To be a Nigger or not to be a Nigger, that is the question? Whether it is nobler in mind and body to constantly suffer the racial slur hurled at Africans by white supremacist? This is the question of the day, the hour, albeit every moment that an African in America draws a breath.
Bill Maher, a rather progressive comedian thinks it is okay for him to use the slur in a matter of fact manner.
“Come on,” Maher seems to exclaim, “I can be a “House Nigger” when I want to, can’t I?”
I have never wanted to me a Nigger.I remember the first time I heard the slur. I was about five years old. A group of us were walking down a country road, on our way to pick cotton, when a school bus carrying white kids to school road by. They spat out of the window and called us “Niggers.”
In five years, I had not heard this word spoken in my house by the adults or the other children. But instantly, the word cut into the fiber of my five year old being.
My granny comforted me, “Sticks and stones may break my bones,” she said, “but words will never hurt me.” she affirmed.
It still hurt.
Usually, when we encountered a group of white children, they would shout Nigger, or they would sing a song: “John Brown had a little Nigger, had a little Nigger, had a little Nigger, had a little Nigg-eeer boy.”
By now I understood what the word Nigger meant, but I was clueless to know who John Brown was or what Brown’s connection to me was. It would have been subversive for my parents to mention the name John Brown in our household. In eighth grade, I learned of Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in an attempt to end slavery.
Three years later, I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. In it Malcolm breaks down the dichotomy of the Nigger ethos. He explained in the period of enslavement, whites distinguished between Negroes who worked in the fields and those who worked in the house with them.
One was either a “Field Nigger or a House Nigger.”
The “House Nigger,” Malcolm explained, “loved the white man more than the white man loved himself.”
About the same time my peer group of Negro boys began to debate the efficacy of using the slur Nigger as a term of endearment when said by one brother to another.
The proponents of Nigger as a term of endearment made it crystal clear they would come to the aid of any Negro brother who was slurred by a white person.
I argued that it would not be long before more liberal whites would began to use the slur as a term of endearment. What then I posited?
“Nigger, you crazy,” they laughed.
They are still laughing and progressives are slurring the entire race on late night TV with the impunity of the white supremacist.
Wake up “Niggers,” before we are all through!
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, Editor of Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.