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To begin with I can guarantee that some folk are going to get choked reading this. I make no apologies since that reaction is pretty much exactly what this essay is about. That being said, here goes.

If you mean to say "nigger" don't use "the 'N' word", just say nigger. That's the gist of the thesis, which I'm about to argue. How's that for a punchy/provocative start eh?

The first thing that you have to accept is that words do not, in and of themselves, exist. They exist only because we utilize them and their meaning is independent of the sound. If the first caveman that came across a canine had grunted, "cat" rather than "dog" then cats would bark and God knows what dogs would do.

If you can accept that then it follows that no word can be inherently good or bad. A word is just an audible signal of intent. If your intention is bad then the word is bad, if your intention is good then the word is good. Stub your toe and say, "glass". You will know that you meant "shit" and so will everyone around you. Nothing will have changed in the message sent other than the sound. Different wrapping on the same box.

Hopefully you are with me so far and can see that the next truth is that words only have what power we give to them by mutual accord. The quickest way to confer added power to anything is to outlaw it or render it taboo. This is as true of words as it of anything else. This brings us around to nigger.

Taking this epithet and referring to it by its initial makes clear that this word has power, so much so that we dare not speak the whole word. There are only two words that are known by their first letter and you can see how effect abbreviation is by the example of the first - fuck.

Experience shows that "the 'F' word" failed in its attempt to eliminate the word from the lips of the people. This does not bode well for the elimination of nigger from our lexicon by substitution of "the 'N' word". I only threw this in to anticipate those people who were thinking, "but if we say 'N' word then people will stop saying nigger".

Now onto the big one - the racial factor. Saying nigger must mean that you are racist because it is a racist word. As I already pointed out, a word can't have a character. Only the speaker can be racist the word it itself - as a sound - can no more be racist than the ringing of a bell or the breaking of glass.

If you are a racist then what you say will be racist. If you are not so handicapped then what you say won't be either. I offer this example.

"It's those God-damned niggers"
"It's those God-damned African Americans"
"It's those God-damned 'N' words"

Is there any real difference between the three? All of them are certainly ugly regardless which term is used. Ugly sounds as ugly is and no vocal cosmetic can hide the deformity of thought.

"I've never had a problem with a nigger"
"I've never had a problem with an African American"
"I've never had a problem with an 'N' word".

The cynics out there are saying, "Each of those statements has a forthcoming, "but". This is an all too, sadly, true observation, but I want you to assume that the speaker is expressing a sincere indifference race. Are any of them worse than the others? Phrased another way, would you rather be rescued by a person who calls you nigger or lynched by a person who calls you African American? The "you" I just referred to is the collective and hypothetical "you" - it is NOT directed specifically to people of the more melanin profuse people. Just had to clear that up.

Now for the capitulation, I don't say the word nigger more than two or three times a year. I wasn't brought up with that term I was brought up with "black" and that is the word that I use.

I'm certain that some people are offended by that one too but that means no more to me than white does. People are people and no matter what colour you are most of you suck - skin tone is no more than house paint. Notice how I just defended my moral position on race? Pretty nifty huh?

The truth is that I don't like the word's aesthetic so I seldom employ it. If I found the word appealing I'd use it without apology. So nope, this isn't an attempt on my part to argue in favour of a word I want to be able to use. It is an argument against this surrender to the tyranny of our creations.

"The 'N' word" is so hideous genteel that it serves to lend power to the word and at the same time kind of suggests denial along the lines of "me thinks the lady protests too much". Furthermore, it sounds stupid.

So to wrap up on the side of the 'N' word we have ridding us of a blight and racial sensitivity. Pretty potent combination.

On the side of nigger we have the proven durability of repressed words and the assertion that it is the intent that is important and a "polite" term is often a perfumed dagger. These latter skillfully shown by yours truly.

IF this gets printed - though disappointed, I'd understand if it was rejected - I'm looking forward to all of your thoughts.

Bliss


------
But would I be a good Messiah with my low self-esteem? / If I don't believe in myself would that be blasphemy? - The Bloodhound Gang Hell Yeah



Comments

The following comments are for "Words, Specifically "The 'N' Word""
by Enforced Bliss

Bra-vo!
I am going to whole heartedly give you a 10 for this. I'm telling you straight off before I forget.

I, having a black sibling, have never used the word you're defending, and indeed cannot bring myself to write it, but I feel very strongly that this article makes ALOT of sense.
I award you a ten for this alone. Anyone who can persuade me, a stead fast anti-racist, that the term may not be so bad as the person saying it, deserves as much.

Re the structure: I found it well thought out, with a good flow from one idea to the next. I particularly like the Cat/Dog analogy.
I found the personal (subjective if you will) voice a little unorthadox to the usual objective perspective which this type of writing usually requires, but that said, I find that it works to show that you take responsibility for these views, and are willing to back them up, with out hiding behind faceless prose.

To end, I won't be using the word daily, but I certainly, after reading this, will not be jumping straight down anyone's throat for using the word. I believe you have done superbly.

Jasmine
-X-

( Posted by: Jasmine [Member] On: September 28, 2003 )

No way
would I agree that most of us suck, you're entitled to have that opinion, naturally, so that's that.
I enjoyed agreeing with everything else you have said in this essay. Well presented and carefully thought out. 9/10
Cheers
Paul the Ogg

( Posted by: ogg [Member] On: September 28, 2003 )

thoughts
Well, you sadi that you were looking forward to our thoughts, so here we go...

Saying that there is no inherent difference between saying 'nigger' and saying 'African American' is ridiculous. If someone that I was speaking to used the word 'nigger' I would instinctively draw conclusions about their attitudes, values and upbringing. In my own case, the use of this language would probably alienate me from the person speaking to a profound enough extant that I would cast doubt over their credibility. That is, it changes the MEANING of what is being said through altering the subjective experience of the listener.

I think that there is a much greater inherent danger of phrases like 'the 'N' word' in that these sort of phrases come into use in collusion with a culture of denial. 'If we don't call you 'nigger' now then we can pretend that those years of slavery and brutality never happened, ok?'. But at the same time I don't believe that 'nigger' means the same thing as 'African American' of even 'black'. Why? Becasue the latter two words at least convey an attempt to show respect for a racial divide that continues to repress people for no other reason than because they have that are of the 'more melanin profuse people'.

I have to say that my first response to the phrase 'would you rather be rescued by a person who calls you nigger or lynched by a person who calls you African American?' was 'would you rather die on your feet or live on your knees?'. Racial distinctions are not only damaging if they physically harm people, they're also damaging if they imbue them with a constant feeling of being considered 'other' with a community.

To add to that, a note on style: when one is having trouble consolidating the ideas of a piece, comments such as 'skillfully shown by yours truly' really just serve to make one want to designate you the next subject for the lynch mob.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate everything about this piece. I think that you raised an interesting topic and it served as a springboard for me to consider the idea more than I otherwise would have. I just think that it was a little arrogant and relied too much on the thrill of talking about something 'taboo' and not enough on thinking through the issue.

PS- there are a few more words than 'fuck' and 'nigger' that get the first letter treatment, my person favourite is 'cunt'.

( Posted by: lu [Member] On: September 28, 2003 )

Lu et al
I will respond to my supporters en masse simply in order to save time and space; thank you for your comments and agreement. You are obviously all highly intelligent and well-informed people ;)

Now to the fun one. Hi Lu.

Your first point is adressed directly in the essay in that I assert that what one must take into consideration is the context and intent of the word. If merely hearing one label in place of another is enough to permanently colour your peception of the person I would say that is more your issue than theirs.

That being said I know that there are a fair number of people out there who think like you do and so some weight must be given to your argument.

Your statement about "collusion with a culture of denial" is well-phrased and well-taken as that is a part of the genesis of my thesis.

I disagree however that there is a significant difference in the amount of "respect" the three-words contain. If the Grand Dragon of the KKK were to deliver a racially inflamatory speech about this planet's longest human residents it would be rendered no less racist or vile by the inclusion of African American in place of other terms.

I honestly don't see what role the position of one's living or dying has in the whole thing but I'm not always the most perceptive. The point that I was trying to make is that it is the intention and actions that go along with a word are what determine its value and meaning - not the other way around.

I can appreciate that you mightn't have liked the style but you missed the point. The interior comments were not placed there out of an inability to consolodate ideas. Each of them is meant to be taken somewhat tongue in cheek - gentle self-deprecation if you will.

Nor was this written for the thrill of addressing something taboo. This isa bug that has be biting my ass for a few years now and last night I decided to give written vent to it. Presuposition is a bad thing Lu.

Finally your PS, cunt is not commonly known as "the 'C' word" if for no other reason than the possible confusion with another 'C' word.

Thank you for your comments and the obvious thought you put into them. While I can't agree with your arguments or the conclusion drawn I can say that at least you stated them well.

Last but not least Chris - Thank you for printing this, I wasn't sure you would and I couldn't blame you if you didn't. Printing it took some guts man. Well-done.

( Posted by: Enforced Bliss [Member] On: September 28, 2003 )

interesting
I read through it and didn't read any ideas I haven't already thought of. Though you conveyed them well, if not a bit confusingly at times. Though it was a good essay. I give it a 8/10.

Though, to inform some people, the word nigger is in fact european (or something to that effect) and means ignorant. Thus, there are two immediate meanings for the word nigger. One, it means an ignorant person, and two (modified) means refering to a 'black' person in a derogatory manner.

Yaa for opinion!

Words are words. Fag can mean cigarette, it can be a derogatory term for homosexuals, or it could very well mean something totally different. Society creates slang terms for all words, and to think one word means something specifically universally is silly. You have to take every individual situation and think for yourself whether a person is actually using the word in a particular way.

( Posted by: hfox9er [Member] On: September 29, 2003 )

From your friendly neighborhood Prairie "N-word"
You have often asked, when I was close at hand, for an honest critique. Being around occasionally, I often tried to give it. Again, although unsolicited, here I go again.

The information is excellent, the presentation needs work. There is only a couple of places I didn’t agree with stylistically, and felt that if you were to remove them from the final product, you would add more punch to the essay. Specifically, they are: “How's that for a punchy/provocative start eh?”, “Notice how I just defended my moral position on race? Pretty nifty huh?”, and “So to wrap up on the side of the 'N' word…”.

Overall, the essay is great. It does contain one of my favorite lines (of yours) to date, and that is: “No vocal cosmetic can hide the deformity of thought.” I know, it’s stock, but I’m all for maxims.

Overall, I give it a 7/10, because I know that you can write much more powerfully than this. (Not being an expert, my opinion is only my own, and over the years, between you and I, we know what that is worth).

R.L.Angus

( Posted by: SOTA [Member] On: September 29, 2003 )

~Well, We are All God's Children~
~EnforceBliss~
All I can say on this matter is
"We are all GOD'S Children, and We all Bleed the Same. Unless, there is a nother color of blood that I don't know about.

Some People in this world are just "Flamboyant"

My greatest weapon on this earth is "Prayer"
things like this will come to pass, very soon

Blessings

{{{Jeannie}}}

( Posted by: JEANNIE45 [Member] On: September 30, 2003 )

JEANNIE
Your comment is 100% irrelevant. The essay was about a WORD not about people and whose children we may be.

Keep 'em coming if you so desire, but keep 'em at least in the neighbourhood of close to the topic. Thanks.

Bliss

( Posted by: enforced bliss [Member] On: October 1, 2003 )

the "N"word/Bliss
I for one know that you was talking about the "N' word. But also, giving under circumstances, that word, is directed toward people, so yes from my point of view, it involves people. and I'm already with the program

si' senor

Blessings

{{{Jeannie}}}

( Posted by: JEANNIE45 [Member] On: October 2, 2003 )

The N Word
I have to comment on this piece. First of all, I really liked this piece. I don't feel so bad now when something slips out of my mouth. My great uncle had a black dog and they called it the N word, yes it was terrible of them. When I have used that word, which is rarely, it is because my kids are demanding so much that I get pissed off and say I'm not your nigger. I'm not saying that as being black but as a slave. I had to explain that one to my girls.
Why do black people (I hate that word as well) use nigger between themselves but anyone who is not black can't use it? It's just like natives, oh sorry First Nations People. You don't dare call one an indian to his/her face because you will soon find yourself stripped naked and tied to the nearest tree, but yet it's alright for them to call each other that? Myself, being a Metis, the word halfbreed or Wannabe has been flung around inside family groups, but heaven forbid anyone call us that to our face. So, there you go, I even stereo type, though I hate it. But we are in a world of different races, a world that wants distinct races because they believe is where their values and heritage lies. Last example. my girls. We have a female pup, and my youngest will go out of her way and call her a Bitch. She argues the point, "well she is a bitch, female dog." She just wants to use it for shock value.
Good job, Elliott, thanks for making me think.

Kimberly

( Posted by: kimberly bird [Member] On: October 9, 2003 )





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