Last month, former CNN host and British journalist Piers Morgan decided to write what I consider a lazy and arrogant attempt at addressing black America about the use of the ‘N-word’. Sorry I got all politically correct there, Nigger!!
Titled “If Black Americans want the N-word to die, they will have to kill it themselves.” Morgan attempts to solve a very complex issue with a very simplistic solution: Stop saying it. Why Thank you Piers. If only we had thought of that ourselves. Thank you for saving us from a lifetime of oppression and inequality.
As a black woman and an amateur writer I know that opening a dialogue about such a socially complex word isn’t easy. This article reeked of an egotistic white-saviour mentality afforded to a “high profile white person”.
That’s not to say that what he was saying doesn’t hold some merit, but all he has done is regurgitate what black activists and leaders and the general black community have been saying for years. I expected someone with his journalistic capabilities to have approached this with more intelligence and depth. This just sounds like ‘It’s you’re fault. Sort it out yourselves!!’. His motives were summed up entirely for me when he wrote:
“…And they enjoy the freedom of being able to say it now in the knowledge that it’s become taboo for whites to do so.”
Aaawww!! We’re so sorry (not sorry) that you’re not allowed to say it Piers. Sorry that this is the one thing that someone in your privileged position isn’t allowed to say. Boo hoo!!
Last month, former So Solid rapper Swiss debuted his critically acclaimed new single “Nigger” on BBC1Xtra. DJ Semtex dedicated his show to debut the song mainstream radio and to have an open an honest conversation about it with Swiss and the songs producer, Sky.
When I first heard the title & saw the artwork for the single I was sceptical because I wasn’t sure what angle Swiss was going to approach this. That quickly disappeared as I remembered this is the talent who brought us the classic ‘cry’, an introspective look at life on the streets. The song opens with quotes from movies at the words inception; slavery. A time when it was changed from an adjective to a noun. Then, throughout the song, Swiss explores the origins of the word and explains how it’s evolved throughout history.
The song has no doubt attracted some controversy. DJ and TV broadcaster Edward Adoo has criticised 1Xtra saying “The BBC’s playing of this black protest record is still racist” for airing the unedited version. He criticises BBC for the the use of the word on mainstream radio and asks, “Has youth culture been dumbed down to the extent that we have to accept these types of records being played just to make a point?”
Well in my opinion, yes!! It’s not so unreasonable to come to the conclusion that the youth are so far removed from the negative connotations that they simply don’t understand the dissonance and thats exactly the gap that Swiss is trying to fill.
There’s no hiding from the message Swiss is delivering, dubbed by BBC 1Xtra as “The Most Important Hip-Hop track for the last 15 years”; unlike Morgan’s poor suggestion, Swiss wants to educate everyone about the word and it’s history so that:
“Everybody should understand the historical picture, before we ever choose to use the word Nigger!!”
You see, what Piers has failed to understand is that there’s no need to call us Niggers anymore. We are in the era of the ‘new nigger’ where people use other words that imply it. Many media outlets in the US reinforce the public’s racial misconceptions by presenting African Americans and Latinos differently than whites – both quantitatively and qualitatively so words like ‘aggressive/thug/violent” are often used in replacement.
During an interview on BBC’s Newsnight, Swiss and author Colin Grant were invited to discuss the word. Colin rightly points out that
“If we try to excise words, we’re in danger of forgetting what those words meant when they were used.”
And I have to agree. By trying to sweep it under the carpet, over time, its forgotten and therefore no responsibility can be taken for it – something which I think Morgan was trying to achieve. Guilty conscience maybe?!
Racism in America is deeply imbedded in in roots and systems. America is a country that was founded on the genocide of its natives and built by by the blood, sweat and tears of African slaves. You cant expunge a word from the English language that holds so much power, without first acknowledging it’s dreadful past. Or the fact that, in America, young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than whites. Just ask the families of Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown or Tamir Rice if they believe expunging the word will do much for Civil rights in America.
I’ll leave this here with the words of one of our greatest leaders, Malcolm X:
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
The full BBC 1Xtra interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30159631
N*Gg*r is now available to buy via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/GB/album/n*gg*r-single/id943047758?ls=1
To purchase via SMS text NGR to 85888
THINK… ITS STILL LEGAL!!!