“Twisted, jammed into a paradox….”
Going into today’s no wiggle room Wednesday I had nothing to talk about. But then, wouldn’t you know it, I’m sitting in my car, and a car full of young guys pulls up next to me. Our windows are down so I can hear them as well as they can hear me.
That’s when my auditory sanctuary was invaded with the bristling ugliness and vocal stench of a terrible, hateful word used so effortlessly by these guys that I had to do a double-take.
“Hey n-word….n-word hurry up and get in the car…n-word why you tripin’, n-word that’s messed (sic) up….”
I was shocked! I didn’t know who they were talking to. Someone is getting knocked out. Was I about to go to jail? Was I going to catch a case? I began to experience emotional overload.
But as I looked closer into their car my mouth flew open even more. It was a group of young Hispanic guys and they were referring to each other! When they saw me staring they looked at me like “what?” They never stopped using the word. In fact, I think their use intensified.
What just happened? Did these kids know what they were saying?
I was definitely offended, but it was more the type that accompanies copyright ownership.
“You can’t use that word like that. That’s OUR word,” was my initial reaction.
But my inner voice quickly reprimanded me. It said, “Do you really want to OWN that word?” It was right. Owning that word is the equivalent of being a white south Afrikaner who is proud of apartheid.
The struggle to define our own identity in a country that has historically been very demeaning in its imagery of people of color seems to be lost on the new breed of youth emboldened with an MTV styled bravado. The end sum of the struggle, if you listen to and believe the multitude of rap lyrics today, is in the ability to substitute the n-word for everything. The n-word is a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition, participle and epicene.
On the one hand, these looked like high school kids who obviously had no idea of the history surrounding that word and how it was, and still is, used to subjugate and objectify an entire group of people. Should I read them the riot act? Where did they learn this crap from?
That’s when I heard coming from their speakers….the most foul mouthed rap lyrics I can proudly say I’ve never heard. And that’s where the paradox arose. The only reason these kids felt comfortable using this word is because of its overuse in popular rap music, by, regrettably, black rap artists.
So then the logical question becomes this: on what basis do black rap artists, and to a larger extent, the black community have in taking the moral high ground when it comes to other people using this word? I would say not much.
But then maybe that’s the genius of these artists, to strip the negative power from the word by giving it an interchangeable universalism. Morning cereal can be the n-bomb, a dog, a cat, a weasel (whom you should never tease, by the way) a pet hamster, all n-bombs. Appliances, especially computers, you got it, n-bombs. Perhaps one day the Pope will stand before millions of faithful at the Vatican and say “I bless all of you n-bombs in the name of the father, the son and my n-bomb Jesus.”
I’m not buying it! These folks are not that sophisticated. If I’m the only black person in a crowded room and someone yells out “n-bomb”, everyone looks at me to see what my reaction is going to be.
And that, sadly, is how I felt when these young kids were using it to address each other. As they sped off when the light turned green, what made me sicker was that I know it was probably someone who looked like me that taught them it was okay, in a rap song, to use that word in the first place.
“Twisted, jammed into a paradox….”