ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The guys in Baltimore City Jail considered the whole thing a joke.
There was even talk that as soon as Nigger was buried, it was
brought back to life by a Gangsta Rapper faith healer employed
by various white-owned record companies
Just Another Dead Nigger!By Wise Intelligent
Recently the NAACP held a ceremonial burying the infamous word NIGGER! The funeral was complete with horse drawn chariots, mourners, pallbearers dressed in black and an eerie wooden coffin draped with black roses. It was like a Reality TV scene out of Tales from the Hood. Add the media to the equation, and only Puffy Combs could have thrown a bigger party. All jokes aside, I wonder if the NAACP realizes that their burying of the word NIGGER is, in fact, late! They are late by about 400 years or so because white supremacy has long since buried the word NIGGER and all of its connotations and characteristics in the hearts and minds of America and ALL of its people! Although I understand the symbolic burying of the “N” word, I am afraid its just another case of us black people in America expending our manpower and resources to attack issues that are mere symptoms of a deeper and greater, more threatening problem. We can post billboards all over the country, march and hold funerals for dehumanizing words coming out of the mouths of our people (elders, youth, entertainers, male, female, etc.) from now into infinity, but until we find the strength of character to face the environment that created the word and the attributes of a NIGGER, we are just kidding ourselves, and amusing the rest of the world in the process!
Hip Hop and/or rappers did not create or embed the word, epithet or diatribe into the American heart and psyche. The word NIGGER as used by NWA (who I would give credit for propagating its use in Hip Hop on a mainstream level), was used to express the prevailing attitude of black people in this country for centuries before NWA or even Hip Hop was conceived. That attitude being that regardless of what a black man in America does, achieve, accomplish or fails to do, he is, in the eyes of the white-power-structure, still a NIGGER! I mean NWA stood for Niggaz wit Attitudes. Did you ever ask yourself, what did they have an attitude about? They were pissed off about the poverty, drugs, gangs, mis-education, joblessness, and police brutality that they were born and raised in and forced to deal with on a daily basis. So unless we are ready to have another funeral next week for white supremacy and its entire educational, financial, scientific, and spiritual systems these mock ceremonies will never produce any REAL results!
The word Nigger and all of the negative stereotypes that come with it has been beat into our heads and hearts so much that the belief held by most black men in America is that whether I’m an athlete, rapper, actor/actress, professor, doctor, lawyer, beggar or thief, to the white power structure in which I am embedded, I am just a NIGGER who can run, a NIGGER who can act, a NIGGER with a degree, habit, or criminal record. All things considered, in spite of my vocation, I am still just a NIGGER! And this is another reason they chose the name NWA (Niggaz With an Attitude). The N-Word is apart of the cancerous disease of white-supremacy and racism that has yet to be faced and exorcised out of Americas “inward parts.” Why are we so afraid to face this fact? Why are we so afraid to go beyond the effects and attack the causes? Why can’t we have two groups? One to deal with all the NIGGERS and all of their foul words and other group to bum rush and burn down the racist American system that created all of this bullshit from the jump! Symbolic funerals, billboards and the attached assault on Hip Hop are about as effective as burying your bills instead of paying them and dealing with your reckless spending habits that got you into debt in the first place! Black people of all ages, genders and occupations have been using the word nigger in the exact same way in which slave-traffickers beat it into their ancestors for 260 years of chattel slavery, 100 years of lynching, Jim Crow, etc., ad infinitum. The deeper problem, I find when building with young black youth in America, is IDENTITY! This lack of identity is a direct result of slavery and its institutionalized, systemic method of stripping black people of their heritage, language culture, families and God. This begs the question, “If I am not a NIGGER what am I?”
Let me just keep this real clean for you: we were not NIGGERS until we went thru the process of Niggerization at the hands of white supremacy. We were not even BLACK until we encountered white-men. The same goes for bywords and proverbs like NEGRO, COLORED, JIGABOO, SAMBO, BUCK, etc. Before we discovered white-men we donned the names of our ancestors, ancestral place or places of origin. Lack of identity has caused divisions along frivolously superficial lines amongst a people who know not from whence they came.
Dr. Bobby Wright said that “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” So, when you ask your seven closest black friends “what’s your nationality?” you’ll more than likely get seven different answers: “I’m Black” or “I’m African” or “I’m African-American” or “I’m Christian” or “I’m Muslim” or “I’m a Blood” or “I’m a Crip”everything from colors to religions. Then there’s the cop-out or anxiety avoidance responses, “race doesn’t matter” or “I just don’t see color.” We have been turned around and upside down for so long that we would rather be an abstraction, a non-entity, or invisible before we dare to go back and claim who we were before Kunta Kinte was forced to call himself Toby! Black man and woman your race does matter! White-supremacy taught you that YOUR race does not matter and is in fact worthless in comparison to other races; especially white ones. This is why they continue to target YOUR race with all forms of genocide in the form of CIA/COCAINE, Eugenics Programs, Tuskegee Experiments, Unfair Drug Laws, Prison Industrial Complex, etc. Your race does not matter and this is why it is on the verge of extinction!
Concerning the issue of IDENTITY or the lack thereof, let’s take our leaders for instance. Being that this article highlights the NAACP’s burying of the “N” word we can use the organization as our first example. How is it that in 2007 you are still the National Association for the Advancement of “COLORED” People? The term “colored” was used by whites to serve the same purpose as the word NIGGER; that is, to dehumanize and disconnect you from your heritage!
Let’s use our well respected elder Al Sharpton for our next example. Earlier this year when Sharpton discovered that his ancestors were possibly slaves owned by the racist Strom Thurmond’s ancestors he said in an appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart concerning the revelation, “a guy asked me for an autograph: first time in my life I had to think about the reason I’m named that, is because my great grandfather was owned by someone named Jefferson Sharpton, who was married to Julia Thurmond Sharpton.” This is a leader of the black community saying that he had not before 2007 thought about the reason his last name was Sharpton? How can the leader not know? If Al Sharpton, the leader of the assault on Don Imus and the subsequent assault on Hip Hop for its use of the word NIGGER, did not know, or ever consider how he came to be Al Sharpton until February of 2007, how in hell can we expect the average young man, woman, and child to know who they were before they were called NIGGERS! What we must admit is that this IDENTITY problem is a pandemic crisis in the black reality and the root of many, if not all, of our woes! We know that in order to deal with the real causes of our problems as a people we must confront our past. And that requires that we confront the enemies of that past. Our FEAR of confronting those who are responsible for kidnapping, enslaving, dehumanizing and niggerizing our people is indicated by our behavior. All the talk about banning the “N” Word, degrading women and Hip Hop are all cleverly calculated evasions of the deeper problem. Getting rid of the Joe Camel cigarette ads did not stop people from smoking or cure the people of lung cancer and burying the N-word will not stop our young black men and women from seeing themselves and believing that they are NIGGERS!
So now that the movement to destroy the NIGGERS and all of his offensive words is in full effect, will their be an equally intensive effort to destroy the NIGGER makers and all of their NIGGER inducing systems? In other words, after we get rid of Frankenstein are we going to confront and get rid of Dr. Frankenstein as well? Now that we’ve buried the N-word, what are we going to replace it with? Are we ready to go back and find out who and what we were before the Niggerization process stole our minds, bodies, and souls? Are we ready to go back to when Hip Hop tried to motivate black youth to call each other, “Brother,” “Sista,” “Young Ladies,” “Beloved,” “King,” “Queen,” “Africans,” “Gods,” “Earths” and “Goddess” back in the late 80’s and early 90’s?
Are we ready to bury the SICKCO American mentality that created the NIGGER and all his words to undermine African rebellion, revolution, unity, revolt, and rebirth? Are we ready to deal with the reality that it was a tragic mistake to let your enemy teach and train your children? Are we ready to be about the business of building for ourselves regardless of what “old-wounds” that may be “re-opened” (although they have never been closed)? Are we ready to make all efforts to take 100% control of the education, economics and politics of our people regardless of who that course of action may offend? Because if we’re NOT ready to do all of those things and MORE after we get back home from the mock funeral for the N-word, then I’ll conclude this with the words of my great aunts, uncles, mother, father and grandparents… NIGGA PLEASE!
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How William Faulkner Tackled Raceand Freed the South from ItselfJohn Jeremiah Sullivan on Absalom, Absalom!You are my brother. No Im not. Im the nigger thats going to sleep with your sister. Unless you stop me, Henry.
This is a novel [
that uses the word nigger many times. An unfortunate subject, but to talk about it in 2012 and not mention the fact hints at some kind of repression. Especially when you consider that the particular example Ive quoted is atypically soft: Bon, the person saying it, is part black, and being mordantly ironic. Most of the time, its a white character using the wordor, most conspicuously, the novel itself, in its voicewith an uglier edge. The third page features the phrase wild niggers; elsewhere its monkey nigger.
Faulkner wasnt unique or even uncommon in using the word this way. Hemingway, Dos Passos, Gertrude Steinall did so unapologetically. They were reflecting their countrys speech. They were also, if we are being frank, exploiting the words particular taboo charge, one only intensified when the writer is a white Southerner. Faulkner says Negroes in plenty of places here, also blacks, but when he wants a stronger effect, he says niggers. It isnt a case, in short, of Thats just how they talked back then. The term was understood by the mid-30s (well before, in fact) to be nasty. A white person wouldnt use it around a black person unless meaning to offend or assert superiorityexcept perhaps now and then in the context of an especially close humor.
Even if we were to justify Faulkners overindulgence of the word on the grounds of historical context, I would find it unfortunate purely as a matter of style. It may be crass for a white reader to claim that as significant, but a writer with Faulkners sensitivity to verbal shading might have been better tuned to the ugliness of the word, and not a truth-revealing ugliness, but something more like gratuitousness, with an attending queasy sense of rhetorical power misused. I count it a weakness, to be placed alongside Faulkners occasional showiness and his incessant not constructions, which come often several to a page: and not this, nor that, nor even the other thing, but a fourth thing adjective adjective adjective made him lift the hoe (where half the time those things would not have occurred to you in your natural life, but old Pappy takes his time chopping them down anyway).
The defense to be mounted is not of Faulkners use of the word but of the novel in spite of it, or rather, in the face of it. Absalom, Absalom! has been well described as the most serious attempt by any white writer to confront the problem of race in America. There is bravery in Faulkners decision to dig into this wound. He knew that the effort would involve the exposure of his own mind, dark as it often was. You could make a case that to have written this book and left out that most awful of Southernisms would have constituted an act of falsity.
Certainly we would not want to take the word away from Bon, in that scene in the woods, one of the most extraordinary moments in Southern literature. A white man and a black man look at each other and call each other brother. One does, anyway. Suddenly, thrillingly, the whole social edifice on which the novel is erected starts to teeter. All Henry has to do is repeat himself. Say it again, the reader thinks. Say, No, you are my brother. And all would be well, or could be well, the gothic farce of Sutpens dream redeemed with those words, remade into a hopeful or at least not-hope-denying human story. Charles Bon would live, and Judith would be his wife, and Sutpen would have descendants, and together they might begin rebuilding the South along new lines.
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“There is no point in burying the word if the behavior is not going to be buried along with it,” said Winifred Baker, 52, of Eastpointe. “We’re burying the symbol but we’re not changing the problem.”Detroit News
Symbolically burying derogatory symbols shows how we are more about symbolical displays than substantive work. You’d think that the NAACP would find projects much more suitable that will appeal to those who most need their help. To focus or attack language use of the poor and the ignorant only points out our own impotency to deal with our oppressors who deal with us as if we were niggers
Some of the rhetoric used in connection with this ceremony borders on what one might call ritual magic. Coming out of the mouths of politicians, who are supposed to provide us more practical solutions to our problems, makes me toss my voter’s card in the trashcan. Don’t we have enough magicians?
“So today we aren’t just burying the N-word,” said Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. “We’re taking this out of our spirit, we’re taking it out of our being; we’re taking it out of our minds.
“We gather burying all the things that go with the N-word. We have to bury the ‘pimps’ and the ‘hos’ that go with it. Die N-word, and we don’t want to see you ’round here no more!”Rudy
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Rahim, you are right. The guys in Baltimore City Jail considered the whole thing a joke. There was even talk that as soon as Nigger was buried, it was brought back to life by a Gangsta Rapper faith healer employed by various white-owned record companies. It is even said that this Gangsta Rapper faith healer has been retained by the aforementioned record companies to resurrect “bitches’ and “whores in case there is another attempt by the NAACP (Niggas Ain’t At All Capable of Progress) to cause their untimely death. Instead of burying the word niggas, let’s try to resurrect the manhood of our young men!!!amin sharif
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#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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By Randall Kennedy
The word is paradigmatically ugly, racist and inflammatory. But is it different when Ice Cube uses it in a song than when, during the O.J. Simpson trial, Mark Fuhrman was accused of saying it? What about when Lenny Bruce uses it to “defang” it by sheer repetition? Or when Mark Twain uses it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to make an antiracist statement? Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and noted legal scholar, has produced an insightful and highly provocative book that raises vital questions about the relationship between language, politics, social norms and how society and culture confront racism. Drawing on a wide range of historical, legal and cultural instances Harry S. Truman calling Adam Clayton Powell “that damned nigger preacher”; Title VII court cases in which the use of the word was proof of condoning a “racially hostile work environment”; Quentin Tarantino’s liberal use of the word in his films Kennedy repeatedly shows not only the complicated cultural history of the word, but how its meaning, intent and even substance change in context.
Smart, well argued and never afraid of facing serious, difficult and painful questions in an unflinching and unsentimental manner, this is an important work of cultural and political criticism. As Kennedy notes in closing: “For bad or for good, nigger is… destined to remain with us for the foreseeable future a reminder of the ironies and dilemmas, the tragedies and glories, of the American experience.” (Jan. 22)Forecast: This may be the book that reignites larger debates over race eclipsed by September 11. Look for a bestselling run and huge talk show and magazine coverage as the Afghanistan news cycle continues to slow; the book had already been the subject of two New York Times stories by early January.Publishers Weekly
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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 Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 1 August 2007