07 Nov No Funeral for the N word
Recently, and old argument has resurfaced about whether or not people of African descent should use the “N word.”It would take several hands and fingers to count and recall how many times I’ve heard or been told directly to stop using the word nigger/nigga (the two are completely interchangeable in my opinion). As a U.S. nationalized Afro Caribbean immigrant, I’m sure it is all but impossible for me to completely wrap my head around the comprehensive significance of the word as it pertains to my brothers and sisters of the diaspora who’s captivity culminated and continues today in the United States of America (I knew little of the word before I arrived here). I have, however, spent the last quarter of a century using, being referred to as, researching, studying, and overstanding one of the most controversial words in the english language. For this reason, I feel more than qualified to say that there is absolutely zero reason at this current juncture to bury the word.
Let’s rewind to a decade ago when internationally renown and respected rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones (IG @Nas) dropped his only untitled project (the album was supposed to be called “Nigger”). Many in the conscious black community consider this project to be one of the most important albums in hip hop culture as well as the genre of rap. It was released almost a year to the day after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized and held a funeral and burial for the N word in Detroit, Michigan as a part of the organization’s 9th annual convention. It featured key members of the organization, the (then) governor of Michigan, the (then) mayor of Detroit, as well as several notable black entertainers and “leaders.”
As much planning, resources, and obligatory pomp and circumstance went into this fairly well attended and media covered event, I invite the reader to discuss what the return was on said dubious investment. Michigan’s governor at the time also invited those in attendance to also bury other racial injustices, such as predatory lending, disparities in healthcare delivery, and the fight to end affirmative action. Seems to me that this message was being delivered to the wrong audience.
Flash forward back to the present where the N word is probably even more widely used (even by those who do not identify themselves as Black/African), and the injustices the governor referred to also persist with you-know-who as the primary target.
So what is the purpose of the repeated and continued attempts to end the word? Another symbolic but meaningless gesture (toppling statues of white supremacists does not even scratch the system of white supremacy) to lull the masses? Does the abolition of the word constitute collective consciousness and self determination of the very same people the word was meant to describe and denigrate? We have an idea what the NAACP’s reasons were for their shindig, but the results of that project speaks for itself. Anyhow, why try to exterminate something that so many of us do not even understand? That kind of logic renders us just as ignorant and presumptive as the European missionaries and colonists that visited Africa prior to capturing and trafficking millions of its constuituents.
For those of us us who prefer to function in the realm of facts and logic (not emotion and symbolism), let us have a look at what the N word means globally. In his most famous work (and more recently via a recent Tariq Nasheed podcast), Neely Fuller Jr. defined the word nigger in the most functional/operational way I remember ever reading/hearing: simply a victim of white supremacy. Yes that’s right- regardless of who coined it, who says it, and who it is used to describe, even today this definition rings true to me. This is based on the premise (or fact, depending on your perspective) that whether they know it or not, all non whites are victims of white supremacy, just as how all whites are beneficiaries of white supremacy. Hence the reason why people of African descent can use it as a term of endearment, and why it’s generally such an egregious offense for a person of European descent to say it. In the former, we helplessly accept and acknowledge our current position as the oppressed, while the latter is a vicious spit in the face and display of collective dominance.
So as long as the aforementioned social structure stays the same, I vote for keeping things as is; and if you believe in the principles of self determination, then you would too. We cannot let “them” define us, or control our narrative- we need to exercise our right to do just that. And if this definition and explanation makes others feel uncomfortable, then the word is doing it’s functional job- which is to highlight and subsequently eradicate the system of racism/white supremacy.