Friday, November 24, 2006

The N Word

A lot of sturm and drang over the Kramer (Michael Richards) affair. Was he racist, yes. Did he use the N word. Yep. Do I hate the N word because its historic meaning is derived from slavery, yep. But I hate it whenever I hear it. Not because the media decided to focus on this particular incident.

I also hate the hypocritical media mania over how it gets used and abused, and the virtual silence over it when it makes money. Lots of money.

Though it has been used in effectively in comedy, both by blacks and whites to confront its real historic social meaning in America This was not the case. It was the result of a breakdown on stage by a comic on his way down.


Kenny Robinson, founder of the all-black Nubian Disciples Of Pryor comedy series at Yuk's, also noted Richards' attempt at backtracking. "He was saying 'It's that word, it's all about that word,'" Robinson said. "I'm sorry, this isn't 1964 and you're not Lenny Bruce."

Perhaps he should have rapped out the 'N' word. Hip Hop and rap music using the N word gets lots of airplay on my alternative campus radio station. But of course thats okay for multi-millionaire rap artists, it's an expression of their oppression.

Just like it's ok for some rappers to use sexist put downs of women calling them byeetch and ho's. Or to express their unbridled homophobia. It's an affirmation of Afro-American masculinity that is oppressed in racist white supermacist culture. Except it isn't.

Is it just me or has Rap music gone to the dogs?

I being from NYC living in the inner city, and growing up in the 80's and 90's naturally grew up listening to rap. In those times when rap music wasn't mainstream, the music was about something. Be it an outcry of the horrendous poverty and discrimination minorities grew up around, or just having fun and letting your voice be heard.

With the onset of gansta rap (I once liked but now despise because I matured) is when things started to go downhill.

Hate, violence, degradation of women, selfishness, greed, and all other decadent behaviour associated with most, not all, rap music.

The Oppositional Gaze

The rap music that gets the most news is the music that is pushing misogyny. We think of rap music as a little third world country that white people can take out of it what ever they want. There is extreme violence, misogyny and black hate, young men bought this and this became the top type of rap. If a black guy knows that he can make millions of dollar by singing about fucking women and hoes then they’re going to do it.

Anti-Feminist and slavery driven rap makes the most money. Rap and assault are the defining exchange in black youth this is a fall out because individuals get wealthy off this. They are making strategic choices to do this music and this should set off a red light. This is what the country finds appealing. The white middle class suburban boy wants music about violence, fucking, degradation, blacks as ‘the other’.

Rap videos have reinscribed the female body in pornographic imaginary. Rap music and black music uses the black female body making it fall into overly sexual terms. They are the girls who will do what the nice clean white girls won’t. This is produced in rap videos.

American culture is obsessed with transgression. Commodified blackness is controlled and altered by the culture and consumer to how we’ll accept it. White boys who try and be black are still afraid of the black guys on the street; blackness is still violent and animalistic. White culture, however, is too wonder bread. Let’s get some of the endangered species to be hip, exotic and different so that we can keep our white people conservative and static.

Gangsta Rap, the million dollar pop culture industry is the 'voice' of the violent subculture of the lumpenproletariat, in America, Canada and Europe. It's not just about the N word it's the colour of the person saying it. Which in itelf is a contradiction.

The cultural studies interpetation of the meaning of this is that it is the liberation of the word from its original meaning if it is used by those whom it describes by themselves. In other words the words of oppression take on a different 'meaning' or 'signifier' when used by the oppressed themselves.

The irony is that N word may appear to be about liberating the word for other meanings for those who use it in rap music the fact is that it is also about the colour of the folks listening to the music. Which is why it is popular music for white middle class boys. They get to imagine being bad (black) boys. And thus invert the fear of Afro-Americans or immigrants of colour in Europe, into the other whom they embrace for all the wrong reasons.

Turn it down!: Rap music and the far right: Germany goes gangsta

If it doesn't work out with hip hop," shrugs Bushido, Germany's most notorious rap star, "then I'll just sell drugs." It probably won't come to that. The 26-year-old half Tunisian Berliner is turning the world of German hip hop upside down. The child of a German mother and an immigrant father is attracting, against all normal logic, a massive audience of neo-Nazis who love his hard-edged, racist and nationalistic lyrics.

There has never been any doubting Bushido's bad boy credentials. He is currently, and not for the first time, in an Austrian jail, waiting to see if he must stand trial on GBH charges. Earlier this month, an unfortunate 20-year-old Austrian man made the mistake of wandering too close to Bushido's pimped-up 7 Series BMW. It is alleged the rapper and his two bodyguards suspected the man had punctured the tyres, and beat him senseless. Bushido could face 10 years in jail.

Bushido's latest brush with the law was par for the course for a true gangsta rapper. 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg: all the American rap stars worth their platinum discs and pimped-out Hummers have had run-ins with the law or spent time behind bars. But there is something different about Bushido, a beefy man with five tattoos. He has sparked a huge debate in Germany, a country still new to gangsta rap, about how racist and offensive song lyrics can be before they become outright neo-Nazi propaganda.

Sirius-ly Funny: Now I Remember Why I Miss Howard Stern

Then, as now, Stern's brand of "shock radio" is one where everything and anything from wrestling midget lesbians to Ku Klux Klansmen playing Hollywood Squares is considered fair game. In other words, it is so ridiculously over-the-top, anyone who would for a minute take it seriously needs to pick their brains up off the floor. Or at least, find a sense of humor.

Some of Stern's biggest fans back at my record company office were our rap artists. These guys would often ask us if bits featuring peripheral Stern characters like "The King Of All Blacks" could be legally sampled on their records. That is because stereotypes like that are so ridiculous they become the joke in and of themselves. And the joke is a laugh out loud, falling down funny one — especially to someone who knows what that stereotype means first hand.

It is the same as with the use of the word faggot. Which supposedly becomes liberating when used by gays with each other, when in reality it is the acceptance of an ugly epithat. Just because those who are called N***** or faggot now accept the label with pride, does not make it less derogatory.

It does not matter about the colour or sexual preference of those using the word it reamains a slur. The difference here is the acceptance of the labels of oppression by the oppressed to express pride. Real Pride is about overcoming those words with words like Black Pride, Black Power or Gay and Gay Pride.

Either the word remains a slur or epithat or it is transformed. When the word is transformed, then anyone can use it because the word itself takes on a new transformative meaning. Such is the case with the word Queer. Which itself is now used in Academic setting such as Queer Studies. Such is not nor ever will be the case for the N word.

When Lenny Bruce challenged America with words like the N word or references to fellatio, etc. he was not putting down Afro-Americans or homosexuality, he was challenging the bigots. And he got busted for it. Kramer on the other hand was just a bigot on stage.

And the multi million dollar media busted him. The same media that exploits the N word for profit in producing Gangsta rap. The capitalist media cannot cry holier than thou when in fact they made the N word an issue, not out of moral outrage, but as a commodity. Good or bad they profited from increased sales around the Kramer affair the same way they profit from Gangsta Rap.

Did Kramer flip out of course he did, most stand up comics do after being heckled. But they handle it better.

I don't expect that Richards will get much sympathy. Except, of course, in private from some of his peers, who understand enough about the process of stand-up comedy to understand how this incident could have happened. And enough about the public feeding frenzy to stay out of the limelight while he's beaten like a piƱata until everyone moves on. In Defense Of Michael Richards

Was he personally attacking his audience? Yep. Was he an idiot? Yep.
Is he racist. Yep.

But lets not be hypocritical about the 'N' word. Not when I just turned on my campus radio station to hear it loud and clear. I switched the channel.


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1 comment:

H. Lewis Smith said...


Los Angeles, CA., Author H. Lewis Smith has written a thought provoking, culturally divided book that will not only spark heated conversation, but can also bring about real change. The N-word is often used in the African American community amongst each other and is generally not a problem when spoken by another African American. However, once the word is used by a Caucasian person, it brings on other effects. The question is "who can use the word and why?" Smith believes it is a word that should be BURIED!!!!

The book is written in a manner that all can understand. The points are
well-taken and the wording is easy to follow. There are quotes from great
people in our history including Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin and many, many others. Smith has mixed history with honesty, love with life, education with effects. This is a great book for educators, parents, managers, professionals, newsmen, and anyone else wanting an in-depth look at the N-word, the effects and the solutions. A MUST READ!!!!

To learn more about Bury that Sucka, please visit