Monday, May 21, 2007

"YOU" are not allowed to use THAT WORD

So my rant for this day. Ok, if you've been following in recent news the way rap/hip-hop artists are trying to get everyone together to clean up their act and not use the word "N***er".

Now I think this is a most noble idea. Why use a word that is demeaning and causes all manner of ill conveyance to people. But there is a problem. As long as people talk, the word will never go away. What bothers me more is that in most sense and in general terms the only people that are able to use this word without other people really caring are people of colour. (black people not to put too fine a point on it.) One of the many places I grew up in was in a very diverse neighborhoods. Especially when living in Austin. Most if not all of my friends were black. And even though I was not black I was referred to as by my nickname back then as "Shifty N***er", as I was constantly on the move. As a child I had no idea what this word meant or the significance behind it. All I knew is that people used it on each other and it was usually for kicks or just everyday slang. It wasn't until I moved from a primarily all black community to a Hispanic one that I became informed that to use this word was very wrong. But I was so confused as everyone I knew used it.

I'm not saying that people who use it are right. It's not a good word, but it's used so much and when used by a certain group of people a single word can convey totally different meanings. The "N" word has meaning to people who use it, either meaningfully or jokingly. It's all in the context. So why you may ask am I bringing this up. Well the other day I was talking to my mum. She's a nurse and works at the hospital with people of various backgrounds. There was a very nice old (as in late 60's) nurse that worked there up until recently. She had worked at this hospital for years on end, literally never missed a day unless called for and was one of the best nurses there is in their field. Why was she let go after so many years of service to this one hospital? Because she used the "N" word, it just slipped out. Here's what happened.

Apparently the staff was having a pot luck. Everybody brought stuff etc, you know the drill. Someone had brought an assortment of doughnuts. Now with out thinking really and just one of those things that pops out of your mouth. She couldn't decide what to pick. So out came, "Eenie, Meenie, Miny, Moe, Catch a "N***er" by the Toe". Unfortunately she was not alone when she said that. And a new nurse who so happened to be black and was only like her first week there or something, got very upset and caused such a big stink that the hospital let this older nurse go.

Now I know that the use of this word it bad. I don't condone it in anyway. But this woman didn't mean to use it on purpose. It was just something she said, something that she grew up hearing. We were taught "Catch a Tiger by the Toe" our parents were taught "Catch a "N***er by the Toe". Huge world of difference. But how can you really change something that has been ingrained into your upbringing and you've never been taught otherwise? No she didn't mean to do it on purpose, and yes it was a dreadfully awful choice of words. But how far do you take the matter? She apologized immediately to the nurse that she offended. It just slipped out.

I know it did, as my dad does this all the time and I get after him. It's just part of what he knows, and how he grew up. He calls liqourice pieces "N***er Toes". We'll be at the store and in the candy isle he'll say loudly without thinking, "Where are the N***er Toes?" I which point I shudder and firmly but silently tell him "Dad are you nuts, you're not supposed to say that!!" And then he remembers and calls them the candy the right name. But my point is it's just something that will always be with him, its ingrained in him to use this word in this context the was that nurse used it in the context of making a choice.

Now you're probably thinking. What would someone like me know about using the "N" word or racial profiling in general. Well I have experience. I remember it well. I know what it's like being seen differently. One of my most memorable experiences growing up was in Austin TX. For a brief time we lived on the North Side of Austin. In a very affluent neighborhood. And just like everyone else me and my older bro had to go to school. So we went to register. Only to be told that both my brother and myself would have to go to a school on the opposite end of town, as the north side schools already had their allotment of minority children and would be accepting no more. Now these were public schools not private ones we were told this at. I remember having to go an hour to and and hour from school everyday for a whole year because as the register at the school told us, it would be better if we were among our own minority group for our schooling. I will always remember that. I will never forget it.

It doesn't make it right either way, but how far do we take a matter like this before it blows up and huge matter? I feel at a loss when things are taken so far out of context that people push and push before all matter of their speech is deemed as wrong. Again I'm not saying it's right, I'm saying that if there is to be justice, justice can not always be blind. Justice in a matter like this has to be used in context. No matter how enraged people become over a matter. You have to look at it from all sides before becoming incensed to have someone fired. It's not like this lady didn't apologize, she did. It just happened, so move on. But today's society that is not possible. One word spoken becomes another persons platform for a personal vendetta to use it to spread like wild fire. The tongue is a two edge sword. It's words can heal or cut to the bone. It's how we use it that defines us.

Anyways that's my rant for today. I have more to write later but it's late and time for bed.


Beth said...

I grew up hearing "catch a n****r by the toe," but haven't thought of it for years. And Brazil nuts were called "n****r toes." But, Gawd, I can't get that word out of my mouth.

6th Floor blog said...

That whole thing bothers me. Getting enraged when someone mentions a word, especially in a way that's very not racist. The way they learned the little rhyme was probably racist, but not her using it all these years later. There will probably always be racism, but combating it with compassion and understanding is always going to be the best way to deal with it, not screaming and yelling and causing problems for other people.