The Real Slim Shady
One of those rare, rare things is seeing and hearing a non-black person utter the N-word in a casual manner, as a friendly greeting, for example.
Don't get me wrong. I think the use of the word under any circumstances is wrong.
I am an admitted hypocrite. I've said before I've used the word with buddies, who are also black, when we were certain we weren't within earshot of other people. I've recited it when singing/rhyming along to a favored rap tune. I've laughed my butt off at the Chappelle Show.
Over the past couple of years though, my buddies and I consciously decided to not use it. It has slipped out when we were all alone from time to time, or when we were "accompanying" a CD while driving along. But mostly we've been successful in not using it.
Our logic? If we had to look over our shoulders before using that word with each other, we probably shouldn't have been saying it. Also, even though we knew that we used the word as a term of endearment, like "buddy" or "pal," we're also smart enough to know that some people use the word in a mean-spirited and hateful way. And to many casual observers there's no distinction between the two. So rather than give mean people an excuse to use it as a slur, we figured we'd stop altogether.
So you might understand my chagrin the other night when I hear a commotion - just a lot of loud chatter on the sidewalk in front of my house, and I get up to check it out. As I get to my front door I hear young male voices calling out to each other "Yo, nigger, come here!" "Hey, nigger, grab my keys!" "Nigger, did you hear that (song)?" And so on, and so forth.
My immediate reaction is "What the hell?" just the way you might picture Chris Rock saying it. I am incredulous. I can't see who's talking, but I'm annoyed 'cause I'm thinking first, no one wants or needs to hear that yelled out for the whole block to hear, Second, for all the progress that has been made in this country, let's face it, the casual utterance of that word has given young black men a collective black eye. I say collective, 'cause even those young black men who don't use the word, feel the brunt of the public's disapproving tongue clucks.
Anyway, I step out of my door to try to get a peek at these eloquent speakers, and who do I see? Well, if they were making Children of the Corn: The Teenage Years these three guys could be cast members. White, blond, and blue-eyed.
I realize a moment later that these guys are visiting a neighbor. And until they go inside I get the benefit of the rest of their conversation. It was nothing deep. But every other word was "nigger!"
I swear, I live in bizarro world. Later that night, two of these guys get into a shoving match - did I mention the neighbor they were visiting is an idiot? - in front of their host's house and they're yelling at each other "Nigger, you want to fight?" "What? What?" "Nigger, I will mess you up?"
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Is 8 Mile II being filmed in Miami, and I wasn't tipped off? Or maybe Eminem's making a new video and these guys are just rehearsing for their audition. Or perhaps they're getting ready for a go at VH-1's The White Rapper Show, assuming that show has a second season.
The funny thing is these kids aren't menacing. They're stupid. If I had to hazard a guess, they still live with their parents in a 'burb that's even more lavish than mine - and mine's not lavish at all. When I came back outside at the second commotion, they saw me and quickly changed their tones...and their language. I think if I'd stomped my foot and said boo they would have turned and run the other way. If they got bashful about talking that way when they saw me, they ain't thugs. Real thugs wouldn't have cared and might have asked me what I was looking at. These kids are typical frauds who have listened to so much gangsta rap they have started to believe that they are menaces to society. They really think that they are peers of the rappers they listen to. They think that they are gangstas.
And that couldn't be more hilarious...or annoying to me.
I don't know if this makes sense to you, but while I hate that word, I grudgingly understand why some black folks have used it with each other casually over the years: it was caste as the lowest of low slurs back in the day. The folks against whom it was used had to just grin and bear it...or when the boss man wasn't around they could give each other comic relief and take the boss's word and jokingly and casually use it among themselves. I say that time has past. Stop it, altogether.
But these kids, what's their excuse for using it?