I hate the word “nigga.” I don’t think anybody should be saying it, Black, White or other. I don’t buy into the argument that by using it ourselves, we’re robbing it of its power. Because nine times out of 10, if a White person were to roll up on any one of us and verbally backslap us with that slur — with an “a” or an “er” — we’d be ready to ball up a fist and put it square upside their heads. That’s an understandable reaction. But only if we’re not using the word ourselves.
So I had to shake my head when earlier this week, the media caught wind of a Flint, Mich. woman who, frustrated that a home she’d just purchased had been broken into by local knuckleheads, posted a sign that spoke volumes. It said: “This house is a reflection of ignorant n—as.”
Well then. There’s that. My question is, if the house is a reflection of ignorant n—as, what’s the sign a reflection of?
I’m not knocking her for being P-Oed about some fools vandalizing her property for the scrap metal around the windows. But the woman claims she bought the home to do a good deed — to house the homeless. So how does someone who comes up with a vision to help solve an ongoing problem, purposefully crafts a plan of action and takes on a mortgage to do it turn around and denigrate the community she plans to serve?
Be upset, sure. Be discouraged. But don’t be part of the destructive mentality. And for heaven’s sake, don’t post a big ol’ sign in front of the house with the N-word in full view, like an up yours to the respectable folks in the neighborhood who didn’t do a darn thing to earn the insult of having to look at it.
Every time someone parts their lips and lets that trifling word roll out of their mouths all loud and obnoxious-like, I frown. And I really have to hold my mule and beg the Lord to bridle my tongue when they let it loose in mixed company. Matter of fact, we’ve been so cavalier with our N-word usage, I’ve overheard White boys clearly comfortable enough to refer to Black dudes as such and screamed inside when I was caught in the middle of a conversation between two White Puerto Rican guys who were nigga-ing each other to death. (Though I kept my mouth shut that time. I was deep in the ‘hood and, well, Mommy didn’t raise no fool.)
That foolishness about saying and spelling it with an “er” being different than saying and spelling it with an “a,” like the way rappers throw it around, is just silly. If I take “garbage” and pronounce it with a French accent and add an “h” somewhere in there to make it fancy, guess what? At the end of the orthographic gymnastics, it still means trash. The N-word, any way you slice it, is a residual of our mental conditioning and one of the wages of self-hatred. It was originally meant to be offensive, not a term of endearment. There’s a whole history behind its usage that will always pack a wallop for the people who know better. So taking the power out of that or any other derogatory term — like the B-word for us ladies — is way bigger than switching out a vowel and a consonant.
We don’t even have to get all deep about it, though. Bottom line is, it was an ugly word back then and it’s an ugly word now. And it doesn’t need to be slathered across a piece of plywood in the front of a house to be a sign of disrespect. By using it, homegirl burned the community around her more than the thieves who messed with her home. You think calling them ignorant niggas hurt their feelings? They probably got called worse than that before they ate breakfast, so the gesture missed the target of the folks it was intended to offend. So what was the point? I wish I was capable of remote mind control — alas, there’s not an app for that. But if I was, I’d take that nasty word right on out our collective — and cultural — vocabulary.