20 November 2006

Kramer, "the N-word," and adolescent America

Sad and pathetic as it was to watch Michael Richards of ‘Seinfeld’ fame implode and destroy what was left of his career, I’m finding myself shaking my head and smirking at all the media outlets who absolutely cannot bring themselves to print the word “nigger” in reporting this story.  I’ve seen “N-word,” “n*****,” and “[expletive deleted],” and even no direct reference… just something like “a word that can’t be repeated here.”

These are the same asshats who, when writing anything about Native Americans, refer to Anglos as “the white man.”  Good grief I hate that garbage.  It’s such a condescension, it compels me to stop reading.

As for the word “nigger,” I’ll always remember and I often think about Richard Pryor discussing why he would never use the word in his act again…

I was leaving [Africa], and I was sitting in a hotel, and a voice said to me, said, “Look around, what do you see?”  And I said, “I see all colors of people doing everything, you know?”  And the voice said, “Do you see any niggers?”  And I said, “No.”  It said, “You know why?  Cause there aren't any.”  And it hit me like a shot!  Man, I started crying and shit, I was sittin' there, I said, “Yeah, I've been here three weeks, I haven't even said it.  I haven't even thought it!”  And it made me say, “Oh my God, I've been wrong.  I've been wrong, I got to re-group my shit.”  I mean, I said, “I ain't gonna never call another black man “nigger.”

How many people have that kind of epiphany anymore?  Sadly, not nearly enough.  And I also remember this from Lenny Bruce

If President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, "I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet," and if he'd just say "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" to every nigger he saw, "boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie," "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" 'til nigger didn't mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.

It’s clear that the media and the population at large are still, after all this time and everything we’ve been through, unprepared for a mature deconstruction of “nigger” and other racist terminology.  We’re not ready to let it go… no one seems to be.

Why are Americans so afraid to own up to this nation’s past, have an honest dialogue, and move the fuck on?  The hope for a future like that is beyond our immediate reach.  This country still hasn’t progressed far enough, not at all.  We’d like to think we have; we see the “token black guy” in commercials and TV shows is standard practice now; we see that black men can quarterback football teams and win; we see Obama in the Senate and our eyes get twinkly, and so on.  But it’s cosmetic.  Equality is not an ingrained American trait yet, and it’s not all the fault of whites; black people who like to call each other “nigger” for whatever their reason have got to let it go, let it die.

As for my original beef… You watch what happens when Barack Obama finally runs for president.  Mark my words, every damned paper in the country is going to have some ignorant editorial along the lines of, “IS AMERICA READY FOR A BLACK PRESIDENT?”  At that point, you won’t even need to read their take.  You’ll know the answer is, “Evidently, since the question even needs to be asked still, the answer is ‘no.’”


Anonymous said...

Making racism an issue is a false story. The real issue is economics and control/movement of goods. We are all white, brown, black, yellow, red and are in this together. The people in control of information flow remind us that racism is the issue, and we buy into the story. In the end, we all want what's best for our neighbors.

Beast of Bourbon said...

>The real issue is economics and control/movement of goods.<

We can peel the onion ad infinitum and deconstruct this all the way back to the meaning of life and why cells divide, but that's not the immediate issue here.

>We are all white, brown, black, yellow, red and are in this together.<

Thank you, Captain Obvious.