THE ˜N' WORD...AND THE ˜R' WORD
An Open Letter To All Hip Hop & Rap Artists--And Their Future Supporters
Greetings. My column today concerns the ˜N' word.
The first part of my plea: USE IT...but SPELL it right! It is N-I-G-G-E-R.
Not ˜Nigga', nor ˜Niggaz', nor ˜Ni**as', or even ˜Nicca'.
Just plain N-I-G-G-E-R. As used on the cover of Dick Gregory's autobiographical book. Also, as used by Dr. Rosie Milligan's thought-provoking 1996 book: "Nigger, Please." Dick Gregory wrote the forward to that dynamic piece of work.
While some of you reading this are gasping for air, grabbing your smelling salts, or wondering if the columnist has lost his mind, I have a second half of my plea: Use the word N-I-G-G-E-R, with its correct spelling as often as you please--ONLY if you mention the ˜R' word somewhere within earshot.
Oh...the ˜R' word? R-E-P-A-R-A-T-I-O-N-S!
A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON:
What was that ˜R' word again? R-E-P-A-R-A-T-I-O-N-S!
Have you not heard of the ˜R' word? THAT word will do more to get people upset than all the variations of the ˜N' word COMBINED! Of course, to understand the subject of Reparations, you have to go back into history when Black folk first arrived in the USA around 1619 as ˜Indentured Servants'. This was an ˜old school' term for ˜slave'. Well, young Hip Hop warrior, our numbers grew--and grew rapidly. Then came slavery--the ˜legal' device to get newly arrived Africans to continue to work for nothing to build this country. Then, a few decades go by and slavery became the ˜in' thing. Next, we have the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Abraham Lincoln used the Emancipation Proclamation as the ˜nuclear option' to ˜free' Black folk during the war.
Somewhere between the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, Black folk were promised ˜forty acres and a mule' by the FEDERAL government.
Uncle Sam had a chance to get it right...but failed miserably.
Still, we did have a few years of Reconstruction--until folk in Washington and the South developed amnesia. Then, we had an impressive round of segregation, Jim Crow, ˜Separate but Equal', Civil Rights, and finally the mainstream, depending upon where you get and how you order your historical research and timeline.
OTHER FOLKS HAVE BEEN REIMBURSED:
The acres disappeared, the mule never arrived and history was ˜whitewashed'.
I may be a little simplistic in my example, but hear me out young person. Along the highway of U.S. History, various other segments of Americans were compensated for wrongs--real or perceived--done to them by society. The American Indian was given various tracts of land called ˜Reservations'. No, my young friend, there were no casinos on these early gifts from the government. This was a weak attempt at the government allowing restitution for the various lands many of the Caucasian forefathers stole after arriving on these shores many, many, many years ago. The forefathers not only found that the American Indian existed, but lived rather well off the land with an abundance of game and a respect for nature. Over the course of a few dozen decades, the American Indian was ˜dispossessed' of their land. A handful of beads here, a massacre there, and germ warfare down the block (a.k.a. smallpox-infested blankets), and the USA was under new management.
As you young folk like to say: "I'm not hating...I'm just stating!"
Let's go down the historic route a little further. Over on your right, because of a threat during World War II from the alliance of Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan, many Japanese-American citizens were ˜scooped up' by the powers-that-be and shipped off to ˜Relocation Centers'. Many of these folks lost jobs, businesses, and homes in which they had invested, in search of the American dream. However, a few decades passed. A bill circulated Capitol Hill. It eventually became law. The result: restitution, or R-E-P-A-R-A-T-I-O-N-S were paid to the surviving family members of those Japanese-Americans who were physically and economically wronged by Uncle Sam.
Overseas, various methods were found to compensate families of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Dollar values were assigned, and checks mailed out to the survivors of those crimes. In fact, an international fund was created in order to make sure those companies who profited from the slave labor supplied by the Nazis properly compensate the survivors to the dollar. It took DECADES to get this arrangement approved, implemented, and put into effect. It will take DECADES for the survivors to get their fair share...but their checks are coming regularly.
Question: Who has been left out of the restitution equation?
DON'T BE SWAYED--OR SIDETRACKED:
Until the U.S. ˜settles up' with her African American citizens, America will be a ˜good' country...but never a great country. We, in the USA have plenty of opportunity and freedom to allow anyone who wants to succeed to do so. African American income and earnings exceed expectations every YEAR!
Next generation...do not be fooled, nor sidetracked. You are the best trained, best educated and technically-savvy Black folk on the planet. Do not worry about the ˜bling'; demand the ˜cha-ching' that is owed you--and our community--from the years of uncompensated labor, mistreatment, and deaths of your ancestors in building this nation.
Don't be swayed over the debate over the ˜N' word. The debate is meant to distract you from the main task at hand. The ˜N' word was originally ˜aimed' at Black folk back in the day, like the words ˜boy', ˜girl', ˜spear chucker' and ˜jungle bunny'. Unfortunately for the ˜haters' who coined these terms, Black folk removed the venom from them and reversed their curse. You see, the American Indian, the Chinese, the Japanese and the Korean have derogatory terms for each other, and derogatory terms that those of the ˜lighter hue' use as to ˜insult' them. The Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans merely withdraw to their own ˜cities within cities', talk their own language, pass down their traditions to their children and shut out the offender. African Americans may not have a section of a city to call home, but we are learning that wisdom from a past day: "It is NOT what you CALL me, but WHAT I ANSWER to!" Once we master THAT lesson, insults lose their sting, and the truth develops a rather sharp point.
Yes, I've heard the catcalls. Yes, I understand the ˜mock' rage that some ˜folk' feel about the use of the ˜N' word. Yes, I have visited this issue before in column form, and coined the phrase: "America, CHECK Please"! You too, my young entertainer, will experience the same outrage. Nevertheless, it is up to you to carry on. It is up to you to keep the debate active and alive so that WE get our restitution, just like every other race of people who have taken part of building America have gotten some of their wrongs settled out of court.
When young people study the big picture of history and realize that the ˜R' word is far more powerful than the ˜N' word, they will be truly transformed. They will realize that they no longer need to fear the sting of being hit by the N word when someone hurls it. They will have accomplished their ˜reasonable service' for the community, and entered the dangerous world of truth.
Use the ˜N' word if you want to make a statement...that's free speech.
Use the ˜R' word if you want to make history...that's also free speech.
Make sure America doesn't ˜duck' this past due account for another generation.
Remember one other thing as I close...develop an ECONOMIC plan to use what you get...when it eventually arrives.