Friday, February 5, 2010

Who' You Callin' a Negro?

So you already know about Senator Reid calling his friend a negro. A safe negro. As in "Obama won the election because he doesn't have a Black dialect" negro. And at this point we've moved on to the State of the Union Address, and whether or not conservatives will allow our brightest leader yet to bring the country out of complacency. Even while we're still talking about Haiti and not about how Haiti became poor, in the first place, the negro thing keeps coming back and coming back.


If you're up on your pre-colonial history, you're hip to the fact that the term negro was initially necro. Old Greek for dead, corpse, nothing. Hannibal, who gave Italians their darker hue, and the Moors in Spain with their already iconic rep as legendary Black men of culture and combat were obviously something until they got driven back south. After that, all people of African descent were necros. The thanks we got for teaching Europeans how to be civilized (checkout Stolen Legacy by George James). But the Spanish way of saying it took precedent. And then the French put their twist on it with negre which was ideal for French litterateurs because you could romanticize it with negritude. Or make it pop by just saying neg. The Romans preferred the Latin version, niger though all chariots reached the same destination. Different stop signs, perhaps. Still, same destination. Some say the Portuguese were the first ones to say negro. Others say the Greeks. But when you're the brunt of the joke, you don't bother with those minor details.

Nonetheless, here in America it was always nigger; and the only romance we saw was either the demonizing or the demasculinization of the Black man. Calling him a negro was already part of the game plan. Calling himself and his own a negro was mission accomplished! Colored had gone hybrid by the time Gandhi arrived. As in East Indians getting preferential treatment in Uganda, South Africa and the Guyanas, while the color code in the Deep South told you where to eat and where to piss. Then the 60s dropped, and the Black youth wasn't havin' it! They said if White people get to call themselves White then Black folks should be able to call themselves Black. They thought this would make racism go away, but it only got worse. By the time Malcolm was done with us, most of us considered Black as forward and negro as backward. So even if racist Whites saw all Black men as negroes, we tagged a brotha negro if he came off like step n fetch. Safe negro was always around but it earned its name after some kats chose the corporate route over revolution. And just like liteskin was generally easier to look at and handle, the safe negro, or the good little negro in some circles, became the preffered Black in practically all aspects of American society. Because while being or acting like a negro was considered very un-cool in da hood, having that stand up for self vibe didn't get you a job.

Some Blacks don't mind being called negro. Depends who's saying it. Like when a sista rolls her eyes at you, already on to her next thought or next room, and says, Negro, please! Even if you played hookie that day when your high school social studies teacher quickly went over Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement, something in your historical dna tells you what she means by negro. As in Who'you tryina' fool? Because you can never fool your own sister. Just like she can never fool you. Same train. Same psychosis. The other way of saying it-- Nigga, please! is merely an updated version. Like Bitch, you crazy! But the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't have a category called bitch, you crazy! or Bad ass bitch!, and niggga or dog, for that matter, which is too bad for a lot of bruhs because this means they'll be left out of the stats; and the stats come down to funding. The higher the number, the more funding that group and its geography gets. But they do have a box for those who consider themselves negro. Now, you're probably asking yourself, Who the hell calls himself negro, especially in this age? I don't know. I heard that some old timers Down South still call themselves that and actually don't care for Black. I'm not gonna disrespect my elders, so if that's their stand then I gotta fall back. But it does say something about the socialization of Black people. How you can call someone brilliant or plain stupid enough times that they eventually start believing it.




I have my nigga moments, though I strive to always be the proud, centered Black man. I'm never a negro--Well, I can tell you I know how it feels to be a field negro--But I never play the good little negro for anyone, though it would certainly make things easier on me if I tried just a little. But I don't like the sound it makes when nobody's around but the mirror!

I asked my 21yrld if the whole fuss over the President being called negro and excusing it was an issue for her and she said it didn't phase her at all, that her generation is beyond that. I also asked her if she ever experiences racism and she said no. Not to her face, at least. It got me thinking about Obama's estranged family minister and whether or not it's a generational thing to be or to not be so hypersensitive. Or maybe Black females--young and older--just dont feel the sting of the isms the way brothas be feeling them every day. And maybe for a person of African ancestry not mind checking off negro to describe him or herself is not necessarily a sign of post-slavery syndrome but freedom of choice. Like the housewife who still considers herself a feminist, but showing woman power in her own way.

But just so we don't get too caught up with the remakes of We are the world and Can't we all get along?, let's keep in mind that racially charged words are meant to disempower and control. As in image contol. Somewhere in that murky water, Reid really thinks the President is his good little negro! And had our elected-prez during his campaigning had unapologetically announced his plans for reparations for Blacks in the form of free financial aid for college, a fair and honest public school curriculum from K thru 12, free psychological therapy sessions for post-traumatic disorder as a result of slavery and Jim Crow laws, free African ancestry search, and better job opportunities for urban young Black males, we surely wouldn't be singing Yes, we can! but When hell freezes over! Obama may have very well shrugged off the slur to keep us focused on health care reform. That's just the type of brotha he is. Cool, calm, collected. Focused on the prize, and very careful. As in a proud Black man who figured a way how to balance corporate and revolution mindsets, which is a whole other art form. Not everyone got them skillz. I don't. My father tried, but moving to socialist Canada was far more appealing to him than learning how to play the game of making White Americans feel secure. But even a non-threatenng Black man can't stop the name-calling from getting in the way of progress.

Here's a list of labels and their targets that little children hear over the dinner table every day--


bule (boo-lay) Indonesian for White people

yam White American for Amish country

hymie, kyke American slang for Jewish people

tibla White American term for Russians

wog White American term for Turks

gubba Aboriginals' word for White people

bay frog English Canadian word for French Canadians

cankee French Canadian word for English Canadians

red monkey White American term for communist China

crouton White American word for the French

kraut White American word for Germans

guppie White American word for Greeks

buppie Black American for yuppie

bindi White American for East Indian

mucker White American for Irish

Brit nigger Black American for Irish

pale face Native American for White people

chug White American for Native American, as in they drink a whole lot!

ann Black American for a White woman or a Black woman who acts White

uncle tom Black American for a Black man who avoids any connection to his ethnicity or with those who look like him

jank White American for a Japanese person

yobo White American for a Korean

kafir White South African for nigger

beaner White American for Mexicans, as in beans eater

platano Puerto Rican term for Dominicans, as in they eat green bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

spic refers to Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans

bee-keeper refers to Arab women clothed from head to toe

sandnigga White American for Arab men

gringo Hispanic lingo for White people

dago, goobah, greaseball, ginzo, wop American terms to describe Italians

eggplant Italian-American slang for Blacks

charlie, cracker, honky, ofay, peckerwood Black American slang to describe White men

gook American for Vietnamese people

limey White American for Brits, as in they had to eat limes to get over the scurvey disease

coolie Carib term for East Indians and South Asians

white trash White American for poor, uncouth White people

oreo American for a Black person who acts and dresses White

wigger American for a White person who acts and dresses Black

house negro Black American for a Black who's docile enough to be in massa's house

field negro Black American for a Black who's too unruly to be in massa's house, and therefore best for tending to the fields


Besides the latter two, none of the above racial slurs are included in the U.S. census and most likely never will. Because Whites as a whole just don't play that! Tell me if I'm wrong, but Blacks are the only group in the human experience that calls itself the very names given to them by their oppressor. To my niggaz, it's an art form to take a slur and make it your own. The rest of us don't get it. Just like we don't get the showing of the draws'. Not a judgment call. Just agreeing to disagee. As in Black people vs. niggaz.

But here's something that both Black folks and niggaz may not be hip to-- Haitians don't have a derogatory word for White people. We might say, That's a funny-looking White man but he's still a man. And we may not get the same ill-treatment as our Black American brothas get, but perpetuating a slum landlord/helpless tenant relationship is still calling me a nigger. Ask any Haitian to think of one offensive word to describe Whites. He or she will have to get back to you days, maybe weeks after being asked. It's not our fault. We got so stuck on rice having to be served and eaten seperately from the meat--if we have meat to eat--that we never made time for playing the dozens. You gotta be earthquake angry to come up with a downright hurtful yet effective slur. We even call liteskin kats blanc. Most of them resent it, but we're just giving them props for carrying good credit!

Sammy Sosa bleached his skin, so he too could carry his good credit. But it backfired. Look more like they skingrafted his ass cheeks! We can't even tell whether he's brilliant or plain stupid. Now, that's negro!!!

Note: Ever since the new hit tv show, Jersey Shore we're seeing more and more young Italian-Americans calling one another guido and guidette. Their version of nigga. As in That's my main guido or We guidettes and representin'! On the one hand, you can say name-calling is fair game, especially when it's your own you're tagging. On the other hand, it's a sign of the times. The dumbing down of one's sense of self while hyping up the bling. It's not even a Black thing anymore but a generational thing. Young people taking matters of race and cultural pride to a whole other level, as we educators and conscientious parents try to make sense of it.

Stay tuned as we figure it all out together, and apart...

4 comments:

primamyrna said...

..In my island the words negrito,papi chulo or negrita mamasita, were utter as endearments, didn't matter the shade of the hue..but you're right in the states my skin would crawl at the sound of the N word.

K. Koromantee said...

seguro que si!!!

Ocean Morisset said...

Great piece...very well researched, and so on point!

ROD (aka BIG ROD) said...

You know, I watch The Tavis Smiley Show almost everyday.

On occasion he'll greet someone Black who he knows very well or who he's very comfortable with and call them "negro". The context in which he uses it is not derogatory, but I tell you, I f**king cringe ever time he uses it!!

And no it's not on the scale of the "N" word, but just the same I hate it.