Internalizing Hate - New and Creative Ways To Use The N-Word

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Last Sunday night, I decided to do something I haven’t done in years: watch the Grammy’s. I do not listen to mainstream top 40 music, but it was either sit through E’s Red Carpet Show or watch the Hillary Clinton interview on 60 Minutes. Having followed the weekend’s primaries on CNN for the past two days, I thought that I needed an intellectual break.

What I didn’t realize when watching the pre-show (until the next morning at work when a visibly nervous co-worker told me) was what was written on Hip-Hop luminary Nas’s t-shirt, as the camera was focused on his upper torso. Emblazoned on his chest (and on the back of the jacket that his wife, singer Kelis was wearing) was N@#$ER. Horrified, I checked out a couple of the gossip sites to see what people were saying.

Those who didn’t know about the controversy that was swirling around last year about the title of Nas’s upcoming album were probably shocked and confused at to why he and his entourage would show up with that emblazoned on their clothing when their counterparts were wearing expensive suits and floor-length gowns. I have no idea when the album entitled N!@#ER is going to drop, but I assumed that was why he and his wife decided to embarrass themselves – and us. But apparently, Nas had another idea in mind.

“It’s all the experiences we go through every day — all ethnicities, black white, indifferent,” Nas told the CNN reporter. “We’ve all been discriminated at some point whether it’s in the Dominican Republic, whether it’s China, whether it’s Iraq where soldiers get their heads blown off for reasons we don’t know why. The meaning of the word is supposed to be ignorant, so there is money being made off us poor so-called ignorant people, no longer are black people n*ggers, today it’s also me and you.”

Whatever Dude.

In other related news, Toronto blogger Inciquay poses the question: Is Canadian the New Nigger?

Apparently racists are using the word Canadian as a substitute for nigger! Canadian!? Apparently in Texas (surprise surprise), assistant district attorney Mike Trent sent a mass email aimed at congratulating a junior prosecutor for winning his case. He wrote: "He overcame a subversively good defence by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing." Apparently, even though everyone who received the message knew there to be no Canadians on the jury, no one questioned the e-mail. I guess it's just a well known racist switcheroo tactic down in Texas.

When Carmen over at Racialicious posted a link to this story a couple of weeks ago, I commented on her blog: “I’m Black and Canadian. Does that make me Canadian Canadian? Inciquay, who is Nova Scotian (several generations Canadian), wrote on her blog:

Sheeet, we're the biggest Canadians going since we're Black and actually livin' in Canada...does that make us Supreme Canadians? Can we come up with a gang sign for that? Or maybe when Canadians meet up with Black Canadians we can throw signs and hiss to show our dominance over ordinary Canadians! Mind you, it's kinda bulky, the word Canadian. 4 syllables is a lot for an American to master ;-) and it doesn't rhyme as well as it could. Aw man the dilemmas of being a Canadian Canadian. I'm willing to go with it though. Mike Trent you have opened this Canadian Canadian's eyes and I am grateful.

During the Don Imus debacle, several people in his defence tried to argue that his ruminations stemmed from his avid listening of Hip-Hop, thereby it permeated his soul and caused him to act in ways that were completely out of his control (please note the sarcasm). With that, the scrutiny about Hip-Hop lyrics in relation to rampant misogyny and the liberal use of the “N” word were also scrutinized…not necessarily because they really cared that; a) the black community has been concerned about this for decades, and b) It was primarily women of colour were / are the recipients of any behaviour that transpired from the lyrics ala Imus, but more because they were looking for a defence and in denial about how offensive what he said was to the general public.

Perhaps it was the public outcry over the incident that caused die-hard racists who seemingly refuse to give up their ‘right’ to use the ‘N’ word, pause. Instead of being rational human beings and perhaps re-considering their perspectives, they just decided to come up with something more ‘creative.’ While this is entirely my opinion, I would guess that the same people that go out of their way to use ‘Canadian’ instead of a derogatory word to describe blacks, have conveniently ignored the divisiveness and hatred that the word has held since Africans were first shipped to the Americas. They do not care about the physical violence that occurred because of the hate that is represented in using that word and that it still remains a powerful symbol of that hate. After all, Freedom of Speech, right? How dare anyone try to take away a person’s right to be ignorant!

In some ways there is a sliver of truth to Nas’s argument..... in the sense that if the definition of the ‘N’ word includes ignorant behaviour and / or attitude, that perhaps the word was not originally meant to describe blacks in a derogatory way but everyone, regardless of ethnicity who displays traits of ignornace. Guess what, Nas? It primarily is used against Blacks!! Deal with it! No one, especially a self-hating megalomaniac rapper, has to power to change the minds of billions of people overnight to think that the word is somehow not to be used specifically against black folks. Wearing a T-shirt to an awards show and getting your clueless wife to join you in your foolishness is not going to make people pause and think. Instead they are laughing at you.

I read a great response from a commenter on Sterohyped that sums both instances up:

They called my grandfather a Nigger in Alabama before the KKK killed him. He was a preacher. Dr. Martin Luther King was called a Nigger before he was killed. Malcolm X was called a Nigger before he was killed. These men were dealing with more than just Black issues. All the Black people that fought for our freedom were called niggers, spat on, beaten, attacked by their dogs, hung from trees, sprayed with water by firemen, beat down by racist police everywhere, and when Blacks were brought to this country 400 years ago in chains, piled up like sardines on ships and sold as salves they were called Niggers.
How ignorant can you be! Nas need to wake up from this mind control that he is suffering from. No clothing line is worth your soul. What a shame.

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