Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Should the "N" word be banned?

On February 1, the first day of Black history Month was ushered in with a bit of local media brouhaha here in New York when Queens Councilman Leroy Comrie, hip-hop artist Kurtis Blow Walker, and other community leaders headed a press conference calling for a symbolic, non-binding resolution urging New Yorkers to stop using the "n" word. Though no one could possibly imagine this could be made into a real law (just for starters, the First Amendment implications would be huge) it did give people of all races ample food for thought.

Black spokesmen such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have spoken out for decades about racism in America. Bill Cosby has been very open about the willful rejection by many black youths of education as a way out of poverty and the peer pressure faced by those who study hard and are mocked by their peers for “acting white.”

The point we are at now in America, Jackson and Sharpton claim, is that most whites feel that racism is now a non-issue, while many blacks know it’s just been pushed under the “PC” surface. The frustrating thing about this underlying, even unconscious, racism is that it’s so insidious that white people don’t even realize they are still bigoted.

So if Black History month is to live up to its name, it seems logical to assume that the implications of the “n” word, its role in racism, and the black struggle for equal opportunity are vital issues to explore. Bringing this topic into the light of day has considerable merit to it, especially since young people who use the word as a term of affection seem unaware of the negative historical connotations. They didn’t live through the civil rights movement and may be unaware that some dedicated people, black and white, died for this noble cause.

They may have little clue as to the horrible and shameful history of discrimination, segregation, lynchings, redlining, and slavery that decimated the black family unit and perpetuated a tragic cycle of multi-generational poverty. The repercussions of this appalling American legacy are still being felt today.

Save for the equally-oppressed Native American, all Americans' roots lie elsewhere. Our ancestors fled oppression and lack of opportunity in the old country and braved the journey to the new land with its siren song of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break free.” The crucial difference between African Americans and other "immigrants" is that blacks were brought here against their will in the service of oppression rather than liberation. Conversely, the vast waves of European immigrants who began to arrive in earnest at the turn of the twentieth century personified the typical road to assimilation taken by those from other countries and cultures who come here.

My grandparents, for instance, came from Eastern Europe and settled, like so many others, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan early in the last century. My grandfather worked hard to support his wife and five children, but died at a very young age, leaving my non-English speaking grandmother to care for her American-born children in a cramped walk-up tenement.

In order to survive, my mother and her older brother had to complete their high school degrees at night so they could work during the day. My grandmother insisted that everyone finish high school, as she knew this was necessary in order to move ahead and succeed in America. Like many children of new immigrants, my mother, aunts, and uncles wasted no time in trying to escape the ghetto life they had been born into. As fully assimilated Americans, they wanted to move out of the old neighborhood at all costs.

My mother and her youngest sister were especially adamant about this. When they double dated, they didn’t want their dates to pick them up from home. They broke from their Orthodox Jewish religious traditions, spoke perfect English, and succeeded in fulfilling the American dream in earnest. Only one of my aunts — an Orthodox Jew — still lives in the old neighborhood (what my other aunt also refers to as the “schtetl”). Like some others of her generation, she chose to stay in a working class co-op development that had been designed by Jewish union leaders early in the century to provide the working and middle class with decent, affordable housing and an escape from the cramped tenements a block or two away. For decades — until a discrimination lawsuit changed all that — the massive high rise co-ops up and down Grand Street on the East Side were, indeed, virtual Jewish enclaves.

In this safe haven, American-born Orthodox Jews could escape the pressures of full assimilation and retain their essential “Jewishness” without shame or apology. As a result, it is quite easy to tell at first sight (and sound) that my aunt is Jewish. She talks and looks like a stereotypical Jew, though she worked for years in a mostly Chinese school district as a secretary and got along with everyone. But until recently, time really did stand still — at least culturally — on Grand Street. READ MORE HERE


At 9:14 AM, Blogger !ce said...

As someone who is studying political science and social work these days, I can say that there are still many different types of discrimination in society.

Now, for some comic relief:
The smell is just lovely, kind of citrusy with a hint of flowers, snd it turns your bath water the most amazing color of ocean water blue. When I'm lying in a tub full of big blue water I close my eyes and pretend I'm a mermaid. Definitely a must have, at least for me.

This one smells so pretty and flowery, it makes me feel like a fairy princess. I love lying in the tub with those rosebuds floating around me. It makes me feel like I'm lying in a beautiful garden.

I felt like I was in a big fruit cocktail. The color of this soap is so neat. It's a bright pink soap that cheers you up just looking at it. And the fruit punch smell that goes with it is divine. As far as the glitter goes, it depends on which piece you get. Mine had some tiny yellow glitter on top, and then I was left with a smooth fruity pink bar.

The smell of this is just so addicting. It smells like yummy sweet toffee, but it also has a floral scent in the background that just mixes nicely with the toffee.

It makes a great soap stand in the tub. Nice and fruity scent, with a hint of flowers in the background.

Just remember, all you "realists" out there, to keep your mind open and remember that bathtubs are where anything can happen.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger !ce said...

P.S. I'm not Pat Benatar, contrary to the rumor from the chat room on the gay porn site.

Is it just me, or is it time for a Linda Ronstadt song?

At 9:42 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Many thanks for the comments, and the comic relief. If everyone of every race could just jump together into a giant fruity bath as you did, perhaps the world would be a better place.

I know I owe you a visit to your blog, and will try to stop by soon.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

PS to anyone reading this piece:

The "MORE" link at the end will bring you to the full article as it appears in Blogcritics Magazine. The piece generated well over 200 comments, and some very intriguing ones at that.

I'm in the process of doing a Part 2, based on some new developments around the country regarding the "ban," which has extended to include a request for Grammy nominees who use the "n" word not to be nominated, and so on.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Walker said...

Boy have I got a lot to say and little time.
First off, hi it’s been awhile.
Assuming the “N” word is “Nigger” and all its derivatives, putting aside the first amendment making it possible to make it illegal to say the word would be racist in itself and viewed as a way to suppress Black Americans.
At least that’s the way I see it.
Watching TV and the news I have noticed the “N” word is mostly used by Black Americans.
Look at the stand up comics from Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy to Chris Rock and many other new black comedians rising through the ranks, they use the “N” word in their acts.
I have seen it here in the bars when one calls the other My Nigger or something to that effect.
So if a law like that were to be passed, a lot of coloured people would be taken away to jail first.

Next, White people for the most part are terrified they may say the “N” word or any other statement fearing they may insult someone of race and in many cases not associating with them.
The whole thing is crazy with all the political correctness flying around.
That in its self is racist, not associating with people of race because you may accidentally insult them.
In fact I have to wonder if calling one a nigger wouldn’t be better than ignoring them in at least their existence would be acknowledged.
Just think if we were all born blind we would never know about colour and the world might be a better place but then again we would probably separate people by scent, a new form of racism.

Great post as always.
Have a nice day

At 4:26 PM, Blogger jessie said...

Well you certainly picked a controversial subject! I think that if it were banned then the largest offenders would be the african american population themselves! I have very deep southern roots and i can tell you i have heard the word used more spending 5 minutes at a red light in the ghetto then my entire redneck family use it in a weekend.
I have to agree too the black comedians would be at a disadvantage as well. I mean really, Carlos Mencia would be outta a job if they banned the word Beaner!

BTW, changed my URL:
so you can update

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