by Seattle Washington
I hear it all the time from rappers, comedians and, unfortunately, Black kids outside my job. I’ve almost become accustomed to it. But when I heard “nigga” uttered by some Jewish guy at a party this past weekend, I almost became one.
I’m getting ahead of myself, let me set the scene for you. It was a cool summer night and I’m chillin with some folks from work, their friends and their friends of friends on my co-workers roof deck. Yeah, new opportunities means new rewards. The closest I’ve gotten to a roof deck party before working at my job was hanging on top of my boy’s apartment building in Harlem. Still fun, just a different type. Nonetheless, I got there a little late (on CP Time) and all the people I knew were already wrecked slightly intoxicated. By the time I’ve gotten an 1/8th towards catching up to them, they were already passed out or had left for fear of falling off the roof deck. It’s all good, I make friends easily. That’s what I do. After all, who doesn’t love an eloquent Black guy?
After a little while, a group of Black guys and their Jewish friend walk in. Cool. No one likes to be the token Black dude. Of course, I end up talking to the clique because all Black people are born with a gene that makes us huddle together like bums around a trash fire on a winter night. After some jokes and getting to know where these cats were from, their Jewish friend decided to quote Dave Chappelle. Cool. As expected. Can’t go throughout the night without one Dave reference. What I didn’t expect was for him to mumble “nigga” underneath his breath. I paused. Did he just say what I think he said? I looked around at his four Black friends and friends of friends and their faces didn’t change so maybe I was mistaken.
I wasn’t. I guess he took that as permission to say it freely now, so he quoted another Dave Chappelle joke this time saying “nigga” quite loudly. Well, thanks for clearing it up for me buddy. And now I’m pissed. For three reasons. One, because he had the audacity to say “nigga” in front of me (yep, audacity. you know someone’s mad when they say audacity). Two, because none of the Black guys he rolled with decided to check him and now I have to. Three, because even though I want to deck this cat and throw him down the stairs so badly, I can’t. I’m at my co-workers crib. Where does that leave me? I put my hand on the man’s back and told him to calm that [expletive] down while staring at him. His Black friends started to laugh nervously, while the Jewish kid cried out, “Aww, c’mon man.” After some puffing of the chest, staring down and saying something to the effect of, “I don’t know you. They might, but I don’t.” he backed off and then I stepped away. Thinking to myself, if this cat wants to start something, let him come to me. Then I’ll knock his ass the f*ck out. Talk to him calmly and explain why he shouldn’t do that, for his own well being.
Realizing a bad situation, the diversity crew walked away. One of the Jewish kid’s friend of a friend did a good job calming me down, apologizing and justifying my frustrations. After talking to the dude I realized he’s cool. Nonetheless, the conversation didn’t stop me from wanting to show the dude what a “nigga” really is. After some time, the Jewish cat apologized. I nodded, accepted it and kept it moving. I was hoping he did too because there’s nothing as alluring as a stationary target.
I realized a couple things that night. First off, things have changed. Well, the job has changed things. And not just what type of roofs I chill on. Before having one, if I was in the same situation there would have been a lot less talking and a lot more action without an afterthought. Now, jail time, loss of my gig and more importantly, loss of respect crosses my mind. Is that for the best? Is verbally intimidating and belittling some ignorant cat just as good as physical action? I can tell you, it wasn’t as satisfying.
Secondly, and more importantly, I thought about the usage of the word “nigga”. As a dude who’s been called both a “nigger” and a “nigga”, I have mixed feelings about it. Should we really be saying it all the time? I cringe when I’m walking with co-workers to grab some lunch and I hear some Black kids screaming the word back and forth to each other. But on the other hand, I still say it when I’m with my boys. Just not as often as I used to. It’s not really work appropriate to say “Good morning my nigga” to my boss, so I’ve cut down slightly. Is “nigga” really just an evolution of a word symbolic of racism, slavery and the inhumane treatment of our ancestors? Is continuing to use it just perpetuating that history so it can live on through future generations who have no clue what substance it truly holds? Or is it just our word now and America should deal with it and not try to assimilate it like they have everything else in Black culture?
I’ve got my opinion and I’ll state it later, but in the meantime I would like to hear yours.
*** Seattle Washington does not condone violence. I usually have a great temperament, but there are two things set me off and ignorant actions are one of them. All else is folly. As a wise man once said, “don’t argue with fools because people from a distance can’t tell who is who.”