The N-Word: Ain't NO PASS
As a people our culture, is our fingerprint, it's our blueprint to who we are and what we will become. When I decided to write this piece I struggled with its intention. Was I trying to strike down a fluffed up character like YesJulz (now coined as NoJulz) or was I trying to show the world the error of our ways? The simple answer is both.
Hip-Hop in its original form was about peace, happiness, love, and awareness. In evolved into a political triumvirate of pain, melody, and a lyrical window in the world of the disenfranchised. Its influence became undeniable and stretched far out across the world. Like most things in life people not of our ilk attached themselves to it as a way to get rich and sucked our art form dry. What the artist saw as the outlet, the capitalist saw another vein to stick his dirty needle.
When the commercialization of our struggle became profitable giant corporations latched onto our culture with no chance of letting go. The message became watered down and only a few true emcees thrived. The Notorious B.I.G. once said, "you either sling crack rock or you gotta wicked jump shot". That was a metaphor of how hard it was to be impoverished and rise to prominence. You see the ceiling was always made of glass for a person of color, and your ability to climb was always blocked by someone less deserving. This culture became a means to an impossible end, yet we thrived for the diamond in the back and the sun rooftop. Assimilation of culture brought out the imposters mostly white and some black. Some were real about the love and progression of our movement while others just fell in love with the C.R.E.A.M.
Our culture once had a code but somewhere along the lines, we lost our way.
There is no pass for black folk in America. There is no alternative route for acceptance as long as you skin radiates with melanin. Money may open doors but we quickly forget who held those same doors closed for all these years. The same people who don't see us as anything more but a vessel for their progression, want us to believe the playing field is level. You can talk like them, you can speak like them, but you will always be a nigger. Sounds harsh when you say it out loud but it's better that you hear it from me than anyone else.
"Every step you take they remind you, you ghetto." - Jay-Z
So why should we as a people give out cultural passes to those who only wish to use us for personal gain? The quick answer is we shouldn't. I'm reminded of the time when I first moved to Canarsie and the two whitest people I encountered were allowed to say the n-word freely. The first occasion was a few blocks away from my house while watching a group of kids playing basketball. I was all of 14 years of age, watching kids around my age play ball, majority black, and one white stringy haired blonde kid. Things were normal but as the chatter grew louder I swore I could hear this white boy as clear as day say "nigga". It was an instant shock but I figured I heard him wrong. Then, soon after he immediately said it again and I waited for the consequences. Surprisingly, nothing happened. Nobody blinked, nobody was offended, they just continued on. It was a literal shock to my system. I mean nigga was first introduced to me in a negative light, then a positive one. I never understood why as a people we said it to one another and I never asked. However, I always knew that if you weren't black that word was threatening and a cause for violence. I didn't get to play ball that day. I left more confused than anything. Why was this white boy granted amnesty around a bunch of black kids? Was it because they were friends, was it possible because of his upbringing around us and him constantly hearing the word he was given a pardon? One thing for sure, that day I left with more questions than answers.
The second time I encountered a similar situation was the other white kid who lived maybe a block away. Nothing about him suggested that he would be given a "pass" to say those words but alas he did. Quite freely, in fact, the only white kid around us who had no problem with uttering nigga. This time around though I wasn't shocked nor was I upset. I was still this teenager trying to understand why no one else was offended or saying anything. I didn't want to be the only person speaking out. In hindsight, I should have spoken up but instead, I let it rock. I granted him a pass without uttering a word. What was interesting about this person he felt free to discuss black culture with us from his privileged point of view. As we got older his position on us became more volatile and judgemental. Imagine a white boy growing up around black people with nothing positive to say about black culture all the while being given a pass to say, nigga. Dating black and latino women as his preference but constantly reminding us of "black on black crime" or telling us we were the exception but not the rule. As I grew with intelligence, these conversations became heated debates. As I became aware of how dangerous he was I felt more and more threatened. Not threatened in the sense of fear but threatened by a probable enemy being so close. The worst thing for him was for me to start being edified on black culture. As time went on he grew more and more aware of who I was becoming and my influence on the others around me and that n-word started to come out less and less. It was our fault, we allowed this to go on because we felt he could identify with our struggle. He grew up around us, kicked slang like us, chased the same women but he wasn't us. He still spoke from a privileged position like we never entered his shitty house. As if we never knew his filthy stories about being afraid he caught an STD or his jobless father. None of this mattered to him at all. He still carried on like he was better. You see that is the epitome of white privilege. No matter what the circumstances as long as he wasn't black he was able to put himself on a higher pedestal than us. Even as I write this now I am ashamed of two things, not speaking up sooner and calling him a friend.
When the pressure finally built we were fully at odds. He didn't come around anymore and he found himself a new set of white friends. By this time I was reading more and more educated than I was in my adolescence. I was vocal about the culture vultures and societies ills towards black people and he became the opposite. The biggest reveal of his nature came on Facebook when every post was a racial troll. Every time I spoke towards our condition he felt like it was an introduction to a debate. A person who grew up ate, drank, and laughed with black people for a good portion of his LIFE was now an enemy. Something shifted in America when Trayvon Martin was gunned down, not only by him but other white people I had befriended. People who I associated with at work who I never had a problem with before started to speak their minds from that white privilege playbook and the rift had gotten even bigger. One by one these people weren't afraid to show their allegiance to their race. One by one the people who I would eat and laugh with became the enemy. You would think that the people who seen black folk up close and personal, who shared and delighted in our culture would understand us more but alas none of that was true. With America becoming what is has, you can feel the eyes even more while you move about the world. Are you friend or are you foe? Can you understand that things like "Black Lives Matter" isn't to harm you but to bring awareness to the disenfranchised men, women, and children who call themselves Americans?
Now back to this culture of ours and the people who only choose to profit off of us. I don't care how many black friends you have, or how many black people you've fucked or if you know the words to every hip-hop song. That word, nigga, don't say it. Don't repeat it in music, don't say it amongst friends, and don't say it in private. To my people, there is no pass. There will never be a nigga pass, and if you think there is one check yourself. Don't put yourself or anyone else in harm's way for acceptance. Finally to you Ms. Julz, it would behoove you to no longer create enemies amongst the black delegation. We are powerful, we are here and we are watching.
Ain't no pass!