"Niggeas", Rap & Hip Hop: Is the use of the term N-gger in any of its forms ever justifiable by the way it is used in popular culture today?
by Jamaaluddin al-Haidar
It's interesting how even some erudite so-called scholarly folk want to be "down" with the hip hop community so bad that they have become some of it's worst advocates (read apologists). They try to justify the use of the N-word by drawing a distinction between N-gger and Niggea by saying that while the former has a sort of racist connotation to it, the latter is a harmless "term of endearment". If non-white folk went around using the phrase white trash or trailer park trash, it would be seen as a racial epithet. The irony is that when white folk refer to one another as "white trash" while it doesn't carry the sting of racism, it hurts nevertheless because it is viewed as an affront to one's character, one's status, or lifestyle. It's rarely taken as a "term of endearment". Why then do black folk adopt a term that itself carries over a century of man's worst brutality to his fellow man and adopt it as a term of endearment or affection. I think that it speaks to the self-hatred that the little man from Sandersville, Georgia tried to get us to see over 50 years ago.
I don't see the word as a term of endearment. I guess because I'm old school. I grew up in a household where both mother and father were active in the Black Panther Party. 'My brotha'...and 'my sista' were terms of endearment for me long before my family reverted to Islam. And because there were many progressive white folk, Japanese, American Indian, and Chicanos either in the Party or supporting the Party, I grew up hearing them being referred to as brotha and sista also. The N word was a derogatory word that was used for non progressive, "Uncle Toms" or drug dealers etc. In other words it was reserved for the worst individuals in the community.
I think when the Blaxploitation movies came out, Hollywood created a jargon or street lingo that caught on like wildfire. Of course, black folk with low self-esteem and sense of self-worth emulated what they saw in the movies. Suddenly it became "cool" or "hip" to refer to one another as 'my niggea', rather than 'my brotha'. Brotha carried a sense of identification with a movement. The powers that be brought in cheap drugs, cheap guns, and the "N' word to drive a wedge between the people and dignified progressive movement. Soon it would become cool and hip to refer to our women as "b-tches" and "hoes".
It's unfortunate but true that amongst the disenfranchised and dispossessed, more often than not, life imitates art. The challenge is for the artist to create the kind of art that dignifies life and gives hope and encouragement to the living.
The hip hop community can technically be classified as a sub-culture. In fact it is a counter-culture. There's nothing wrong with this distinction. The capitalist-driven amoral culture of the prevailing society needs to have a counter culture to stem the tide of its hegemony. However that counter-culture doesn't have to be counter-productive. Join the movement to bring positivity, social and political consciousness back to music and art. Radio Raw Deen wants to be one of the many forums that a movement such as this needs.
Jamaaluddin "Br. Jamaal" al-Haidar is founder, and program director of Radio Raw Deen.com. A middle school science teacher by profession, he is also host of "Between the Lines" a nightly talk show which debuts in September 2008.