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.

Views: 250

Tags: Bigot, Django, Foxx, Jamie, N-Word, Nigger, Prejudice, Tarantino

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Comment by Sentient Biped on January 13, 2013 at 11:23am

Glad you enjoyed it.  I can't this weekend, hope to see it while still in theaters.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 10, 2013 at 8:30am
Well, I finally went to see it and I must say there is a story there. Of course, Tarantino marked it with his version of today's Sam Peckinpah, but the acting was good, the story hung together and there even moments of unexpected beauty in the film. Now the infamous nigger lines were there and I cringed, but after settling in my mind that it was reality during that time I sat back and enjoyed the film. I will write a full review next week when I have time to marshall my thoughts.
Comment by Earther on January 9, 2013 at 7:02pm

I have to ask the question, is Taratino selling history or selling tickets?  It will always be a question of appropriateness by all people.  The psychology of using violent and or gross language will be compared and contrasted in the human brain by analogy and association to place and time.  There will always be critics and there will always be people who fill the seats of both sides.  Part of the challenge of an artist is to live with the direction of self and public empathy to what you say or do in your work.  A bully has a lot of self pride and confidence to be the last one standing.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 8, 2013 at 7:58pm
Many people are fascinated by Taratino's style. In many way's he is Sam Peckingpaw with better story line--not much better.
Comment by Sentient Biped on January 8, 2013 at 7:53pm

Maybe this weekend for me too, or the next.  

This discussion was a different angle.  Not language was an issue.  The writer's perspective was Tarantino dwells a lot more on violence against black characters in his movies, especially this one, compared to violence against white characters.  I honestly can't analyse that, because I haven't seen that many Tarantino movies, or this one.  But the point was interesting. 

My thought is for Tarantino violence is a form of pornography.  

She makes another interesting point, "I was not around for slavery but I doubt many slave owners referred to my ancestors as African Americans."

Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 5, 2013 at 9:24pm
I'm going to see it also, unlike the diminutive and irritatingly small Spike Lee. If if is much ado about nothing, I will be sure to say so. It is very difficult to critique any subject without at least examine it.
Comment by Steph S. on January 5, 2013 at 8:05pm

I saw a preview of that movie and I will have to see the movie now that you mention it in your writing here. I am thankful you bring the racism issue up. I hate racism too. Yes, I think that by just saying N word they are trying to erase the history of the word. It's like they want to pretend it never happened.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 5, 2013 at 7:47pm
Napoleon--although you aren't from here, the story is universal in many aspects. The word is just a tiny pennant on a field of billowing banners of intolerance. Leading the way are religion's flags that usually bringing intolerance, war and genocide. American was an import that decimated the Native American population nearly to extinction. Then there was the involuntary importation of Africans who for nearly 300 years built a country--for free. Holy books were used to disfranchise women. If we look at American history it reveals that the time spent warring has been nearly a 4-1 margin. So, the gunpowder behind the word can result in explosive situations that should have ended years ago.
Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on January 5, 2013 at 7:24pm

Donald - I am not a part of American history and culture. I was born and raised in Australia and live in Europe. I appreciate your well researched blogs on this subject of discrimination and thank you. I hate racism.

 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on January 5, 2013 at 5:16pm
Napolean--you've been entitled from the moment you breathed a breath. If you haven't excelled, I say look a bit closer to home. Can't compete on a tilted field? Figure it out. You are among the most priveliged group in the United States and you are crying with a loaf of bread under your arm. Get a life, get some education, grow a pair and quit sucking on the hind teat of white privilige. Face it, through no special quality of your own you have been priviledged just by being a white male. You've been white all your life, deal with it.

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