September 28, 2013 (Facebook Status Update) – I just took a look at my FB feed and was a bit disgusted. No matter how you say it or spell it the “N” word means a low life human being. And the “B” word means a female dog; which is an animal that may at times eat its own young and feces, and offer its hind-parts to accept any male. If you, allow yourself to be called or call someone who you care about either … You are calling them out of their name. Don’t allow yourself to be defined LESS than God’s best. I just had to say something. Getting off my soapbox. — feeling frustrated.
The other day I wrote the above status update on Facebook. I had just finished taking a glance at my Facebook newsfeed where the “N” and “B” words were being used so casually by some of my friends. I was actually shocked that so many of them thought it was ok to post photos and statuses using different spellings of both words as either endearments or to just generally describe others and themselves. Normally, I do not say anything and just scroll passed the imagery, and the ignorance. However this time I couldn’t. I had to take a stand and say something. Especially when many of the people that were doing the posting were around my own age or older and have children!
Don’t get me wrong, I cannot really judge anyone else. I am far from perfect. However I do have the freedom to state my own opinions. I don’t know, maybe it is just me and the fact I was raised by older parents. Both of my parents had experienced firsthand racism during and before the civil rights movement and having a paternal grandmother that migrated from the South in the 1930s to New York. She had worked as a domestic back home in rural South Carolina and had moved up North to obtain a nursing degree. I can only imagine what all of them may have overheard growing up and as they navigated through adulthood. Either case they instilled the importance of not allowing other people to define me with words and place labels on me that by their basic definitions would degrade me.
It amazes me still now with the invention of Social Media, how casually people use the “N” and “B” words in imagery and in the everyday speech. The thing is it’s not ok. We are raising a generation of people that are ok with having labels placed on them that describe them as lazy, lowlifes and as animals. I can very clearly remember the first and last time I was called the “N” word to my face. I had to be about 10 or 11 years old. I was on my way to school, and I was walking while reading. I say it that way because I was such a bookworm even when I was a little girl that I mastered the ability to read and walk at the same time and still was conscious of my surroundings. I wasn’t crazy enough to read and cross the street; however I think I did attempt to at least once or twice.
I had to be about a block or two away from my junior high school when the incident occurred. My school was about a mile or so away from my home. It was in the heart of one of the Hassidic Jewish communities of Flatbush Brooklyn. I have never had issues with this community before or even since. However, I was shocked into a stupor of the exchange I had with a Jewish girl of about my own age.
She was standing at the corner with her friends and they were preparing to get on their school bus. As I turned the corner, still reading, I almost walked into her. When I noticed I was about to hit her I stopped looked up smiled, apologized and began to walk away. She then very casually, as her little face began to redden said “You stupid N*gger, watch where you are going!” At that point I had to stop and slowly turn around and look at her for a second. I know in that brief moment I could see myself slapping the taste out of her mouth. However, what would that really have achieved but some satisfaction for me. Even though getting physical with someone is totally out of my character. I in turn and am so proud of myself even at that young age said to her. ‘How dare you call me out of my name? You of all people!?! Hasn’t your community also been called things that they are not? I am not the “N” word!” I then stormed off, but could still hear her laughing with her mean girl friends.
I can tell you this now. That behavior was not born in her. She had to be taught by someone that it was ok to use that type of language. To my knowledge none of her friends even corrected her. I think at that age I had only heard of the usage of the “N” word as I was brought up to call it, in the historical sense. Just a few years later it began appearing in the music that played on the radio and in the pop culture of the 90s with its counterpart the “B” word. Sadly by people that looked like me; other people of African descent. They had decided to begin using both words as terms of endearment; redefining their meanings amongst each other.
Very rapidly the rest of society started to adapt the usage of the words as well. However, with all this so called change; their root definitions in dictionaries like Webster didn’t. Ironically, more than 20 years later, they still haven’t changed. Something definitely to think about…
© 2013, Lela Jefferson Fagan. All rights reserved.