Just call me “Nigger.”

During my senior year of college, I was rounding out what was in retrospect a very valuable period of my life. As such, my room mates and I threw a party for… ourselves. After a few hours at the party I was tired and decided to hit the sack. As I undressed for bed I realized that I hadn’t yet let my dog out for the night. So I stumble down my stairs in my underwear and open the door to let him do his business. At that moment a couple of guys walk by, both white, and start making smart ass comments about my dog. Me not being one to keep my mouth shut, I proceeded to return some of the verbal jousting. Then it happened… they went there. They called me “nigger.” What I didn’t know was that some others at the party had heard this dialogue and reported it to my room mate. Now my room mate was generally a very cautious, quiet, and respectful guy. He was also a massive white MARINE. As I went back to bed, I found it funny that their best comeback was to use a word that no longer holds any weight in this society when said out of spite. I considered myself to be the winner of that particular verbal battle. A few minutes after I was in bed and I heard my room mate come into our room and grab something. It sounded like a sword being unsheathed. In my drunken exhaustion I asked him what we was doing since I couldn’t see in the dark. He said, “Don’t worry about it dude. Go back to sleep.”

What I found out the next morning was shocking. My room mate had proceeded to identify the two gentlemen and chase them down our complex with a K-bar (large knife) that he received in the Marines. When they ran into their own party he proceeded to put the K-bar through the front door and remind them that if they ever called me that again, this was waiting for them.

I’ve always wondered why my room mate was so angry and I wasn’t. He obviously was brought up to respect others and no matter what to stay away from that word. He did what he felt was right and made a statement. Now some people will criticize the violence indicating that there were more “appropriate” ways to handle that. Some people will say he didn’t do enough. I personally was flattered that he respected me enough to take a stand even if I didn’t. He didn’t want to let it go into the bag of perpetuated racism. He didn’t want it to roll off our backs as if it was acceptable. And I assure you that the two gentlemen who he went after will never forget that moment.

So what’s my point?

Over the past 48 hours I’ve been posting, re-posting, arguing, and discussing with my social network colleagues the verdict in the Trayvon Martin trial. I’ve seen extremes of both sides. From white people saying that racial profiling is exaggerated and that blacks should stop pulling the race card for something that happened in the past (slavery, Jim Crow) to black people tagging the racism card to almost everything negative or disappointing that they have ever experience in their past. I found both responses to carry low synaptic potential. So what is it if not the extremes? Where is the middle ground? What is the reality?

There is a serious institutionalized problem with race in this country. Anyone that examines the current laws for sentencing when found guilting with crack-cocaine versus cocaine will notice a disparity that cuts directly across racial lines. There are thousands of stories where blacks have been “legally” persecuted for things that whites seem to “legally” avoid. However, I don’t think there is a ring leader to this madness. Aside from the blatantly racism that exists in the mid-West, the South, and parts of the NorthEast (Boston), I think the problem exists on a totally opposite plane. Here’s why.

This thing we call “white guilt” is actually more powerful than we know. And what no one ever says out-loud is that there is such a thing as “black guilt.” Now “white guilt” comes from a generation that has grown up under the tutelage of previous generations who experienced good portions of the civil rights movement. They are unfortunately not taught to see blacks as equals (as one might think), but instead are taught to pity the black mans plight. This leads them to assume that every black person they encounter is somehow a code that cannot be understood, but must be felt sorry for. They grow up with this fear of possibly committing the most politically unacceptable of crimes. RACISM. They literally fear it to the point where they hold black people to a different, less rigorous standard. What many may not realize is that black people do the same damn thing. How?

When young black men are raised in this society, there are a large portion of them that are taught to fear police, fear white people, and fear change. All of these inevitably lead to that fear being expressed as rage. One of the biggest problems in the black community is that we have yet to figure out how to hold up our portion of the deal and demand universal excellence from our young black people. We allow “being from the hood” as a justification for different rules and expectations. The part that frustrates me the most is that we allow them to hold on to their ghetto manners as if it is directly tied to thier cultural roots. Learning how to speak appropriately and dress professionally doesn’t preclude you from going back to the neighborhood you grew up in does it? In a lot of cases it does. You are seen as a sell-out. An outsider. An “uncle Tom”. Other black youth see this judgment and when their time comes to step up and be a pioneer of progress what do they feel? Guilt. They no longer see the opportunity for just what it is, but also see it as something that they need to imprint their “ghetto” culture onto in order to mitigate that guilt. I’m witnessing that first hand in my life. Young black men reach a plateau and before they can struggle for the next step, they are enabled to remain where they are. We tell them that they’ve done good and that anyone that questions it at this point is racist and doesn’t understand the dynamics of our culture. We enable a cessation of momentum as if it’s a badge of honor. Unfortunately, what it actually does is hold back young black professionals from achieving their full potential by capitalizing on the fear and guilt associated with success. I remember being called and “uncle Tom.” I remember even in middle school being ridiculed by other blacks for how well my grades were. I remember being judged by other blacks for being in a fraternity that was mostly white. I remember wondering if I was “black enough” if I dressed a certain way, or if I was black enough if I spoke a certain way at work. Was I just uber paranoid or were there moments in my life that fed my confusion?

Now think about this from both sides. You have “guilty” whites who feel sorry for the black mans plight, and you have “guilty” blacks who are brainwashed to think success in the fullest sense is something to be ashamed of. Can we get ANYWHERE with this kind of constraint? The Obama’s of this world are exceptions… the 1 in 3 black men that will experience prison at least once in their life are the rule. And it’s EVERYONES fault.

So how can we change it. To me it’s very simple. It starts at home. Parents need to teach their children to demand excellence regardless of the situation. Teachers need to demand excellence in their classrooms. Employers need to demand excellence from their employees. And above all everyone needs to own it and not be afraid of the conversation that follows with each individual experience. How hard is it to say, “no matter what you do, treat others as you’d like to be treated, and challenge them to succeed as you challenge yourself”. It’s so simple that is makes me furious to think we haven’t figured it out yet. The president getting elected wasn’t the end of anything. It was the beginning of a conversation that had long been under the rug but the biggest thing in the room. Obama brought out all the crazies on both sides and now we can see them. We need to challenge the way they think, speak, and act. The civil rights movement was the northern star… we see it… but we still don’t understand it. And in order to reach that pinnacle of humanity we need to struggle in our journey towards it. Obama being elected president was a victory along this journey but it surely isn’t the destination for the story of America. So for me… if you’re going to tell me that you feel sorry for me because I’m black, or that I’m a sell out because I’m black and successful, then you might as well just call me “nigger” and make your true intentions known.

(these are just my opinions but I’m open to any discussion on the subject)

12 thoughts on “Just call me “Nigger.”

  1. Hey Jason,

    First, let me say that anything I say is quite obviously an outsiders opinion. I do not understand what it is like to be in the black community. I don’t know what it’s like to be black. With that said, I completely agree with what you said, especially the part about how black people who attempt to make their lives better are seen as sell outs. It truly perplexes me. The same black people who will call their fellow black friends “Uncle Toms” or crackers will say about how the white people are keeping them down. Wouldn’t this mean that they are keeping themselves down to a certain point? Don’t get me wrong, racism is still there. I see it daily, usually prefaced with “I’m not racist, but…”

    Also, this begs the question of Affirmative Action, which I know is a passionate point for you. I am personally against it, and my belief comes from the point of the last paragraph. Like I said, I do believe that racism in hiring is alive and strong (but dying as younger generations are coming into more power in the corporate system). One has to ask though, how much of employment inequality is from racism and white people holding black people down, and how much of it is from the overarching theme of this blog? I also believe that there is an argument that AA itself could be blamed for holding black people down to a point. You are a successful black man, and I have much respect. You did it on your own accord. Many black people in college and in the corporate world have to wonder if he/she is just there to be a number so that they can meet a quota. I know it would be highly difficult to do, but I think race (and gender) should be ignored in college admissions and hiring. It shouldn’t even be a question on a form. Anywhere, no questions. Businesses and colleges should have the most qualified people, in a race and gender blind process.

    I know this would be difficult to implement, but hey, I can dream.

    In ZAX,
    James Wilt DT 288

    • I think there still needs to be a discussion on AA. It was perfect when implemented for what the current struggle was meaning the simple presence of minorities in many industries/schools. But like most things it will need to evolve to reflect the current state of things. Thanks for reading.

    • “It shouldn’t even be a question on a form. Anywhere, no questions. Businesses and colleges should have the most qualified people, in a race and gender blind process.”

      10000000000% Agreed!

  2. You expressed your points in a clear and concise manner – also what you wrote can be seen as truth in today’s society. I think back to what Straub wrote on your wall about SES. Black or white, many people of a lower SES come from terrible neighborhoods where they are brought up to stay true to their roots and not sell out (many of the lower SES classes happen to be black). It is life times of self loathing, failure and terrible lives themselves that hold back the next generation. Why? Humans have a tendency to be jealous, have a if it can’t be me why you attitude and do not want more for others than they have had – hence, thy hold back their children with lies and allow them to be just as shitty themselves..

    Also, the enabling of the government towards lower SES classes sickens me. Why would you work or want to be better when a handout is a trip to the clinic, welfare office or a baby away?? Being a school teacher, I experience peope from different walks of life everyday. Regardless of where they came from, they will always take what they can get – why work hard when u are not required to? It’s human nature (for many) others, like myself, want to push and be better no matter what is being asked.

    Anyways, I like your points – but as with anyone’s comments sometimes I think we are all biased and lean towards one point of view or the other. Point being in the GZ and TM case. You have some really great comments on the matter, but other comments are a little extreme in my view – but no worries, many others I have read are absolutely a joke to read. If u keep your points to blogs like this – I think more people will listen.

    • Getting government assistance does not mean you aren’t motivated or willing to work hard.. I for example am a black female. I have 3 jobs, live on my own, also a full time student, and currently waiting on food stamps and medicaid. Not because I am lazy but because I pay all my bills and barely have anything left, also I only work part time jobs so im not eligible for health insurance. I fully plan on using the government assistance that i pay out of my checks to support. Will I use it as a crutch and never seek better opportunity no. I will be graduating college soon and going on to bigger and better things. I wont say that everyone is like me but I also wont say majority of people on public assistance are lazy and just want a handout. Also for the record the majority of those on welfare in U.S are white, just to set that straight.

  3. ABSOLUTELY agree with your point about my extreme views. Most of the ones on Facebook were just emotion which didn’t really indicate my point that well. That’s why I wrote this blog. In terms of AA, what we have to understand is that it’s not as easy as just telling those in low SES to work harder. That is something you have to learn. So trying to do that for those currently on goverment assistance is a huge task that needs to be initiated by the black community. There are many whites in the same situation. In order to change the direction of this ship we have to improve the other things surrounding the situation of those in low SES. We can’t just say work harder. We have to give them something tangible to work towards. AA and goverment assistance should be stepping stones towards a free and independent life. So I’m not someone who feels we should just abandon the programs, but I do think that we should help them evolve into resources for improvement rather than eternal crutches.

  4. This was very interesting. However, I must say to you “white folk” are the least of my problem and I live where what seems to be the being of racism and prejudice. Oh yes….Mississippi. I am finding the more I grow and the wiser I become your own people, so to speak, will not support you in your endeavors. They will not support you in your accomplishments. They will not support you in your difference. You’re a “sell out” or “Uncle Tom” the moment you’re seen without saying a word.

    You carry yourself differently because you want something different. Henceforth ” you think you’re white”. You dress differently because you’re a professional. Henceforth “you putting on aires” (I dont know exactly what this means yet). You live somewhere different because you can. Henceforth “you stay out there with the white folk”. You speak with a vocabulary unlike theirs. Henceforth, “you talk white or you uppidy”. These comments and thoughts don’t come from white people. They wouldn’t DARE say something out loud like that. Honestly, I get more respect from whites than blacks. Why?

    Recently someone said to me “you don’t come from where we come from”. I begged this question, “Where do you come from and is it a positive or a negative?” Of course instead of conversation I received defensiveness. But I couldn’t help but think about that comment. Maybe it’s a generational thing? Nye…. I quickly threw that one out. Ignorance has nothing to do with age. Well, maybe we will never get the respect we so fight for and march for until we respect one another. Especially when who you are is not understood or there’s a feeling of being left behind.

    None of us think the same. None of us have the same goals. None of us worship the same God. We are all different. Could it be a geopgraphical issue? Mississippi is part of the “bible belt” where the goal is, while waiting to die, is to eat on some endless buffett in heaven. Everything is god and god is everything. Now who is god to you? What conclucion have you come to regarding your life and him? Are you not allowed to think for yourself and still be a Christian? I really don’t understand the mentality of most black people here regarding religion. In most cases I see their concepts only put them in the box of “no progress or change welcome here.” I won’t serve a god who doesn’t challenege me to be better, do better, succeed, over-achieve and reinforces that I can have it all if I want it. And to most that’s “blasphemy” and “selfishness”. What and why?

    So since I have so many questions and don’t understand alot. I will follow my heart. And my heart say, “Get busy making yourself better and see what happens. I’m certain one’s postive efforts are contagious. And for those we don’t catch on they’ll simply be left behind. What do we do about them? Nothing. Leave them exactly where they’re comfortable being. It has nothing to do with me”.

    We’ll never solve the issue of racism or prejudice. It’s has far too many facets and levels and pain behind it all. But talking about it may be the catalyst for some changes. However, I truly believe it will never go away.

    Just my opinions and outlook from where I’m standing now.

    Thanks Jason.

  5. i love this, baby. and i have a lot of thoughts on this post, on the beautifully depicted complexity of the issues, on the AA debate, but i am definitely too tired to express them effectively. no, not right now. i will be back to discuss AA with these gentlemen (above)- these gentlemen with whom i disagree. i think you are both wrong about AA, but i appreciate the fact that you took the time to write about it, think about it. no progress is made without minds at work.

  6. I have the honor to know you, to have worked and gone to school with you and now to learn from you. I can’t believe the story of letting the dog out actually happened, especially at a school, where I found only the nicest of people ever, but maybe because I’m white and was very naive or more, ignorant. I enjoy reading your posts epecially your opinions on religion and atheism. I’m having a hard time refferring to myself as such, even though I am, and telling my family and friends. Reading everything you post on fb, helps me more and more everyday. I know it’s not as hard of a struggle, or even close to, as it is for gay people to come out, but with my very conservative, Irish Catholic family, it feels as though sometimes. So I just want to say thank you for being a strong person and having the guts to voice your opinions.

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