Originally Ran Feb 9, 2015
Photo by Victoria Kovios
I’m a white lady who listens to tons of rap – at home, in my car, live shows – it’s pretty much the soundtrack to my life. I’m aware of and do my best to understand my point of privilege and act consciously in matters regarding race, but there’s one issue I don’t know if I’m handling right: it’s obviously not okay for me to use the “N” word, but is it okay for me to sing along with it? Is it more offensive to you as an artist for me to “drop out” lyrically when it pops up or just go with it? What do I do in a ‘Country Grammar’ situation where Nelly is rhyming that word with itself for two verses? What about at a concert? I want to respect, support and enjoy artists of color and their work and not contribute to societies’ racial BS – what should I do?
No, you cannot use the “N” word. Ever. Think about the fact that you have to abbreviate it – that is a huge sign that it is not a term that you can add to your vocabulary.
Now that I’ve shocked you, let’s get deep. Why do you want to use the word? If it’s just because it sounds cool in a Nelly song, that is not a good enough reason. What would you get out of saying that word? Would it make you feel good? And if so, that’s a whole other can of worms that maybe you should go see a counselor (not me) about. That may mean there are some ancient secret hidden feelings in your white privileged self that makes you feel like you have every right to say that term because you have access to everything and anything you want already, so why not this? After all it is just a word, right?
Kinda sort of, but not really. Think about it: if there was a term that a people used to mentally enslave your people in a land that you were transported to without your permission, that you still reside in this very day and now it is your home and your place of ancestry, and it still stings (like pouring boiling acid into your raw eyes…) whenever you hear any of the descendants of the people who enslaved you say it because they are over it due to the fact that it was a profitable experience for them but they still benefit from it till this day….
How would you feel?
Oh, you can’t understand? Yeah, because you can’t relate. It’s okay but this is one thing that you can’t have. If it makes you feel any better (which by the way I am not required to do, just sayin…), Black folks are still working on this issue internally. Actually, most groups of people who have dealt with a slur (ethnic, racial, gender, etc.) still struggle with the choice to embrace and own the slur and use it, or reject and ban it.
For example, the LGBT community struggles with “queer” & the “f” word and many women don’t take kindly to the word “bitch” or “cunt.” It’s an ongoing battle for everyone. Words are fuckin’ crazy like that.
If you happen to be in a situation where the “N” word pops up and you’re nodding your head in preparation to speak it, I have some strong suggestions for you:
- Don’t say the “N” word at all. Just continue to bobble your head around.
- Don’t say “wigger/a” “ninja” or anything that rhymes w/ the “N” word. Instead say a slur that refers to a community which you were born into.
- Why use words at all? Try doing a strange gig instead like the “Hokie Pokie” or the Charleston when that word comes around. Do a dance that makes you feel very White. Other suggestions include “The Hustle” or any form of square dancing.
- I’ll say this again: JUST DON’T SAY IT AT ALL. Why are we still talking about this?
I don’t know you or what you do in your spare time at home or when you are alone. You might already be singing the “N” word to yourself when you wake up and take a shower and tell yourself you are the biggest, baddest “N” word around, but you know in your heart you shouldn’t be saying it.
You can find Cat performing as SassyBlack:
February 11th; DJ Set @ NSCC “Library Soundscapes” 12:30pm
February 13th; DJ Set & Performance @ Moksha “Bettie Brown Pop Up Shop” 8pm
February 20th; DJ Set @ Northwest African American Museum “Black Weirdo Party” 8pm
and with THEESatisfaction: