Tuesday, 3 August 2010

In Defence of the N-word.

Since the title of this article is provocative I want to point out that my stance on the repugnant slur "nigger" is that such a word should have no place in a civilised society. Unfortunately, we have an uncivilised past of extreme racism, misogyny and homophobia (among a whole host of other ugly prejudices) in which women were subjugated, gays executed, Africans enslaved and Jews persecuted. Thus, I have utilised one of the relics of a deeply primitive era, which we have yet to leave behind us, not to endorse the connotations it carries but to defend its re-appropriation - as well as a defence of political correctness. Political correctness is often slammed in the right-wing press as "cultural Marxism"; as a hypocritical and new form of totalitarianism that is eroding our freedom of speech. Because it's the freedom to call gays "faggots" and women "cunts" that is an invaluable freedom in the West.

Out of all the straw-man arguments against political correctness, which use the most ridiculous of examples, the one which I rate lowest takes the use of the n-word in rap music as a double-standard. "Why can't we use it if they do?" The assumption behind this is that there was an equality of standards to begin with, which is simply not true. If "we" are white people and "they" are black people then the old division of race is enforced once more. As the master-slave dynamic remains at least in the form of connotations to the words "white" and "black", there were no equal standards to begin with - as it was Africans who were enslaved. It should be obvious, though to some it isn't sadly, that whites can't say the n-word simply because the word is offensive. That is not a double-standard, partly because it is rich-white-men who have had a privileged role in the world for centuries.

The re-appropriation of the n-word, as commonly heard in rap music - which is itself politically incorrect - has different connotations as it is spelled differently, as "nigga", it is often a term of endearment. The reason that black rappers can use the word is down to the historical oppression and exploitation of Africans, which extended to the decimation of African culture and the African civilisation. This went beyond slavery and went as far as renaming human beings after their "masters" as if they were subhuman, as if they were property. This decimation went as far as the forced conversion to Christianity and colonialists dictating how "they" have sex. In blunt terms, when a white person uses the n-word it's part of a history of white supremacy and is not a form of re-appropriation. That being said, I would prefer it if this word were simply left to fade away but it's because of the history behind it that it lingers on.

Politically Incorrect.

In the video above Michael Savage, a right-wing shockjock, makes some despicable remarks to a prank caller and ended up losing his job at MSNBC over this incident. Notice that those who argue against political correctness use straw-man arguments taking examples in which people are barred from saying "black board" for the sake of offence. Then all people like Bruce Forsyth have to do to defend the use of the word "paki" is to claim it's "political correctness" that is out of control to claim the word is racist. This is not only absurd, but obscene. It's a way for people like Richard Littlejohn to whip up a rage amongst the working-classes against ethnic minorities - who are supposedly treated "too well". Ultimately it's a technique to get working-class people to act against their own interests. The likes of Rupert Murdoch, the enemies of political correctness are typically the friends of mass-privatisation.

A vote for the Conservatives or UKIP is a vote against political correctness, but it's also a vote for lower taxes for the rich and a smaller public sector for the poor. It's a vote for a deregulated banking sector and lower wages for working-people everywhere. By whipping up a furore amongst the masses over local councils banning England flags, and other ludicrous tales, right-wing media outlets are trying to get people to act against their interests. They use examples that almost always false or distorted to support their conclusions - that the n-word isn't racist and that the c-word isn't misogynous etc. - because there is no rationality behind using such words and no justification for it. We don't say "black board" anymore because we have white boards nowadays. The so-called "ban" on English flags is actually a benign warning from the police that flags (of any nation) can be a safety hazard on cars.

As Stewart Lee once said political correctness is little more than a clumsily institutionalised form of politeness, which has downsides too but it's a lot better than the time when people could make all kinds of obscene comments. Before political correctness, in Britain, we lived in a country where people like Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson were allowed on television to spout jokes that pick fun at gays, women, ethnic minorities and the disabled. That was a time when we could watch shows like The Black and White Minstrel Show, in which white actors "blacked up" for the sake of 20 years of "family entertainment". Not to mention the racist claims made by Enoch Powell about immigration from the West Indies, that it would allow the black man to enslave the white man. It was a time when the Conservative Party ran a campaign in Birmingham with the slogan "If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Liberal or Labour." Things are so much better today, we are a much more civilised country.


H. Lewis Smith said...

It should be made perfectly clear that rappers and all other blacks who use the n-word in general, reflects a state of the art stupid and moronic behavior. However, in the case of the rappers its about $$$ the cha-ching.

In other words rappers have sold their souls and sold out their race for 30 pieces of silver. No matter how you try to slice and dice it, it gets no plainer than this.

J.T. White said...

I am thinking of doing a separate article on rap music, which I am not a fan of, as it is misogynistic, homophobic and celebrates capitalism in it's most destructive form.

In this article I was focused on presenting an argument for political correctness, as part of that I sought to defend the way in which some black people (whether rightly or wrongly) use the n-word from reactionaries - who think that it is hypocritical that whites can't say the n-word.

Thanks for reading.