Monday, March 12, 2007

Enough of this already!

I'm pretty worked up right now, so I hope that my thoughts come across coherently. I'll have Chowder review this, maybe, before I post it.

In the first 30 years of my life, I heard the "N-word" used a handful of times. I remember still, the feelings I had each and everytime I heard it. I knew there was a sickness. I knew there was a horrible history. even before I was ever told. I don't remember my parents ever telling me explicitly not to use it. or what it meant. or what it was used for. I must have just been able to tell from the context, from the tone of voice, from the facial expression used that this was a word of hatred used to bring another person down.

In the last 4 years of my life, I cannot begin to count the number of times I have heard it. In the last 2 months, I have heard it used no fewer than 5 times. All of them in public places/forums. All of them by white people. All of them given the disclaimer that the person using it was not, in fact, a racist. All of them referring to the hip hop culture, that it is ok to use this word now because black people use it themselves all the time. so it is therefore, no longer offensive.

I don't think this was the intended consequence of the hip hop culture when they set out to "reclaim" the word. I don't know if they are fully aware of this unintended consequence. But, it is there. And it has really begun to sicken me. I already told you guys about where I live. About the way I have had to confront my own racism. about the struggle that Chowder and I have ministering here. gaining trust. I am trying to raise my children in a way that will dispel the fears, the stereotypes, the feelings of superiority. and I hate the idea that this word might somehow, sometime, become a part of their vocabulary because "it isn't offensive anymore."

I'd like to believe that it would be possible to let this word die out. In that way it would lose it's meaning. it's venom. I had a homeless woman come up to me on the street a few months ago asking for money. I really didn't have any on me, but offered her a sandwich or something to eat from inside. She became very angry and called me a "Cracker." I just kind of looked at her. I know she was saying that to hurt me. or offend me. But the word has no power for me. It really meant nothing. I actually told Chowder about it later and kind of chuckled because I had never been called that before. To me, it just seemed rather... silly.

Should we ban the word? I don't know. I think that also gives it power. I can't begin to tell the hip hop culture what it should do with it's own slurs. I know they say it with an "A" and mean it as a term of camaraderie, not an "ER." But come on, the white folks aren't listening to it that hard.

*putting my hands over my eyes*
*massaging my temples*

I just want it to go away. I'm tired of it polluting my life. my family. my community.


Jenni said...

Many many sympathetic hugs, Kate. I can't offer empathy because I live in an area where the racial slurs are reserved for Native Americans, and I haven't heard the N word in....well, I can't remember.

What was this I heard about the Southpark "cartoon" using the N word dozens of times lately? What was that all about?

Sherry said...

I can't remember ever hearing it. I don't think it's part of the culture up here. But it kind of reminds me of a person who puts herself down before someone else can do it. It's still destructive.

However, isn't there something to be said for taking back the word so it has no power? But until then, I believe it should be used only by members of the black community.

Am I making any sense?

Cracker? You lost me there.