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Kramer's N-Bomb
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Kramer did it. Kramer dropped the N-bomb, and not in a ha-ha funny way, but rather in a straight up racial tirade that included referencing the lynchings and hangings of the time of slavery. By now everyone has seen the video from last week where Michael Richards blew up at a black fan who had been heckling him. Richards is currently making the usual rounds of national apology that celebrities are required to do after such an incident, even if they’re not really sorry. While I was personally more disturbed by the “fifty years ago we’d have strung you up and stuck a fork in your ass” comment, the thing that everyone’s going nuts over is the fact that Richards dropped the N-bomb, calling his heckler a “nigger” a number of times. Funny how the intense visual of hanging someone due to their race gets thrown to the side in this case, but that’s race relations in America in 2006, the prevailing thinking being that if we eliminate the slurs it will make everything better. There’s a problem with that, however, it has no chance at working.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, who’s done both great and terrible things for race relations over the past twenty years, has called on everyone to refrain from saying “nigger,” or “nigga,” on stage or off. Good luck with that. I’m sure it would work in a fairly land where unicorns prance about fields of four leaf clovers but this is reality. We live in a world where DMX opened his second album, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood, by saying “nigga” 37 times in only 24 bars. Do you really think the word’s just going to vanish from people’s vocabularies after it’s been so prevalent on so many levels for so long?

Eliminating a word, any word, from people’s vocabularies is nearly impossible, but even in a world where that could happen eliminating the word “nigger” and all of its variations still wouldn’t eliminate the racism in the person that would utter the word. The problem isn’t the word, the problem is the mental state of where the word comes from. Jackson even noted this during a press conference, saying “its roots are rooted in hatred and pain and degradation.” Reading between the lines this also means there’s a chance Richards is not a racist because the words were just that, words. Apologies are necessary, however scripted and hollow they may be, but some actions that show his true colors would be much better indicators as to his actual feelings. Just don’t make it a cash donation, that’s incredibly lame. Donate your time, do something! Help paint a school in the ghetto, donate new textbooks for the kids, show that you want to make a positive difference.

So back on the topic of the N-bomb, what would eliminating the world really do? Wouldn’t it be the equivalent of sticking an air freshener on a big pile of horse manure? Nothing about its essence has changed, it’s still horse manure, you just feel a little better when you walk by it now. It’s like seeing a racist, but not hearing anything racist come out of that person, so suddenly it’s OK to have them walking along the street near you. That’s what most of America really wants when it comes to race relations, and unfortunately it may be the closest we can ever come to racial harmony.

So maybe Jesse Jackson does have a point. Personally I feel the idea of eliminating slurs is a backdoor way out of the situation because everyone who says it knows it can’t happen. Finding ways to make racists keep their opinions to themselves makes the outside world seem like a nicer place, but they’re still passing on those negative traits and those negative ideologies on to their families and friends. So is it really better that way or would we prefer knowing who’s a racist from the outset?

The sad fact of the matter is racism will never die because ignorance is impossible to kill. You can’t make a racist be smart. What we can do, however, is point them out and know whom to ignore and quietly boycott. Nothing big, just if you see or hear someone doing racist or bigoted things stop using their service, or stop attending their shows, plain and simple. Demanding half-hearted apologies does nothing, showing you won’t accept the act or the way of thinking is true action. The old saying is sticks and stone will break my bones but words will never hurt me. Consider your ability to walk out of a racist place, just like many of the people did the night of Richards’ explosion, your weaponry in this never ending war.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:02 AM  
  • At 9:04 AM, Anonymous masterofself said…

    I have to say that this is the best article I have read on this situation. We tend to take a cosmetic approach to most problems in this country, especially racial and social. If we "sweep" the word nigger under a rug, then boom the house will be clean. I guess people assumed that with the end of the majority of civil rights marches that racism and hatred dissapeared.

    "It's no longer overt, its covert now."

  • At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Tim said…

    very clear, concise article (as usual from you)

    one missight though: what you referenced as "hangings of the time of slavery" were actually hangings throughout the civil rights rioting/movements/empowerments of the 50's and 60's in which hangings were shockingly still prevalent in the South almost three quarters of a year after slavery had ended.

  • At 11:22 AM, Blogger Conscious said…

    I've had some terribly unproductive conversation with people over the word niggah... Like fam you shouldn't say that...because...

    A word is a word is a word. If it wasn't that it would be something else to divert us from the core of the problem.

    Good post...

  • At 11:34 AM, Blogger Conscious said…

    Dave Chappelle on the word Nigger...


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