I’d rather be ya N-I-G-G-A (Don’t Be Afraid of a Long Post)

This is “Part 2” of a discussion I’ve been having with Sherella(Tryn_2_Make_It). “Part 1“, began with us discussing situations of subtle racism in our lives and led to , what I feel, is an abuse of terminology. Please read part 1 to get an idea of the conversation but below is Part 2.
I think we all have a story, or two or three or four, but lately, writing has forced me to look at these situations more objectively…Ghetto is not, and has never been, a term synonymous with Black people, but we’ve popularized the term, and in doing so, have taken ownership. So I think somehow, it feels like “Black people=ghetto.”The term ghetto “historically referred to restricted housing zones where Jews were required to live…” (read more). Though I think that ghetto has taken on several connotations for us…In the 70s, it seems that people living in the ghetto had ambitions to get out (as far as it was portrayed in sitcoms i.e., the media, at that time. Re: Good Times and The Jefferson’s…and later on in HipHop, with The Message) and now it seems that the pervading connotation is that real blackness (the struggle, the identity with the struggle that comes from being Black in the ghetto) can only come from
the ghetto (a la the legend of B.I.G., Pac, 50 cent) …and “getting ghetto” refers to debasing oneself by way of boisterous bravado to get ahead or get one’s point across.Connotation carries a strong meaning. I wish race didn’t matter so much in my day-to-day life. I wish I didn’t systematically wonder if I was being treated in a particular manner because I am black…and I get sick of it too. So I try to ignore it but it crops up all the time…A few months ago I read a quote:“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”It is so simple, that it must be right. For we infer other people’s estimation of ourselves. Unless it is explicitly stated, how else do we know what someone thinks of us? I forget this a lot though, I’ll admit.But it is still more confusing to me because I feel that we’ve taken “ownership” of some terms without being fully comfortable with their meanings…what is the “nigger vs. nigga” debate all about? Why is it that only a black person can call a black person a nigga, but it isn’t even a term we coined in the first place? And if we’ve reclaimed it and changed its meaning, why are we still offended at its utterance? Haven’t we “changed” the meaning by popularizing it?Somehow, when I was in high school, I conjured this equation: college=rich people. In my senior year of high school, I had to type a ten-page paper for English and I used a friend’s computer at the dorms in LaSalle. It was the first time I’d been near a college. I sat in her room typing that paper feeling sorry for myself because I thought that I couldn’t go to college. I told her that I wished I could, but I had already written it off. She told me about FAFSA and a special admissions program for LaSalle. I applied to LaSalle and Temple and Chestnut Hill College…I was accepted into all three, but I chose LaSalle because of what I had dubbed, “The Program.” I prayed to God every night to get into The Program.The Program promised substantial financial assistance and LaSalle wasn’t very big or far away from home…I started the program two weeks after I graduated from high school. During the first week the director announced that The Program would award a five-year tuition and books scholarship to the two students who earned the highest grades at its conclusion. I put forth my best effort. I got it.That is my little success story…I think of it quite often because my life would have been completely different if she wouldn’t have cleared that little misconception for me.I certainly don’t think I’ve rid Black people of the ghetto debate, but sometimes I like to think that I change things when I change my mind about them (and keep it changed).Just my .02
At 1:59 AM, Donovan said…
Although I do know the history of the term ghetto, I do not underestimate the power of connotation. And the black=ghetto connotation(in my opinion)is not something that we have ever taken on. Like most of African American terminology, it was placed on us by white social anthropologist and we then (maybe unwisely) embraced it.
The “nigga” Vs. “nigger” debate is at times frustrating because it can be so complex but I ultimately fall on the side of “I can say it. But I would be offended if called it be someone white.”The fact of the matter is that black people in America share a common experience and recognize that we are not “niggers”. I in some ways relate it to the way siblings speak to eachother. I have a sister ,with whom I am very close, and in daily conversation I may say “What’s up Cow”. This ,to us, is exceptable because she knows my heart and knows that I am not actually calling her a cow.Nigger, or in that case cow, has no actual meaning. It is a sort of a place holder for a multitude of terms: sis,girl,bro,man,cuz. But as people who share a common experience we know that we are not saying
Nigger:a term of casual contempt, an assumption of inherent inferiority, even of bestiality,The fact of the matter is that no other culture shares our history or cultural experience so if they were to say “nigger” it can in no we be backed by that foundation.
In short, It takes a “nigga” to know a “nigga” and it takes someone who’s experienced the “ghetto” to know the “ghetto”.
Please comment on what you think.
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