By EZRAH AHARONE 8/10 --
To pacify society, “Media Band-Aids” are constantly placed on open wounds of unhealed racism as the Shirley Sherrod incident demonstrated. Although the William Morris Agency dropped Mel Gibson for spewing the N-Word among other rants, Leonard Rowe’s new Michael Jackson book shows Morris executives using the N-Word 232 times in emails he uncovered during a racial lawsuit. And Omar Thornton tragically killed 8 co-workers and himself after allegedly being fired for stealing at a job where employers called him the N-Word.
While abolishment is preferable, the N-Word won’t just fizzle-away as an isolated expression, devoid of context. In a peculiar historical sense, it is emblematic of a mutating “relationship deformity” between Black and White America, that society has been conditioned to not stare at too long.
The N-Word has festered as a derivative outgrowth from an abusive past that still stains America’s fabric of government and society. It manifests today in disproportionate and dysfunctional Black conditions that require remedies beyond jobs, education, and voting. But there’s mainstream avoidance to delve into the nitty-gritty’s beneath the N-Word’s surface, knowing its core will unveil human flaws and systemic failures that America has yet to racially reconcile.
To begin unraveling the N-Word conflict, you must understand that distinct terminologies just don’t pop in-and-out of a nation’s vocabulary by happenstance. Language is a central element of nationhood. Phrases of both honor and dishonor circulate the political and cultural blood of every nation.
When some world leaders visit the White House, they’ll flex their sovereign muscles by using translators to interpret their native language, even though they may speak English fluently. Whosoever wields sovereign powers over a territory also has subsequent access to regulate words and concepts, as well as make or reshape history, doctrines, and ideologies. Man has probably warred over words and ideals just as much as territory and resources.
Understanding the power of defining and controlling language, it becomes clear why we weren’t permitted to read or write during slavery, nor speak any language other than English. We couldn’t even tap or hum to ourselves. Enslavers would panic, not knowing “the words” behind the tap and hum . . . Herein marks initial concerns to disarm and re-channel the influences of our words and music. Now, under the pretext of “Free Speech,” the N-Word is commercially linked to a billion dollar music-genre that flaunts sex, violence, and prison culture to our children, while we’re powerless to prevent it.
It’s no mishap that we were collectively labeled with derogative terms. Remember in the movie Roots, when Kunta Kinte was barbarically lashed (see video) until he renounced his African identity and surrendered to calling himself “Toby”? Since we were considered “less than human,” logic might suggest that Euro-Americans wouldn’t care what we called ourselves . . . No, No, No.
For submission purposes, captors cannot allow captives to communicate in unfamiliar languages or have unfamiliar names. As such, all “Kunta Identities” had to be deconstructed entirely. “Toby vs. Kunta” represented an epoch identity/ideological struggle where – “winner takes all” – there was/is no second prize.
African names traditionally convey aspects of heritage, history, and virtues. Enslavers didn’t know the meanings, but they knew that African names encompassed more than European names. So “Toby” denoted far more than a typical European name alone. The “act of renaming” was part of a larger process to psychologically transfigure all “Kunta Identities” into domesticated natures that could ultimately be trusted to be “Toby-minded” – even when no one was looking.
Although “Toby” and the N-Word differ in perception, they are similar in function. Yes, the name “Toby” may sting less, but originally and ancestrally, we were/are no more a “Toby” than we were/are a N-Word. Just because we grew accustomed to being called “Tobies,” doesn’t make the “act of renaming” any less unprincipled than being called the N-Word . . . Both were dishonorable and each equally severed and misidentified who we were/are according to our God-given lineages.
From slavery until recently, it was inconceivable that the N-Word would backfire to become publicly off-limits to Whites. Now, with its “redefined” use, young Blacks seize upon this irony by saying it without compunction, which elders regard as a Black-on-Black slap in the face of our own progress and self-dignity.
True, nobody should say it. However, it’s not that simplistic, nor is it a “Black issue” alone. Riddance of the N-Word and its assorted mis-conditions, will require Euro-Americans to therapeutically examine and correct both themselves and Americanization in ways they have thus far been politically and psychologically unwilling, due to their egotism of “Exceptionalism” which supposedly elevates America above other nations.
But the lofty liberties and moralities that Euro-Americans self-profess today, is not something portable that can be retroactively applied to cushion the wrecking-ball impact of “N-Word hardships” that they even codified into law during 3½ centuries of enslavement and segregation which ended less than 50 years ago.
Remember, the N-Word is symptomatic of our unedited historical experience with Americanization . . . Like fingernails raking a chalkboard, it screeches that: “All Has Never Been Well With American Democracy.” So, when you factor the totality of past relationship deformities, combined with all the present un-reconciled complexities that the N-Word figuratively embodies – advising young Blacks to simply “Don’t Say It” is like saying, “hide under the bed,” as a solution to escape a raging house fire.
As with the N-Word and all negativities in its wake; you must not only fearlessly combat every facet and extinguish all embers of raging fires, you must furthermore confront the rudiment causes, and then enact preventive measures for future protection. Otherwise, as in prior centuries, the N-World and all its mutative outgrowths will continue to remain just as un-abolishable throughout this 21st century.
Ezrah Aharone is the author of two political books: Sovereign Evolution: Manifest Destiny from Civil Rights to Sovereign Rights (2009) and Pawned Sovereignty: Sharpened Black Perspectives on Americanization, Africa, War and Reparations (2003). He is a founding member of the Center for Sovereignty Advancement. He can be reached at Ezrah@theCSA.org.