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May 22, 2014

Racism: Nigger, Niggah, Ninja

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Written by: ndigo
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By Lorenzo Clemons

There seems to be a great consternation about the recent episode of a powerful person expressing views that most felt were gone with the election of the first African American President.  Sadly it is not the case of disappearing racial insensitivity and down right racism being put on display in many parts of the United States.

I have to explain that I view race in three phases:  Racial Laziness, Racial insensitivity and pure Racism.  I never confuse the three.  I have experienced each kind of descriptor in my life and I have learned to discern the differences.

Before I get too deep into my personal views I must explain the three differences:

Racial Laziness – are those things and people who refuse to stop racial jokes, racial situations or slights of any discrimination because in their view it is not that bad, or it could be worse.  What fuels this laziness is the ability to display “nervous laughter” over a misplaced joke that is racial, gender or ethnic in nature.  It is just easy to giggle and nod ones head as if to not offend the offender.  This action only exacerbate the problem even more, because the offender thinks they have a cosigner at the base level or a co-conspirator at the highest level of offending.

Racial Insensitivity – are those things and people who open their mouth and out come some feelings that are dormant in the body. It is as if a cold is festering and must come out as if mucus could not be held in any longer.  That person knows that the feeling or the words are wrong, but they will pick a time when they feel it will not be censored because after all “you know you have felt the same way too”?  The classic explanation is  “You know I have some in my family, or some of my best friends are and they have no problem with what I say.”

Racism – it is raw and unapologetic to any person, group or situation.  I have my right to my beliefs and if they don’t like it they can go back to ____, you fill in the blank.  This is hateful and evil at its core and there is nothing that can redeem this attitude or person.  It is based on hate and loathing of another human based on whom, what and why they are and nothing can make the object of a racist’s scorn change their mind.

Some may disagree with my assessment, however I believe that a person can be both racially lazy and racially insensitive, but not a racist.  The result can be as equally devastating to the person being offended, but we have to be careful with painting with a broad stoke of charging racism in every situation.

I have in my lifetime been the first or the only African American to step into some life experiences and it has always found me leaning on people who gave me certain wisdom on how to handle situations when confronted with race as a negative issue.  If I said I handled it with aplomb every time I would be lying to you.  If I told you it was if water was rolling off a ducks back I would be lying to you again.  Each encounter has left a scar on my back as if I was being whipped for trying escaping slave captivity.

It is extremely hard to explain to people who would just as soon tell me to get over it and get going that the slight and hurt is deep in my blood stream boiling like a hot pot, but I continue to work on me!   Working on me means I have to keep the boiling blood under control and where possible express the views that I have.  I am not trying to change anyone, that is not my job or my purpose, but I have a right to inform and let others know I have a right not to have them pollute the conversation, the situation or the atmosphere with insensitivity and discrimination of any kind.

As a child I lived in a neighborhood that was for the most part poor but diverse with various other cultures, of course there were areas that by race you were not allowed to go into unless you were going to school or to the store and that was of course during school or business hours.  I remember going to the playground at my school after school hours and was greeted with a hale of rocks and the screaming words of “Nigger go home”.  The rocks hurt but the words hurt more because some of the rock throwers were classmates who said they liked me. I suppose they did as an “in-school hour person.”

My racial confusion was palatable because in the church I attended, the pastor was White, and the congregation was made up of Hispanic/Latino, Asian and other Africans – American and Caribbean.

As a teenager playing sports, we would attend track meets all over the area of Chicago.  While leaving a meet we decided to walk home, the problem was not the walk but the location, which was a very racially troublesome area, called Cicero, Illinois.  We were met with rocks and the word Nigger shouted loudly and clearly.

The negative racial experience did not stop in college, the Air Force and the work place.  I had a co-worker who started telling a story and got so caught up he uttered – “that Nigger”, not realizing for several minutes what he said he discovered that the dinner table got completely silent. On his discovery he looked at me with a face of dread.  I excused myself paid the tab and called it a night.  The next morning at breakfast he wanted to speak with me and I agreed.  He went on to say he was sorry, which I was prepared to let it end with that, however he went on to say, “The words slipped out”.  I gathered my composure and related a story about my mother and me using a bad word.  I said the word slipped and my mother proceeded to whip my butt.  She asked me did I know what the word meant and of course I did not.  She told me that when I said it slipped I gave the impression that I used the word all the time and I knew full well what it meant but I used it anyway.   Apology not accepted!

We are in a time where we have made great racial strides forward, but like the childhood game “Captain May I”, we take two steps forward and five steps back.  That is not progress by any measure.

We are additionally faced with those people who try to make the word Nigger, “user–friendly” but dressing it up as Hip Hop singers say it is far better to say Niggah as opposed to Nigger does not work.  There are higher educated African Americans trying to dress up the Nigger word by calling people Ninjas.  There is no redeeming value in using any form of the word either usage is an affront to human beings. (Nigger, Niggah or Ninja, – if it quacks like a duck, it is a duck.).

Using the honesty factor I used to laugh out loud when I heard comedians such as Dick Gregory, Red Foxx and Richard Pryor wax on and on about Niggers.  Each of those comedians had an epiphany and so did I.  The Nigger word has no redeeming quality or value.

So here we are having the news saturated with the alleged racial language used by a rich guy who happens to employee several African American basketball players and coaches.  People are up in arms and wish the National Basketball Association would take immediate and punitive action.  I agree the NBA should move to correct this issue, but remember the NBA has provided more African American millionaires then any other sport.  In addition the NBA has at least one owner and have had a complete African American officiating crew work major games.  I don’t want to give the NBA a free pass but we have to evaluate the entire picture fairly.

-3There is considerable work to be done, recently a sports announcer on ESPN Network Pardon The Interruption (PTI) show said he was okay with the word Nigger.  The NAACP was going to award the owner of the alleged racism with a second “Life Achievement Award”.  It is ridicules in the fact the organization knew full well the charges when they awarded the first LAA.  I am still trying to figure how you get two LAA’s for living one life and badly I might add.

My request for you, please interrupt someone who is being racially lazy, racially insensitive or racist.  You cannot change other people but you have a right to remind them we do not have to be polluted by what they say or do.

My pledge to you after this I will make sure never to use Nigger, Niggah or Ninja!

 



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