It’s virtually impossible to be into Hip Hop and not hear the ‘n’ word used in some capacity or another……damn, I even feel a bit apprehensive about writing the word!
Why does this word have so much perceived power? After all, it is just a word.
With the recent films like Django Unchained, The butler and 12 Years A Slave, the origins of the ‘N’ are being brought to our attention in a big way.
With all this awareness, should black people be proud of the fact that we have, according to some people in the Hip Hop community, ‘redefined’ it and have now made it a word of empowerment?
Even though I am somewhat indifferent to the use of it in music, comedy, movies etc, truth be told, if I’m being bombarded by a gang of non-black people calling me n@$%$r, I think it would have an effect. I don’t really see how it’s possible to redefine a word. No amount of use is going change the legacy of the word.
Personally I don’t use it in my songs, I’m just not built that way. I addressed this issue a few years ago in a song, The Black Review, and I still pretty much feel the same way.
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand the position of the new era saying that it’s just a word and it doesn’t mean the same thing, but just the fact that it wounds and hurts the older generation to hear it, means I’ve never really been comfortable promoting the use of it.
Apart from that, I think there is something self-destructive about us clinging on to the use of this word. As creative as we are, can we really not come up with another word that we could use? A word that doesn’t have a legacy of oppression?
Is It Stockholm
Of course we can but I believe our attachment goes deeper……it must be some distorted version of the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
When you look into the history of black people and truly try to understand what our ancestors went through as slaves, you can begin to understand why we should want to lay this word to rest. The violence, the torture, the degradation, the humiliation, and to know the ‘n’ word was a cornerstone of that era, it has to wound the soul to see how frivolously we throw the word around in Hip Hop and other aspects of Black culture. The idea that it has no effect, that it’s just a word, is us living in a severe state of denial in my opinion.
While it might be comforting to some to think that we can redefine the ‘n’ word and make it something positive, I think it’s about time we stopped lying to ourselves. That word will never serve any other purpose than to degrade, attack, humiliate and cause subconscious psychological damage.
Are we strong enough to take up the challenge to stop using the ‘n’ word? Do we have the conviction to overcome the programming that makes it flow so naturally from our mouths? Surely it’s about time we took that step, after all, What Year Is This?