Republican Party… and Bulls**t

*Disclaimer. I am not connected or affiliated with any political party*

Without stating the obvious, the government shutdown this year is bound to affect millions of Americans directly and indirectly. The government lacking appropriations and labor-hours will eventually affect the provision of pell grants, student loans, and early-education programs like Head Start– things that will disproportionately affect those in the middle-class and below. As of today, the government is broke man waiting for his FEMA check to arrive, filled with IOU’s, “I’m sorry’s” and “our bad’s” that, quite honestly, the American people will allow them to do. Fact is, people have no faith in our representatives anymore and mayhem like this is not only non-surprising to anyone who even remotely pays attention to the news, but it is almost expected.

The leaders in the GOP are either insanely genius and calculated, or are the most disconnected, mind-numb people on the planet. If they make any progress in the eyes of the American people hence forth I will be stunned. Republican leaders had to see this coming since last November. And all I have been thinking is: “Is this the best strategy you could come up with in 11 months.” I know 11 year-olds that could probably figure better.

Furthermore, the government shutdown is a product of party politics, which America has always been. However, recently, party strategy has been more about doing things that deliberately attempt to sabatoge the other party to create negative press instead of using the American people, groundswell and grass-roots campaigns to sway public opinion; it’s a ‘rich’ (another word for lazy) way of doing politics . However, I really want to assume that GOP members are rational thinkers. Putting my GOP thinking cap on, I’ve determined their cost/risk analysis can be parametricized as:

“We like their chances in swaying public opinion over the Affordable Care Act, and democrats in general, through waging a government shutdown much better than we like our chances in gaining political clout from the law being passed. Thus, shutting down the government to prevent funding, paychecks, and access to lands to millions of Americans (indefinitely) is worth the wage in what– in our  interpretation– is government intrusion, rising insurance costs, and reductions in employment. “ *In my GOP voice*

Willing to take the ship down with them

While the GOP will publicly blame Democrats for the shutdown, it is clear that they consider the shutdown—and the lives it will affect—as necessary casualties. Point blank, the GOP has taken the country hostage, and you have to believe that, strategically, party leaders considered this the absolute best option, because it’s a pretty shitty move.

The republicans are fucked. That’s pretty much it. The Bush administration—mostly the war and the economy—have turned the party into a waste-land. Their most legitimate leader, John McCain, lost his opportunity mostly because of bad timing and a hellified grassroots campaign by the Obama administration. Coming down the pike is likely the first female President in an increasingly liberal republic, with a youth demographic heavy in democratic support only to grow in age and number.

As if those realities were not impending enough, the Obama adminstration is about the pass the first major health care reform in a half-century, with any judgment about it’s success being utterly premature by the midterm elections. Thus, the year of 2014 would be a year of Democrats boasting health care reform (in spite of GOP resistance) and a continuously-waning mass appeal of the men and women in red, making two years of Republican leadership look like a complete failure, unable to get any major republican agendas pulled through or any Democratic agendas blocked all the while taking blame for a massive government shutdown.  To save face, their best option is somehow to make the Dems responsible for a government shutdown as the only legitimate ammo for the 2014 midterm elections. But this game comes at a cost.

The democrats have delivered the sabatoge to the GOP in the most painful way possible—the right way. They trusted that “we, the people” would assist in delivering the blow in a way that make antics and theatrics unnecessary. Not because the republicans are bad people, not because they don’t care about Americans, but because the Democratic agenda right now is best in-line with what the people want for better or worse. The republicans look like sore losers, like people falling looking for imaginary handles to grab on their way down. But instead of bowing down, taking the respectable and hard-fought loss, they’ve decided they’re going to take anyone caught in the net—democrats, citizens, even weapon-permits—with them.

And its all to preserve the party. But this wont be the first or last example of how our affiliations trump real-world solutions. It isn’t right, but I understand.

RG III is More like Donovan McNabb Than He’s Willing to Admit

ImageThis upcoming Thursday, six-time pro-bowler and former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb will have his number retired for the Philadelphia Eagles, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the franchise. Since his departure from wearing green and white, McNabb has made the news for several reasons, most notably his ongoing media beef with Redskins star Robert Griffin III. RGIII’s struggles entering week 3 and Donovan McNabb’s retirement of his jersey makes for an interested comparison between the two. Despite some of their public statements and disagreements, RGIII’s career is certainly shaping up to have a remarkably similar story arc that makes whatever disagreement between the two woefully ironic.

In May 2012, in a feature on ESPN’s first take, McNabb sat beside troll Hall-of-Famer Skip Bayless to speculate on RGIII’s would-be success in the Redskins offense. McNabb, after experiencing a tenuous time in Washington—being benched on the final drive heading versus the Detroit Lions despite entering the game 4-3 because of an “inability to learn the playbook”—implied that coach Mike Shanahan’s pride would get in the way of Baylor standout’s success.

“I say that because a lot of the time ego gets too involved with when you’re playing in Washington.” And McNabb was not off-based with this idea. While the Redskins did change the offense to fit RGIII’s skill sets, leading him to have a rookie season arguably better than Cam Newton’s, pride and an unwillingness to sit RGIII after his injury at the end of the 2012 season did—and is currently—hurting the team.

McNabb continued with advice for the offensive Rookie of the Year. During this past off-season, as RGIII was rehabbing his torn ACL, getting married, and posting pictures of wedding presents his fans have purchased for him, McNabb told him to lay off the theatrics a bit. Griffin responded by saying “right now, it’s probably best we don’t talk.”

Ironically, McNabb’s advice is coming from an honest place. He, more than anyone knows about how it feels to have public favor turned against a player. By 2003, McNabb was Philadelphia’s darling and shining armor. He dazzled viewers by juking linebackers out of their shoes, brushing off would-be lineman trying to take his head off, and running over smaller defensive backs. After losing a few NFC championship games, where a combination of poor performance and pure coaching arrogance led to loses, the perception tide began to change. Then came Rush Limbaugh. Then  J. Whyatt Mondesire. Then Terrell Owens. Finally “vomit-gate” and the sports hernia. McNabb’s message to the young star is simple: stop letting these fans build you up because they will turn on you in a minute.

This will be almost an inevitable occurrence for Griffin. They love him. And without Super-Bowl rings, those honey-moons tend to end really fast. And given how talented and young his counterparts in San Francisco, Indiana, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Carolina are, and how putrid the Redskins defense and receiving corps are, it’s reasonable to believe that a championship is pretty far away.

But similar to Donovan McNabb’s career, everyone wants to analyze Robert Griffin on a level so much more than what is on the field. Griffin and McNabb do not have some of the identifiers we look for in our top black athletes. In the NFL, black men want to root for black quarterbacks. However, we look at black quarterbacks—especially those like Michael Vick and Cam Newton—in a different light. They exude a swagger and demeanor that feels affirmative of “black culture,” whereas the perception goes for McNabb and Griffin—for unfounded reasons—appear to run from them. McNair and Warren Moon went to HBCU’s, Michael Vick’s from the hood in Newport News, Cam’s from Atlanta. When they speak, when they talk—what they go through—allows them to claim access to “blackness” regardless of what they say, however problematic. Cam Newton has been as eager to shirk discussions about race (or altogether miss the point completely) as much as any quarterback before or after—yet no one questions his authenticity.

Griffin’s handling of racially-driven comments about his character has been as unrevealing as McNabb’s response to J Whyatt Mondesire. Mondesire, then-president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP, criticized McNabb in the Philadelphia Tribune in 2005 for pandering to race because McNabb rejected the notion of being a running quarterback in preference of being labeled a pocket-passer.

Without justifying Mondesire’s statement, it is clear that it ignores McNabb’s abhorrence to being labeled a running quarterback as having its own pathology based in racist assumptions others have made about his ability. Nevertheless, McNabb’s response is summed up by the following passive statement: “I always thought the NAACP supported African Americans and didn’t talk bad about them. Now you learn a little bit more.”

Griffin was subject to racially-driven ridicule by ESPN analyst Rob Parker. After being dooped into an awfully leading and loaded question by Bayless about Parker’s opinion of Griffin III’s braids, Parker responds: “My question, which is just a straight honest question: is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?.. That he’s black, he kind of does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause, he’s not one of us…” Griffin responds with the predictable and oft-repeated tagline about race. “You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That’s what I’ve tried to go out and do.”

In fairness, most athletes wound respond in the politically-correct way Griffin and McNabb had to help dismiss the statement and push it under the rug. The more-telling issue is that people feel comfortable to raise those questions. However ignorant, it is relevant because they relate to how the athlete is being watched, and how we read into their actions.

There are a group of black male viewers of football that hate “company men.” Just as some white viewers impose their fantasies and subconscious onto black players on the field, so do some black viewers. There are a sect of viewers who want to see black quarterbacks who are down for the cause—players who use their status as quarterback to call out and subvert the system all while defeating the stereotypes. They are expected to be quarterback Ray Lewis’s–light fire under their teammates, yell at receivers who drop balls, and to be genuine. Black viewers want to watch their black quarterback be a symbol of freedom and not a reminder of their own lives, where political correct-ness, corporate responses and detached communications rule the day. Being quarterback is equated to some organizational power, something we want them to wield without pandering to coaches or general managers.

Someone—the right type of people—has to hate what you stand for in order for us to love you. And if the wrong people love you it is a sign for us to be weary of our allegiances. And that extends beyond the realm of sports.

Robert Griffin III’s career is looking to take a very McNabb-ian arc. Because he doesn’t look and act a certain way he will be subject to unwarranted criticism about his manhood, toughness, authenticity, and black pride that the media will force him to waste time on. And in the end, if he doesn’t win, he’ll be defined by everything he wasn’t.

And very little of that will have to do with his play on the field. And as McNabb retires his jersey Thursday night, he can’t help but wonder if his career is being reincarnated unto Griffin.

McNabb is just trying to give him a heads-up. They’d probably learn a lot from each other. Instead, their common experiences will be too personal to assuage the wedge between them.

Black Male, Heterosexual Feminist, Struggling And Growing in Patriarchy.

Can A Man Be A Feminist?

This past summer, I have had several conversations about gender and patriarchy and how those ideas impact the way we interact with each other. One of the questions that have surfaced is: “Can a man be a feminist?”

Is it possible for a man to view the interaction of the social, political and cultural world from the viewpoint of how they impact women? What can a man specifically do to take up the cause for women on a fundamental level?

One of the things that has been brought up by a few women I have had these discussions with is how it is impossible for men to really understand the struggles of women—how men, by virtue of their manhood and gendered-privilege cannot be perceptive to the plight of their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters. This entry seeks to address this.

The other idea that has been brought up is the belief that men lack real-world consequences of manhood; that our privileges extend in a way that makes our lives fundamentally easier than the lives of women. This essay will address this as well.

As for background, I grew up in a household headed by a single-parent mother. I grew up with a consistent male-presence in the household. However, he was more of a place-holder than a father. My mother disallowed him from having the power to discipline us. The rest of my family is a rather solid balance between patriarchs and matriarchs, albeit the matriarchs very much deferred to men and promoted male authority.

Patriarchy And Its’ Impact on Men

Some people may consider such a promotion a privilege for men, but my experience disinclines me from making such an assumption. Far too often in my community have I seen men beaten down from the “privileges” of man-hood. These men are charged to financially provide for his family in spite of conditions in the world that make poverty and unemployment inevitable. The view of men being a provider can not only cause one’s family to alienate and chastise him in the event he fails to be a “man,” it can also lead to him alienating himself. Providership is intrinsic to manhood, and an inability to do so destroy’s a man’s self-esteem in a way different from when a woman fails to be a provider. While both sexes’ inability to provide create a frustration, anxiety, and desperation; for men, it annihilates his soul and affects his worthiness as a human. No one wants to save a capable man who can’t provide. No one empathizes with him. There are no excuses. He is just a failure.

When a man sits stoic-ly on his couch because his job of ten years laid him off, it is synonymous with his testicles being ripped from him. Women tend to be more resilient, optimistic, and driven to adapt in those situations because they are not defined by their ability to provide. A man has to consider his self-esteem in the event he is unable to find a new job. Failing, in the capitalist and western sense, has a greater burden.

Furthermore, a man is not allowed to show his frustration with the conditions that create his destitution in normal and functional manners. He’s taught not to cry about his fears. He’s taught not to express any form of visible despair. Patriarchy has the power to turn men into crazed people who are urged to suppress the large range of emotions their human bodies are designed for them to do. Any person with a deeply intimate relationship with a man has seen a man composed on the surface but facing a gamut or turmoil internally. Almost all of this “suck-it-up-and-be-a-man” idea is derived from man having the burden of being the provider in the philosophical sense. While “sucking it up” and moving on is certainly an idea women internalize, the range through which they express frustration can be assuaged in ways their communities would not chastise them for. The discourse follows: If a woman can’t provide for their children, it a product of community failure, or the lacking presence of men. This kind of thinking is obviously sexist, but this sexism does not create some de-facto advantage for men. If a father can’t provide for his children, it is decided that he is not equipped or worthy of manhood.

Expectations have a larger impact in how we develop interpersonal relationships with men as well. The expectation of him being a provider precludes him from being involved in his dependents lives in ways that exclude money. We know about women belittling men in front of their families because they lack employment; women who withhold the man’s authority with their shared children because he cannot pay for diapers (as if this would apply the other way around). A man’s ability to provide for himself and for others is intrinsically tied to his individual and community identity. Think about how we give disparaging looks at grown men who live with their parents or who lack a dollar to their name.

Not The Same As Race

I understand the inclination for those to draw parallels from an “intersection” of race and gender. And in most instances, the tendency to do so is appropriate. But like real streets, intersections have separate streets names and separate corners that make each component distinct. What makes the issue of race unique is that racial inequalities dictate where colored and non-colored people live and convene; it streamlines if races will cross paths and the terms under which those interactions can occur. However, as long as it is only biologically possible for men and women to conceive and extend the human race, there will never be a way to politically or culturally dictate where sexes live and convene—they will always occupy those spaces simultaneously in a philosophical and spatial sense. A white man can live his life without ever being cognizant of his whiteness in ways a man is readily aware of his gender. And while it is possible to solve the cultural issues of blacks and ignore that of whites, it is quite illogical to believe that any issues about the experiences of women can be addressed without understanding thoroughly how they impact men as well. To solve one is to solve for the other in this case.

Your Personal Values Matter In This

I am also aware that the same expectations lead to the enfranchisement of men. Disproportionate employment in higher ranks, higher pay-scales and wage-rates, and the creation of the glass ceiling are all products of the same worldview-complications I have listed thus far. As with almost every paradigm, there are advantages and disadvantages to patriarchy. We consider which is more advantageous based on which roles we consider more important in society. If you consider emotional inclusion into one’s community more important than income, that will dictate how you view the dynamic. But if you only care about the political and economic enfranchisement of certain demographics, you will view this another way. Either way, being a man is not a walk on easy street because the worlds of gender consciously and directly collide.

A Man Running Away From Manhood?

I oppose patriarchy and matriarchy. I lament a predetermination of roles either gender will play in a relationship, especially when determinations are made before personalities are known and assessed. However, as a heterosexual black man, my interaction with women (family included) tends to follow along the same consistent lines. There are men and women who characterize my tendency to shriek from typical patriarchal roles—leadership, authoritativeness, etc.—as an indicator that I “think like a woman”, or view me as a “boy” who is simply unwilling to accept the responsibilities and mantle of manhood. This has an interesting impact in romantic relationships.

It is difficult for any heterosexual relationship to exist without gendered roles. As a man, it is also confusing to have interactions with a woman that you are certain exist without any gendered underpinnings. To what extent is my relation to women derived out a desire to be that role for the sake of my own personal psyche?

What if I am confronted one day with a situation that require I demand a woman I am deeply in love with to be with me and forgo her own dreams for the sake of the relationship? Let’s suggest I am established in my career and she has yet to– do I implore her to live with me or do I encourage her to continue her dreams at the cost of the relationship? The feminist in me would encourage her to continue her own pursuits and hope for the best. The man inside of me would consider that cowardly and characterize my willingness to let her go as an unwillingness to be accountable for the sacrifices she would have to make. Should I embrace that accountability? Or is the fact that I would even feel accountability proof of my sexist thinking?

Or even worse: is considering how the ways we interact impact women itself patriarchal in-nature? Who am I to impose what best-suits all women? But who are you to do that, too, even if you are a woman?

Something Is In It for Men, Too

If you– as the reader– are inclined right to immediately rebut, please be aware that I understand there are impacts of women being expected of be nurturers. I DO NOT seek to ignore the plight of women, I have simply used this time to point out how patriarchy can disadvantage men. This also does not imply those disadvantages turn into advantages for women, it is simply to state such expectations do not exist to the same extent that they do for men. Most importantly, it is to point how patriarchy does not only limit women; they limit men just as deeply. This should be grounds for us to collectively reject patriarchal AND matriarchal thinking.

Male feminism tends to be discussed as some sort of philosophical philanthropy—something men take up ideologically for the sole benefit of the plight of women. Understanding that people do not make changes unless they stand to gain from said changes, I am asserting that men have a stake in it too, and stand to gain from rejecting patriarchy. And that instead of trying to view the impact of patriarchy from the eyes of women, perhaps viewing how patriarchy impacts women can be done through analyzing how those paradigms impact the self as a man.

Major Internal Conflict

Conversely, though, the little things woman can do to make you feel like a “man” is very endearing. Additionally, the gender-driven tasks I perform can build self-esteem as a partner. Carrying grocery bags in the house, mowing the lawn, changing tires and other auto-mechanical work does contribute to the overall aesthetic of the relationship for me. Also, greater strength, height, and physical control add to the collective feel of a relationship. And being able to provide for my woman (not a date, I could care less)—whether it is a meal, a trip, or courage—is personally rewarding as well.

And that is a man’s feminist struggle—deciding how, when or if to be a man for the women you love. And trying to decide whether it is necessary for me to be those things and assessing whether it is possible to develop a relationship with a woman devoid of those expectations. Or should I just take it and accept the good and bad that comes with it?

What is certain is that the world and my community will not stop expecting me to be unemotional and living an existence independent from my ability to provide. I am also certain that my self-esteem will continue to receive a boost the more financially equipped I become to build, create, and sustain families. Just as unlikely to depart is the impending anxieties of manhood, and being defined by my willingness and readiness to accept such roles. It is there that I find common ground with feminism.

Or maybe I am just overanalyzing. But what I do know is that, for this man, the decision is not as easy as some may think.

‘Why Black People Are Single’ Articles Just Promote Stereotypes.

I hate those list that give the “top __ reasons black men are single” list. They must be stopped. These lists for single people tend to always blame the opposite sex for the reason one sex is single. They blame someone’s single-ness on the way others treat them instead of basing them on the interest, habits, and miscues of the subject.

I have recently checked out an article about why “good” black men are single. These articles tend to be written in a way that assumes that we all know what a “good” man is. As a MAN– not just a black man—I am clueless as to what a good black man is. In some discussions, a “good” black man is simply a gainfully-employed and available black man. An employed black man is not necessarily a “good” one. Also, these articles tend not to clarify what “bad” men are. Are they men who are not gainfully employed? Men who have been unwilling to make commitments to their past partners? Men who have multiple sexual partners? Any answer to those questions still does not answer to whether the gentleman is “good.”

One painfully visible point these articles miss: You don’t find out a “good” guy is a “bad” guy until he does something “bad” and vice versa. Being a “good” or “bad” guy are not rigid confines, as men and woman are capable of being both, whatever that means. You are one person away from becoming either. Just like certain workers thrive in certain conditions and struggle in others, becoming a good or bad man is dependent on a variety of factors. Thus, the same men you have in mind on this list can be the same men they have in mind on this list.

But I am going to settle the argument for good and provide 11 simple reasons for why “good” PEOPLE men are single (if they are single, these articles tend not to have data, either). These reasons are focusing on the behavior of men, not how others treat them.

1. They are too busy and/or distracted to be in a relationship.

2. They enjoy being single. They don’t want a relationship and/or are not ready for one.

3. They meet prospective partners in environments not best-suited for their personality – if you are quiet and reserved, meeting people at bars probably will not work.

4.  Hesitant to approach people they find attractive.

5.  Narrow-minded in the type of partner they want. Constricting their potential partners to race, shape, size, class, creed, etc.

6.  Scared of rejection

7.  They prefer for partners to approach them

8.  Not assertive or confident enough.

9.  They don’t recognize a good partner when they see one (shocker! Good people can be horrible at selecting partners too?)

10.They have not met and/or are waiting for the right person.

11. A ton of other reasons that vary based on the personality of the INDIVIDUAL.

Oftentimes, the reasons why black men are single are the exact same reasons why white, Asian, and Hispanic men are single. They can also be the exact same reasons why women are single. They usually are. It’s that simple.

Though I am certain not to solve the question for good, I think we should stop generalizing. They only promote stereotypes about how we treat each other, and often enable a single person, who is interested in finding a life-partner, to evade their own behavior in explaining their dissatisfaction with their romantic life.

The Pervasiveness of Injustice Affects African American Male Psyche.

Following the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial has been fascinating. Everyone from Charles Barkley to President Obama have chimed in. And while some comments about the issues and matter in its periphery can be considered more warranted than others, every opinion is a necessary pitch added to the cacophony of comments driving the discourse. Each level of inquiry, every perceptive comment and every ignorant comment is exactly what the issue is about. At the base of all these discussions lay assumptions regarding the nature of black men and our place in the political and cultural flesh of the nation. An experience I recently had encompasses the issue perfectly.

In my hometown of Philadelphia, I frequently wander the city in my spare time looking for inspiration and comfortable places to write. My instincts take me to a familiar building—Houston Hall at the University of Penn. I find that the building’s antiquity, hardwood floors, and comfortable seating (and air condition) adequately suits my musing.

I set out my lunch at the table, take out my water and my laptop and cool down for a moment. I also have to go to the bathroom. Since I have just set out my workplace, I do not feel like packing everything up and going to the bathroom so I risk it. The room is full of white and Asian students.  I leave my property unattended, go the bathroom and return with my things untouched.

Later on the afternoon, I have to return to the bathroom. A young black man, dressed in kakhi-colored cargo shorts and a fitted white v-neck tee-shirt has entered the room since my last venture to the bathroom. There’s nothing inherently harmful about him. He was slouching in his chair, clearly exasperated from the heat. It appeared he came in the room just for rest as he has no bags with him.

The only noticeable change to the room was this gentleman’s presence. And while I still went to the bathroom while leaving my items unattended, I felt a greater dissonance doing so than I did just two hours earlier.

I couldn’t prevent it. I profiled him. Today.

And as if to add insult to injury, he went to the bathroom and he politely asked me if I could watch his things as he went.

Even after everything I have known, seen, and read as an African American man who has dressed similarly to him, likely from the same city and after all that has transpired over the last three weeks—hell, over the duration of my life—I could not prevent my subconscious and conscience from making this good brother out to so much more than he was not.

I could not tell you what anyone else in the room wore. I can confidently say I can describe this man fairly well.

My name is Derrick. And I think I may be racist.

Yes. Black people can be racist against black people. And not all of them have to be Uncle-Toms and Sambo figures. They can be as conscious as Malcolm X, and as much of an activist and nationalist as Marcus Garvey and still hold a deep, psychological wound that causes him to put his fellow man through the same predispositions he himself experiences.

And this would be a courageous admission if I felt I was alone. However, I am not the first young black man making racial assumptions about the same racial demographic he belongs to. But that’s exactly the point. The criminalization of black men in our society is so pervasive that it affects us in a variety of ways. It affects how our nation views us, how our cities, states and municipalities view us, how our communities view us. And most of all, they shape how we view ourselves.

These are the impacts of negative images of African American men and unjust judicial processes that becoming circular in its attempted justification. I have never been victim to any assault, theft, or any bodily harm at all at the hands of black men. In order to treat my brother fairly required I take control of my own bias. But it takes all of us to admit the prejudice exists first. Then we must take control.

This case provides us all with an impetus to reflect which of us would have been suspect of an unfamiliar young black boy walking into a neighborhood where our most cherished things belonged. The saddening reality is that the same prejudice that creates suspicion (that most willingly ignore) is the same prejudice that motivated the actions of Zimmerman. It is the same prejudice that motivates the actions of police officers, security guards and other areas of enforcement.

The difference between us and them (which is HUGE)? Our lack of policing authority AND weapons preclude we exercise more-thoughtful reactions to our preconceptions.

There is something at the core of the American judicial and cultural fabric that creates the stigma. And the same processes we must go through as individuals to rid ourselves of that core must be the same process the nation undergoes collectively.

Defending ‘Nigga’ Use… … …

For obvious reasons, the term ‘nigga’ is divisive. I am not going to refer to the term as the ‘n-word’ as if when I say it, a former slaves’ star in the universe in extinguished. It is a real word, regardless of its origin and tradition.

Saying ‘nigga’ still brings back a collective cultural memory of the years through which African Americans were routinely referred to in ways designed to destroy their self-esteem and remind black people of the unjustly-subservient status people of color occupied from the day they were bought to the Americas. For many, ‘nigga’ harken back to the days when a man felt powerless to assert his humanity. The history of the word itself then, for some, is sufficient justification for outrage whenever the vibrations of the word are parted from someone’s lips.

No matter how a white man referred to his human chattel —African, Colored, Negro or Negress, or even his slaves actual name- he was referring to what was legally his. And every interaction with this man, even apparently harmless ones, served as a constant reminder of the black man’s toiling space in the American hierarchy. Even after slavery, white people referred to black people as an effort to remind them that any personal efforts to develop dignity were futile. Being called a nigger reminded blacks– no matter how many businesses a black man owned, how many children’s schooling he was able to afford, or the beautiful happy family he successfully created– his city, nation, and world still viewed him as an unworthy citizen. A simple utterance of ‘nigger’ reminds a generation of people of a malicious era and visions of white people angrily holding signs that read “no niggers.” I thoroughly understand and appreciate the desire for people to sanction any language, idiom, expression or treatment that even slightly bring back memories of horror. However, I also understand how language works, and how language survives.

What I am arguing here is that it is possible for people to understand the destructive power of a term while simultaneously using it. And the use of the term itself does not destroy nor embolden how we feel or felt. Civil rights activist and Ambassador Andrew Young once retold a story about the night before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to his death. Joking around about the catfish Young brought King from the store, Dr. King made a remark that included the word ‘nigga’. I am not making a fallacious appeal to authority, here; but I do find it fascinating and telling that a man to whom the word was thrown at in every city and every turn, he was still perceptive enough to draw the line between offensive use of the word and an innocuous use of it.

Dr. King was not the only one to be called ‘nigger’ and say ‘nigga’ simultaneously. The word is survived by slaves and other victims of racism who lamented the term in some contexts and used it with impunity in others. Men and women who marched for respect, recognition and dignity every day and night were also frequent users of the word (ofcourse, we know not ALL did). Yet, they were also very sensitive to the word when used by those that were attempting to remind them of their “place” in the national stratosphere.

‘Nigga’ is not a term of endearment. Do not let anyone get away with saying that. No term independent of context has any value. A sarcastic reference to someone as a genius is malicious, just as an underhanded reference to someone as ‘master’ can be. Context means everything.

However, ‘Nigga’ has evolved even while having never really changed. As African American culture gained greater access to media outlets and as it becomes more-mainstream, there have been certain expressions in African American culture that have gained wider acclaim. Clothing styles, the prominence of personalized style, the popularity of sneakers, hairstyles (braids, fades, high tops, dreadlocks, etc) are a few that stick out. Not coincidentally, just as African-American imagery has been proliferated throughout the world, so have certain forms of language.

The cat came out the bag. We found out that black people call each other ‘niggas,’ call white people ‘crackers,’ call police ‘pigs’ and ‘5.0.’

This is what the issue is about. It is not so much about the use of the word but that once it got popularized that we use it, it could lead to others using it (in other words, if white people did not know we used it, this conversation would be pointless). For those that still care about not wanting to feel like a second-class citizen in the eyes of white Americans and others, the word ‘nigga,’ and the cultural memory of the term may bring one down a peg or two. It is a fair emotion.

However, we should NOT chastise those for whom the use of the word does not affect their self-esteem. And if they do not think it does, it would be paternal in nature to assume that it did without admission. For many, ‘nigga’ is so non-offensive and commonplace that it is how they refer to people in general regardless of race, class, gender or origin.

It’s like having an overweight cousin whom the family benevolently refers to as ‘Fatso’. For that individual, it is perfectly fine for those who are in on the narrative for them to be called that. Just because we know ‘Fatso’ to be a term that people have used to maliciously refer to someone overweight does not mean we need to tell Fatso how to feel, even if you yourself are overweight and have been called that. It is also fair for Fatso to beat you down if you are outside of his narrative and lack permission to refer to them that way.

For this generation of black people, a white man calling a black man a nigger is only an inefficient effort to destroy his self-esteem. Our skin’s tougher (in a cultural sense). We’ve tired of caring what some may think or believe about black people. And that is a wonderful and liberating feeling. But most importantly, we’re perceptive enough to choose when to care about calling and being called ‘nigga.’ Just like King was.

Let’s face it. People will continue to use the word—white and black alike. There will be black people negatively affected by its use, and black people who are indifferent to it. But let them decide how they feel about it without one trying to tell each other how to feel when the word is said. All you can do is demand they not call you a ‘nigga’.

Non-black people: Be cautious of your use. And be prepared to handle the confrontation if a black person is outraged, and be prepared to handle the reaction of an indifferent one. And because we’re perceptive enough to choose when to care, the same black man may react differently based on context. You must decide if your desire to say the word is worth a swift and just kick in the face, because the ass-whooping will be totally understood for the reasons I have stated above. And the response will be fueled by my ancestral memory. And yours.

Is the word hurtful? Yes. Is the word harmless? Yes.  The word has power because we allow it to have power. Just try to to see the position of those who have determined the word will mean what they want it to mean when they want it to mean it. Like all words in language, some things are allowed to remain complex.