“I was completely dumbfounded after my son told me that he was made to recite a poem called ‘Niggah’ in front of his class. The boy was then subjected to further humiliation after his teacher, questioned him as to
"why black people could used the word ‘n***er’ and white people could not.”Louis Armstrong's account of his relationship with his manager Joe Glaser is interesting. After Armstrong he had made his name in Chicago and New York, mobsters were facing up to own him. There was a real risk that he would be hurt, and so he chose a manager with enough muscle to protect him, and paid him very handsomely. Armstrong put it this way.
"I needed him because everywhere we went he could say 'That's my nigger.' And I was OK."That is the heritage which gives the word its particular poison, and the reason why it is being turned inside out and pointed back at the people who invented it by a new generation of black people. The message to white people is 'we have reclaimed this word for ourselves, and we can use it when you can't.'
That's all. It is a minor act of petty linguistic theft, in part to make up for the appalling crimes of history. In part to annoy. The fact that it's 'not fair' is the whole point. So there isn’t any hypocrisy, as the teacher in this case implies, merely a chance taken to make white people feel uncomfortable. This new street usage may not be a productive or rational tactic, and many black leaders condemn it. But it probably feels good.
And another thing. Its' use requires consent, which requires contact and communication. In other words, you need to have some form of relationship with the recipient before using it. This again reinforces a sense of identity and kinship and places the emphasis on human contact.. And who can argue with that in a society in which the sense of community is all but dead?
A world in which a black person gave a white person permission to call him a nigger, would be a world without racism.
When Barack Obama uses it, something will have changed.
'They Call Me MISTER Nigger!'