My take on Bill Maher and IceCube's discussion of the "N" word on Maher's show last night. I want to first say this post should not be construed to be an excuse for it's use in any manner, shape, or form. It's not. It's simply background for understanding.
First, a little background on where I came from. I grew up in inner city DC in the 50s and 60s...the "N" word was in full bloom by both whites and "Negros" as they were mostly referred to back then...well in my family anyway. I don't exactly remember when the word "black" was "officially adopted" as acceptable, but back then, POC, black kids, my friends, called me the "N" word. I wore it as a badge of honor I guess mostly because as a white kid, I thought I was accepted. The grade school I attended was mostly black as well as the high school I attended. Then, In 68 when DC was burning and racial unrest hit a boiling point; the tear gas and burning cars and neighborhoods got to be a little too much to handle daily. Our closest neighbors who were of course black, gave my pop a sign to put on his car; "Soul Brother", thinking it would save it from being burned. It did
We eventually moved to Virginia. It was a complete culture shock for me because I went from schools that were primarily black, to a Virginia public school that had maybe 2 black kids in the entire school, and this wasn't in some podunk, rural VA hick town. it was Annandale, VA. Only about 25 miles from the inner city DC where I grew up...
Fast forward 50 years and the issue now becomes; who is allowed to use this word? My black friends in my youth referred to me as one. Evidently they thought it appropriate and hey, I didn't mind..it meant I fit in. But now I struggle to understand. Yes, I know one should NEVER call a black man the "N" word although as kids we did it all the time to each other. My friends knew me. It was OK with them.. It was OK with me. it meant we were friends. But now I'm all grown up, and I KNOW it's not an OK thing to say, even to my oldest living friends from my inner city youth. Yes, a few are still alive and we catch up occasionally but haven't for several years now...Hell, they're probably all dead...I'm not far behind.
I guess what I'm saying is...IceCube and others want to claim the word for black peoples use only...I'm OK with that I guess. But one must understand that no one is born a racist. it's not an inherited trait. It is a learned one, and if anyone called me a racist, I'd knock their fucking teeth down their throat.. but I digress. Unfortunately we start "learning" when we're young, in our environment and through our social interaction.
So, when I hear anyone, yes, even IceCube, use the "N" word, in movies, in public, or otherwise, I never hear a disclaimer. They NEVER bother to say "look...I can use it but you can't", until it's too late. Until someone says it out loud with mal-intent or not. So in that context, when kids, (both POC and not) too young to understand the implications, hear it being used in movies, in music, etc, (and I believe they hear it a lot), they don't/won't know any better. They'll think, "hey IceCube said it" so it's OK, and they'll continue to be mistaken.
Again, I friggen luv IceCube. I think he's funny as shit. But he and others who have "claimed" this word for black use only need to understand what I'm trying to say here....Kids repeat what they hear...they don't know any better. And. sometimes grown ups, who should know better don't. But, It's not always racism. Sometimes it's just ignorance. And that's a fact of life..OK...I'll shut up now....