Just stop saying it?!

Just stop saying it?!

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!!

Piers Morgan
Piers Morgan

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!!

Enter Swiss.

Semtex, Play and Swiss
Semtex, Sky and Swiss on 1Xtra

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!!!

I Am Black, I Am.

Are you #TeamLightskin? #TeamBrownskin or  #TeamDarkskin?

Sound familiar? How many of you are sick of this ‘battle’? I open Twitter or Whatsapp everyday to see yet another image or tweet pertaining to this ‘battle’.

I’m not going to be a hypocrite & say some of these ‘memes’ don’t make me chuckle, but what concerns me is the ignorance behind the ‘banter’. In a society where racial prejudice thrives in politics, communities, institutions and popular culture, it’s easy to see how and why some ethnic groups may start to absorb the messages that we are being bombarded with from every medium.

I am 1 of 5 sisters, 2 of whom are mixed race. We have all grown up together despite us having different mothers. Something which I sincerely thank my dad for; I know a lot of ‘step families’ who don’t have that close sibling relationship they may have liked to have.

When I meet someone new my siblings always come up in conversation, almost at the first instance. As I start to explain my diverse family tree, I get interrupted with “can I see a picture of them?” The reaction is almost always the same:

“Aaawww, they’re so pretty, are they really your REAL sisters?”

After explaining & having to proving beyond reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, my biological sisters as appose to ‘sister’ being a term of endearment. This is quickly followed by:

 

“… But you’re pretty for a dark skin woman”

If I had a pound for every time this has been said to me, I’d be a very wealthy woman!! This is something I have unfortunately had to just get used to.

Image

Dark Girls

COLOURISM; prejudice or discrimination based on the complexion of the skin. Generally a phenomena occurring within one’s own ethnic group.

 

I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked we were all black; many, many shades. And they are as beautiful as the other. So why is there this internal battle? Why do some have this sense of superiority just because of the complexion of their skin?

Lets go back in time…

Now, of course I know this isn’t a new phenomenon. The issue of colourism (a term coined in the US by Alice Walker in 1982) has been around from the history of European colonisation. With the global colonisation came not only a physical, but also a cultural invasion, which completely shifted the perspective of people by creating a new sense of beauty, identity & superiority. Colonisation spread the idea, the system of white supremacy.

The act of giving better treatment to the lighter skinned slaves served as a tool for the slave owners to keep a divide & tension between the two sets of slaves. The light skin or ‘mulatto’ children were the by-product of slave owners copulating with their slave women. They were treated better than the African slave, but still beneath the slave owner, never really fitting into either society.

Image

 House Slave

Darker skinned slaves, or those with more pronounced ‘African features’ would usually encounter more difficult living conditions on the plantation. They were usually housed far from the plantation house, and in close proximity to the fields that they were forced to work. Dark skinned slaves were given the most demanding jobs, the most basic living quarters, and the least appealing clothing. These are but some of the factors that have contributed to growth of this cultural divide.

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 Field Slave

The Impact…

After extended periods of mistreatment all blacks reached the point of psychological exhaustion, and began to accept the belief that there was a racial hierarchy based on their skin tone; colourism. This psychological conditioning has been passed down from generation to generation. So not only do we deal with the external prejudice, but the inherited belief system causing internalised racism.

The mainstream media continue to reinforce the ideal that the Eurocentric standard of beauty is the epitome. This is reinforced not only by the under representation, but also the misrepresentation of black people. We are also seeing a growing number black stars being ‘whitened up’ to adhere to the European standards of beauty.

Image

 Nicki Minaj

Recently, ex The X Factor contestant Hannah Barrett was racially abused via Twitter for being ‘too dark to win The X Factor and claimed the abuse came mostly from people from her own race people. http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/too-dark-win-x-factor

Have you also noticed the growing number of cosmetic shops set up in ‘urban’ areas stocked up with more and more varieties of skin bleaching/whitening creams? Despite the risks that come with the excessive use of these products, including Cancer, it hasnt stopped people wanting to have lighter skin to be considered ‘beautiful.’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-428541/Dying-whiter-The-black-women-risk-lives-lighter-skin.html

Beauty comes in many different shade, no matter what race you are. How can we possibly subscribe to 1 standard of beauty when there’s so much diversity in the world? The very standard of beauty that has being forced on us by the very same system that enslaved us & conditioned us to believe that white meant superior and black was ugly!

 

Now I’m not saying I have all the answers… Sorry Kanye, you’re right,  I don’t. In order for us to continue to break down more barriers that society puts up, the first thing we need to do is to educate, love and build ourselves and to understand our entire history in real terms to make it relatable today; not a white-washed version. With that we’ll rediscover the value of community and our collective consciousness, for the saying goes ‘United we stand. Divided we fall.’

“If you want to change a person, you must first change the awareness of themselves” – it starts with consciousness”

Cheryl Grills – President at The Association of Black Psychologists

THINK… IT’S STILL LEGAL!!!