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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
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Language Prohibition – The “Nigger” Ban
Friday, March 09, 2007

Last week The City Council of New York made a misguided attempt at racial harmony when they “banned” the use of the N-bomb (which is "nigger," for the three of you who didn’t get that reference). Banned has to be in quotes because according to the Reuters article it “carries no penalty.” In essence, a governing body got together and spent a day not trying to clean up the city, or solve any real problems, but instead coming up with a vision of a racial slur-free city and wanted to announce “nigger” is a bad word. This is, of course, something any third grader could have told you, but they wouldn’t have taken tons of meetings to do it and wouldn’t have been paid to do so. Last year when Kramer dropped his numerous N-bombs on stage I stated my opinion on the matter, but now that New York City is looking to regulate words and essentially call into action a kind of language prohibition, I think the inanity of the idea deserves another look.

Language prohibition won’t work for a number of reasons, the first of which being the very obvious, but apparently overlooked, reality that even if you could make the whole world to stop saying a racial slur it wouldn’t stop the thought process and emotions behind it. Once again a governing body seems to be content with the appearance of a utopia rather than trying to actually deal with the reality of the situation. Hatred doesn’t exist because of language, language exists because of hatred. Even if you could take away the language those filled with hatred will simply find another way to express it.

The second issue I have with the concept of language prohibition is the people The City Council is targeting. According to the article “supporters of the ban are taking their campaign to The Recording Academy, asking it not to nominate musicians for Grammy awards if they use the word in their lyrics.” The folks at the Grammys told them, very nicely, to go take a long walk off a short pier, but this is where, if The City Council had any real power, things would get scary. They’re trying to censor and limit art, and not only that, it seems very obvious that they’re only trying to censor black art. Rap music is clearly the target here. The article even mentions rap lyrics and BET.

Of course rappers saying “nigga” isn’t necessarily a racial epithet. Is it ugly? Yeah, a lot of the times it is because the word has such an ugly history associated with it. But rather than ban the word why not focus on educating people about the word. A ban is almost a whitewashing of history. Old white men invented it, misused it, and now will attempt to ban it in an attempt to make it look like “nigger” never happened. If they can get rid of “nigger” then the history of America will be altered because it wouldn’t be used in history books (or classic American literature for that matter). Get rid of a word, alter history. The theory being if they can make the past look less evil maybe everyone will just get along in the present.

Finally, the “nigger” ban is likely a concept The City Council came up with as a way of controlling a youth population that is gaining more and more power as we grow older and older. I’m 28 and I’m of a generation that has grown up hearing “nigga” in music almost my entire life. I have always known the history of the word and the current context in which some folks use it today. The attempted ban of the N-bomb is most definitely a power trip on at least some level. Old folks trying to flex a little power while they’re still holding relevant positions of authority, unwilling to work with the up and coming future of America they’d rather work to limit it in a sad attempt to hold on for a few more years until, in their minds, the country just goes to hell because clearly we have no idea how to be civil or be in any kind of position of authority. In essence they’re trying to “clean us up” so we can be more like them when we get into positions of power. This seems to be a constant generational battle, with older generations usually feeling the younger ones know nothing which causes neither side to speak with each other civilly. Heck, why should the younger generation speak civilly with a group that only talks down to them? Speak to us like we’re on the same level and we might actually be able to share our knowledge and create something good. Just a thought since generations bridging a gap through language sure sounds like a positive thing, and a big step forward, unlike the banning of a word because it makes you feel uneasy.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:04 AM  
8 Comments:
  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger g.ali said…

    FIRST OF ALL YOUR AN IDIOT...PLEASE DONT TELL ME THAT JUST BECAUSE YOU'VE BEEN HEARING NIGGA ALL YOUR LIFE IN RAP SONGS DOESNT MEAN ITS EXCEPTABLE...BEFORE A SLAVE WAS LYNCHED THE LAST WORDS HE PROBABLY HEARD BEFORE HIS DEATH WAS DIE NIGGER!! I'M AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND HATE WHEN I MISTAKELY USE THAT WORD IN MY VOCAB...THE PEOPLE WHO WANT THIS WORD BANNED KNOW HOW DEGRADING THIS WORD USED TO BE AND STILL IS...ITS WORST THEN "SPIC" "KIT" "HONKY" "WET BACK" PLEASE WAKE UP

     
  • At 10:27 AM, Blogger Adam said…

    I apparently left out the small segment of society that doesn't read things entirely.

    generations bridging a gap through language sure sounds like a positive thing, and a big step forward, unlike the banning of a word because it makes you feel uneasy.

    Clearly the word makes you feel uneasy, AS IT SHOULD. It SHOULD make everyone feel uneasy, but sweeping it under the rug won't make those feelings go away. Which was the point I made.

    PS - The grammar police need to pull you over and lock you up for multiple offenses. Crack open an english book homie. You'd be surprised how much more seriously people will take you.

     
  • At 12:44 PM, Blogger FHHN said…

    I think you're pretty on point with your post Adam. And even if I didn't agree I would attack you and call you names because I disagree with you. Dave Chappelle said it best when he asked who decided the word Nigger would be the word to make black people mad for the rest of history.

    Banning a word is just plain dumb. NEW SPEECH. 1984 Orwellian practices.

    This reminds me in a way of the whole business of trynah make everyone vote [Vote Or Die!] but not supplying them with information about the voting process and what an electoral college is. Vote because we say vote! Vote because people died for you to have the right to! Vote because the candidate is the color you like and you like his shoes.

    Instead of banning words. We need to focus on the uglier history of murder and wretched behavior that is far worst then a word that ignorant insecure uneducated white men created.

    You can't whitewash history today by trying to ban a word.

    If anything people need to wake up and see this as a decoy. A tactic that never ceases in this country, to get our minds off of whatever we're currently addressing that really need to be nipped in the bud.

    A word is a word is a word. The next time a word kills someone then I'll consider it being feasible to ban one but until then, it is what it is.

    Watch me get called a name for having a different opinion. Oh well.

    http://www.zshare.net/audio/niggers-11-22-2006_11350_pm-mp3-0k7.html

     
  • At 6:29 AM, Blogger Chaz said…

    Adam Bernard is not a racist, that's what's so insane about this!

    But seriously folks,

    I had the pleasure of seeing the joker who wasted time to pass the bill speak as an unannounced guest last Friday at NYU before Pharoahe Monch discussed gun violence. By pleasure of seeing, I'm mean that in the most literal sense because he's such a fat tub of goo that watching him waddle around in the widest pair of pants I've ever seen made me laugh very, very hard.

    I've never seen an adult so out of touch with the world be given such a pulpit to speak to an impressionable youth who (thankfully) wern't paying much attention. If you think this bill reeks of sheer insanity on paper, try to attend Fat King Cole's lectures. What follows are some actual viewpoints I had to sit though and not call him out on in fear that I, for the fourth time, would have an obstacle block my attempt to meet my favorite MC.

    He said his issue was not the word being used as a racial slur, but the word being used as a term of endearment. He cited the fact that the word had ("in the 90's" - his words) had a resurgeance in a manner to flip it in a positive way, but that it "failed." He claimed that his inspiration came from hearing elderly people of all colors claim that they hate to hear young black kids say the word. He also said (get ready to flip your shit) that when rap music started, it was "all positive" and that word wasn't used until the early 90's when it was needed for shock value to sell records.

    I swear, if "Simon Says" wasn't my definitive 8th grade jumpoff, I would have verbally destroyed him infront of a room of Subway-filled iPod listeners.

    The thing that really gets me about the Gravy Beanbag is his insistance that the meaning of words can never change and that we must stop using words that have a negative different original meaning. Clearly the man has never cracked a book on linguistics, or else he would ban just about every word we use today. For instance, the word "Nice" stems from the Latin word meaning "Ignorant."

    The brother don't swear he "nice," I know, he's "nice."

    So that's my issue. Luckily, I was sitting in the back so I didn't need to worry about him adding my DNA to his Hefty Bag of a theigh, and Pharoahe Monch was an absolute treat. I asked him to sign my rhymebook, and he not only signed it, but drew a picture of himself in the back of it.

    As for my opinion, despite my bold choice as a caucazoid to never drop the N-bomb under any circumstances, any language ban is wack. Further, with AIDS the number one killer of black men and women aged 18-34 in New York City, he has no idea what's really effecting the youth (that is, unless he was using the Todd Solondz film "Storytelling" as an inspiration for the ban) and needs to roll into an Old Country Buffet so the next time he feels he wants to open his mouth it can be filled with something as processed and malnourishing as the N-Word Ban.

    By the way, the first line of this comment was inspired by http://www.captainoftheussinevitable.ytmnd.com

     
  • At 1:10 PM, Blogger Tah's Chronicles said…

    Man Listen...
    What happened to the bill of rights?
    I don't see them banning "Kike" or "Camel Jockey". Give me a fuckin' break. Ban some really negative shyt like the words "I can't", "I'll never amount to anything", "I'm worthless" and other self defeating phrases. You wanna ban some shit? We as black people should ban ourselves from changing our identities every 20 years. Negro, Colored, African American... Give me a break. What are we gonna call ourselves next? We are what we are. The most talented, the most emulated, the most creative and the most original beings on this globe. I don't condone the word Nigger, but I don't think it should be banned. I think it should be kept as a reminder of the struggles and hardships of our ancestors. That's why it really ain't kool for white folks to say it. Y'all have no business saying it anymore. White people in my hood would get seriously hurt for using it. I think now that the power to use it has been taken away from white people, they want to take that power away from black people. Fuck that. I think the term human is way under used. How about we make an issue out of using it more often to describe people as opposed to a demographic, religious or skin tone related terminology?

    Grow up New York, Grow up America, Grow up Earth..

    Nigger this!
    Tah@FilthyClean.com is the addy if you got a gripe!

     
  • At 1:40 AM, Blogger Eric 3815 said…

    My name is Eric Matthew Hunter-Iverson. I am a 15 year old while male from Chino, CA.

    I believe that a "ban" on the word "nigger" is racist to both blacks and non-blacks alike. It says that a word really has power over them, that a word makes them less of a person. Aside from the racism against blacks, it also says that blacks are the only people who undergo persecution via language. If words that "degrade" other races aren't banned, but the word "nigger" is, then obviously somebody feels that the others races don't deserve equality. It also seems to me that this is a complete infringement on the first amendment rights of those around me, since they really don't apply to me, because I'm a minor and have almost NO real rights. The people out there who are getting "booty-tickled" are those who are racist themselves. What bothers me the most is that people separate themselves. If I call myself a white person, I am separating myself, and therefor have no right to become enraged when someone calls me a "cracker" or a "honky".

    I apologize for any errors relating to grammar or spelling. I had no time to edit this, and am quite tired.

    I also apologize for not being able to convey my feelings very well. If I had more time to write this I would give some better support for my thoughts.

    I'm going to post a blog which, will contain a message that I sent to Anti-flag in it's entirety,

     
  • At 3:12 PM, Blogger Robert W. said…

    www.banthewordnigger.com

     
  • At 6:53 AM, Blogger marcus said…

    African-American is more offensive then the "N" bomb

    Let me explain. The "N" word means: second class citizen. It is often used with racial bias. It is an ugly word that I think is best compared to the "F" word. Mainly because the meaning can change so easily with how the word is used, however it is always used to dramatize the situation. Another cuss word is "shit". Someone could say you ain't shit. Or they could say, you are the shit. Both have different meanings. It should also be noted that the "N" word is similar to negro which is the color black. Many blacks hate the word negro because it is reminiscent of segregation. The "N" word earns most of its notorious reputation from the so called "N" bomb. Its like a bomb because either its not expected, thrown into regular conversation like its ok to refer to someone as that, or because its detonated in a way to do the most damage. But, logically speaking you would never use any cuss words so its application is only for those who swear. Most people agree the word is only offensive if its used to be, and if you have to ask someone if its offensive to them, you should just not use it.

    There is no real definition of race. Many people don't know this truth but there is no scientific factors to determine race. Its just an outwardly way we judge people by looks and appearance. There is nationality. Thats your citizenship or where you were born. There is also ancestry, where you forefathers came from weather its a country or region. Most confusing is your ethnicity which by definition has more to do with who you associate or affiliate with. For instance if a white person grows up in China, speaks chineese and is part of that culture they are ethnically Chineese. Some how we've confused all of this into just "Race". Whats so troubling is that most people buy into this label of race meaning something when what they are really looking for is their Ancestry. This is pretty easy to find out if you can trace back to you great grandparents. The countries they came from will tell you your ethnicity. Records were kept for virtually all white people when they immigrated to this country. The country they immigrated from would likely be there ethnic background, German, Irish, Italian, English, Dutch, Russian. When someone first immigrates to this country they use a hyphenated title like German-American. My opinion is that since they've been born somewhere else and immigrated here they can never bee considered 100 percent American. Pride in their birth nation, foreign language or accent, not understanding American ways, traditions, mean that an immigrant is a second-class citizen. Proof of this is they can't run for president.

    Now whats really sad is some Americans call themselves African-American. Perhaps they think it sounds better then black, colored, or negro. But where these terms are just referring to the color of ones skin, African - American refers to their citizenship. Like it or not, thats what your nationality is "American" if you were born in the United States. If you attach a prefix to that then there is no differene from you and Dikimbe Mutumbo. Its not a clever way of talking or politically correct its just ignorant. Then to let people label you that, its the biggest insult. Granted nobody really knows what they're saying, but its subconsiencly clear as day. They are saying you are and African living in America, no matter how many generations down the line we go you will always be a foreigner in this country.

     
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