The N-Word Doesn’t Oppress Black People; White Supremacy Does

The N-Word Doesn't Oppress Black People; White Supremacy Does
This is the real face of oppression in America

AFRICANGLOBE – I say n*gga. Regularly.

Always, it’s with Black friends of mine who also use the word and aren’t offended by the sound of it. A few times, however, I have used the word with some of my Black friends who specifically told me that they don’t like the word and asked that I never use it with them. So I don’t.

Why do I say n*gga? Well, because I want to, that’s why. Be it during Twitter conversations, discussions with friends who use the word, or in my personal literary writing, I used the word simply because I want to. My White colleagues, current and past, have never heard me use the word and they never will.

In case you’re wondering, White people, I will never be “my n*gga,” to you — so just don’t say it. OK? Great. Thanks.

Historically, the word has been used against Black people as a vicious, verbal assault. I am aware of how vile the word n*gga (or n*gger) is. Still, I refuse to stop saying it just because someone like Piers Morgan decides he is so uncomfortable with the word that he wants to “have it expunged completely. Eradicated, obliterated, tied to a literary post and whipped into such brutal submission that it never rears its vicious head again.” (Yes, I know. Not the best wording, right?)

I’m not a historian on the n-word, so I won’t delve into the history of when Black people began using the word as a term of endearment. But what I do know is that, while there is great debate within the Black community over why we shouldn’t use the word, most of us would not rank abolishing the n-word as a top priority in the fight against racial oppression. In fact, I doubt it would make any Black person’s list of “Top Things That Oppress Black People.”

Why? Because Black people’s use of the n-word with each other doesn’t oppress us. What oppresses us is police brutality and the fact that, according to recent data, Blacks are 4.2 times more likely to be killed by cops than Whites. Racist hiring practices that favor White people over Black people oppress us. The fact that mainstream media can celebrate White women’s sexuality while portraying Black women’s nudity as beastly oppresses us. All of the aforementioned issues can hurt our social, economic and professional status. But Black people calling each other n*gger—a word we did not create by the way—doesn’t.

Even if we get rid of the word, as Morgan desires, it will do nothing to dismantle the White supremacist system that allows the George Zimmermans of the world to stalk a Black teenager on the street, kill him, claim self-defense and then be set free by a jury of his mostly White peers. It certainly won’t stop White law partners from practicing racial bias against Black job applicants because they’re Black.

I tried to explain this to Morgan during a segment of BBC’s radio program “World Have Your Say,” but it was evident that my words fell on deaf ears. I didn’t feel too bad because even John Legend and Ta-Nehisi Coates couldn’t penetrate Morgan’s White privilege-armored logic.

Of course, Morgan has a right to express whatever views he wishes. But the tone of his piece and his reactions to my arguments during our radio talk reminded me of the self-righteous attitudes so many White progressives and liberals possess. It is very easy to tout yourself as not like those White people than it is to fight for the economic, social and political liberation of Black people. For one, instead of penning a letter challenging media executives to diversify their mastheads in an industry that is nearly 90 percent White, he blames rap music-loving African Americans for using a problematic word they didn’t coin or originally popularize. Instead of telling Black people how to speak, Morgan could be asking why Black preschool children are suspended at rates much higher than White kids.

You know, really oppressive issues like those.

When I told Morgan this during our BBC radio segment, he replied by saying no one asked him to stay in his lane when he spoke out against George Zimmerman’s acquittal. In typical “ally” fashion, Morgan indirectly requested cookies for being a progressive White man. Well, last time I checked, it wasn’t Girl Scouts cookie season yet, so he’ll have to place his orders in the spring.

Simply put: Morgan using his platform to speak out against the Zimmerman verdict fell within his duty as a White media liberal; it is part of his White ally job description. Black people aren’t awarding bonus points for speaking out against racism.

Morgan’s insistence that the use of the n-word is a major issue in the Black community ignores the people who use it against us in the most abusive way imaginable: racist White people. As Rebecca Carroll wrote for the Guardian, stopping Black people from using the word will not keep White people from using it against us. No Black person has been known to publicly refer to President Barack Obama as a n*gger, but that didn’t stop a C-SPAN caller from calling him a n*gger on live television a few weeks ago. And it certainly doesn’t stop some White politicians from calling him the n-word. That’s not us, Mr. Morgan. That’s racist White people. Write an open letter to them.

Black people have been regulating each other on the use of the word for decades and will continue to do so, on our own terms. Instead of challenging African Americans to stop using the word, Piers Morgan should use his platform to encourage racist White people, like that C-SPAN caller, not to call our black president a n*gger. That is the source of the real oppression and racism behind the word.

 

By: Terrell Jermaine Starr