I am Funnel Cake Flowers, The Urban Chameleon News Reporter for Tickles.TV. I capture stories of Urban Chameleons who stay caught between tryin’ to chameleon between white corporate America and our kinky hair handling, curry spice eating, hip gyrating, I-N-G droppin’ America. The stories shared here aim to highlight different perspectives on, race, culture and class in America from all different kinds of Urban Chameleons because it’s complicated out here in these streets.
Dear Funnel Cake Flowers,
What began as casual dinner conversation the other night soon turned into a round table debate on whether or whether not the “N” word should be apart of our vocabulary. The first thing I thought is, are we still really having this conversation?
One minute a group of about six of us were laughing, choppin’ it up when someone coolly used the “N” word and the next thing you know another person reacted, “GOD I HATE THAT WORD!”
The person who used the word told him to get over it and stop with the “Black consciousness” as if to say that that fad got played out in the late 90’s.
The “Black Conscious” brotha was then put in the spotlight to defend his position, a position most of us are well familiar with and even some of still agree with, which is that the word stems from hate, a derogatory term used to keep Black people down.
A counter argument was made by another, a Latino guy at the table, “Why not change the meaning of the word and take the power out of it?” which is the same point I heard Jay Z make when he went on Oprah. Oprah said that she and Jay would have to agree to disagree, as she could not change her hurtful past relationship with the word.
In thinking more about the suggested solution I can’t help but to wonder if changing the meaning of the word just disguises the negative effect of its origin, which is that we were called the “N” word so much that we eventually began to call ourselves the name in some situations to even assume approval from the slave master and to put down our own kind. I call this slave residue- more on that another time. By changing the meaning of the word will there still need to be rules that apply? For instance does everyone now get to use the word? Because if not that means power still exists in the word…and are we ready for that trade off?
A friend of mine who despises the word, in a different conversation brought up the point, “Would Jay Z refer to Barack Obama as his Nigga?”
She didn’t think so. If not what does that maybe say about how Jay Z might look at his fellow brethrens? Another friend countered this point by mentioning that 1) the term is usually used in the setting of familiarity and 2) more importantly, Barack does not exactly come from this culture. This I thought was a reasonable point as we often assume a person is suppose to behave a certain way based on skin color rather than perspective/ culture as I have Asian and Latino friends (from the culture) who uses the word and my reaction is the same as listening to a Jay Z album, immune.
Although I personally choose not to use the word despite growing up in the same culture, my two very proud, Black, and conscious parents who share Oprah’s generation would have my head.
I do however recognize that some of my fellow Urban Chameleon brethrens and sistrens—chameleon back and forth with their use of the word from corporate to ‘hood. Do do I mind? Honestly no. Because these are Urban Chameleons who like Jay Z ( I assume) know when and where it’s “okay” to drop the n-word. What I do mind is that not enough people who use the word know this but then again they aint Urban Chameleons…they are just urban.
The problem with trying to redefine the word as something else is that this only works for people informed in the first place and then you have the problem of this being an open invitation for other cultures to eventually use the word (if not already)… and let’s be real the “N” word is too complex for rules. If everyone is not operating with the same level of understanding it leaves too much room for misinterpretation and may just perpetuate a problem that never had a chance at being fixed in the first place.
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