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Common Sense vs Intelligence (2481 hits)

In a three-way conversation between Tavis Smiley, Dr. Michael Dyson and Dr. Cornel West on the justification of blacks using the n-word, the following ideas were exchanged during the discourse:

Tavis Smiley: “With all due respect to the power of your persuasive argument, your big mama and my big mama would stand here in front of you with all of your education and say you still ain’t got no business, under no circumstances whatsoever, ever uttering that word white folks put on us to demean us—period.”

Dr. Dyson: “There’s no question about that…but my pastor and others who would say [it]—referring to their congregation and their flocks who are highly learned, deeply erudite, profoundly scholarly, and who are able to understand both the folk and the vernacular tradition on one hand and the high learning foremost tradition on the other, [said] the word in an endearing fashion.”

It appears as though an attempt is being made to soften the use and encourage acceptance of the n-word because more affluent, educated, and outwardly intelligent African American audiences claim to understand and accept the word. Thus, since these intelligentsias have placed their blessing on using the word, referring to one another as the n-word should be an acceptable practice by all African Americans—regardless of socioeconomic status.

However, the basis of this argument stands on a couple of fallacies: Many other equally affluent, educated and intelligent African Americans despise the term, disallow themselves to be referred to as such, and have eradicated the idiom from their vocabulary. As well, during the conversation of these highly esteemed gentlemen, those arguing for the n-word failed to consider an extremely significant factor that greatly affects the soundness of their argument: common sense.

Given the past history of African Americans and the n-word, plain old common sense, which is defined as sound or practical judgment, suggests that it is not intuitively sensible for an African American to accept this word, drenched in ignorance, evil, immorality and corruption. Even with a high level of intelligence—the capacity for thought especially to a high degree, common sense must factor into the equation because it is the essential, instinctual element in developing one’s first thought about a subject.

Intelligence soon follows this initial thought, serves only as support to the common knowledge and should help individuals reason with why the n-word is unacceptable: The n-word was bestowed upon African Americas by slave masters, and represents every devious plot meant to destroy the black race; thus, is unacceptable. It is bewildering how individuals of such high levels of thought are blind to the insult that lies in the term. And even more perplexing is the fact that they argue in favor of using the term—and in an affectionate manner!

African Americans are so quick to shun other races for using the term, and demand total equality and respect. But how can one demand respect when they have no respect for themselves? One of the most prevalent drawbacks regarding the supposed desensitizing of the n-word among African Americans is that it is not a global or cross-cultural movement; the rest of human civilization recognizes the true purpose in and foundation of the word. The rest of the world indeed respects Black America for its musical, entertainment, and athletic abilities, but have absolutely no respect for our cerebral mindset.

This is due in part to the fact that African Americans continue to refer to themselves as a thing that was and is meant to dehumanize the race. Although many proponents of the n-word feel that their use and definition of the term differs from other races’ application and understanding, outside races only see the stigma attached to the term and, thus, perpetuate any thoughts of African Americans with that particular perception. Their thinking is such that if a person refers to themselves as a certain thing, they will embody that image and act as such. And because a “n**ger” was viewed as a sub-human, bestial and savage, other races neglect to respect and treat African American as equals, immediately become defensive toward African Americans, and continually ridicule the race—the true persona of the n-word.

Consider most recently Beijing, China, where attempts were made to ban blacks from Beijing bars in a pre-Olympic crackdown. In addition, Milo Bryant of the “Colorado Springs Gazette,” a black reporter, was all but ignored during press conferences by Chinese officials who refused to acknowledge his presence and would only solicit questions from white reporters.

Another put down of Blacks occurred in 2005 when Mexico had the audacity to print caricatures of Blacks on their postage stamps.

Countless incidences of condescending Blacks occur around the world—even in America. However, the most catastrophic and mind boggling of these incidences occurs right here in America by Black America. The Black community has proven to be very tolerable of anything destructive, degrading and demeaning from within. The poisonous lyrics of misogyny, crime, drugs; the glorification of ‘gangsta’ life and violence perpetuated by black rappers; and the use of the n-word are all self-destructive acts that contribute greatly to the demise and unfavorable image of the black community. The rest of the civilized world looks on in amazement, taking note, and heeding the messages sent about Black America from Black America—“straight out of the horse’s mouth.” No one takes the African American seriously. No wonder!

Dr. Dyson emphasized the linguistic creativeness of the younger generations’ use of the word, changing the suffix from “-er” to “-a”; however, changing the suffix does not transform the meaning of the term. (Pronouncing the word with an “-a” at the end is quite frankly nothing more than plain, old-fashion ghetto vernacular.) Where else in the world does a race of people take a word—that embodied mental genocide and perpetuated physical brutality upon their ancestors—and embrace it affectionately and endearingly? What other race of people devises justification after justification to continue to remain shackled, confined to a certain realm, and proudly flaunts the mark of oppression, degradation?

It is definitely the black community’s prerogative to demand respect, but good luck getting it collectively! In the end, African Americans are still referring to themselves as “n**ger”—or in more modern terms, “n**ga,” deafening others’ ears to Black America’s cry for respect.

In WEB Du Bois’ all-time, modernly-relevant classic The Souls of Black Folks, Du Bois notes that “[t]he opposition to Negro education in the South was at first bitter, and showed itself in ashes, insult, and blood; for the South believed an educated Negro to be dangerous.” Then Dr. Carter G. Woodson came along in 1933 and said in The Mis-Education of the Negro: Control a man’s mind and you don’t have to worry about his actions.

Although one may be highly educated in the educational system, or mis-educated according to Dr. Woodson, one can still be a dependent or controlled thinker. Obtaining an education was once thought of as the key to release African Americans from mental enslavement. Education unquestionably serves as the essential building block in unlocking one’s mind, and teaching an individual the basic fundamentals of reading and writing, but independent thought allows one to break the chains of ignorance and enter a state of heightened mind power where common sense always resides at the right side of intelligence.

At the end of the conversation, it was duly noted that the n-word was used in jest, as was also the case between Tavis and the rapper Nas in a separate conversation on the same subject. But who’s being mocked? White slave masters for embedding in African Americans a self-destructive mentality rooted so deeply that it goes unnoticed even by African Americans who continue to carryout the plight? Or are African Americans mocking the memories, struggles and sacrifices of ascendants who knew the intent of the term and literally felt its purpose through heinous acts during the “domestication” process? Certainly, no amusement was experienced in the atrocities perpetrated upon them, all in the name of the n-word.

In 1904, black sharecroppers Luther Holbert and his wife were chained to a tree. An audience of 600 white spectators enjoyed fine treats such as deviled eggs, lemonade and whiskey in a festive atmosphere while Mr. and Mrs. Holbert underwent atrocious and purely evil acts: first their fingers were chopped off one by one, then their ears, followed by a severe beating that left Mr. Holbert with one eye dangling from its fractured socket; next, "spirals...of raw, quivering flesh" were extracted from both Holberts with a corkscrew before the couple was finally burned alive. As they drew on their last breaths, the last words they heard were the jeers of “n**ger, n**ger, n**ger.”

All of these activities perpetuated upon the Holberts were done in the name of the n-word. The most ironic part of the matter, though, is that at least one person who condones, tolerates, and embraces the n-word is a descendant of Mr. and Mrs.Holbert; thus, this proponent of the n-word agrees with the malevolent acts perpetuated upon his great, great grandma and grandpa. Is that person you? Is that person your friend, family member, or acquaintance?

Perhaps one can intelligently justify acceptance of the 300-year-old African-American Holocaust, the n-word, and the supposed progress of Black America beyond allowing the n-word to negatively affect them. But, just because one is highly educated and can precisely articulate his argument does not make him right or smart by any standard—he just knows how to talk well and conduct research.

Common sense, which does not discriminate based on educational attainments, tells African Americans that embracing the n-word affectionately and endearingly “just ain’t right and don’t make no kind of sense.” The n-word should continue to be looked upon as a disfigurement to the African-American’s psyche and buried as far below the surface as those who lived to experience the true meaning of “n*gger.”
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Friday, September 5th 2008 at 11:51PM
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The N word should be buried. I hate hearing folks like Dr. Dyson trying to advocate its use. You'd think that a guy with his education and awareness would be more sensible. So many people wasting precious energy on the debate of this word when our communities are in shambles. Shameful.
Saturday, September 6th 2008 at 9:06AM
I couldn't agree with you more, Mister Johnson.
Saturday, September 6th 2008 at 9:52PM
Granted a lot of time is being spent on the word...but is it wasted energy? Granted there are some pressing issues consuming our communities, what if the n-word proved to be a psychological link to these issues? Just thinking out loud.
Sunday, September 7th 2008 at 2:41AM
I think it's a trifling issue, the use of it AND the debate over it. I don't think any amount of effort is ever going to get everyone to stop using it because of the supposed "term of endearment" moniker. Plus, it's just too much of a part of people's vernacular. So in my opinion, yes it is wasted energy. We could be talking about how to build institutions in our communities that keep the dollar circulating. That is an issue that I think most aversely affects us.
Sunday, September 7th 2008 at 10:36AM
Mister Johnson there are many who think and feel exactly as you do, but let me assure you that there is and was nothing trifling about the African American Holocaust which lasted over 300 years and the n-word being its prominent and leading character. I am sure that the victims of this Holocaust would be in total disagreement with you. We as a race need to learn to get a grip and learn to stop embracing the very word that attributed to the butchering, slaughtering, wanton rapings, maiming and the dehumanization of our ancestry. I sense a victim mentality in your comments, but I think and feel differently, we can overcome and learn to stop demeaning and degrading ourselves. Nothing is impossible, but then if you BELIEVE something to be impossible then it is, but I don't believe this is wasted energy and I have enough faith in my people to BELIEVE that we will eventually-- COLLECTIVELY -- wake up come to our senses and stop using that despicable word.
Sunday, September 7th 2008 at 12:33PM
So what is your solution? If you think that debating a word that our ignorant youth are going around parading in the street -COMPLETELY unaware that there is even a debate going on- might not be the solution, how do you hope to reach them?

No one can say that I am minimizing the impact of such an atrocity as slavery. I just think that there are real things that we can effect NOW. I'm not denying the real sting that comes with the word and all, but how useless is a debate between two talking heads? Jackson tried it, Nas pulled the word from his album cover (rightfully so) and these two are having a discussion about it. Some people might actually honor the cessation of its use but you can't possibly think that the movement can remove it permanently. I don't embrace the word. Some of the people that need to be reached with this movement aren't even going to be part of this discussion because they have other issues stemming from ignorance, like being fearful of meaningful discussion.

Sunday, September 7th 2008 at 10:26PM
There are two types of mentalities the can and the cannot. Two years ago the anti n-word movement was unheard of. Some of us got together and decided that enough was enough and a grass roots movement evolved. Thank goodness for those of us with a can do mentality. Tremendous strides have since then been made and slowly but surely, on a daily basis Black America is waking up to the fact that there is nothing respectful, dignified, honorable or prideful about the n-word. As I read your comments there are nothing but obstacles being presented I refuse to share your pessimism. Within less than two years from now most of Black America will have rediscovered their self-respect and will have dismissed that word from their vocabulary.
Sunday, September 7th 2008 at 10:40PM
Mr. Smith, here is my point and then I will respectfully bow out of this convo. If two heads are talking on a television instead of holding town hall meetings or something of that nature, how do you expect the movement to really gain any steam? Like I said, the people that need to hear the message aren't even watching the shows. What methods did the grass roots movement use? We're supposed to share ideas here and I'd like to abolish that word too! I just don't think that the use of the media alone is enough.

You may call me pessimistic, but I know that I'm not. It would have been more effective to have an educated brother who not only connects with the younger generation but also DENOUNCES the use of the word rather than having an "educated" brother that advocates its use, sitting their trying to convince Tavis. And I agree, how do we hope to gain respect when we don't even respect ourselves? I should clarify that the movement itself is not wasted energy, but the mainstream media (public) debate itself lacks direction.

A couple of other people that spring to my mind that use or have used this word in public and should know better are Illinois Senator/Pastor James Meeks and Bill Winston. So I guess another way to continue the movement is to send a petition signed by anyone you know who is offended to people like those two. I can and will do that. But please do share the methods that your grass roots movement used.
Monday, September 8th 2008 at 9:12AM
Why are you assuming that this movement has no steam? Those of us involved have a totally different prospective. Please understand something; the mainstream media is not Black America’s friend. Whether you have noticed it or not mainstream media promotes the views of those who are proponents of the n-word and turns a deaf ear to those who are not. It is a mistake to assume Black America’s ills can only be resolved through the mainstream media. If you wish to become a part of the anti n-word movement you can do the following: Send out emails and refer your family and friends to the following websites and ask of them to also send out emails in the same manner. Also, whenever, you come across articles such as this that you have read, get it into the hands of others. Don’t worry about how people may or may not respond to your efforts, just do it…it all begins with you. Here are those websites:





Monday, September 8th 2008 at 11:12AM
Great, thanks Mr. Smith. I never looked for any web sites centered on the movement. I usually tell people about themselves when they use the word already, but I'll at least try to do more. The only issue I have left is that you think that I don't know that the media is not the black mans friend. Taking it a step further, the media is NO ONE'S friend. Anyone who allows themselves to be fully educated by the media is a fool. I'm no fool.
Monday, September 8th 2008 at 7:28PM
I personally don't like the way it's used in media especially in the music today, but that being said. Europeans named Africa 'Africa' they also named America "America'. It's not like the term African American is something is actually a moniker for all people of color in this continent, but we have happily accepted it even though a white person born in Africa that becomes an American citizens is rightfully more entitled to that term than most of us who have never even BEEN to Africa.

Christian call themselves "Christians' even though Jesus called himself a "Jew'.

In my opinion it's much to do about nothing.
Monday, September 8th 2008 at 7:52PM
Greetings Mr. Johnson, glad to have been of some help. Reality dictates that we do indeed have a tremendous challenge ahead of us, but they aren't insurmountable and with God's blessings we will overcome.
Tuesday, September 9th 2008 at 1:44AM
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