Saturday, February 13, 2010

The N-Word

It’s February…the month in which we pay homage to the contributions that African Americans have made to the world. While it is nice to have a month set aside for such honors, it is obviously necessary to be cognizant of black history more than for 28 days out of the year.

Undeniably, African Americans have a rich history in this country, and have contributed in monumental ways. However, in spite of all these great things, we continue to be plagued by the rampant use of the N-word. Just this week, John Mayer a well-known celebrity boasted to Playboy Magazine that he has a Benetton heart but a David Duke coc%. Not cool…but it got worse. He went on to say that African Americans had accepted him and had given him a “hood pass,” but added, "If [I] really had a hood pass, you could call it a nig@er pass.” He later apologized for trying to “intellectualize” this offensive term.  Hmmm......

The media, as well as everyday people, harshly criticized Mayer for his insensitive remarks because most agree that the N-word is an obvious no-no. But…Why then do African Americans use this word? Baffling isn’t it?!? I’ve heard African American parents call their children “little ni@gas.” I also often hear students calling each other ni@ga in jest and out of anger in the hallway in between classes. I’ve even heard the word thrown around in professional settings by colleagues. What the heck is going on that the very race of people whose history involves slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow Laws could use the one word that epitomizes hatred? Aaarrrrrgggghghhh!

I’ll NEVER forget the first time that word was aimed directly at me. I was in first grade, and a 6-year-old classmate decided that day that I could not go down the slide because “ni@gers” weren’t allowed to. Nor will I forget the wave of emotions I felt as a very young child while huddled around my family’s television watching Roots, and seeing the hatred and brutality that the word represented. It was clear to me at that young age that this word was much than a mere 6-letter-term. Nothing positive….but an evil tool used to make me and others who look like me feel inferior, worthless, and less than human.

I believe in the power of words. In fact, I work each day to help children cope with the pain that the words used to describe them have caused. I also believe that words are can be very limiting. Tell a child that they are something, and they will eventually believe it. So why would you tell them that they are a ni@ga lazy, stupid, dirty, worthless nobody?

 NO.....John Mayer should not have made the highly publicized comments, but sometimes its easier to condemn others than to look hard at ourselves.  What kind of words are we using in our own homes?  It’s 2010…we can stop this cycle of mental enslavement if we focus on the long-term impact it has on children.?.....It starts with us!

Happy Black History Month & Happy Parenting!


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