You Can’t say that Word! Part IV

Fred Sanford: Hey, what do you have against black drivers? Why don't you ever arrest any white drivers? Police officer: I do. Fred Sanford: Well, where are they? I don't see any. Look at all these niggers up in here. There's enough niggers in here to make a Tarzan movie Fred Sanford: Look at the family: buncha jive niggers. Lamont Sanford: Pop! ********************************** Lamont Sanford: Don't be ridiculous, Pop, you can't fight a traffic ticket. Fred Sanford: I'm not being ridiculous. You are. Now look, you get a ticket by a white cop in a blue uniform in a black neighborhood, making you so mad you see red. And you ain't gonna fight it 'cause you too yellow. Now what are you? A man or a box of crayons?

The N WordPart IV

James Baldwin

Lets talk James Baldwin who in his 1953 novel Go Tell It on the Mountain said, “You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger.”

Baldwin further states in his 1963 essay “My Dungeon Shook: A letter to my nephew on the one hundredth anniversary of the emancipation”:James Baldwin

“… Take no one’s word for anything, including mine – but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity … You, don’t be afraid. I said that it was intended that you should perish in the ghetto, perish by never being allowed to go behind the white man’s definitions, by never being allowed to spell your proper name. You have, and many of us have, defeated this intention; and, by a terrible law, a terrible paradox, these innocents who believed that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grasp of reality. But these men are your brothers – your lost, younger brothers. And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it. For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become. It will be hard, James, but you come from sturdy, peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads, and, in the teeth of the most terrifying odds, achieve an unassailable and monumental dignity. You come from a long line of great poets, some of the greatest poets since Homer. One of them said, ‘The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off.’”

We have met the enemy… and he is us”
Pogo (Walt Kelly (1913–1973)

But this is not where this piece ends. It is now that I can return to the reason I originally began this piece. We give the word nigger way too much importance and we need to stop and think before we condemn blindly every instance where a man carelessly, or, even purposefully, uses the word. We need to examine, both white and black, our own consciousness and emotions that encompass the word and free ourselves of its boundaries. For the reality is that we are all ethnocentric, or racist if you will, in our ways. We all judge other ethnicities by the basis of the ethnicity we either are or, those we chose to adopt. In the 1970’s there was an excellent comedy on TV called “Sanford and Son”. The show was about an elderly black widower and his adult son trying to make ends meet as the owners of a junk yard in the Watts community in Los Angeles. At one point, in the development of the show, a Spanish character is brought into the storyline when the character Julio Fuentes becomes the Sanford’s next-door neighbor and Julio befriends the son, Lamont. But, when Julio and his family move in next to the Sanfords, the father, Fred, takes an immediate disliking to them and remarks, “There goes the neighborhood.” Despite Julio’s friendliness, Fred often makes crude ethnic jokes about Julio and openly wishes he would return to Puerto Rico, despite the fact that Julio is actually from New York City.

Fred is simply being true to most people’s nature and that is, for whatever his reasoning or basis… whether ignorance or being scared because his status quo is being upset… Fred judges Julio’s worth, and right, to be in his neighborhood based upon his own personal viewpoint or ethnocentricity or …. Yes, his racism.

Fred Sanford: Hey, what do you have against black drivers? Why don't you ever arrest any white drivers? Police officer: I do. Fred Sanford: Well, where are they? I don't see any. Look at all these niggers up in here. There's enough niggers in here to make a Tarzan movie Fred Sanford: Look at the family: buncha jive niggers. Lamont Sanford: Pop! ********************************** Lamont Sanford: Don't be ridiculous, Pop, you can't fight a traffic ticket. Fred Sanford: I'm not being ridiculous. You are. Now look, you get a ticket by a white cop in a blue uniform in a black neighborhood, making you so mad you see red. And you ain't gonna fight it 'cause you too yellow. Now what are you? A man or a box of crayons?
Fred Sanford: Hey, what do you have against black drivers? Why don’t you ever arrest any white drivers?
Police officer: I do.
Fred Sanford: Well, where are they? I don’t see any. Look at all these niggers up in here. There’s enough niggers in here to make a Tarzan movie
Fred Sanford: Look at the family: buncha jive niggers.
Lamont Sanford: Pop!
**********************************
Lamont Sanford: Don’t be ridiculous, Pop, you can’t fight a traffic ticket.
Fred Sanford: I’m not being ridiculous. You are. Now look, you get a ticket by a white cop in a blue uniform in a black neighborhood, making you so mad you see red. And you ain’t gonna fight it ’cause you too yellow. Now what are you? A man or a box of crayons?

 

In another episode when Fred has a dental problem that needs to be treated by a dentist he becomes a perfect example of a point that Tiffany Anderson made in her abstract:

Fred Sanford: I’ll do it, but on one condition.

Lamont Sanford: And that is?

Fred Sanford: I want a white dentist.

Lamont Sanford: What did you say?

Fred Sanford: You heard me, I want a white dentist.

Lamont Sanford: Well what makes you think you’re going to get a black dentist?

Fred Sanford: You said it was a free clinic, didn’t you? Where you think you’re gonna find a black dentist? In Beverly Hills?

Lamont Sanford: Wasn’t you the guy who told me once that you didn’t want nothing white but milk?

Fred Sanford: Well my tooth wasn’t hurting then. I want the best available dentist for my tooth. Now just by coincidence, the best dentist schools are of the white people, by the white people, and for the white people. Now don’t it seem likely that the best dentist would be white? White dentist, please?”

Fred would rather be treated by a white dentist because he has been socially conditioned to believe that black people cannot be as good as white dentists. In reality given two persons of equally ability and equal education, regardless of ethnicity, or, if you would, color, it would be logical that either would be competent dentists who could treat Fred’s problem. However, his indoctrination has enabled his own consciousness to believe that the white dentist must be better than the black dentist. And, while he may be correct on some level, especially at the time the show aired, still, even then, black people had made great inroads into gaining admission to the better schools and being educated and trained to do the equal job of any given white person.

The point of the matter is that we are all victims of our own ethnocentrism… we all judge… whether we are white, black, yellow, brown or some color in-between, based on our own realities, our own environments, and, our own comfort zones and whenever that circumstance is subjected to change, and in our minds somehow threatened, our hackles go up and we make initial prejudiced judgments based on our personal circumstances. How we act upon those biased judgments is the important next step.

What Riley Cooper did was racist, and wrong, but, it appears it was an isolated circumstance. I am not trying to dismiss racism and racist atrocities rather what I am saying is we need to confront real issues of racism that truly deserve to be confronted and punished and not circumstances of people who use a word either correctly or incorrectly.

In the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is a borough of NYC, there is a statue outside the New York Mets Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones stadium that depicts a key moment in the integration of MLB baseball as well as a turning point in race relations and the Civil Rights movement within the United States. Most people know that on April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base. Most people also know that Pee Wee Reese was the captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time, and, as a result, also a teammate of Robinson. In fact, Reese was a strong supporter and good friend of the man who broke MLB’s color line. Interestingly, Reese had almost no experience interacting with minorities and Reese has said that when he initially shook Robinson’s hand it was the first time in his life that he had shaken hands with a black man. As a matter of fact, it appears that Reese had no particular prejudices to whether Robinson should, or should not, play on his team. (According to Wikipedia, “… his father had made him starkly aware of racial injustice by showing him a tree where a lynching had occurred.”) In fact, Reese refused to sign a petition that threatened a boycott if Robinson joined the team. When he was questioned about the possibility of Robinson taking his position of shortstop, Reese said, “If he can take my job, he’s entitled to it.” (Robinson initially was assigned to play first base thereby averting that situation as events unfolded at the time.) After Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947 and the team went on their first road trip, it was reported that Robinson was being subjected to some heavy hateful language during the pre-game infield practice at the Cincinnati Reds’ Crosley Field and that Reese went over to Robinson, engaged him in conversation, and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support which silenced the crowd. That moment is what is depicted in the bronze statue of Reese and Robinson that was unveiled on November 1, 2005 outside of the Cyclones ballpark MCU Park.Jackie Robinson

On August 7, 2013, that same statue of Reese and Robinson was found defaced by some ignorant and sad people. At the base of the monument were phrases like “Hile (sic) Hitler,” “Die Nigger,” and “Fuck Jackie Robinson and all niggers”. At the time The New York Daily News offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who had information that led to the arrest of the people responsible for the ignorant and hateful acts. That reward fund has since grown to over $50,000 but at this time no arrests have been made. This is what we in America still face and this is what needs to be confronted and dealt with as harshly and strenuously as possible. This has no place in our America. And, if the truth be known, I would call the people who did this hateful act the real niggers.

I personally know someone who was down south during the 1960’s voter registration rights drive. He has told me there were times that he feared for his, and his companions, both black and white, lives. He told me there were times when he came back to where he was staying and found his clothes floating down a river. Although times have radically changed since then there are still areas where people practice unspeakable actions against other people who try to aid minorities get what is rightfully theirs to have or have access to, be it voting rights, jobs, health assistance, etc…

In 1969-1970, I personally have experienced some unlawful and inappropriate instances of discrimination, including a very poignant incident of police brutality while I was in LA in 1969. My life was threatened by a police officer while I was handcuffed in an interrogation room and that moment is forever etched in my mind and will never leave me. I didn’t like it. Compared to what some Anglo-Saxon European Christians started back in the 17th century against African Americans, it pales in comparison but it gave me a glimpse of what ethnocentrism, what racism, must feel like.

Hate of any kind truly waged upon any person or people is not something that is welcome at any time. I know not how many who read these words have ever felt that type of hate but if you have not then I hope you never do. It is a truly frightening experience and a life changing experience. But again, to live every day as a person of color who experienced the racism of white society, culturally and socially, in America truly had to be, and at times still is, a crushing, suffocating way to live on a daily basis. So, I understand some black people’s mindset, such as Oprah Winfrey who has said if you use the word nigger you cannot be her friend. But I also believe that by ignoring the word nigger and by subjugating it to back alley status we do the fight against racism no good because the fact is it still is only a word and if we let words have power over us then we ultimately lose the war. Simply put, words have no power over us unless we allow them to have that power.

On August 13, 2010, a blog titled “White People can use the N-Word” appeared on the website “The Insanity Report” that was written by a person identified as Kriss.Kriss

Kriss, as it turns out, is the owner and founder of “Insanity Report Media LLC”. Kriss created “TheInsanityReport.com” as the vehicle to express his personal social commentary. His bio further states that he “… uses his lack of tact and political correctness to say what he feels a lot of people think but don’t have the balls to say. But he takes pride in doing so with facts… Kriss believes that if idiots like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh can make a living spewing hateful, untrue fantasies, then … he should be able to be a truthful asshole for a living.” Kriss writes the majority of the articles on TheInsanityReport.com.

This is part of what Kris published on August 13, 2010: “Oh look, another white person who has gotten themselves in trouble by saying the word ‘Nigger.’ *sigh*. Look, I know everyone and their mother is going to write something addressing Dr. Laura Schlessenger’s comments on her radio show. I’ll be honest. I have no idea who this lady is. And I really don’t care. I was going to once again restate something that should be solid fact in 2010: That white people cannot use the N-word. Period. End of fucking story. I was going to write about how this really wasn’t up for debate. But then half way through it, I had an epiphany, scrapped everything and changed my mind.

Tomorrow:  Day 5

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