Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"But he likes it when I call him a 'Nigga'"

That is what a black student told me the other day when I took that student to task for getting his black friend's attention by saying, "Yo, Nigga!" Not a day goes by on my campus that I am not assaulted on all sides by this infernal word; especially when I have morning yard duty on the quad. Every time I identify a student uttering that word, I pull him or her aside and give my boilerplate admonishment. I often tell the wayward student, "Do you see me going up to my white friends and saying, 'What's up Cracker?' 'What's going on, Honky?'." Does this approach do any good? I often get an understanding chuckle from the student, but in the end, who knows if my intervention makes any headway. I will bet though, that for some of them, it could be the first time in their lives that anyone has ever told them that using that word in public is wrong; yes, in private too, but I'm not going to follow them home!

Mychal Massie, a columnist for WorldNetDaily, has a wonderful essay about the casual use of the word "Nigga" or "Nigger" among blacks. He acknowledges that some blacks consider it a term of endearment to call each other "Nigger", but in reality, he believes that the use of the word in any context is hateful. As Massie puts it:
Would any reasonable parent call her little girl an ugly, stupid, b--ch ho as a way of showing affection? Would a husband call his wife a sloppy, dirty slut in front of her friends and family as a way of showing his affection for her? Not likely.

Why? Because people who respect themselves and honestly respect others do not show their affection with such loathsome and baneful language. Yet, there is a growing cacophony of black voices that argue calling one another the N-word is a perfectly acceptable way showing affection, respect and endearment for one another...

No matter how one defines the word today, it is a vile pejorative with connotations intended to demean and insult. Any attempt to make it something else is not "tragicomic"; it is wrong. Adding insult to the perverse reasoning that attempts to recognize the word as one of endearment is the mindset that claims "we can, but you can't" – i.e., usage of the word is limited to blacks only.
I agree that this term of endearment rationalization doesn't hold water. I have seen with my own eyes the hateful use of this word among my black students. Last semester, a fight almost broke out in my classroom between two black boys. They were squaring off and pushing each other a bit. One was yelling, "Bring it Nigga! Bring it Nigga!," while the other was shouting "Shut up Nigga!" Believe me, these two were not using that word as a "term of endearment." If I shut my eyes and listened, it could have been two Klansmen yelling at a black bystander.

This word will continue to be used in its current casual fashion until black community reaches some sort of critical mass, and says, "enough!" I have to say, I marvel at the irony every time I, as a white person, have to tell a black person not to call another black person a "Nigga." What a world, what a world.

Good Day to You, Sir

3 comments:

Donalbain said...

I do not see a great deal of the use of the word "nigger" at school, almost certainly due to the very very very whiteness of where I teach, but I have a similar problem with the word "gay". Of course, the kids don't actually mean that a football team/TV show/pencil case is homosexual, it is just used as a wordthat means "rubbish", but it is something I come down VERY hard on. Just like the word "nigger" it constantly reinforces the idea that one group is worse or "lower" than another and in my class, that is not acceptable.

Polski3 said...

We don't have this issue at my school, we don't have many "black" students.

Guess their hiphop/rap culture teachs them differently. Their lack of historical knowledge shows when they use such terms. Maybe they need a history lesson ? Show them a video of KKK'ers using the word? Isn't this word used, in the historical and negative conotation, in Alex Haley's ROOTS ? Maybe they can learn and decide it is not a vocabulary term they need.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Unfortunately, in a school with 28% African-American population, I hear this garbage way too often. It drives me absolutely crazy. And you should see how often that word shows up all over their stupid myspace pages. Makes my skin c...r...a...w...l...