Throwback Thursday 1-16-2011 (NIGGER & ME: one blacks man journey with the notorious “N” word


“Sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me”

True, in time my bones will heal, however some words may  have an effect that last a lifetime. Nigger is one of those words. When spoken , I can feel it in my spinal columm.  Its the only english word that instanly makes me uncomfortable.  Growing up, few people in my circle used that word.   In fact, few people have ever called me nigger and that may be due to my stature.

AS SEEN ON TV

The first time anyone directed the word towards me was in Febuary 1974, in Fresno California.  I was walking to a convience store  near my apartment on Shaw Avenue when I heard someone say “Nigger”, I immediately looked around in this vast field that separated my building from the store and saw no one.        “You Black Nigger” the sound was coming from a Red pickup on  Shaw.  are they talking about me?-I thought to myself..

The truck drove up to Ceder and made a u-turn and again on Woodrow Ave.     A can of Pabts Blue Ribbion beer hit me on my left side, making it pretty clear I was the Nigger.  The truck made another u-turn and I started running.,   I ran past the convience store to an open field where their was a buildiing under construction,  Three men jumped out of the red pickup and called me nigger, and told me they were going to kick my ass.   I grabbed a two by four and started swiinging., a Fresno County Sheriff Officer stopped before any blows were traded.

The officer said nothing to the three men and they returned to their truck and drove away.  I was asked for ID, and told the officer what happened, he told me, I should go to another store and drove away.   The black and blue bruse from the beer can healed completly..

BABY BOOMER FROM THE BAY

I was eleven when Dr King was assinated. Unlike most members of my family, my friends came in many hues and for me, it didn’t make any sense to have exclusive words for a group of people.

Sixties was the single greatest period this county has expericed, a time where the status quo was challenged, a time when people asked why?   I grew up near ground zero of America’s liberal movement  The San Francisco Bay Area, birthplace of the Hippie mvoement, the home of the summer of love, birthplace of the Black Panthers.

In school, my friend would bring a am transistor radio to school, and listen to the news for  reports of  prostest in Berkeley and if there was any type of protest we would cut class and  take BART to Berkeley and join the protests.    While we were aganist the war, we went for the run.    It was the combination of excitement and fear as the student relased their anger at President Nixon on the buildings and unfortunate merchants on Telegraph Avenue.  On one side the angry students hurling whatever they could throw at  the buildings and the authorites on the other side the Berkeley Police and the National Guard on the Tear Gas was the ultimate rush.    In quiet moments the hippies/students would talk to us and tell us how they support the movement and why we should all join together and change the world.

PIN PRICK

Growing up, Nigger, was never a word used by immediate family members.  The word always had a negative conotation. “That nigger is worthless” ” look at those niggers”

My parents were rasied in East Texas,  they lived at a time where a white child could call an black adult nigger.  My mother told many stories about her experiences as a black girl/women in the south.

My family moved to the Bay Area in the forties.   Even in Liberal Northern California, many whites used the word freely in referring to an older blackman ,blackwoman  or someones grandparents However it wasn’t as common place as East Texas.

Somone onced discribed the word as being a pin prick, back then there was no recourse for a black person-you couldn’t react and even if you did your job and safety would be at risk.

Decades ago at the workplace, a co-worker slipped, she called a rude client a nigger” under her breath.    This didn’t go over well with the two black agents who overheard her. People already had a mistrust for her because she was from south.  Tearfully, she said you know they’re are white niggers too.

These stories along with nighly visions of blacks being attacked shaped who I am.

HELL NO

For many years in this country black’s and othesr endured many years of humilitation with litlle recorse.   Father tempered their sons, mother warned their daughters giving them survial skills.

While most people honored and respected Dr. King and his non-violent approch to change,there were other groups from he Black Muslims to Black Panters.said no more…What was acceptable for generations was no longer acceptable.

NIGGER AND ME

The word Nigger is very personal, I overreact whenever the word is used, especially in public.  Sitting on a bus, or in a restaurant, airport or any public place.   If f there are any black people entering the area, talking loud, I sit up waiting for someone to drop the “N” bomb.   It’s a kin to having an  embarrassing family member, you love him but your always on guard for what he may say or do.

The word is offensive to me in all circumstances.

A few years ago shorty after  the  Don Imas insident.  Oparh invited black authors, actors and other high profile blacks to weigh in on the controversy and the use of the N word in the music Industry.

One Actor, Terrance Howard, said ” it warmed his heart” when a friend greeted  him with (my nigga), “warms your heart? Oprah responded mystified,.   I shared her reaction ,as there is nothing about that word that warmed my heart.

Nigger has somewhat of different meaning today than it did 50 years ago, I  imagine the word had a different effect on my parents than my grand parents.  In the last few years not only has its meaning changed,and so has its spelling.    My children do not  share my history with the word,  my daughter calls a group of her friends   la’ nigras,  when she says it her face lights up.

While they are well aware racism exists they do not share my images of black people being hosed down or being beaten,hung and burned.

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Hopelessly stuck in a slow moving lane at the Sacramento Six Drive In, a couple of young brotha’s in a passing Chevy Suburban, looked into my van (I was the designated driver for five women) smiling and said “look  at my nigga”  I knew they meant well , I knew that they were coming from place of love.  But I refused to smile or acknowledged them.     My reaction haunted me.   I’m a nice guy, would a smile have killed me?

From that moment forward-I knew needed to re-think my reactions to the word.   Yes, I have a negative history with this word, but that is my history, not that young man’s, not my children.

I am not likely to use the word in any form or variation however, I am learning to be less victimized by the word.

Today its not uncommon to hear  small circles of  urban whites, Asians and Mexicans to use the word-however the word is rarely used in the presence of blacks .

The word is a part of our history.  There are forces trying to eliminate the word completely, remove it from books, delete or beep the words from movies.    To do so is like wiping out history.

At one time in this country, nigger was commonly used, and despite my objections to the word  I cant imagine watching Roots or even Blazing Saddles without it.

SO WHY CANT I ?

Imagine George Lopez telling jokes about Rednecks to an white audience or  Jeff Foxworthy telling jokes about Jew to an Jewish audience or Kathy Griffith telling black jokes to a black audience.

Every group and family have exclusive words

You may call your husband fat and sloppy but for others or non family members its off  limits.

CITYFELLA