The N-Word? Please, Use It Any Way You Can

This guest diary comes to us at The Bilerico Project from Lalita Amos, founder and Managing Director of Total Team Solutions, LLC, a 12 year old leadership and team development firm offering strategic planning and executive coaching to entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs and runs Like Nobody’s Business, a blog and podcast of the same name, where she challenges conventional business wisdom in an unconventional business world.

I am an authentic American Negro. I’m descended from freemen and slaves, slave bosses and slave owners, and the Native people who gave them sanctuary, family and hope. I say all this to offer my credentials, my Certificate of Authenticity, so you know I’m qualified to speak for at least one Black person: me. Now, so you don’t get confused, that doesn’t mean I’m suggesting that I am authorized to speak for all the Negroes of the Great Diaspora (settle!), but as a wise, old white guy (Carnegie, Zigler, Bozo? I’m not sure and don’t care to look) said: “I’ve lived this life and I have the right to talk about it.” The current debate over the use of the “n-Word” (that’s “nigger,” in case you’re confused) has become so nettlesome that it has set the flower of fecund, white womanhood tearfully a-twitter.

Pay close attention, people. This is terribly important and very few of my ilk will say this, even in sotto voce.

The “n-word?” Use it. You have my express permission. Let me break this down.I usually don’t watch The View. The idea that a revolving group of imitation Sistah-friends can sit in an ersatz living room talking about mostly nothing but babies and menopause and trifling shit gives me the dry heavie geebies.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck hates “nigger” so much so, in fact, that when her attempts to tell two grown Black women not to use it weren’t immediately met with gladsome sighs and “Thank you ever so for liftin’ that heavy burden, Liz, we’s a-feeling better now,” she began to sob. And I, the teetotaler, began thinking about the location of the nearest liquor store.

Co-hostesses Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd tried, instead, to check that chick with the usual: “You don’t understand, Elisabeth. We’re Black and looking through the white prism into the Black experience is shortsighted, blah, blah, fucking blah.” Frankly, watching these women try to explain the value of a word that has simply no equal in the English lexicon was otherworldly.

See, Jesse Jackson, in a video clip that sent the good people at Fox News into a masturbatory orgy, was overheard saying Senator Obama deserved an involuntary sex change for “talking down to Black people.” The women of Da View were “discussing” it. Pointlessly and poorly.

To put this into ghastly perspective, Reverend Jackson is on record for not being a friend of the “n-word.” Here’s Jesse holding forth about the use of the n-word, the h-word (shit! “nigger,” “hoe,” and “bitch” — those euphemisms are tiresome) after having successfully lobbied for Don Imus’ firing over use of the same a year or so ago. Lest Fox let us forget, here’s part of Jesse and an unknown guest discussing the merits of emasculating Senator Obama and the latest revelation: Rev. Jackson suggested Obama was “talking down to Black people, telling niggahs how to behave.” Guess Reverend Jesse is the “n-word’s” Superfriend: “Power of…hypocritical irony!”

In a written apology, Irreverent Jackson said:

“I am deeply saddened and distressed by the pain and sorrow that I have caused as a result of my hurtful words. I apologize again to Senator Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, their children as well as to the American public” Jackson said in a written statement. “There really is no justification for my comments and I hope that the Obama family and the American public will forgive me. I also pray that we, as a nation, can move on to address the real issues that affect the American people

Huh? As if the swirling, sucking eddy of psycho-ontological despair that is the state of our ability to discuss race relations isn’t a “real issue” that’s effecting the American people. Pish! And, yeah, I said “pish!”

Truth is, as a people, we Black folk have got nothing on white folks, who gave us such pejoratives as (avert your eyes) prick, cunt, bitch, kike, wop, dago, gooks, jungle bunny, sand niggers (appropriate for use in sunny Baghdad), jiggaboo (my all-time favorite), porch monkey, wetback and the like. The best race and gender related comeback we have? Whitey, cracker (and crackah or cracka) and hoe (which should be disqualified as a riff on an existing favorite).

To my fevered mind, the issue isn’t getting Black people to stop using “nigger.” It’s getting white people to use their considerable verbal prowess in more wholesome ways. To break that down for you, in case there’s any confusion: Stop making this crazy, fucked up, insulting shit up and, maybe, we won’t have it to use… on anybody.

Now, the truth is Black people were just as offended by Irrelevant Jackson’s use of “nigger” in person-oriented public parlance as anybody else (including Juicy Fruit Hasselbeck). For most of us, being called “nigger” will get you sent to the trauma center, in separate, tidy little Ziploc bags. I don’t call people “nigger” and my Momma, a believer in the tenet “It’s not what you’re called, but what you answer to,” taught me not to respond to “nigger.” “That’s not what I named you,” she’d say after listening to me regale her with tales of white kids at school trying to wreck my day.

Aside from the ample Mother Wit she was blessed with (Mother and Father of the Universe keep you, dear lady), she was later a brilliant psychotherapist and knew that the word had the fetid stink of internalized self-hatred on it. But she was quick to point out that, as a corollary to her statement above, “There will be those who will try to call you ‘nigger’ and others who will just treat you like one.” To her, and to me, name calling is on a sunnier circle of hell than race-baited ill treatment. Still horrible, though.

To be clear here, I’m not, on the other hand, afraid to use the word… to turn it over and examine it… to place it in history and society, but never to use it on anyone (still thinking about “Negro, please,” though). But I’m not going to pretend it’s an anachronism to be assigned to the reliquary. It just won’t stay there.

Back to the Goldberg-Hasselbeck smackdown. Elisabeth really took up her rant when Whoopi suggested that we have different world experiences and, therefore, live in different worlds. “It isn’t balanced, and we would like it to be, but you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we’re telling you there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us,” Whoopi said. “We don’t live in different worlds,” was Liz’s thoughtful and heated reply. Explain to me why even brand spanking new immigrants, when asked, will tell you they may have it rough, “but at least they’re not Black” or why North Africans, darker than Whoopi will ever be, will soon be listed as Caucasian (!) on census forms.

More from Elizabeth (watch the video and the Young Turks’ take on it):


“When we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term, and we’re trying to get to a place where we feel like we’re in the same place, where we feel like we’re in the same world… how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?”

Ever so troubling is what Elisabeth is pointing to: white kids like hers are/will be taking the worst out of the American subculture and adding it to the crazy quilt which is whitespeak.

This from GQ:

Other words say the same thing as bro but don’t stimulate the same level of derision. The king of slang pronouns, of course, is dude, which now competes with the F-word for its sheer number of meanings and uses. … You can get away with man, but steer clear of my man. Careful with pal and partner, you could sound like you walked off the set of Mayberry RFD. The word guy sounds precious. Buddy can be smarmy. You still hear lots of suburban white guys coopting gangsta speak like dawg, nigga, and homey, and they always come off moronic doing so. Brah is lame when used by anyone but a real Hawaiian. Holmes? For some reason, white guys can use it but black guys can’t. Do not even think about home slice. One of the best things a guy can call another guy, I think, is bitch. ‘Sup, bitch? It’s cool…. If you coach high school football, go ahead and use chief. Otherwise, no.

At this point, I find myself considering the merits of Everclear as a means to “take me away,” but there’s been a recurrent battle cry throughout segments of the white world of late: “If rappers and poets and plain, ole Black peeps on the street (Note to white people: drop peeps, ’cause you’ve ruined it, too) can use ‘nigger’ then I don’t understand why I can’t.” Which brings me back to my main point: You can.

In fact, I’d like to urge you to use “nigger” and its legion derivatives in every way you can — adjective, noun and Lolly-Lolly-Lolly-get-your-adverb-here. Try it out on as many people as you can and in as many circumstances as you can. Start with work and church, oh and see what happens after you call your boss or priest — or better yet, your momma — “My niggah.”

I’ll be watching and eating popcorn and calling for a mop.

What whites fail to understand about “nigger” is that it’s an “as is/no warranty” kind of word. They don’t see the beat-downs that happen on playgrounds and parking lots when we use it on each other. They fail to recognize that, aside from a perverted view of “what’s cool,” those Blacks found using it publicly are considered diss-grace-full (gracefully full of “diss?”).

But still, all that being said, have at it. Enjoy.

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