Culture Language

Nigger: the new black

Political correctness has disgusted me since it was no longer appropriate to use the term black to describe african americans. To use oriental to describe asian (a venal euphemism that is ripe for postmodern double-code deconstruction once people admit that Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysians, Indonesians, Burmese, Mongolians, et. al., don’t consider themselves even remotely kin). To use handicapped to describe handicapable. To use boyfriend/girlfriend/lover to describe the astonishingly unimaginative, dispassionate and sterile partner. To use pet owner to describe pet guardian. To use undocumented immigrant to describe illegal alien.

Humans — capable of so much harm, strength, nobility, and sanguine beauty — are pathetically prone, particularly in this age of overrated instant communication, to episodes of laughable indignation and vulnerability, often rooted simply in the use of words. Or a word.

Which brings me to nigger.

I mean, come on. As a gay man of color (or should I say a colored gay man), I get the power of offensive usage. Am I so odd for investing no value in the hurling of an invective? Can nigger mean so much in an age where the mere use of it identifies the conjurer as an object of idiocy?

Nigger is anger. Nigger is dagger. It is the last resort of the indefensibly stupid. But what gives nigger its continuing power, its mesmerizing and prolonged dark magic, if you will, is the lengths we go to mask it with a term more venal and insulting than the bitter pill it defines: the N word.

Now, there’s a backhanded insult, a wallop to your intelligence: the N word.

Who invented this horrible euphemism? By calling nigger the N word, we simply hide its power, throw sand over it. As a wee cub scout, I was taught that if you throw water on the embers of a campfire, you will simply amplify it, produce more smoke, aggravate the pit and send everyone nearby scrambling for cover. Is the N word so different?

Nigger. Terrible and ugly and loaded with history. Contrast that with the N word. Soft and safe and loaded with political correctness.

Young black people embrace the word nigger — or nigga — the way that queers embrace (or shrug off) the word queer or fag. It’s just a word when used by your own peeps. Only when those who aren’t queer or faggy start using the word queer or fag does a hackle rise, as is the case with blacks who won’t and shouldn’t abide the derogatory use of nigger by those who don’t understand its gravity or history. Why is everyone else — especially nosy non-black people obsessed with political correctness — so enamored of a word, now just an italicized letter (N), that is none of their business?

Perhaps the N word should just stand for no.

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