I am going to indulge some of my more base thoughts and emotions in this post. Sometimes it is good to dredge these things up in order to understand the rhetoric of idiots. I feel the same things as do morons, too often probably. The slight difference being that mine leave me with a tinged, guilty aftertaste. To too many others though, these deformed relics of ancient ignorance serve as peacock plumes and concentrated cialis. It is important to note the subtle and not so subtle phallic allusions here.
This post drifts back and forth between two recurring symbols of American pride and derision as I compose- the racial pennants Redskins and Niggers.
Both of these issues have woven themselves back into my consciousness as I impatiently wait for this upcoming Superbowl to pass. They share much yet are very different controversies. One is solely imposed on a group as a naked symbol of aggression and power (and in my opinion, a good dose of Jewish narcissism) and the other found its way into the recesses of the souls it once subjugated,chained, and drug halfway around the world like common chattel. I will begin with the term now drifting through the United Nations headquarters in New York.
First things first. To be true to my opening declaration, I must admit a recent chortle over a sublimely obnoxious irony that I wallowed in for a few hours the other day. Had it been my headline in my paper (at least today's off-color tabloid), it would read "Oppressed group seeks the assistance of the UN to intervene with a powerful Jew." The Oneida Nation pleaded its case to the UN over the NFL's Washington D.C. team's mascot the Redskins. The team's owner, Dan Synder, has famously played the anti-semitism card in the past when it suited him, and now stands before the world with all his hubris claiming he will never change the name of his team. My money is on....well, you know who.
A bit more seriously, I sometimes take out my old lecture notes from my Philosophy of Human Nature course and reread the sections on religion and Judaism. As I move to the hallmarks of the development of that faith, I see the emphasis on social justice. That lecture, those words seem so incompatible now having been in Jerusalem and Hebron and witnessed Israeli social justice in the shadow of a separation wall. I understand a greedy billionaire, no matter what race or faith, but where is the majority of this faith on this social justice issue? Where?
I also smile, sort of, when I hear someone tell me they have discovered a Native American, even a group of them, who don't mind this word. It reminds me of a conversation I had twenty odd years ago with an African-American woman who told me she thanked God for slavery. When I incredulously asked why, she replied that if it hadn't been for slavery, she would be a godless heathen running around half-naked in Africa some place. I had neither the inclination nor patience to explain that God and clothing had since made it to the dark continent.
In my darkest moments, I imagine a new mascot for our nation's capital however, and a new name - The D.C. Hebes and it will be ok because we will find a dignified logo. Perhaps Charleton Heston?
Finally though, please don't ever talk to me if you are one of those "tradition" purists who think some sort of sanctity governing a game grown-up boys droll over trumps that of an indigenous people. Just too stupid to process. Instead, stay on the golf courses away from your wives smoking cigars and drinking beer while idly ogling the nineteen year-old in the tube top at the nineteenth hole.
I have been around the world with the word Nigger. I have never defended it, but I have done my best to explain it. Having an advanced degree in cultural studies, a South African wife, two African-American daughters, and almost three decades of service to people of color, I have my perspective. Take it for what it is worth. In this inane debate over who, if any, have the right to use this pejorative, I yield to William Faulkner. From A Rose For Emily: "She would cling to that which robbed her, as people will."
I remember watching and supporting a very vibrant movement in the 1990's supporting the abolition of apartheid (even before marrying into it) here in America. I was impressed with the empathy and passion of the advocacy of a diverse group of people. I didn't march or risk my life, but I felt connected. Now, fully twenty years on, these same folks seem mute on Palestine and other rewound obscenities and instead manipulate their intellects around a chic debate on this pathetic word. I guess we haven't yet found a Palestinian Spike Lee (to be fair, the director is not silent on this issue).
For me, this is the simplest of all racial issues in my universe. William Powell, Larry Powell, Rene Powell, Rachel and Job Gumede, Mrs. Norma Spencer, Sarah Spaulding, Lindi Morsches, Kesho Morsches, Sindi Morsches, Thomas Msuka, Furaha Mchuta, Blandina Mohammed, Errol Drummond, Tremayne Harmon, Reverand and Mrs. Reed, Donald Taylor, Aisha Mohmmed, Nuru Mohammed, Virgil Starks and his daughters, the five hundred plus Eritrean refugees that lived in Al-Khawkha, and countless other friends and family I have know are not Niggers, Bitches, Pimps, or Hoes. Many have made real sacrifices and don't renumerate themselves with soul killing pity or false bravado wrapped up in an inside out suicide. I don't think they would accept the insult, don't think they deserve it, and I don't think any decent person on the planet would attempt to label them so. They are good and honest people who worked hard and have made the world a better place. So I would appreciate it if those liberal friends of mine (those who defend this word and embrace liberality until someone reminds them of the consequences) exclude me from the dialogue.
On a closing note, I loath bullies and power brokers. I don't think anyone or any group owns words particularly in an attempt to exploit them. Strength, I think, lies in pushing past the privilege of hatred and supporting and occasionally defending those who need our help. It certainly doesn't dwell in
those arenas where bullies beat those less powerful and exploit their own people for temporal and useless gain.
*Bits of this are ugly and as I said, useful to me. This will not be my favorite post.