Friday, December 15, 2006

Applied Meaning

So I'm logging into my Yahoo account this morning, and I see a headline that catches my eye:

Group not satisfied with Rosie's apology

All that hell she raised about Kelly Ripa gay-bashing and now she's got a case of the loose lips? So I read to find out who she is apologizing to and why. Turns out that she made a joke about how Danny DeVito got arrested for drunk driving and, in the joke, referred to the Chinese language as "ching chong".

But as I keep reading, I notice that she was informed by several Asian people who found "ching chong" to be as bad as "nigger". (Yeah I wrote it. F that n-word crap.) While I don't agree, it definitely made me think about something: If Asian people have "ching chong", and Black folks have "Nigger", what do White people have? That's when it hit me...

White people don't have a Nigger equivalent.

So if almost every race (other than White) has that one word of demeaning social stigma, then where lies the power of the word itself?
At first I went the obvious route. I looked at White people as the source of the power of the word Nigger and put on my blinker to turn right on Kill Whitey Ave.

But I wasn't convinced,
so I kept straight on Whatchu Think Rd.

Then I thought of every word I knew that Black people used to demean White people. "Honkey" and "Cracker" is all I could come up with. But I couldn't even say it without smiling because it was such a weak attempt to racially offend a White person. I imagined using it and how ineffective it would be in a moment of pure anger. Then I tried making up words cuz I realized nigger wasn't derived from anything. There's no Greek or Latin root to it. Someone simply made up a word and used it in a way that taught people how to sling it. Over time we all learned. And today, if anyone pulls a "Nigger!" out on a Black person, they might have something pulled on them--- physically.

So I keep chewing...

As long as people take it offensively, it will always be a way to offend. People who were at least 10 years old in the 60's & 70's have lived in the power of the word. It represents much more to them than it does someone my age or younger. We will casually hear it in a hot song, in passing and conversation with friends, and even out of our own mouths. It's another element of a true generational divide.

To me, the intention is much more upsetting than the word itself. Because the word alone gives life to a moment in history of unmasked oppression. Black people were just given the right to vote 43 years ago. And the people who were a part of that experience will always live a life of "not being a Nigger". Don't misunderstand me, the word hurts. But the intention of the person using it is worse to me because it's an invitation to revisit that past.

I think Black people should decline that invitation. Words hold the meaning you give them. Ever notice how easy it is for some people to say "I love you" while others MIGHT utter it on their deathbeds? Words themselves hold nothing until we apply the meaning. Pops always asks me "How was your day?" And while I don't always want entertain the question, I make it mean "I love you" and I do :o)

People criticize Hip Hop and rap music for the using it so much. But I think it's subconsciously done to weaken the shock value of the word. Similar to what Lil' Kim and the other "I'll Dominate a Man With My Sex" rap females did with the word "bitch". They demean its demeaning power. I think before those women came out, Bitch was always a word that any female could be offended by. But by owning the word and altering the meaning of it, it was less threatening to those influenced by their music.

But when someone uses the word bitch or Nigger to intentionally offend you, it will always hurt.

And it's not the word.

It's the context of the meaning applied to it.

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