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King Should Replace the N-Word as Our Term of Endearment

by Todd A. Smith

What up King?

          In 1940, poet Langston Hughes gave an eloquent interpretation on the controversy surrounding the N-word in his autobiography The Big Sea.

          He said, “Used rightly or wrongly, ironically or seriously of necessity for the sake of realism, or impishly for the sake of comedy it doesn’t matter.  Negroes do not like it in any book or play whatsoever, be the book or play ever so sympathetic in its treatment of the basic problems of the race.

          “Even though the book or play is written by a Negro, they still do not like it.  The word nigger, you see, sums up for us who are colored all the bitter years of struggle and insult in America.”

          Almost 75 years later, the N-word is still the most polarizing and controversial word in the English lexicon. 

          While hip-hop artists as far back as N.W.A. and comedians as far back as Richard Pryor made the N-word “acceptable” to some African Americans, many still see the word for what it truly is, the cruelest racial slur in the history of mankind.

          The National Football League (NFL), at the request of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, is considering penalizing players 15 yards for using the N-word on the gridiron. 

While many in the Black community, like ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, have criticized NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is White, for telling Black people what they can and cannot say, others at ESPN like Cris Carter have correctly stated that the NFL is a place of employment and employers can regulate the behavior and speech of employees in the workplace.

          Tuesday on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” radio show, Carter along with hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg correctly stated that even though one is free to use whatever language they choose amongst their friends, they highly doubt that a young African American would use that word on a job interview, so why use it on the job at all?

          Although eliminating the N-word from the football field will not solve the problem of racism or ease the pain of racial slurs, the conversation that the proposed rule is generating is much needed.

          The N-word has been described as a term of endearment, but the history of the word has no endearing qualities. 

          The word harkens back to a time when African Americans were regarded as subhuman and even less than animals.

          Our history as a people does have an endearing legacy, but it begins in Africa where we were literally kings and queens of African nations and villages. 

Author and motivational speaker Jay Barnett of The Me Project often says, and I agree, if anyone wants to refer to Black men with a term of endearment, let it be King because that word describes our history as a people better than any racial slur could.

          Furthermore, if I am a King, the ladies in my life (from mother and sister to wife and daughter) are definitely not b****** or h***, but Queens.

          According to the African American Registry, “whether used as a noun, verb, or adjective, (the N-word) strengthened the stereotype of the lazy, stupid, dirty, worthless nobody.  No other American surname carries as much purposeful cruelty.”

          The non-profit organization went on to list different uses of the racial slur, all with negative connotations.

          Nigger lover is a White person who does not hate Blacks.

          Nigger stick is a police baton.

          Nigger shooter is a slingshot.

          Nigger tip is a very small tip at a restaurant.

          Nigger heaven is the balcony of a segregated theater.

          Nigger debt is not having much money, but living a flamboyant lifestyle.

          None of the aforementioned terms seem endearing to me.

          King, on the contrary, is defined as “the male ruler of an independent state, especially one who inherits the position by right of birth.”

          *King Hannibal—born in Carthage, which is present day Tunis in North Africa, in 247 B.C. and said to be the greatest military strategist of all time.

          *King Mansa Musa I (Emperor Moses)—ruled Mali from 1312 to 1337, expanding the Malian influence over the city-states of Timbuktu, Djenne and Gao.  He was a major influence on the world’s first university, University of Timbuktu, and would be the richest man ever in today’s currency (worth over $400 billion).

          *Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton)—the husband of Nefertiti is credited as being the founder of the first monotheistic religion, ruling Egypt from approximately 1352-1336 B.C.  Before Jesus Christ and Muhammad, he preached about “perfect love, perfect truth and perfect brotherhood.”

          Ultimately, these three kings are the perfect example of where we come from as Black men and women.

          I am the first to admit that I use the N-word in casual conversations and that is not something that I am proud of.  I work everyday to eliminate it from my vocabulary.

          Furthermore, even if the N-word was a term of endearment, it is too weak of a word to describe my lineage as a Black man.

          My ancestors were rulers of countries and kingdoms and that makes me feel good about being a Black man.

          I am not a nigger.  I am a king, and I refuse to be called otherwise by anybody, Black or White.

*According to the Atlanta Black Star

This article was published on Friday 28 February, 2014.
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