August 26, 2009
Inundated by the n-word
By Chris W. Bell

With unsettling regularity, in public places where music is being played for all to hear such as from a juke-box, I, a black man, find myself being inundated with the N-word by some young black rapper.

Imagine being in an establishment with peers of various races, creeds, and colors when out of the blue, some rapper on a record is saying "my N-word", "you N-word", or "expletive N-word".

When this happens I feel insulted by the rapper. I feel like he is undermining the efforts of all of those people who fight for equality.

I would not stand for it if my peers used this epithet, I would be outraged. And in that same manner I am outraged at the rappers and all those associated with the creation, distribution, and sale of music that use that word.

It is incredible that these rappers get away with insulting the black race in this way. They should be shunned, but they are admired by many of our youths.

A musician of any other race would be run out of town on a rail if he dared to use that word. But we're supposed to buy that it's perfectly OK for a black rapper to throw the word around like it's going out of style?

I wouldn't stand for it if a white person used that word to insult me, but I have to listen to it spewing from the stereo on every third rap song? It's time for a change.

But how can I presume to represent black civil rights and complain about the use of the N-word by rappers, producers, and record companies as an insult to my ethnicity when many of my black brethren pay to hear that word yelled at them?

I can't believe that this matter has not been brought up in public forums yet.

How can the black community be taken seriously when it says that blacks deserve the same respect as all others when we disrespect each other so blatantly?

If I were in a Jewish establishment and there was anti-Semitic music playing all night, I would have to assume that anti-Semitism wasn't a big deal to them. That's the same impression I get now when I hear black people degrading each other in rap music. Equality is a big deal to me, so I've got to speak up.

What does it say about the black community when we have no outrage when our young people sprinkle their lyrics with such a vile a word as if it were a sweet spice?

And don't get me started on cursing in rap records, or the anti-family, anti-intellectual, anti-social, anti-female, pro-crime lyrics. Most current rap music does not even deserve to be contrasted with the uplifting positive songs from Black groups from the fifties, or the early Motown days. What happened!

Our fathers and grandfathers grew up in a world where that word, which was intentionally steeped in disrespect, was reserved for us when a white man wanted to publicly humiliate us and separate us from the community of men.

That word was used to describe a sub-man. That word was not only an insult, but it was a double-whammy because it demonstrated, by the fact that it was so dehumanizing and simultaneously so freely used, that blacks were second class citizens.

Now rappers throw it around like a term of endearment.

The only thing I can think of that's more degrading would be to voluntarily wear slave shackles as jewelry.

Music reflects the world-view of the culture from which it stems. Does this behavior in rap accurately reflect where we want to go as a society? Is a world where young men model themselves after the characters in rap tunes a place where you want to live? No! So let's not surrender the culture to this bastardization.

We don't glorify violence, we don't hate the police, we don't see crime as our only way to wealth, we don't despise women and motherhood, we do respect females, we do care about more than our bank accounts, our love lives, and our street credibility, and we do want future generations to take advantage of a good education and a respectable career, so we should not embrace music that does not? It's counterproductive.

Contrast the world view of rap with that of respected musicians from the past (The Platters, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Run DMC, etc) who reflected a society where peace, unity, respect, and virtue, were sought after.

We seem to have lost that sense of indignation that we had in the past when our advances were threatened. It's time to reshuffle our deck of cultural values and put destructive behavior on the bottom where it belongs.

Not all contemporary rap is bad, but we must discriminate against those tunes that are counter to our values.

As a start, we should turn our backs on artists, producers, labels, and anyone else profiting from dumping caustic audio waste into our communities. We, as black people, and whites, are part of the problem because we have not yet stood up to stem this tide. But enough is enough. As a community, we've had it.

A couple of years ago the NAACP gave a mock funeral for the N-word at it's national convention in Detroit. It didn't take.

It's time to take up arms against this despicable word and those who try to profit from its use; it should be treated like any another other guttural racial slur.