A broken, elderly black man limped into his doctor's office last Tuesday afternoon. His neck bore the scars of numerous lynching attempts and his back the whelps of years of severe beatings. Reflected in his eyes was the pain of seeing his mother and sister raped and being powerless to do anything about it. As he described in vivid detail his many thoughts of committing suicide, the physician just sat emotionless in her chair. Finally, she scribbled on her prescription pad, "take two doses of the "N word" and call me in the morning. LOL..."
Last week, talk show host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, came under fire for using the "N word" multiple times to help a caller get over her racial "hypersensitivity." While the purpose of the conversation was, supposedly, to give the caller life changing advice, in reality, Schlessinger was merely trying to help her predominately white audience get over their collective guilt of harboring white supremacist attitudes as she soothed them with the old standard, "Black Comedians use the N Word, Why Can't I" Therefore, if it's cool in Compton it must play well in Peoria.
Newsflash for Dr. Laura. Not all black men walk around grabbin' their crotches, showing their dirty drawers and dropping the "N bomb" like there's no tomorrow. I, personally, have never made a habit of using the word and have spoken out against its use on many occasions. Also, activists such as radio host, Kwabena Rasuliu have led multiple protests against those in the Hip Hop world who have used such ignorance as a marketing tool.
However, folks like "Sgt. Schlessiger" and her Right Wing Storm Troopers, continuously, use black entertainers as justification for their racist rants. The comedians to whom Schlessinger referred do not speak for me nor do they speak for most people of African descent. It is unfortunate that, while folks like Dr. Laura can name black comedians who use the word, they cannot name one Afro-centric historian who has put the word in a social or historical context and can explain how it became a term of black endearment.
So, herein, lies the major problem facing this country in terms of race relations: historical and cultural ignorance.
Although, the use of the "N word" pops up as a topic of discussion every few years, most people, black or white, do not know the historical origins of the word.
The word "nigger" is derived from the Portuguese adjective "negro" which was used by the early slave traders to describe their new found "property." So, when it crossed the Atlantic , "negro" was ,eventually, transformed into the word "nigger;" different spellings but for all intents and purposes, having the same meaning as they both infer that black people are less than human.
Black psychologists have suggested that the use of the word by African Americans is a subconscious response to .
In his book, " Violence: The Psycho-dynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in the Service of White Domination" the late psychologist Dr. Amos Wilson wrote, " through identification with the aggressor, the subject attempts to magically transform himself from the one being threatened to the one threatening; from powerlessness to powerful: from inferior to superior."
It must be noted that the degradation of black people for comedic purposes started with white black-face performer Thomas Rice's Jumpin' in 1830, predating early black comedians such as and Redd Fox by more than a century. Not to mention that most black entertainers work for white owned companies.
While comedian Richard Pryor used the "N word" extensively in some of his early stand up routines, later in his career, following a trip to Africa, he publicly vowed to "never call a black man nigger again."
Perhaps, the group most influential in popularizing the word during the Hip Hop Era was NWA (Niggas With Attitude) of the late 80's and early '90's. However, the group was managed by Jerry Heller, a white man, who was also the co-owner of their record label, Ruthless Records. So, there have always been white business men who have supplied white Americans with an avenue to, vicariously, live out their racist fantasies through black entertainers.
While some may make the argument that it is only entertainment, the contradictions within this statement are many.
One example is that although Jewish comedians such as Jackie Mason and Adam Sandler, may make Jewish jokes, none of their stand up routines would ever be used by outsiders to make light of the Jewish Holocaust.
Also, attacks on the black community seem to be the only topics not off limit by the entertainment industry. Black entertainers from Professor Griff of Public Enemy to the late Michael Jackson had their careers negatively impacted by, allegedly, making anti-Semitic comments or songs. Ironically, , one of the founders of NWA was boycotted in the early 90's by the Korean community over a song he made in regards to the murder of 15 year old Latasha Harland, who was shot by a grocer.
So, we see the real double standard at play.
If we are not careful, the controversy over Dr. Laura's statement will go the route of the infamous incident as civil rights leaders and right wing media pundits will find a way to put the blame totally on rap music; blaming Dr. Dre instead of Dr. Laura.
In order to stop the Dr. Laura's of the world, this country must engage in a massive reeducation process. African Americans must learn all they can about their culture and pass the information on to future generations. Also, white Americans must be willing to hear the truth about the African American experience no matter how uncomfortable it might make them feel. This will not come from educators who fear backlash from school boards nor newspaper editors who are more concerned with offending their advertisers than serving the public good but will come from Afro-centric historians and scholars who are brave enough to speak truth to power without biting their tongues.
Unfortunately, this cure is too big a pill for most folks to swallow.
Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired .com. For more information about the Intelligence Over Ignorance lecture series on Race, Rap and Revolution contact or email@example.com
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