Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why I'm no longer accepting "white ignorance" as an excuse.

At a certain point we need to stop having these infantile conversations about the debate around the word NIGGER/NIGGA/NIGGAH(s)(z).

Every time something comes up where a white person says it, there is this life-cycle
that occurs, you could set your watch by it.
1.    Outrage
2.    Swift reaction
3.    Public shaming and distancing
4.    Then the inevitable blaming of hip-hop/black culture.

Recently both Morning Joe and Rush Limbaugh were outraged at the double standard. Rush said something to the effect of "If Kanye West had made the SAE chant it's be a top hit" and Morning Joe said the SAE members were confused by listening to hip-hop (even though the members themselves said they were taught the chant by other members). So I'm not even going to get into the "poor innocent whites led astray by jazz”  (I mean hip hop)  argument, let's set that aside.

I want to deal with the notion that white people are confused by the word nigger and the usage of such because of: their black friends, their favorite movie,  that one rap song they like, their favorite rapper etc. etc. etc.  
I've had white people and black folk try to tell me that the "rules" were too confusing.. that music and culture had made it so white folks "don’t understand" or are "confused" or "don’t get it". So let me lay it out for you. If you are white, don’t say Nigger, nigga, niggah, nigga (s) (z) or any form of the word plural, or singular.
“But my Black friend Tyrone gave me permission…”
 Your Black friend Tyrone is setting you up for failure, because the temporary black card he gave you is only applicable with Tyrone and will be honored nowhere else. It is accepted at choice locations. But Tyrone and his reckless handing out of black cards aside... Here’s why I don’t accept that white people are “confused” about the word, because I refuse to believe that white people don’t understand context.

I’ve seen how white people act in bars versus how they act in funerals. How white people talk in libraries vs how white people talk at rock concerts. White people understand context and I am not going to infantize them because we happen to be talking about race. I am not going to allow white people to pretend to collectively be Forrest Gump because we are viewing context in a racial setting.

Context matters.  White people know this even though many pretend to be ignorant of that fact and bewildered by the idea that context would matter in terms of racial terminology. It matters in every other human setting, why wouldn't it matter here?
Let me give you a great example of how context matters (if you still want to feign ignorance). Let’s pretend my wife and I are walking down the street and my daughter says Daddy, I want to sit on your lap. My wife will smile and grin.  Now, let’s say we are out on the street and a young woman comes up to me and says the same thing using the same words. I guarantee the reaction would be different.. Why…?? BECAUSE CONTEXT! Context is important, the: who, what, when, where and why are those words being spoken makes a lot of difference. There are things my friends can say to me that strangers can’t say, there are things my family can say that my friends can’t say, there are things that my wife can say to me that my family can’t say. There are layers and context and rules for human interaction and behavior and communication that we observe every day.

 They are complex and detailed and intricate, and we observe them, but for some reason throw race in the mix and all of the sudden political commentators who can tell you the difference between Shia and Sunni, who can break down the issues between libertarian republicans and neocon republicans, who know the differences between blue dogs and progressives, are all of the sudden rendered infantile in their ability to assess and comprehend racial terminology. I’m not buying it. It’s about time we stop letting white people off the hook when it comes to race. I am not longer buying into the myth of white ignorance. You shouldn’t either, these concepts are not hard, they are not complicated and they are not complex, any more so than any other human communication and interaction.

We understand why wearing a tuxedo to a football game is stupid and why wearing a suit to a funeral is okay. We understand how to curse around our friends but not around those same friends at a baptism. We know how to talk dirty bedroom talk to our spouses and partners and significant others, but probably wouldn't do it in front of their parents. We understand all these rules of communication and we apply them all of the time, so I am no longer going to accept the excuse that for some reason the unspoken rules around who gets to say nigga/nigger/niggah is somehow hard to comprehend.