THE 'N' WORD &
THE 'R' WORD
An Open Letter To All Hip Hop & Rap Artists--
And Their Future Supporters
And Their Future Supporters
from MIKE RAMEY
My column today concerns the 'N' word.
The first part of my plea: USE IT. But SPELL it
It is N-I-G-G-E-R.
Not 'Nigga', nor 'Niggaz', nor 'Ni**as', or even
Just plain N-I-G-G-E-R. As used on the cover of Dick
Gregory's autobiographical book. Also, as used by Dr.
Rosie Milligan's thought-provoking 1996 book: "Nigger,
Please." Dick Gregory wrote the forward to that
dynamic piece of work.
While some of you reading this are gasping for air,
grabbing your smelling salts, or wondering if the
columnist has lost his mind, I have a second half of
my plea: Use the word N-I-G-G-E-R, with its correct
spelling as often as you please--ONLY if you mention
the 'R' word somewhere within earshot.
Oh.... the 'R' word? R-E-P-A-R-A-T-I-O-N-S!
A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON:
What was that 'R' word again? R-E-P-A-R-A-T-I-O-N-S!
Have you not heard of the 'R' word? THAT word will
do more to get people upset than all the variations of
the 'N' word COMBINED! Of course, to understand the
subject of Reparations, you have to go back into
history when Black folk first arrived in the USA
around 1619 as 'Indentured Servants'. This was an
'old school' term for 'slave'. Well, young Hip Hop
warrior, our numbers grew--and grew rapidly. Then
came slavery--the 'legal' device to get newly arrived
Africans to continue to work for nothing to build this
country. Then, a few decades go by and slavery became
the 'in' thing. Next, we have the Civil War from 1861
to 1865. Abraham Lincoln used the Emancipation
Proclamation as the 'nuclear option' to 'free' Black
folk during the war.
Somewhere between the Civil War and the Emancipation
Proclamation, Black folk were promised 'forty acres
and a mule' by the FEDERAL government.
Uncle Sam had a chance to get it right.but failed
Still, we did have a few years of Reconstruction--until folk in Washington and the South
developed amnesia. Then, we had an impressive round
of segregation, Jim Crow, 'Separate but Equal', Civil
Rights, and finally the mainstream, depending upon
where you get and how you order your historical
research and timeline.
OTHER FOLKS HAVE BEEN REIMBURSED:
The acres disappeared, the mule never arrived and
history was 'whitewashed'.
I may be a little simplistic in my example, but hear
me out young person. Along the highway of U.S.
History, various other segments of Americans were
compensated for wrongs--real or perceived--done to
them by society. The American Indian was given
various tracts of land called 'Reservations'. No, my
young friend, there were no casinos on these early
gifts from the government. This was a weak attempt at
the government allowing restitution for the various
lands many of the Caucasian forefathers stole after
arriving on these shores many, many, many years ago.
The forefathers not only found that the American
Indian existed, but lived rather well off the land
with an abundance of game and a respect for nature.
Over the course of a few dozen decades, the American
Indian was 'dispossessed' of their land. A handful of
beads here, a massacre there, and germ warfare down
the block (a.k.a. smallpox-infested blankets), and the
USA was under new management.
As you young folk like to say: "I'm not hating.I'm
Let's go down the historic route a little further.
Over on your right, because of a threat during World
War II from the alliance of Nazi Germany, Italy, and
Japan, many Japanese-American citizens were 'scooped
up' by the powers-that-be and shipped off to
'Relocation Centers'. Many of these folks lost jobs,
businesses, and homes in which they had invested, in
search of the American dream. However, a few decades
passed. A bill circulated Capitol Hill. It
eventually became law. The result: restitution, or
R-E-P-A-R-A-T-I-O-N-S were paid to the surviving
family members of those Japanese-Americans who were
physically and economically wronged by Uncle Sam.
Overseas, various methods were found to compensate
families of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Dollar
values were assigned, and checks mailed out to the
survivors of those crimes. In fact, an international
fund was created in order to make sure those companies
who profited from the slave labor supplied by the
Nazis properly compensate the survivors to the dollar.
It took DECADES to get this arrangement approved,
implemented, and put into effect. It will take
DECADES for the survivors to get their fair share.but
their checks are coming regularly.
Question: Who has been left out of the restitution
DON'T BE SWAYED--OR SIDETRACKED:
Until the U.S. 'settles up' with her African American
citizens, America will be a 'good' country.but never a
great country. We, in the USA have plenty of
opportunity and freedom to allow anyone who wants to
succeed to do so. African American income and
earnings exceed expectations every YEAR!
Next generation.do not be fooled, nor sidetracked.
You are the best trained, best educated and
technically-savvy Black folk on the planet. Do not
worry about the 'bling'; demand the 'cha-ching' that
is owed you--and our community--from the years of
uncompensated labor, mistreatment, and deaths of your
ancestors in building this nation.
Don't be swayed over the debate over the 'N' word.
The debate is meant to distract you from the main task
at hand. The 'N' word was originally 'aimed' at Black
folk back in the day, like the words 'boy', 'girl',
'spear chucker' and 'jungle bunny'. Unfortunately for
the 'haters' who coined these terms, Black folk
removed the venom from them and reversed their curse.
You see, the American Indian, the Chinese, the
Japanese and the Korean have derogatory terms for each
other, and derogatory terms that those of the 'lighter
hue' use as to 'insult' them. The Chinese, Japanese,
and Korean Americans merely withdraw to their own
'cities within cities', talk their own language, pass
down their traditions to their children and shut out
the offender. African Americans may not have a
section of a city to call home, but we are learning
that wisdom from a past day: "It is NOT what you CALL
me, but WHAT I ANSWER to!" Once we master THAT
lesson, insults lose their sting, and the truth
develops a rather sharp point.
Yes, I've heard the catcalls. Yes, I understand the
'mock' rage that some 'folk' feel about the use of the
'N' word. Yes, I have visited this issue before in
column form, and coined the phrase: "America, CHECK
Please"! You too, my young entertainer, will
experience the same outrage. Nevertheless, it is up
to you to carry on. It is up to you to keep the
debate active and alive so that WE get our
restitution, just like every other race of people who
have taken part of building America have gotten some
of their wrongs settled out of court.
When young people study the big picture of history
and realize that the 'R' word is far more powerful
than the 'N' word, they will be truly transformed.
They will realize that they no longer need to fear the
sting of being hit by the N word when someone hurls
it. They will have accomplished their 'reasonable
service' for the community, and entered the dangerous
world of truth.
Use the 'N' word if you want to make a
statement: that's free speech.
Use the 'R' word if you want to make history: that's
also free speech.
Make sure America doesn't 'duck' this past due
account for another generation.
Remember one other thing as I close.develop an
ECONOMIC plan to use what you get.when it eventually
MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A
syndicated, monthly column written for men from a
biblical, business, and common-sense perspective.
Emails always welcomed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2006 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications