Racist Comments by White People
The word nigger has as much power over me as some benign word such as boy. It is not the word that is the problem. The problem is the sentiment behind the word.
White people profess to have no idea why black people would probably accept the word nigger from another black person but would get angry at being referred to as a nigger by white people. Yet, if I were to be pulled over by a police officer and called him boy, a term of endearment if it came from his parents, I’m sure my opportunity for a favorable outcome would be negatively impacted considerably. Why would a police officer take offense to being called boy? Obviously, the cop would interpret this black man calling him boy as a challenge to his authority and, possibly, his manhood. In the language of certain people the word boy can be interpreted as an attempt to demean, dominate, and humiliate. For many people it is possible and understandable for a police officer to take offense of something so benign as the word boy in just an instant why would it be difficult for people to understand why black people would take offense to white people using the word nigger when the word has been used for centuries as a derogatory tool for the humiliation and denigration of the black race?
The white community has a tendency to choose not to understand the black experience or apply the same consideration to the black community that they would give to each other. They claim to be obtuse to the insults they are constantly making against the black community. And since there are so many black people who are super quick to dismiss any offenses made by white people and come to their defense at the drop of any hat the opportunity for the black community to actually educate the white community and give clear guidance for proper racial etiquette in such a confusing topic becomes lost in a forgiving cloud of tolerance of their indifference. There are a number of instances for that support my supposition:
When Don Imus made his disparaging comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team on his television show the black community responded by demanding his removal. Initially the black community was rebuffed as nothing more than the latest nuisance by people with little influence on corporate America. But when black people started to use a strategy with economic repercussions for the sponsors Mr. Imus’ show was cancelled. Stanley Crouch and Jason Whitlock popped out of the woodwork to focus their criticism of the black community for ignoring the language of rappers but coming down hard on poor Mr. Imus.
When Wolf Blitzer was doing one particular episode of the Situation Room during hurricane Katrina the contributing reporter was making a remark on how poor people were unable to evacuate the city. The corresponding video showed an image of black people wading through chest high water. The reporter talked about the poverty of the people left behind. Mr. Blitzer had to add his two cents and made a comment on how the people were so very black. Mr. Blitzer’s comment was inappropriate and unnecessary. Mr. Blitzer has never made a comment about how somebody in a news article was so very white. But Mr. Blitzer thinks it’s unfair that the black community reacts to what he said of the blackness of the people in the article. Mr. Blitzer defends his lack of discretion by saying something that continues his contempt by saying, “Well gee, I don’t know what to call black people now.” So much for all this bull about a colorblind society.
It is not the words that hurt. It is not the word that is offensive. It is the intent of the people using the word. The idea of a white person using the word nigger or even the word boy is offensive. The long history of white people using these words and many others in an attempt to demean the black man and to injure his masculinity is not easily forgotten with just a lame confession of racial ignorance. Mr. Blitzer knows exactly what he thinks of black people and just happened to slip out one day. Mr. Imus can claim that he didn’t know black people get offended at having our women referred to as nappy headed whores. He’s heard too many gangsta rap songs that gave him the wrong impression. But the millionaire radio talk show personality is far from being the impressionable neophyte who made an honest mistake. Don Imus made a conscious choice to be racially offensive to black people that particular day.
And lastly, and sadly, when the racially offensive white person garners too much public attention for their racial transgressions, they can quickly find a flaccid black person who is all too willing to advise other black people to look the other way and to not react to what we may hear. Words have no power. The only power that words have is the power we give them. Many high profile blacks do much to defuse an opportunity for the white corporate community to learn to take the black community more seriously and simply give white people carte blanche to do and say whatever.
Bill O’Reilly can say so much about how he visited a black restaurant and was so impressed that black people behave no differently than white people and Juan Williams wants to give him a pass because Mr. O’Reilly was trying to pay black people a compliment. With so many black people giving so many flippant white people an excuse for the small opinion of black people white people have no incentive to treat African Americans with the same respect the bestow each other.
It is not the words they use. Whether or not the word is boy or the word is nigger isn’t even close to being the issue. Whatever words are chosen the people need to remember that the words are just another tool white people use to show the black community just how little they think of us.