The Slave and The Master

The Slave and The Master
N.I.G.G.E.R.
Cut by: Davita Cuttita

“Every word we use, it has a capacity
And if you don’t understand the words you’re using
And understand the capacity of it
You are using words that is creating a destiny for you
That you don’t even know or [are] even conscious of”

Nasir Jones AKA Nas “Ya’ll My Niggas”

**These letters mean you must prepare to be offended (maybe)!! You’ve been warned!**

Ladies and Gents, this post has been a long time coming and today it is here:

Nigger.

What thoughts or feelings does this word evoke for you?

The other day, I was watching this Malcolm X video as he talked about how the KKK had murdered his father (with a very shitty interviewer who cuts him off constantly). I rarely leave commentary around the internet, but felt inclined to say something small about the usage of the word nigger as a foreign, White user had mistakenly confused it to be the same meaning as negro, and I kindly corrected him/her. Of course, two other White users came along and wanted to express their feelings (*sigh*) in regards to the word; one of them was quite understanding and a pleasure to talk to while the other was one of worst forms of a “White anti-racist” I’ve come across in a while.

Personally, I do not use the word nigger. I just don’t. Nor do any Black people I know (who are typically from somewhere in Africa or the Caribbean). In my opinion, the usage of the word seems to be the most used in America by African Americans, rather than by any other group of Blacks. For example, I’m Jamaican so Blacks there (men in particular) mainly tend to address eachother as “brother”, “man” (ya mon!) and “star”.

So, I made my point clear from the start that hey; I don’t use the word but you know what? If other Black people choose to use the word nigger or “nigga” as a term of endearment to other Black people who understand it as such and are OK with being addressed like that; then fine. That’s them. Yeah, there are some Black people that do not use that term and are offended by it no matter whose mouth it comes out of and they’re also entitled to not being called that by anybody/not using the word, too.

It’s a free country after all, right?

Not for this White person I was talking to.

This White person “only wished that Black people realized” that some of us using this word amongst ourselves was not good because White people know it isn’t. They constantly talked about Blacks as a whole, almost always saying “They” as if we were aliens and emphasizing the “educated” Black people they hung around who were offended by the word. Because hey; we all know that only uneducated Blacks use the word and that all educated people are wonderful, saintly individuals that just want the best for everyone and have no self-serving, malicious, agendas of their own whatsoever. Yeah, right.

There they were; the “do-gooder” White person going around with their puppy-dog eyes and arms crossed, saying, “Gosh golly! If only those poor Negros knew what we knew! Then we’d respect them and all their problems would disappear!”

I’ve been coming across these kinds of White people constantly for years so I’ve gotten used to all of the White supremacy and White privilege disguised as “understanding”, “compassion” and “concern” that come out of their mouths and have learned that it’s pretty futile talking to them. They’ve no interest whatsoever in learning from or listening to Black people or anything else constructive otherwise; their only interest is that we never “hurt their feelings” by talking about historical events and White washing all other races to act, speak, talk and think like they do: If we all think White, we’ll all be all right! Because you know, these White people think they know us better than we know ourselves!

“Talk to each other with respect, if you expect respect from white people. The word means the same to whites regardless of who is saying it,” they commented.

Ah-hah! So because some WHITE PEOPLE’S feelings are hurt because of a word used to oppress BLACK PEOPLE we should just get rid of it. Forget the Black people’s opinion! We should still be serving White sensitivities first and foremost! White privilege truly knows no bounds.

Wait…since when have White people always talked to eachother with respect?! I was the first and only Black person–no, Coloured person!– in an office full of White people working in high finance and I heard them throw around “fucker” and “son of a bitch” like nobody’s business, laughing and shaking hands all the while.

Besides, why on earth should Black people be policing themselves with the concern that White people aren’t happy with our actions? Is that not what the house nigger used to do? “Oh, Master won’t approve! Better not learn to read!”

My brothers and sisters of all nations, our main concern should NEVER be what some White folks think of us. Our main concern should be learning to think for ourselves and knowing ourselves and our history. Because only then; after we are able to do that, will we be able to truly love ourselves and respect ourselves and once one can love and respect one’s self, one can love and respect all others. Not only that, but one can finally feel as though they are capable of accomplishing things rather than being a victim to the past.

Due to there being such a wide variety of tribes and languages, Black people couldn’t talk to one another at all during those hundreds of years of enslavement unless they spoke like their White slave masters and look at the irreparable damage that has caused. Whole Black cultures, languages, histories, wealth, literatures, sciences, mathematics and peoples were completely destroyed. During the enforcement of Jim Crow segregation laws and the Civil Rights movement, Blacks took another step and tried to treat each other and the Whites that hated them passionately even better than ever before and guess what? They still got lynched, they still got hosed, they still got gassed, they still got beat and mauled by dogs and racism is still alive and well.

Some people are under the false impression that you can wrap racism into a word but fail to recognize that there are no words in any human language to describe the atrocities committed against Black people and all other Coloured people of the world by European colonialist greed, imperialism, genocide, bigotry and hatred.

Eventually, this White person reverted to what many White people do when they have conversations with PoC about issues that mainly effect us (because calling a White person a nigger doesn’t quite work, now does it?): they dissented into calling me names, accusing me of hypocrisy and then boo-hooing to me about their feelings like Elizabeth on The View. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

White homies, When we talk about our feelings and our issues, IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU OR YOUR FEELINGS. Nor are we generalizing; if you’re not racist, you shouldn’t feel bad: period. You are not Black; therefore you will never fully share in the experience and existence that is Blackness. No one cares how many Coloured People courses you took in school, or how many Black musicians, writers or filmmakers you enjoy, or if Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X is your hero. You could’ve done all these things and STILL BE A RACIST; I know, I’ve met White people like this.

If you want to help, quit whining, quit superimposing your White identity on us, quit denying history and just listen to what we have to say and if you don’t get it; don’t call us names, don’t say we’re being dramatic and don’t tell us we’re wrong: ask questions. It is insensitive and unfair of you to take our feelings, history, experiences and issues and use them as a tool to feel sorry for yourself: that is White Privilege; the cousin of White Supremacy and you are making matters WORSE by doing this.

For example, if someone you care about is crying about something that has hurt them deeply, you don’t start crying to them about your own problems, do you? No, you listen to what is upsetting them and you try to be a source of comfort and understanding. Even if they are going through something you yourself have never been through or do not fully understand, even if some of their words are garbled incomprehensibly in their sobs, you still LISTEN and try to make sense of what you can and ask how you can help; do you not?

Do you understand now? Questions?

Nigger.

I remember nigger from my childhood as I was spat at by Whites. I’ve talked about nigger. I’ve talked about why it’s not OK for White people to say nigger and what it means. I’ve talked about the hell we’re all catching as Black people. A lot of PoC on the internet do and there are even White people who do so accurately and justly as well.

As far as I’m concerned, the White people I’ve mentioned who think they should be telling Blacks or any other ethnic group how to speak, think or act; are not concerned for our well-being at all: they’re only concerned for theirs. I don’t even think they fully understand what the negative connotation of nigger means to us nor do they care; they are more afraid of what nigger means to them.

So here comes my question: can a group take back a word that was originally used to oppress them?

We now have two sides to the debate.

There are some Black people, typically those of the older generation; that think no one should use nigger. Along with those people, there are Black people who would be offended and even outraged at being called nigger no matter what the race of the person saying it. If I recall correctly, some Blacks want to get rid of the word nigger so badly that there was actually a funeral for the word. Some of the people advocating the non-usage of the word are coming from a generation where the word nigger cut much deeper, a time where you were reminded every single day in the most blatant ways possible, that you were nothing. These people are also coming from a time where equality amongst all was a subject that not just soldiers, but common, everyday people were jailed, killed, or willingly died for. Other views stemming from the opposition to nigger or nigga is that no matter it’s form or meaning, it’s only giving racists ammunition to use against us if we employ a term that was originally a tool of oppression to refer to one another. Furthermore, it’s also seen as sending mixed messages if we’re saying we want respect but use a term of degradation when speaking with one another.

Of course, these are perfectly sensible arguments I can sympathize with and understand.

However, I need to point out that a lot of people use terms of degradation as terms of endearment nowadays; people of all races, classes, education levels and professions.

I have some gay friends (one’s a CEO of his own company and the other is campaigning with the government for the legalization of electrical cars in Canada) and am occasionally dragged out to the gay scene here and there. Once in a while, I’ll hear them refer to one another as “fag”, “cunt”, “dyke”, “pussy licker/cock eater” and a whole bunch of other terms with big grins on their faces while exchanging friendly gestures. Will I ever refer to any of my gay friends with any of those terms? Hell no.

I have some friends who are Asian, Indian and Muslim. Do I ever hear them say things like “Chink” or “brown nigga” to eachother? Yup. But would I ever refer to them with any of those terms? Never.

Why? Because these individuals are more than capable of deciding how they wish to speak to those within their group and at the end of the day; I am an outsider. I have no place telling them how to speak, act or think anyway; and even if they didn’t use those words and were made out of gold with PhDs in brain surgery, some people would still have a massive hate-on for all of these groups.

I realize not all people in these groups choose to “take back” these words by trying to transform them into (descriptive) terms of endearment and you know what? That’s perfectly OK and completely their prerogative.

Do I selfishly turn their issue onto myself crying “Oh, but why can’t I say that word!?!” Absolutely not. Why? Because they have a right to try and change their circumstances and instill confidence within themselves by trying to give a tool of oppression back to the community it oppressed so they may choose to use it or not use it as they see fit. Whether or not this is effective is solely up to the individual but regardless, it’s their right to choose.

At the same time, just because I may pass someone referring to someone else in their group with a term others use derogatorily; I will not pass judgement upon that individual’s character, let alone the character(s) of that entire group or race of people. Nor do I think racism (or any other type of prejudice) and its effects will disappear if we start dropping a few words from our vocabulary. As far as I’m concerned, if a White person thinks badly of you or feels they have no obligation to respect you out of common courtesy and human decency, they probably have a LOT of reasons why they feel and behave that way and really don’t care how you talk, act or dress or how educated you are because they’re racist.

Remember: the slaves didn’t understand English, let alone the word nigger when they first arrived in the North Americas; but they sure did understand the crack of a whip.

Do I mean it like a slave master, nigger?
No, I’m gangsta, gotta eat rappers…
They say we N-I double G-E-R,
We are much more,
still we choose to ignore
The obvious: Man this history don’t acknowledge us
We were scholars long before colleges!
They say we N-I double G-E-R,
We are much more,
but still we choose to ignore
The obvious, we are the Slave and the Master
What you lookin’ for? You the question and the answer

–Nas, “N.I.G.G.E.R (Slave and the Master)” {video below}

This post was inspired by the album “Untitled” by rapper Nas, an advocate against racism in the media, history and all other forms. Thank you for giving me the courage.

Advertisements

~ by davitacuttita on October 7, 2008.

14 Responses to “The Slave and The Master”

  1. thank you for writing this. i completely agree with you, but as a white person, i’d rather point someone to your words than try to explain it. this is clear, concise, and sound.

  2. Hi there, Cate!

    Thanks for droppin’ by. Glad you liked the post and I’m even happier that you found it clear and concise.

  3. Sweet, now I can finally verbalize what I mean when I say “dude don’t be stupid, of course you can’t use the n-word” to my white friends, instead of just saying, “it just feels presumptuous and wrong? D:”! Thanks very much for this c:

    Also I have been a lurker at this blog for a while because I am a white lady trying to actively see as much of her stupid privilege as possible. Everything I’ve read here has helped me in this tremendously. So thanks for that too!

    -hannah

  4. Hi Hannah!

    Thanks for reading and wow, thanks for commenting too! Much appreciated. I’m glad you’re actively trying to make a difference, people need to realize that all steps count; no matter how small.

    I dunno how long you’ve been lurking, but I already touched on the topic before on here waaay back in the day. If you’re interested in the in depth explanation of why it’s not OK (according to me and my observations as a Black girl) for others to use nigger or any variation thereof, the article is called “Racist Bingo!”. Here’s the link: https://pddp.wordpress.com/2008/03/26/racist-bingo-part-1/

    Feel free to comment anytime! We’re all about constructive dialogue and learning here. Mostly (sometimes we like jokes! ^_^)

  5. Yeah, i went back and read “racist bingo” too. did you come up with that graphic? i’d say the hardest one is the “i hate white people” one because it’s not, obviously, that i actually HATE white people (at all), but it becomes this shorthand for hating the racist, sexist, ableist, cis-privileged, homophobic bullshit paradigm. and i think it’s also an issue of hating that paradigm, and feeling exhausted at how it is seamless and invisible in so many white lives. i can’t hate white people, i’m white, and not just my skin color, but also my culture. i was raised in a middle-class irish-catholic neighborhood. i always had a couple of black friends, but never many, because most everyone was white and catholic when i was in elementary school, or white and protestant when i moved to private school. i see how deeply i soaked in that culture from birth, and i think it galls me that i could have easily stayed there, and never ventured my eyes to see the rest of the world or have any understanding of humanity outside of my own background. so it’s not hating on white people at all, but it’s feeling frustrated and helpless about knowing i was raised in ignorance and taught false history (don’t even get me started on the history we learn in schools…), and just seeing that cycle continue and continue. anyway, that’s how i’m feeling right now. just continuing my discussion. i like your writing.

  6. Glad you checked that link out, Cate!

    I completely understand your point. As you explain it, you seem to have a hatred for the social construction that is Whiteness and the negativity that it automatically comes with (i.e. White privilege). More power to ya, sista!

    In that article, I was addressing the people who just aay they “hate White people” to gain approval from Coloured people. Which is a pretty racist assumption–just because Coloured people discuss racism and question social constructs of race it doesn’t mean we’re racist. We’re taking action and more importantly, being responsible! But I’m sure you already know that. ^_~

    I appreciate the comments and compliments, thank you!

  7. I really, really like this entry. It made me think about some things differently- I guess, deep down, I felt like because I heard Bill Cosby talking on Oprah about how young people don’t know history and are keeping the Black race down by saying the n-word, deep down when I heard a Black person saying that word, I was thinking that they were ignorant or something. I had formed an opinion on something that was none of my damn business at all (did I mention I was white? :P)
    I have, like, a bajillion things to say about some of the other stuff, like White people crying reverse racism, etc. I guess, suffice it to say, I tire of people assuming they know the conditions from which someone grew. The way you’re treated by any group of people is going to affect how you view that group. I can completely understand why a “minority” individual may grow up resenting a white person. It would make me sad to know that someone disliked me purely for my skin color, but I’m not going to pretend like that equals hundreds of years of slavery, torture, racism, segregation, ignorance, injustice, etc.
    Oh God, I’m rambling. It’s just that when you mentioned Elizabeth Hasslebeck, it opened up the floodgates of headdesk. For someone to be so ignorant and so freakin’ proud of it…grr…I just want to tape her mouth shut.
    Anyway, thank you so much for expanding my wisdom. 🙂

  8. Hi Pynx,

    Welcome to PDDP, thanks for reading! Just as a quick side track, I’m so glad we can share in our hatred of Elisabeth, lol. I actually wrote an article on her stupidity and how it’s just outright spitting in the face of humanity some time ago here: https://pddp.wordpress.com/2008/07/26/catching-hell/

    I can see where Bill Cosby is coming from and he does make a lot of valid points on a lot of things. However, I kinda hate how some White people are using him as the poster boy to be like “he’s Black, he gets OUR perspective on YOU people!!” when he’s actually been attacking both sides of the racial spectrum for decades: https://pddp.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/thinking-of-the-coloured-children-the-effects-of-internalized-racism/

    It’s great that you’re learning; learning makes me feel all squishy n’ warm on the inside. And wow, props to you for really reflecting on yourself there!! Not a lot of White people do that, they tend to read something like this and just go “WELL THAT’S NOT ME! YOU’RE BEING MEAN!” and not give it any thought at all.

    You weren’t rambling but if you have any other strong thoughts, please feel free to comment again or e-mail us at chequeb4wreck@hotmail.com

    I will be writing on the reverse racism thing in the near future. Peace!

  9. Okay, I really like what you said:
    In that article, I was addressing the people who just aay they “hate White people” to gain approval from Coloured people. Which is a pretty racist assumption–just because Coloured people discuss racism and question social constructs of race it doesn’t mean we’re racist. We’re taking action and more importantly, being responsible! But I’m sure you already know that. ^_~

    That is, again, the perfect way to distill exactly what is racist in that sentiment. I’ve already subscribed to your blog, this conversation is seriously helping things click together in my head. I look forward to more!

  10. Thanks for the subscription, Cate. I’ll keep the good times comin’!

  11. Davita; I read Racist Bingo directly after this link (reading blogs is endless for me, as I am loath to click every single relevant link in the post), and I meant to make a nod to it in my previous comment D: My mistake!

    -hannah

  12. No prob, Hannah. Thanks for the props!

  13. Because these individuals are more than capable of deciding how they wish to speak to those within their group and at the end of the day; I am an outsider. I have no place telling them how to speak, act or think anyway

    Yes. As a white person that’s exactly how I feel about black people saying the n word. At the end of the day, it’s really none of my damn business. And yet I still have to listen to white people whine about how: “It’s not faaaaaair! Why do they get to use that word and I don’t!” And I just ask: “Why do you want to use that word so badly?” Never get an answer though.

  14. Hi Becky!

    AHAHAHAH! I ask the EXACT SAME question too but they never give me an answer either: and I’m Black!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: