ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
How Long Will the Negro Be Scapegoat?
Beyond Blaming Kramer: That n-word, again
By Rev. Irene Monroe
The racist rant heard nationwide by Michael Richards, who played the lovable and goofy character Kramer on the T.V. sit-com Seinfeld, shocked not only his fans and audience that night at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, but his racist rant also shocked Americans back to an ugly era in U.S. history.
While it is easy to get sidetracked by raising queries about the tenor and intent of Richards repetitive use of the n- word in the context of supposed humor or to vilify Richards for his blatant vile vitriol we must as Americans look at the systemic problem of what happens when an epithet like the n-word, that was once hurled at African Americans in this country and banned from polite conversation, now has a broad-base cultural acceptance in our society today.
Popularized by young African Americans’ use of it in hip-hop music the bantering and bickering over this word today is no longer about who has been harmed or hurt by its use, but who has the right to use it which is why Richards was publicly pulverized.
Our culture’s present-day cavalier use of the n-word speaks less about our rights to free speech and more about how we as Americans both white and black Americanshave become anesthetized to the damaging and destructive use of this epithet.
Many African Americans, and not just the hip-hop generation, state that reclaiming the n-word serve as an act of group agency and as a form of resistance against the dominate culture’s use of it and therefore the epithet gives only them a license to use it.
However, the notion that it is acceptable for African Americans to refer to each other using the n-word yet consider it racist for others outside the race unquestionably sets up a double standard. Also the notion that one ethnic group has property rights to the term is a reductio ad absurdum argument, since language is a public enterprise.
But African Americans appropriation of the n-word as insiders does neither obliterate the historical baggage fraught with the word nor obliterate its concomitant social relations among blacks, and between whites and blacks as well. And because some African Americans use the term it does not negate also our long history of self-hatred.
The n-word is firmly embedded in the lexicon of racist language that was and still is used to disparage African Americans. However today the meaning of the n-word is all in how ones spells it. By dropping the er ending and replacing it with either an a or ah ending the term morphs into a term of endearment. But many slaveholders pronounced the n-word with the a ending, and in the 1920s many African Americans used the a ending as a pejorative term to denote class difference among themselves.
In 2003, the NAACP convinced Merriam-Webster lexicographers to change the definition of the n-word in the dictionary to no longer mean African Americans but instead a racial slur. And while the battle to change the n-word in the American lexicon was a long and arduous one our cultures neo revisionist use of the n-word makes it even harder to purge the sting of the word from the American psyche.
Because language is a representation of culture. Language reinscribes and perpetuates ideas and assumptions about race, gender, and sexual orientation we consciously and unconsciously articulate in our everyday conversations about ourselves and the rest of the world, and consequently transmit generationally.
My enslaved ancestors knew that their liberation was not only rooted in their acts of social protests, but it was also rooted in their use of language, which is why they used the liberation narrative of the Exodus story in the Old Testament as their talking-book. The Exodus story was used to rebuke systemic oppression, racist themes, and negative images of themselves.
Many activists argue that Richards repentance should be volunteer work in a predominately African American community anywhere in the country. However, he would find there too that many of us keeping the n-word alive.
But what would work for him and many in my community is a history lesson because reclaiming racist words like the n-word does not eradicate its historical baggage, and its existing racial relations among us.
Instead it dislodges the word from its historical context and makes us insensitive and arrogant to the historical injustice done to a specific group of Americans. It also allows Americans to become unconscious and numb in the use and abuse of the power and currency this racial epithet still has and thwarts the daily struggle many of us Americans work hard at in trying to ameliorate race relations.
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”
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By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar’s changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America’s economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan’s bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar’s dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power–and the enormous risks–of the dollar’s worldwide reign. The Economy
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 2 December 2006