Nigger! There, now I've said it. Apparently, political correctness, an inadequate grasp of history and a failure to maximize resources have taken the real ugliness from the word and turned it into verbal medallion that hangs in a shadow-box on a museum wall of the minutia of American Slavery.

Thanks to Quentin Tarantino and Jamie Foxx, nigger is raising eyebrows, stuttering speech and making the politically correct choke on their own spit. Of course, the lovely and talented Spike Lee added his two cents worth without even seeing the movie and to no one's surprise, he fell a cent short. Lee's forgettable diatribe aside, it seems Americans have come out in droves to protest what was common less than 100 years ago.

It seems that over the past five decades in a misguided attempted to end hatred, nigger has been relegated to the shelves of political correctness where it rests, dust covered and replaced with the innocuous "N" word. However, that idea is not only romanticized, it is damn well incorrect. I was here and found myself constantly referred to as "nigra" or "colored." It was no mistake. That is the way it was. Negroes were constantly referred to as "boy," "uncle," and nigger long after slavery ended.

I recall during the 50s, "nigger" coming from the mouth of a white person became dangerous speech as Negroes lost their docility and began to demand their civil rights. By the 60s, for any white, even in the South, uttering the word nigger could turn ugly and even fatal. Yet, to deny that whites referred to African slaves as niggers is to avoid reality, which is always the case in trying to bring old stories to life and stay true to actuality. Kudos to all offended by the word nigger today; but, this is a movie and as “Tarantioish” as it might be aspires to some historicity.

In the 60s, I played baseball in towns that sported signs at the city limits saying, "Nigger Be Gone by Sundown." It was common. We threw games to get out of town alive. We could never be off guard or react to the shouts of "nigger" and "coon" from the crowd. That was 50 years ago; not exactly ancient history.

The power of the word comes in the reaction it provokes and from whose mouth the word happens to emanate. Rolling from the lips of a white person, nigger has incendiary power, especially if the warped face of prejudice is in the vicinity. However, to some, nigger is a term of endearment and pride if spoken by another black. In reality, nigger is a despicable word that rightfully belongs in the garbage cans of history. Unfortunately, that will not happen.

Or, it won't happen without serious thought by all. Until whites remove it from their memory as a term of hurtfulness and degradation making the term moot, it will continue. Until blacks recognize the duality of the message they send with proper or improper usage of the word as well as the message of self demeanment carried by self usage, it will continue.

Flowing from the pen of Amiri Baraka, the word swam easily in a mix of romance, interrogatives and philosophy. Southern bigot Bull O’Connor fired it like bullets, mowing down entire communities and their families as collateral damage. Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown incited riots and fire with staccato delivery and rage filled sermons. The words etymology is complicated and dark, filled with supposition and guess. Today, coming from the mouths of rhyme-spitters and gangster posers, it is little more than filler.

When a word becomes so vile that it can no longer be spoken but only referred to by its first letter only shows the lengths an entire country will stretch to avoid its history. There is no need not to call it as it is. If the word nigger offends, then it should be removed from the vocabulary of all. Social rejection in all communities will take care of the rest.

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Comment by Daniel W on January 5, 2013 at 10:16am

Don, I guess  it depends on who is speaking or righting.  As you point out, context is important.  I heard about language in the movie.  Not having seen it, I can't judge, yet.  But in the works of Mark Twain, one of the major humanists of his time, and anti-racist to boot, it's hard for me to find fault.  I probably wouldn't be critical of language use in the Django, either.  If a racist uses demeaning inflammatory language, I mostly feels it reflects on their inferior intellect.   Same as use of emblems and flags, again.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 5, 2013 at 9:14am
I frequently run in to it in my readings also. In many cases, it is the author trying to paint a bit of reality. Rarely do I find gratuitous use of it. With artists the canvass is a bit skewed, because we tend to be that way or at least I am (if you will allow me to call myself an artist). We cannot escape it, but we can see to it that its use falls into disrepute except in the instances mention where the word might actually have some power.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 5, 2013 at 9:10am
Ultimately, we control its use and the consequences for those that continue to use it both black and white. In my opinion, it is cast about to easily in the black community, but that is just one opinion. There are those that would argue me to the ground.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 5, 2013 at 9:08am
You hit the nail on the head--there is no connection, meaning that we have better things to do than worry about a word and a movie that will be forgotten by a generation that has yet to make its mark. There are more important things to do, but I had to mention it because the corporate media had nothing that was bleeding except our pocketbooks, about which they couldn't seem to get a single story right. No you are right--absolutely no connection.
Comment by Daniel W on January 4, 2013 at 9:52pm

Don, I don't see a connection between using a word, and fighting poverty, war, and hunger.  Except, all 3 are often the result of, or employ, demonization of the devalued or hated "other".

OK, I just disagreed with myself.  But I'm still not going to start using inflammatory and debasing language.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 4, 2013 at 9:50pm

In the final analysis, It's a Lousy WORD, People.  Who has control, it or us?

Comment by Future on January 4, 2013 at 9:42pm
I've been on a Mark Twain kick over the last year or so - audiobooks on my daily commute. I got desensitized to the N-word as a result. I'm on a John Grisham book now, about a lawyer trying to save a racist on death row, and that word is equally prevalent. At home, I'm between seasons on my favorite shows, so I decided to start watching Sons of Anarchy on Netflix. That word is equally prevalent there as well. It seems like I can't escape it lately.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 4, 2013 at 9:28pm
The confederate battle flag is much the same as a swastika to many people. Despite its inflammatory nature, it falls under freedom of speech. However, the danger faced by those willing to flaunt it has not diminished. Knowingly fanning the flames of hatred with incendiary language and symbols is reckless.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 4, 2013 at 9:21pm
This is a difficult one, but if we are afraid to a word that no longer has a name; how in the world can we hope to solve real problems like poverty, war and hunger?
Comment by Daniel W on January 4, 2013 at 9:14pm

I can't say it.  My dad could - and rarely did, always as a quote of what someone else said.  He thought he was above racism, and therefore his repeating of the word was OK.  I guess it was, but I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed whenever he said it.

I am by no means politically correct.  I won't go into detail about things I've done, or my life experiences, but I think I'm at least as brave as my demographic, and more so than many.  I have no problems getting my hands dirty, I'm not squeemish, I've had my hands inside the guts of living cows and steers, and I've been covered in the contents of their gastric systems when the coughed or sneezed.  I've seen people die.  I've seen sausage made.  I'm not bothered by dirt, or vulgarity.  I don't like depictions or glorification of violence, although I've seen it and experienced it.

I'll probably go to the movie - I want to see it even though there are parts I won't like. 

I know a word is just a word.  But that's one I can't say.  A swastika is just a symbol, one with a long history extending back centuries if not millenia.  A flag of the confederacy is just a symbol of another time as well.  You won't see me putting up either of those either. Same as a word, in my mind embody hate, and there are plenty of words and plenty of symbols to express myself.  I don't need those.


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