1/20/08

Hatred and the "N" word...

I started a new book. I hate my new book.

For some reason I feel the, unnecessary, need to finish this book. See it through till the end. No matter how horrible - I WILL GET THROUGH...at least I keep thinking that.

Then every time I pick it back up to make my way through another few (horrible) pages I think about all the good books this crappy one could be keeping me from.

This was another one of my finds from the Street Fair. I should have known by the title that it wasn't my style. I don't read trashy romance novels. This is a trashy romance novel that tries it's best to appear as something more intelligent by using lengthy paragraphs and lots of adjectives. In the end it just appears as wordy, boring and a bit disgusting.

I am not a prude by any sorts of the imagination (well, I am sure by some sorts...but not my sorts) and this book makes me uncomfortable. Not so much by describing things (or events) but more about the entire situation.

I keep thinking, "who does that", "that will never work", "oh, give me a break - they are actually going to go through with that"....

On top of it, this book was written by an African American man who, it seems, INSISTS on representing stereotypical African American relationships - complete with the "N" word. Nothing disgusts me much more than a human being, black or white, using that word. Even Wikipedia refers to that word as "pejorative" - and, in my eyes, it is.

Growing up I had no idea what that word meant. When I was about 8 years old we started getting "Fresh Air" kids. These are kids from the inner city that come to the "country" for a couple weeks or so during the summers. One year, one of the neighbor girls called one of our kids that name. I still had no idea what it meant until he bursts into tears and my father told us we couldn't play with her anymore.

James, our first and best Fresh Air kid, started coming when I was 8 and he was 10. To this day he comes to visit us during the summers. Now he brings his kids. I call him my brother, he calls me his sister. My parents are his, his kids are my nephews. It may seem that we are world apart (him living in the Bronx and me in Wolfeboro) but he is a part of me.

This past summer I downloaded a popular song of the internet and the "N" word was in it. Not once or twice but over and over and over. I loved that song and still do...but that word makes me so uncomfortable. Even hearing it makes me cringe.

I asked James and Nicole if it was ever appropriate for a white person to use that word - "NO"! I immediately felt so uncomfortable for even bringing it up I didn't get to ask why it was okay for a black person to use that word.

Don't they understand what a derogatory term it is? Why do young children grow up hearing their older brothers calling their "boys" that word? Don't they understand it is a slave term?

Thinking back about the neighbor girl...it just proves how hatred it taught. I never would have known that word because my parents NEVER said anything like that - especially not around us kids.

My boys amaze me. Andrew is SO blunt sometimes and just doesn't understand what things are and are not appropriate to say (once at Dunkin Donuts he asked, loudly, why the girl behind the counter had purple hair). However, neither Zachary or Andrew has EVER mentioned James and his family having a different skin color. It brings tears to my eyes to think about how openly they accept people that look so differently from us.

Now Zachary may know better. He knows that you don't point out people that are different than you. Andrew, however, doesn't. Andrew may never understand that. Andrew is the first to point out differences and he doesn't. It amazes me.

One of my very closest friends from high school is gay (for his privacy I will refer to him as "J"). Over the past year or two J and I have reconnected and started spending a whole lot of time together. When we hiked Mt. Major this fall he and Zachary became fast friends and hiked together the whole time.

Zachary never had any reason to question that J was different, he didn't bring boyfriends to the house. But recently Zachary and I had a talk about what being gay meant. He giggled and thought it was a little funny, I told him J was gay, he said "well, if he changed..." and I had to explain that gay people can't change. And then it was over. Not once since then has he mentioned it. He has seen J a number of times since then and never once acted or felt uncomfortable.

Hatred it taught. Sometimes you don't even realize that you are teaching it. Telling a joke that may be a bit off color, referring to someone as a "f#%" or the "N" word or calling a Muslim a "towel head" is taken by your children and stored for use at a later time.

I wonder what Dr. King would think about our men using that word so nonchalantly now...I wonder if he realized, during his "I Have a Dream" speech what he would be doing for, not only African Americans but every minority in our country.

The Civil Rights bill of 1964 states that "all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin or sex". Thanks, in large part, to Dr. King, all races, religions and sexes are entitled to the same treatment and privilege.

While it took a long time to get here...now I have to really think if I want to support this man's use of the word by continuing to read this book....

Happy Birthday Dr. King!

2 comments:

Jessi said...

I know what you mean about the "N" word. I am actually reading a book right now, entitle just that. It outlines the history/career of such a hateful word. The book is intense, but worth the read.

In Graduate School, I took a class solely on Race, Class, and Gender. In it, we watched a movie, The Color of Fear - I recommend it to anyone.

I did a study and a dissertation of sorts on the use of the “N” word in primarily black communities. I felt that racism, is racism, is racism and that such a word should not be used, period - regardless of race or ethnicity. However, in all the literature and studies I came across use of that word by African Americans actually takes the power away from the word. While most consider it inappropriate, it deconstructs the word as one used by “someone of privilege or power to demoralize and dehumanize.”

There is a lot of discussion/controversy surrounding this word. I still cringe when I hear it, no matter whose mouth it comes from, I do however agree with the argument that it takes the power away, as the word was invented to be hateful toward African Americans. I’ll never use it, nor will I teach my children to use it, but I understand why some (not just ‘rappers’ looking for shock value) use it and agree with it taking the power away.

I do question its use and appropriateness in the romance novel you’re reading. That is interesting to me.

It reminds me of one of my best friends who is lesbian. One day, while having a discussion, she used the “d” word to refer to herself. I remember feeling so embarrassed and uncomfortable when she used it and I questioned her about it… she said to me… “I use it as often as possible.” I couldn’t understand why so I asked. Her response “If it makes you that uncomfortable to hear it, one may think twice about using it.” Very true.

Cray and Bickford Family said...

I never thought of it that way, Jessi, but you make a good point...that is certainly something I will think about.

As far as how it was used in the book, it was dialogue between two black men. I suppose if the word is used by black men to take away the power, then it makes sense as to why it was there.

Funny you mention the "d" word, because it got me thinking about how gay men oftentimes use the "f" word as well. More to consider...

Thanks!