah gotcha! I did put that in there in case my commnet seemed confrontational (which of course it wasn’t meant to be.) Unfortunately in written form you can never tell what someone means, so I decided to cover my tracks! Yeah we’ll see how my Ethiopian cooking goes. It’s kind of a lot of work so I hope it turns out, nothing’s worse than investing a bunch of time on a meal and having it turn out bad! I’ll keep you posted!Yeah, I do think many Mexicans are happy to be living here. They risk a lot to come here, both legally and illegally and I think they appreciate the opportunities afforded them. In Santa Maria, most of them retain their culture. (I love watching what the women buy at the store, lots of produce and stuff to make their food from scratch.) My dad once observed that although America is often referred to as being a “melting pot”, it is more like a patchwork quilt. Pockets of different cultures living out their culture here in America. I think that’s accurate. I don’t know how much “pride” immigrants take in being American–I believe they like America, but perhaps do not identify themselves as patriotic, etc.Kev and I were just discussing this last night. We do love many things about this country–the freedoms, opportunities, and services. We feel blessed to live here. But we don’t feel that strong, hardcore, “I’m American and we’re the best” sort of patriotism that some feel. Personally I’m okay with other cultures living out their culture here in America. (This is for Andy): Even if it overpowers “American”, because to me that’s part of the beauty of America, freedom to live as you wish. Plus, what does “American culture” look like? Andy, I don’t see any “grey” area when it comes to celebrating where Yosef and Biniam are from. They’re Ethiopian (in fact they’re not even US citizens yet) and that will never change. They had a life before us, parents, a sister, wonderful caregivers, etc. I don’t feel threatened by that. If as adults they choose to identify themselves more as Ethiopians or Ethiopian Americans, than as Americans, so be it. There’s nothing Biblically or otherwise wrong with that, in my opinion. One of the most emotional moments of my life to this day was at the airport in Ethiopia getting ready to take them out of their country. I cried. I cannot begin to describe the feelings of sadness as I sat there, realizing that these children were being taken from their culture, especially a culture so wonderful. I felt sad for their birth mother, sad for their country and the lack of options there that is the reason these children must leave. My sons needed a family and I am so happy to give them one, so happy that they will have opportunities, but they still experienced a huge loss. A lot of people only focus on the idea of “Oh, they get to come to America! Those lucky kids!” but those people haven’t been to Ethiopia. They don’t think about the boys’ mom, or sister, or the amazing culture itself. Now there is no opportunity for orphans there, and I do feel that (for now) adoption is a beautiful part of the solution, so yes God is working all things for the good for our boys. Oh and Jeannett, I am sooooo buying you a big Portugese flag (like the one on your sister’s myspace) for Christmas. Be ready.

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