One of my favorite people at Howard, Aliyah, is currently having the time of her life in South Africa. Since I’m many years and many dollars away from my own trip to Africa, I look forward to the emails she sends out detailing her experiences. The last update I read dealt with her interactions with the people of Johannesburg, noting the many similarities we share and how we all truly do share a kinship across the Diaspora. There was one part of the email that disturbed me, however.
What I find the most interesting is how much they know about America, and African Americans; however they do think that all African Americans are just like the hip hop artists and I even had a little black African boy asked me, “Would you like me to talk nigga for you?” and by that he meant using words like “what’s up” and “holla.”
Now when people ask why I choose not to use the word “nigga,” I can use this story. Thank you, Aliyah.
Actually, I can cite two stories thanks to a conversation I had with my friend and future Senator of New York, Ashley about an hour ago. To make a long story short, if you’re familiar with Facebook then you know about the infamous wall found on each student’s profile where one can leave comments. In what apparently was suppose to be a funny message, someone left “You’re my nigger” on someone’s page. Both are white. Hahahaha. Isn’t that funny? To quote reality television’s brightest new star, (next to the Kang, of course), Whitney Houston, “Hell to the nawl!”
Ashley -like the caring person that she is – thought it would be a good idea to inform the dope who dropped the N bomb that their message should be taken down, because it is offensive to people of color. His response? “Stop being so self-righteous.” I guess tolerance went out with throwback jersey’s.
As angry as Ashley should be at the moron in question, I can’t help but think perhaps some of that venom should go towards her own, as we’ve made the word acceptable. I’ve heard Hispanics, Asians, and Indians (I don’t mean Native Americans) all throw the word around almost as casually as they do the word hello. Often times it’s used in conversations with other blacks…though no one bothers to inform them that the word should be removed from their vocabulary.
Before anyone leaves a comment, I’m well aware that the word isn’t going anywhere. I’ve accepted it. But, that doesn’t mean I’ll ever embrace it. Same goes for the monolithic depiction of blacks in mainstream hip hop. Whenever I listen to someone complain about how they were mistreated and stereotyped while traveling overseas, I usually ask them what’s in/on their CD /mp3 player. 50? Kim? Lil Jon? Gee, I wonder why they think you’re a violent, oversexed brut ready to rob them at the drop of a dime.
I’m guessing I sound self-righteous myself in this entry. To make my position clear, I don’t have a problem with that brand of hip hop. Some of it I enjoy. What I take issue with is that there isn’t a balance.
Most of the world learns about us through mediums like music and TV/film. When there’s nothing to counter those negative depictions, you have young black boys in South Africa deciding that the only way they can relate to you is if they speak in “nigga talk.”
“There’s so much more to black life and culture than the materialistic portion that seems to consume all the lyrical content on the radio.” — Pharrell Williams
And there’s much more to black life and culture than imitating mob folklore and revealing tales of the 1001 different ways you can fuck someone.
With that being said, if you still feel the need to use the word and fully embrace the argument that you can flip “nigga” and take control of its meaning, than by all means, refer to yourself as one. As for me, I’ll stick with Michael.
Moreover, be more mindful of the images we’re showing to the world. Maybe then you’ll understand why people view us the way that they do.