12/02/2011 § Leave a comment
In a historic move, the New York City Council has publicly called on all residents, young and old, rich or poor, black, white, Asian and Latino to voluntarily stop using the word.
The ban is a symbolic one, a plea for the public to stand in solidarity to re-stigmatise the word.
For years the “n-word” has carried a stigma which is so strong that most American journalists and writers have chosen not only to refrain from saying it, but also to refrain from writing it.
I actually am a reformed n-word user.
As a product of a mixed-marriage – my mother is African American and my father white – I grew up in an extremely racially diverse community near San Francisco.
I used the n-word among friends, at school, singing along to songs. I used it carelessly without thinking much about it. It wasn’t uncommon to hear my Filipino friends say to my Korean friends “what’s up nigga”.
Even among white kids, it was used ironically as a term of respect to one another… a way to fit in or identify with friends of other races.
Thinking of it now, our ancestors (both black and white) would be rolling in their graves as they listen to black kids greet their white friends with “what’s up my nigga”, or whites doing the same to their black friends.
Indeed it’s become a part of our language, and sadly I don’t remember feeling ashamed of using the word. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I would never have said it around my parents or family. And perhaps that’s the key.
I suppose the hope is to shame people out of using the word in a very public effort.
But are young people even listening?
Words are multidimensional. And they mean different things to different people. But how can a word used to categorically dehumanise an entire race of people ever be flipped around to be used as a term of endearment?
Some African-Americans argue that by reclaiming the word, by owning it for themselves, the word can take on whatever meaning they ascribe to it.
In other words, they argue it is possible to reinvent the n-word and change its connotation.
Words can be painful and incredibly emotional. The n-word was born in the context of American slavery.
The first written documentation of it in print form was in 1786. It was used by white slave masters to label their black slaves.
Centuries later, it has enjoyed a rebirth among mostly young folks who have never known the context in which it was once spoken. And this is the problem.
We do not hear our elders saying: “Hello my n…, how are you today?”
My grandfather, raised in part by his grandmother – a freed slave – doesn’t greet his friends with the word.
In fact I have never heard him, or anyone else in my family use it. So why did I?
Generational perhaps? And that is exactly what young people say today.
My great-grandmother once asked me if I knew what the term “cracker” meant. Cracker is often used in a derogatory context to describe white people.
It too has had a rebirth among some whites who jokingly refer to themselves as “white trash” or “crackers”.
For all I knew, the term cracker referred to the white colour of saltine crackers we eat. So I always thought we called white people crackers because they were the colour of crackers. End of story.
Apparently not so. My great-grandmother told me that the term “cracker” was used by slaves to refer to their white slave owners as the man who “cracks the whip”.
Crackers were the masters who beat their slaves.
Words carry weight.
Perhaps the gesture by the city council is to encourage people to be more considerate and sensitive to the legacy of the word.
So the debate continues. Though New Yorkers will not face fines or penalties for using the word, those on the New York City Council hope that people will consider carefully the context and connotation of the n-word and make an empowered decision to stop using it.
Published: 2007/03/01 15:45:53 GMT
© BBC 2011
31/01/2011 § 1 Comment
Should we continue to worship the memory of our forefathers or is it an expensive waste of time? Devotion to ancestors is widespread across the African continent where many people consult the shrines of spiritual mediums as a way of seeking advice from those that have died.
Religious leaders in the continent are alarmed by the rise in ancestral worship and claim it has no place in today’s society.
How much do ancestors influence your life? Does their memory inspire or scare you? Do you have ancestral duties yourself? Are your ancestors holding you back? Or giving you spiritual guidance?
Read comments on this and listen to World Have Your Say here.
The beginning of the program:
Presenter: “Abdul, [22yrs old male in the studio] do you identify youself as Somalian or British?”
“To what extent are you Somalian?”
-Ummm, as a person of Somalia, but I grew up in United Kingdom.
-Where were you born?
-In Saudi Arabia… – and have you been to Somalia?
-Um yeh, I’ve been twice.
-You’ve been twice… When you go and come back, do you feel a sense of connectedness in a way you havent felt it before or does it just feel like you’ve gone to visit a certain place, that you have a heritage with but are coming back home, to the United Kingdom.
-Ummm. Nah I feel like when i go back i feel like I’ve had a connection because you meet a lot of your family, you see your culture and your heritage first hand and you see what, you know, what good life people are living there, because the media makes it seem that – you know – that Somalia is a terrible place.
-Is there a good life in Somalia? presenter asks very doubtfully.
-Yeh, there is.
-What did you see?
-People living healthy. Ah, you know, even people that dont have that much to eat – the community supports them – where I went. So it shows that its not just that, you know, third world county where its just refugee camps everywhere. People are living quite well. And you get to meet a LOT of your family with is very special.
-Strong sense of community.
-“Sumsa! [18 year old girl in the studio] I can see you smiling!” – the interviewer says chuckling. “Do you feel well percieved by other British young people? – Your peers, here in the United Kingdom… as a, as a young Somali?’
-Like do I feel connected, do you mean?
-Yes do you feel connected?
-Like do you feel accepted?
-You do feel accepted?
-Yes, I do.
Listen to hear the rest.
…”I get a sense right now as i speak to the young Somalis right now… there appears to be a gap between the two generations, a different way of thinking and perception I hear the young people, and I could be wrong, saying that well that was then, this is now, that was them, this is us. Would you say you’re getting a similar sence ther in Manisota?”….
This is also interesting because you get to witness a conversation between two radio stations and two studios across the Pacific, the vast space between them have never been so obvious to me. It also becomes obvious how much rests on the attractiveness of the new homeland culture to the individual immigrant.
The young people in the UK studio; 22 born in Saudi Arabia, 21 born in Italy, 23 born in Somalia moved to Holland at the age of 2, 18 born in UK. How can these people own their identity so well – speak with ethnic accents!?
29/09/2010 § 1 Comment
01/08/2010 § Leave a comment
I chose colour because it provides a greater emotional range. My aim is to show the pride of the people I photograph.
– Zwelethu Mthethwa, 1998
Zwelethu Mthethwa is one of South Africa’s best known artists. His colour photographs of the residents of Paari, a settlement near Cape Town, made a point of portraying it not as a shabby shanty town but as characterised by dignity and dreams. His new exhibition at the Studio Museum, Harlem, brings together three series of photographs, Empty Beds, Interiors and Common Ground. We hear about the inspiration to compare fire damaged homes in South Africa to those in New Orleans after Katrina. – BBC The Strand 31/7/2010
25/05/2010 § Leave a comment
Amy Brenneman: “When I tried to have a discussion about race, the idea completely flew over my kids’ heads.”
19/04/2010 § Leave a comment
18/04/2010 § Leave a comment
These exerts are again, from “The Tyra Show”. Its a shame the previews are so short, if anyone is able to locate full episodes on these themes, please hook us up.
The Black Man and Sagging
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Myths of Racial Perception
Vodpod videos no longer available.