Nigga: Treating the Symptom

Consistently for the past 20 years, the inevitable discussion of the “N-word”, “Nigga”, and “Nigger” typically follows everypaula-deen3 major national incident that sheds light on the permeating reality of racism. From Rodney King to Jena 6, we’ve witnessed talk shows, radio syndications, documentaries, and major news stations all respond to these events with “Nigga/Nigger” specials. Recently, the George Zimmerman trial and Paula Deen exposure catapulted the ageless conversation back into the national arena for pundits to debate the origins, usage, who has “patented” rights to utter, and whether the term has become meaningless. The usual conclusion requires some idiotic “expert” pointing their finger toward Black youth and hip-hop casting the ungrounded notion that the former and latter are hypocritical. If by chance the conversation panels an individual with some historical insight, they may offer astounding comprehension to the social experience of African Americans, provide the connection to the larger systemic realities that supports the term, or ground the discussion in the derivative of the word along with the social and psychological violence it is associated with.

…..the conversation could (would?) not explore the deeper tangents of the white-minded mental construct that supports the noun, let alone reface how this thinking influences national and local structural policy and legislation.

However the dialogue evolves, each syndicate national “Nigga / Nigger” discussion serves only one purpose; to distract viewers and listeners from a truthful discourse of the ideological premise and collective systemic structure of “racism” and “white supremacy”. Conversations such as CNN’s Nigger vs Cracker which Don Lemon organized and moderated, serves such purpose. The special had panelists talk circles within and around the word even clipping snippets of public consensus comparing the personal negative charge between “nigger” and “cracker”. Again, the CNN Special focused entirely on the term, barely scratching the surface of its etymology and offering minor context of its social definition. Of course, you had your comic relief in the form of Wynton Marsalis who occasionally made light of the subject, and several others who did more to spin the discussion into their own personal experience with the word than to discuss the deeper social implications. Though it was mentioned by Tim Wise and Michael Skolnik, the conversation could (would?) not explore the deeper tangents of the white-minded mental construct that supports the noun, let alone reface how this thinking influences national and local structural policy and legislation. Notwithstanding the insightful contextualization from Marc Lamont HIll and Tim Wise, it was not a full 33 minutes before a panelist (Skolnik) would site Hip-Hop and Youth as deliberatly redefining the word and, supposedly, stripping the historical funtionality of the term into a more endearing pronoun.

Unlike the first act, the death of the N-word and burial in the Detroit Memorial Park Cemetary was only a symbolic statement.  It does not accomplish anything.

NaacpnwordChastising youth, Hip-Hop, or comedians for that matter, for using the term “Nigga” is like treating the sneeze or cough of the common cold. The symptom is not the issue. A weak attempt to boycott the word becomes a futile effort and is indicative of a misguided framework to the existence of its usage.  Several years back, NAACP delegates staged a “burial” ceremony for the N-word in Detroit.  It was a remake of the 1944 “burial” of Jim Crow, which the organization challenged the brutal disenfranchising southern segregation. Unlike the first act, the death of the N-word and burial in the Detroit Memorial Park Cemetary was only a symbolic statement.  It does not accomplish anything.  Again, we spend more effort and energy focusing our target on a word, albeit it carries a heavy degrading social definition, that is an outward expression of a demented mental framework.  Its the “sneeze”.

African Americans (Africans in America) did not become “nigga” or “niggers” over night.

So what am I trying to say?  In order to obliterate a term charged with such dehumanizing psycho-social effect upon the masses, you have to change and challenge the mental construct from which it eminates.  As a people, we have to continue to strengthen our institutional systemic process to recaliberate and build our collective identity.  We must builInventionofNegrod and encourage a strong sense of ethnic and social identity for ourselves in this country which has a rich history of stripping this vital human components.  This is our only protection against the entrusion of white-supremacy’s defintion that manifest in popular culture, sports, education, and politics.  The process begins when the child is in the mother’s womb.  I contend that naming a child with lineage and heritage is vital, let alone the imagery, media, and exposure to the outside world as the infant becomes of age.  African Americans (Africans in America) did not become “nigga” or “niggers” over night.  It was a continous process of violently forced acculturation under an ideology which deemed us inhuman.  It was psychological and social as much as it was political.  This is what Earl Conrad was constructing with his publicaton “The Invention of the Negro“.  Our youth are the direct offspring of the community that produce them.

Both systems were predicated on the creation and maintenance of the “nigger”, “niggra”, or “nigga”; essentially the suppression of Black men and women for economic benefits, political liberty, and social comfort for whites.

Challenging the political structure that produces the second-class condition is vital.  Its important to note that slavery was a political and economic machine that benefited the planter class.  Jim Crow was a social structure that had a political overtone and forged white solidarity between the classes. Both systems were predicated on the creation and maintenance of the “nigger”, “niggra”, or “nigga”; essentially the suppression of Black men and women for economic benefits, political liberty, and social comfort for whites.  The principle still applies today.  One only needs to observe the disproportionate incarceration rate of Black men to understand this principle.  We can scan the enumerable incidents of unnecessary violent repression by law enforcement targeted toward Black neighborhoods.  We can see this principle in action when we peel back the unending assault on voting rights towards Black men and women, disguised under voter ID or felony laws.  When white people utter the term “nigger” it connotes the mental allegiance to the historical heritage and current ideological power structure that shapes people’s lives daily .  When Black folk say “nigga”, it indicates the unconscious acceptance or disconnection from historical and current reality of our plight.  Simply addressing the “noun” does not eliminate the systemic structure that maintains this mind-frame.  Confronting white-supremacy in education, popular culture, media, criminal justice system, health care, etc. will eliminate the word.  But we have to call it what it is! Further, we have to understand that it’s a system of ideas that are intertwined in policy, law, contracts, clauses, rules, and custom.  Challenge this and people’s demeanor and character will adjust, and the “n-word” will become obsolete. The language always reflect the social construct of a society.

2 responses to “Nigga: Treating the Symptom

  1. Wow! This definitely hit the core of the issue. The conversation also ties in to the negative associations with what it means to “act Black” and the misuse of the term “ghetto”. Great article!

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