Saturday, 10 August 2013

Opinion: Where Do You Stand on the N-Word?

The Education of History
There is a great clamour for education, education that changes the circumstances of a person, lifting them out of situations that tell a compelling story of social mobility where the success we see today is far from the lowly beginnings that will resonate and offer hope to others.
However, with education, I adjure you to get history, a sense of history, the lessons of history that will hopefully ensure that you have learnt from the mistakes of the past and can build on the foundations that were laid before.
Those who carry that sense of history when celebrated can find such inspiring words as were spoken by Oprah Winfrey when she was inducted into the NAACP Hall of Fame in 2005[YouTube] – “Because they were the seed of the free, and because they were the seed I get to be the fruit.
Getting the Perspective of the N-Word
Beyond the uproar that accompanied the means-profiling of Oprah Winfrey in Switzerland in that CBS-ET interview there is an even more significant aspect of the interview that is being lost, it is in the use and the context of the N-word. See the later part of that video.
This is what Oprah Winfrey had to say:
I do not run in the circle of people who use the word loosely or use the word because for me, it is out of respect to those people for whom that was the last word they heard while they were being hung, it’s the last word they heard when they were being fired, it’s the last word they heard when their house was being burnt, it’s the last word … it’s the word they heard every day when walking down the street, when they had to step off the sidewalk and let other people pass.
She concluded by saying, “I owe them the responsibility and honour by not trying to denigrate them as they were by using that word.
There is no other history for the N-Word
The N-word is loaded with history that some of us have never learnt and those who have learnt have easily forgotten, but the memory of those it was not a few generations ago to bear the humiliation, carry the repudiation and live the seething hate that denigrated a people to almost insignificance cannot be abolished to a trend and fad that is gaining currency amongst our youth – a people without a history are a people bereft of roots, swept around like clouds in turbulent winds without stay or anchor.
No, my friends, we do have history, documented and living history that should hold a significance in the journey of life that we experience from a record of our ancestry to the gifts that we bequeath those who follow us – there is no respect in the N-word, it cannot be gentrified away from the seed, the tree and the fruits that have ripened and been eaten by those who revelled before as the necks of those before us bore the yokes we can never imagine or fully understand.
If there is anything that we can take away from this, it is that there is no other parallel history of the N-word that means nice, beautiful, acceptable, honoured, revered or desired.
Standing as 10,000
Oprah Winfrey sadly appears to misquote Maya Angelou in Our Grandmothers when she says, “I come as one, but stand as ten thousand”, it is no less significant in the misquote or paraphrase, it is laden with meaning and a clear perspective of history, knowing the road she has walked and where she has arrived today.
This is what the part of that poem says:
No one, no, nor no one million
ones dare deny me God, I go forth
alone, and stand as ten thousand.
Where Do You Stand?
The question then remains, shall we - with the sense of history that underpins the present in which we stand on the shoulders of the many who marched, walked, talked, prayed, were harassed, were beaten, were murdered and were martyred for the cause that gives us the humanity we now enjoy – go forth alone and stand as ten thousand for the shame and humiliation they suffered by celebrating the name that made our history so blackened by suffering and denigration as our new identity?
I say again, with education, get history and with history, get enlightenment for the N-word was given to call our grandmothers worse than the master’s dog, it must not cross our lips again, if we really know who we are.


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