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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Day-Late and Dollar-Short Black Leaders


(This is a commentary I made on a Chicago radio station in December 2006.)

Today I read in the latest issue of a Black newspaper a front-page article entitled “Leaders Call for Boycott of N-Word.” The Rev. Jesse Jackson, comedian Paul Mooney, Willis Edwards, and U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, D-CA, spoke at a press conference on November 27, 2006 to address comedian Michael Richard’s tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club. It seems there were Black audience members talking during his act and Richard’s blew up with part of the tirade saying, “Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! A nigger, look, there’s a nigger!”

Of course Richard’s apologized, but the war was on with a firestorm of protest. Jackson even said that the latest release of the Seinfeld television series’ DVD’s should not be purchased. (Those sales actually were so great, the distributors should have thanked Rev. Jackson for plugging them. – Ed.) As Seinfeld has never been a “must-see” for American Americans (name one African American regular in the cast.). I doubt any “boycott” will even show on the radar screen.

However, I’m puzzled. In 2001, U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, D-WV, articulated on national television the words “white niggers.” May I quote him in entirety: “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I’m going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I’d just as soon quit talking about it so much.” Of course the Black community was outraged that this White man, a former Ku Klux Klan member, said those words, right? I did not hear a word of protest from any African American leaders. Why was that? This is the same person who once said that he would never fight “with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” Where was the outrage? I suppose that many African American leaders would say “We are a very forgiving people” or “He was just an old man.” But why was there no firestorm of protest for the N-word spoken on national television as we had for Richards? Why was there selective outrage? in its article on the word “nigger” includes” “As such words are easily mistaken for ‘nigger,’ their use is frowned upon by some and sometimes seen as offensive. David Howard, a White city official in Washington, DC, resigned from his job in January 1999 when he used niggardly (a word that had nothing to do with race at all) in a fiscal sense while talking with Black colleagues who took offense at his use of the word. After reviewing the incident, Washington mayor Anthony Williams offered Howard his job back. Howard declined that position, but accepted another position in the Mayor’s administration.”

Yet “white niggers” from a U.S Senator gets a pass.

Let’s get this straight. “Nigger” is a word from the gutter, used pejoratively against people of African descent for a few hundred years. When I was a child, “nigger” was a swear word, strictly taboo. Now “we” can use it, but “they” can’t use it. But “we” don’t mind when “they” are entertained by the word in hip-hop lyrics. We don’t mind when they play it, but we mind when they say it.

Some say it is a term of endearment. Funny, other ethnic groups do not use slur words within their own communities to address each other. You know the words, so I won’t repeat them. Have you ever heard a Nazi or a Klan member call each other “cracker” or “honky”?

What is it with this knew-jerk reaction when certain public figures say the word as if it never existed before? White people have been saying it long before Richards said it. There has already been a movement to ban the word long before Richards said it. Go to Perhaps it is the dysfunctional “term of endearment” mentality. Perhaps it is the mentality of “earning the right” (?) to “appropriate” a word used by racists (even while lynching Black men). The late Tupac Shakur once said: “Niggers was the ones on the rope, hanging off the thing; niggas is the ones with gold ropes, hanging out at clubs.”

Will the discussion of abolishing the word be on the table seriously? Or do we have to wait for another wonderful opportunity for certain White people, we will not protect, to say the word publicly? Then we will get another chance to complain again?

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Booker T. Washington said:

"There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs -- partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs....There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who do not want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public."

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