Actually, this is probably my best piece of writing since fuggin High School.
The Question: Why you feel (or don't feel) that people - Blacks and Whites - shouldn't be allowed to use the N-word at their leisure.
by Khary BM Finch
Unlike my elder sons of sixteen & thirteen, and even less-so of my younger children, I know the power of the word "nigger". Not from television, music or in casual conversation, my parents used it rarely- especially if I was listening. Hearing the word before seventh grade, I knew very little of what the word actually meant. I knew that I shouldn't be called as such, but I was hardly aware of the real meaning, being cushioned in all-Black St Thomas, USVI until I was ten. When I arrived back in the states, I began to hear the word much more often, and began to realize that there was a perceived difference not only in my skin tone and a white child's, but my skin tone & that of darker Blacks. You see, my father is as fair as they come. I'm sure he could have chosen to pass, but instead endured the backlash from both sides and maintained his Blackness, more of an ethnic cultural identity rather than one of color. My mother on the other hand, was brown, and more "normal" for the eyes of those who wished to classify her.
In the Virgin Island sun, I was much more brown than my little orange sister, but a year of missing that sun had allowed the yellowish hue to become the norm in us siblings both. Chicago taught me that I was "piss-colored" and to be envied, yet not really "Black enough", so despised by darker Blacks who also lacked the education to "speak well" in one circle and "talk good" in comfortable surroundings. The funny thing about what was going on was that I had always wanted to be darker than I was, darker than my mother, as dark as the Rasta men who kept their ganja above my head at the 100 Steps in Charlotte Amalie, filling my head with their education. I tried to weave it into what the nuns at school were telling me as well as my parents, so when I was told "nigga, you wish you was white don't you?" in Chicago, I was absolutely dumbfounded.Why would anyone have such a thought at all? My parents were middle class & The VI has no "Black Shame" as many of us from the States have. Being that hey own the land and share the vast wealth poured into the Islands from hotel companies & the like. Boston, where I was born was a sheltered life where whites & Blacks only met downtown or briefly on subway cars on the way to, from or at work.
My education on the meaning of "nigger" was only realized when I was thirteen, a day I was with two friends of mine by Belmont station on the North-side of Chicago. We were taking peeks at the new comics we had purchased not too far away and we slipped through a narrow gap between the steps leading up to the "L" to the alley of which we planned to continue to Barry, then walk up to another buddy's house a few blocks away.
An unmarked cruiser saw us and sped directly at us. My two friends broke off running and I was confused-not that I wasn't told-I simply hadn't realized the reality of the situation. Two large white cops grabbed me up and pushed me to the car. I had never in life been so roughly handled by anyone but my mother up until that point. One with a backwards cubs hat dumped my mint comics on the hood, flipping the pages as if he was looking for something, the was busy asking me if I was a faggot because I gasped when he grabbed me by my crotch.
The one who had frisked me flipped me around, got real close & growled "Whats a lil' nigger like you doing around here, huh?"
"Going to a friends house?"
"Why're you asking me?" He glares back.
"'Cause you guys scared me!" I stammer.
The cops crack up at that, then begin to ask me where I live, which I tell my old address in fear only a block from the new one. He doesn't believe me. He surmised that my Mom must be white because no nigger could afford the rent at the address I gave him.
He asked me my age when I told him I had no ID, and what my friends names were, all of which I blabbed-but I didn't know any addresses, and he threatened me more, finalizing his threat with this:
"Do know I could kill you and leave you right here in this fucking alley? You're only a nigger & I'm a cop. No one would give a shit about you, and no one would even ask me about it. You're just a nigger! If I see you again today, I'm going to kill you. You hear me?".
With that I was shoved into the dust of the alley, they jumped into the patrol car & I ran home with tears streaming.
I had no idea what I had done, no idea why two men would hate me especially if they had never met me, and I was confused as to why my friends left so assuredly, thinking I would know too, that I was "just a nigger" in the eyes of anyone who saw.
It didn't take me long to realize that if the police didn't have you cornered, it was better form to run-simply because you could not guarantee a safe home return if you stayed still. You were guilty simply because you were born with brown skin.
Black people have been calling each other "nigger" since we became half-"domesticated" and fully enslaved in this country. Logically, I hate the term no matter who utters it, yet it refuses to stay in my lungs and flies from my own mouth possibly more often than any Polish Chicago cop or Aryan Skinhead. The reason it's "okay" in a sense to use it amongst ourselves is the lack of real fear. Despite the fact that Blacks kill each other more than whites the term does not insight fear as "the word" does from white lips. "That's my nigga!" isn't a term of ownership amongst us, its use morphs as does the term "motherf___er", "Dog", etc. Whereas used by whites, we still feel the tinge of fear, and our "fight or flight" jumps from our instinct settings and prepares for the worst. I have white pals who use the word. Funny thing is, some of these guys are niggers in a literal translation, and some have absolutely no other experience other than the "white boy born in the ghetto" experience. I let them slide, where a man only five years older would not. While I will go outside and chastise my 13 year old sons white friends for using the word out here in a former mill town of 2000 in Rhode Island, my 13 year old son gets embarrassed when I do so, or when his 16 year old brother lets his white peers know he does not want to hear that word. While I use it profusely around my male friends, I do not do so in front of my children, or for that matter, my white co-workers.
I believe that as racism here slowly and agonizingly peters out in the States, where it is very long and drawn out-due to Blacks exaggerations & whites playing down our ethnic differences, I think the word will lose it's effectiveness as "cracker" holds no real effectiveness to a white man.
When this occurs more obviously, people in America will think more along the lines of "I'm American" rather than "I'm Black". I ask myself, do I want that? I am not really sure. I want my children, & their children to marry Black, but if the US becomes more like Europe, with racism being a problem more of a nuisance rather than a plague, where "nigger" might get you beaten up by the white friend of the Black man you may be trying to offend, that may not be the case. This being the problem from what I've experienced & see, I do not believe I can answer that question, for it is an opinion, and only time will be able to sort out the fact.