Friday, July 18, 2008

Nigger - the red herring in an honest dialogue about race



Before I even address the video, I need to know. Am I the only one hearing strains of "The Signifyin' Monkey" (Oscar Brown, Jr.'s version or Dolemite's - depending on your sensitivities) in the background of this Rev. Jackson/Sen. Obama thing? I mean, saying what he really feels up in the tree where he's "safe" is one thing (I promise you, he's not alone up there. Talking "amongst themselves," you can be sure there are others. SMDH).

But talking to the brother like he wasn't even on the damn ground, seems oddly akin to that monkey falling out of his tree while jumping up and down gloating, giving Lion a chance to trap him. And trap him he did, resulting in a mainstream media apology and a very public, classless and totally disrespectful admonishment from his own son. Opportunism is a soul-murdering enterprise isn't it?

So Rev. Jackson, what now?

Now, the conversation on this video is a prime example of why the issue of race in this country will continue to be mired in bullshit. I don't care how evolved Elisabeth Hasselbeck or Barbara Walters profess to be, they are not one iota removed from the culture of white privilege that not only gave birth to racism in this country, but continues to sustain it.

Elisabeth, in case you hadn't noticed, it is 2000-and-damn-8! You don't get to tell us anymore what we can and cannot say, when we can and cannot say it, what it should and should not mean. Nor should you expect we will always agree with you in an enthusiastic, "Yass'm Miss Ann, you sho' is right!" Truth be told, even back then, that "Yass'm Miss Ann" wasn't always the deference it appeared to be. After all, "twoness" was, and for many remains, a means for survival.

In the absence of anybody else giving a damn about the trauma slavery and Jim Crow inflicted upon a whole race of people, that race of people developed their own kinds of "therapy" to deal with the psyche-crushing horror that was verbal, physical, sexual and emotional abuse suffered at the hands of whites. Whether you, or anybody else for that matter, approve or not, using the word nigger - taking the sting out of it, was one of them.

But if you and Barbara must continue this feigned "I don't understand" shtick, here's a quick word usage refresher for you:
  1. Main Entry: de·no·ta·tion: meaning; especially: a direct specific meaning as distinct from an implied or associated idea.
  2. Main Entry: con·no·ta·tion: the suggesting of a meaning by a word apart from the thing it explicitly names or describes
Black people using the word to each other? CONNOTATION (as defined by US). White people using the word to us? DENOTATION (as defined by over 400 years of foot-on-the-neck YOU).  But quit playin', you knew that didn't you? All this noise about our use of the "N" WORD - to each other - is so you don't have to seriously talk about those pesky little institutionalized issues that disproportionately affect Black people now isn't it?

You want to know how we ever move forward Elisabeth?? Well, let's start with meaningfully addressing that woefully inadequate "E"ducation WORD. Or how about a couple substandard "H" WORDS, like Housing and Healthcare? Oh, let's not leave out those inheritance-robbing "P"redatory "L"ending WORDS, or that lack of comprehensive, innovative "T"reatment WORD (not only for the white meth-addicted crowd, but for the Black crack-addicted crowd as well).
We could also debate the shortcomings of some of those bias-based "J" WORDS, you know, Jobs, Jails, Juvenile Justice. And just to round it out, let's throw in a few arbitrary-decision-making "C"ourts WORDS (local, state, federal take your pick). Let's have a conversation about both the "A"ccountability WORD and the "R"esponsibility WORD - all around - not just in the Black community. Let's be clear Elisabeth, your tears over our use of the word nigger, in whatever form, among ourselves has absolutely no bearing at all on any kind of "moving forward."

And Sherri Shepherd, Don Lemon on CNN might think Rev. Jackson got a pass for using this "racist" word, particularly in light of the mock funeral and burial (more an obtuse display of patriarchy, than any racist hypocrisy in my book), but you know damn well he was using the word the same way you said you use it.

Inherent racism betrays itself often in the language and attitudes of white privilege, much like internalized white racism turned self-hatred manifests itself in the shaming, blaming and looking down of noses readily perpetrated by some Blacks against their own (Adolph Caesar's, Sgt. Waters character in "A Soldier's Story" comes to mind). These two elephants, along with their offspring - pain, fear, anger, disillusionment, disenfranchisement and classism, all sit in the corners of lives in this country bleeding our humanity dry. And no conversation, about if, or why, Blacks should use the "N" WORD, can stop that kind of flow.

4 comments:

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

I do believe you are correct, it is a red herring. Just for you, I actually watched the video. Something I did not do at “Go Zack’s” before I commented. I understand the desire to eliminate the word but I don’t understand why Elizabeth has such a problem about not being able to use the word herself. The problem with Elizabeth’s position is, she is white, hence, in the oppressive class, and to want to control who uses the word and who does not is still controlling and is the problem. Demanding control is something people in the oppressive class must be aware of if they are truly interested in being anti-racists. And her crying over it was just embarrassing.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

I meant to comment on this:

And Sherri Shepherd, Don Lemon on CNN might think Rev. Jackson got a pass for using this "racist" word, particularly in light of the mock funeral and burial (more an obtuse display of patriarchy, than any racist hypocrisy in my book), but you know damn well he was using the word the same way you said you use it.

Yes he was using it the same way.

If you ever have the time, I wonder if you could expand on your opinoin about "an obtuse display of patriarchy."

Sounds like an essay in itself.

Deb said...

It is a bit much to swallow I know, thanks for watching it! :-)

Funny you should ask about that patriarchy thing, I've been kicking a post around in my head about that for a couple days! I So much to say about that, so much I've learned that's adjusted the lens through which I view this whole world - and I'm still learning!

Promise to finish it soon.

Deb said...

kitty...I understand the desire to eliminate it as well. I do not use it - a personal decision based on MY PERSONAL CHOICE! Like my grandmother used to say, "Don't I have a mind???" But, I understand wholeheartedly why others do.

As you say, "Demanding control is something people in the oppressive class must be aware of if they are truly interested in being anti-racists.

And the crying - Please!

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