If you have siblings, you have probably experienced the craziness that is “blood fights” – not to be confused with “blood feuds.” That’s anther blog post. In particular, you know what it is like to abuse or be abused by a sibling: The antagonizing. The pushing. The shoving. The punches. Abuse! Great pleasure is gained by one while great despair is experienced by another. But through it all, there is (eventually) an understanding of love. So, while such abuse is acceptable, and some would argue normal between siblings, heaven help the non-family member who engages in a fight with our kinfolk. The same little brother who was choked to near unconsciousness, becomes a highly protected treasure when confronted by an outsider who even threatens to harm him. Why is this? Some believe it’s a territorial thing. Family members grow up together and develop a bond that often includes taking liberties that may be more forgivable with one another than they would be from an outsider. There is also the possibility that, as with adults, sovereign nations, and other more “sophisticated” social and political relationships, conflict can act as a form of communication and an incubator for developing resolution skills. So, what do we do about “nigger?” “What the. . . !!? Where did that come from, JustAGuy!!?” Well, bear with me – and hold on to this relatively short, but very bumpy ride.
There is this notion among some Black people that “nigger,” when used by and between Black people, is a “term of endearment.” And by the way, if you’re uncomfortable with my using the full word instead of the patronizing and First Amendment-crushing term, "the N-Word,” then maybe you should stop reading. Because right now is the last time I will use the term “N-Word” in this post. The use of that term, moreso than the word “nigger” itself is stupid. The reverence to which it has been ascribed as a kinder, gentler, non-offensive alternative is evidence of the power that we have all given to a word – a word that has no redeeming value, as it has historically referred to a race of people who have suffered unimaginable atrocities and who still endure more inequality and injustice than any single ethnic group in America.
So, it goes like this: I can smack my little brother or pull my little sister’s braids. But if Little Mikey down the street does it, oh it’s on!! I can even say unflattering things about my parents. But we all know that many a playground have been the birthplaces of bloodied noses and blackened eyes -- all because of rhetoric that began with, ended with or in any way encompassed the phrase “yo’ mama.” Likewise, to some it is acceptable for a Black person to call another Black person a nigger, nigga, niggah, nigg, or any variation, thereof. But, stop the presses and put on your boxing gloves when someone of another race calls a Black person the same word. But hey; it’s different then, because they are not coming from a place of love when they say it, right? Right . . . .?
Now, I’m Just A Guy Thinking – but I will wager that on at least one occasion, one Black person called another Black person “nigger” – right before one pumped a few 9 mm rounds into another's body. Or right before they delivered a love-less blow to another’s face. Or right before – or after, they pronounced some lewd, despicable or demeaning curse upon another. You see, unlike the phenomenon of sibling-rival-turned-sibling-protector, the word nigger does not have an origin of love. It is not the little brother or sister who mommy and daddy brought (presumably) lovingly into the world and into your life. No, it’s not the little imp who stole all of the attention from you and around whom you felt horribly marginalized for a while; but for whom you ultimately gained the same love and assumed the same protectiveness that your parents had for him or her. The word nigger, on the other hand, was not borne out of love. It is doubtful that, at its conception, it was intended to be used as an expression of love, adoration or respect. It is not at all like the bundle of joy/aggravation that our folks brought home from the hospital. It is more akin to your mortal enemy gifting you with a pet rattlesnake. I’m not saying that white people today are Black people’s mortal enemies. I don’t believe that because it’s simply not true. But a few hundred years ago, white folks weren't exactly inviting Black folks to Sunday dinner and regaling them with the accouterments of joy, admiration and comfort. But we were talking about rattlesnakes, weren't we?
Yes -- the pet rattlesnake gift. You see, no matter how long you have it, or where you take it, or how beautifully you present it, or how proud or loving of it you become – it will never love you back. It was not gifted to you as a gesture of love or affection. It is oblivious to the concept of human love. And should you insist on handling it with and among others, it will em-poison you and anyone else with whom you share it. Maybe the historical and psychological “venom” that is inherent to the word nigger will not have the instant and dramatically damaging affect as that of a rattlesnake bite. It is, however, a slower-acting but much more lethal poison that affects a far greater aspect of your being than your mortal body. It affects your soul. On both the conscious and subconscious levels, it deteriorates your sense of self-worth and value. Why? Because it was given to you as a sentiment of your perceived worthlessness and valueless-ness from the beginning.
So, personally speaking, I ask -- why would we ever embrace something that was given to us to “kill” us. Why adore something that will “kill” us if we choose to handle it with such careless and whimsical frequency? And why should we object so strongly to others administering the same “poison” to us that we administer to one another? Would that same old rattlesnake given to you by Black hands be any less deadly than if it was given to you by white hands? And consider this: Maybe the white gift bearers think you don’t mind handling rattlesnakes – because you do handle them amongst yourselves – all the time….
So, here are a couple of suggestions regarding the use of the word “nigger”: One, stop using it -- especially with each other. And/or, two – stop taking offense when a non-Black uses it about or towards you or someone who looks like you. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite. It was a bad word back in the day and it's a bad word now. You can’t adopt a rattlesnake and expect it to evolve into a yorkie pup – ever! In this case, our pet word was never intended to be a pet. And we shouldn't treat it like a pet. We should leave it out in the wild. And when we occasionally observe it slithering about its slimy marshland, leave it be and most importantly . . . don’t feed it. Just a thought.