In this day and age, we as a generation have tried to ease the pain of the past from ourselves and others. Sometimes this means poking fun at some of the past events that were looked upon years ago as horrendous. I’ve heard many people making jokes about enslavement and hangings. We also make jokes about each others backgrounds. We call ourselves “nigga” or “wetback” and try to make light of the words. We sometimes try to justify it as endearing or “turning it around” to make it cool. The truth is that that these words came about because of hate. These words were never meant to have a good connotation.
The media does an amazing job of tricking people into thinking bashing your own race, ethnic group, religious organization, etc. is okay. In movies, television, radio and all other forms of media people are constantly making fun of themselves. They are ignorant to the fact that these words still hurt. They also live up to the negative background these words give them. In hip-hop music I hear the words “nigga” every five seconds. Is there an explanation for this? The real contradictory act comes about when someone of another race calls a black person “nigga.” They may be trying to fit in and not mean any harm by it at all, but then black people get really mad and want to fight. This is a problem. If you don’t want everyone to say it, then you also have to live up to not saying it. Because the word is used so often, it seems like it is okay to say. I personally cringe every time I hear the word. Now, I know that the argument is that anybody can be called an N-Word because it is supposed to mean ignorant, but do you want to label yourself as ignorant? That is still horrible and no one deserves it.
One example of the media having a negative influence on perceptions of diversity is in the February 2009 issue of Essence magazine. They have a monthly “10 Things We’re Talking About” feature (compiled by Cynthia Gordy) and on the list was a quote from rapper, Soulja Boy. He is quoted saying during an interview with a BET correspondent, “Shout out to the slave masters! Without them we’d still be in Africa. We wouldn’t be here to get this ice and tattoos.” He later stated that he was only joking. To me, this is not something to joke about. Enslavement of innocent human beings is not something to joke about. I am appalled that he failed to realize that these were his ancestors he was poking fun at. Soulja Boy, like many others, seem to have forgotten from where they came. The Africans didn’t sail to America on a luxury carnival cruise, and they were not greeted at the piers with fine whine and cheese. Even though he said he was only joking, the words still sting and are highly inappropriate.
We all, not just African-Americans, have been discriminated against for some reason or another. It could be your religion, weight, sexuality or anything else about you that people don’t like. I do not agree with using words that bring others down as terms of endearment. I honestly have no idea who came up with the concept and why it is so supported. We are supposed to rise up from those stereotypes, not constantly degrade each other with evil words. I see little kids walking around using these words and it’s wrong. They have no idea what or why they are saying these things. They are using hurtful words because they see us using them. It is a vicious cycle that has yet to end.
There is no harm in joking around with your friends, but is it right to make fun of an era in history that has shaped the racial tensions of today? Can you imagine one of your friends or family members being whipped and chained with no hope of escape? If you can, I would ponder on that thought for a moment and then think about what you are really saying. According to Soulja Boy, the only important things in life are “ice” and “tattoos,” but I would like to think that we as college students are smarter than him and want more than that. We know that our ancestors were not brought over here for freedom and a life of happiness, so it is up to us to keep that dream of “rising above” alive. They paved the way for all of us; the least we could do is give them the respect we owe them.
The next time you call yourself or a friend, a “nigga,” “chink,” “guido,” “fag,” or whatever “endearing” term you use, think about those who came before you. There were many activists that stood up for each group that is discriminated against today. Don’t be like Soulja Boy, be a solider for respect and equality.