Curse Word II: N-word or King

‘Black Is King,’ the new musical film and visual album produced by American artist Beyoncé, was recently released to much acclaim and fan excitement. The story, inspired by The Lion King, is told from the perspective of a young African king who is cast out from his family into an unforgiving world. The main character goes on a journey to reclaim his authentic identity and encounters betrayal forcing him to “unveil” his destiny. I have always recognized Beyonce’s talents but I must admit since the release of her Lemonade album, she has expanded her message to include subjects that resonate more for me. The themes related to racial identity, real female empowerment not just materialism, and authentic self love have all fueled my inner fire triggering long term debates within my tribe. The usage of the words ‘Black Is King’ also resonated for me because they connected to one of my unreleased blog posts analyzing another historical word and the negativity associated with it’s usage. I am referring to the dreaded N-word.

NPR Headline: Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Is 
A Sumptuous Search For Divine Identity

Words Matter! The words you use to refer to yourself and others matter. There is a section in this blog that features words every month with their definitions (the etymology, attributes or importance of what the word inherently symbolizes). All words help to create a vibrational vision for how we perceive and give meaning to ourselves, people, places and things. Some words carry high vibrational energy and some don’t seeming to almost guarantee a triggering reaction depending on the context in which and with whom it is used. How often do we ever think about the kind of energy these words possess – – blindly allowing them to manifest into reality? Can some words really be a curse of sorts?

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Proverbs 18:21

The N-word has historical negative baggage with roots so vile and hideous in its symbolism that we still debate its usage today. Its association with racial discrimination, injustice, hatred and violence perpetrated against blacks cannot be denied. HIS-torical evidence shows that the negative sentiment behind the word, intended to degrade and dehumanize people of color, still exists (nationally and globally). In the 2016 documentary on James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, many may not know that Baldwin’s actual statement during a public television appearance in 1963, was “I’m not a n**ger.” To be called the N-word was, and still remains, the ultimate insult for a black person. Even the great writer and thinker, James Baldwin, felt the need to express his outrage outright demanding respect and setting a clear boundary against racial discrimination and oppression. It should also be noted that the film makers made the conscious decision to not step into this controversial word choice replacing the racial slur “n**ger” with a more acceptable term “Negro”

Photo by Jared Short on Unsplash

African proverb: “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

As stated previously, I like to use the occasional F-bomb or b!tch for affect but this does not include the N-word. On a primal level, I find it offensive as it was originally intended to mean. The historical low vibrational negativity is too obvious for me to dismiss. Yet, I must also confess that I’ve occasionally used a version of the “N-word” (N**ga – – a colloquialism culturally accepted by some within the black community) while singing along to my favorite rap song. Even though as a black person I would technically get a “pass” for using the word N**ga, I’ve also consciously omitted it as well. Something is being said but what? Within rap music, one of the biggest genres dominating worldwide, its usage is prevalent. This point brings me to the obvious hypocrisy about using the the word (N**ga) in practicality. I cannot think of any other culture that generally accepts and uses versions of a racial slur towards themselves and within their collective tribe. Many in the black community have suggested that N**ga, as used between blacks, is a term of endearment (similar to bro, brother, homie, friend etc.) within the culture versus the N-word which is typically used by a non-black person towards a person of color, primarily black, as a pejorative, racial slur. Depending on the circumstance, there is an exception to the usage of N**ga in the instance where it can be used between blacks to negatively criticize the behavior of someone within the tribe. So, what is the real difference between the N-word and N**ga especially since the both words words can assume a pejorative tone? Furthermore, should we stop using the word N**ga too because of the historical negativity associated with the N-word (racial slur)

In these modern times, the difference, and interpretations, between the two words is dependent upon both the context and the racial identity of the participants using the words. The subtlety of this distinction, however, still leaves room for the occasional misstep. For example, former ‘Bachelorette’ star Hannah Brown was caught using the accepted version of the N-Word (N**ga) while singing along to a rap song on social media. She tried to play it off but got dragged for forgetting the unwritten rule that the usage of the N-word, in any form, is off limits for non-blacks. Since other cultures (non-black) understand that the N-word is an overt racial slur, the ‘Bachelorette’ star had to publicly apologize for her indiscretion. She is not the only celebrity to have made this unfortunate mistake. 

Old school rap artists found creative and more poetic ways to express themselves without
using the obvious pejorative curse words. Is this what we should expect of today’s artists?

Since everything carries energy imbedded within it, I’ve wondered whether rappers and their fans are unconsciously “stereotyping” themselves each time “N**ga is being used too? Many social scientists have suggested that the psychological trauma that ensues from years of internalized oppression and suffering can often lead a stigmatized group to believe those negative stigmas. I could not agree with this statement more as evidenced by many of the internalized issues I’ve already discussed on this website related to authenticity, self identity and self love. We are technically born free in mind, body and spirit but the various indoctrination systems (educational, familial and societal) provide the mind programming to either hinder or elevate us towards our grandest destiny. I believe these systems of indoctrination have failed us all to some degree creating a false inferiority or superiority complex within various groups. Without changing the previous falsehoods and beliefs within the indoctrination process, it is almost impossible to think that the same imperfect systems that originally failed could now lead the charge in reprogramming our collective mindset.

The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad”, an elite, shadowy group of assassins in the Kill Bill
movies, tried to kill Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo (codename: Black Mamba).

Did Black Mamba expect her previous assailants to help aid in her recovery?

Most non-blacks know that the N-word, even in its many manifestations, should not be repeated, at least not publicly. Is this criticism and boundary adequate? I struggle with this issue because I truly believe that you teach ALL people how to treat you by how you to treat yourself and your own kind (tribe). How then does one demand respect from others if we dishonor our own people? Perhaps, it is now time to change the narrative even if the modern day etymological meaning and usage of the N-word has evolved into something (N**ga) that is more acceptable to some within black culture. After all, we have to set the tone for how we hope to be viewed (as within so without, as above so below). A tribe member and I tested this theory by seeing how we each felt using N**ga versus the word King. We found many ways to use each word in a declarative or questioning sentence. Almost immediately, we found the energy, associated with using the words, to be very different (at least for me). The word King felt more positive and affirming than the other word. I felt as if I was pouring liquid love into my brother (tribe member) than potentially robbing energy from his manhood. This may all sound like a pseudo science experiment but just try it as an exercise and see how you feel within your spirit and body.

Across the globe, people (particularly traditional African cultures), know that the naming ceremony for a child is very important. The phrase, “MY FRIEND, RESPECT YOURSELF,” is a distinctly Nigerian colloquialism implying that one needs to check yourself because you are not demonstrating high self regard. I heard the phrase from Yvonne Orji, a Nigerian actress and comedian from the HBO Show Insecure. Her description of when and how the phrase is used within her culture was hilarious especially the subtle “shade” (insult) implied within these few simple words. How often are we still showing energetically a lack of self respect by using the “N-word” in any form even though some within the black community might consider it to be a term of endearment?

What would our ancestors say about us using “N**ga” as a term of endearment after their sacrifices? They lived so we could call ourselves ….. Wtf!?

I thought my final musings would lead me to advocate banning the usage of both the “N-word” (yes for sure) and “N**ga” (?) but my opinion changed when I was reminded that words have meanings we collectively give them. The etymology of words can and do change over time. Both the usage and context matters immensely. In Latin America,  for example, the words “negro” is a descriptive word used to describe color. “Su color de pie es negro,” means his skin color is black. The slang word “negrito,” or little black man, is considered a term of endearment. Other cultures use similar words to describe skin tone including Italians, Portuguese and Spanish who use the word “moreno” to describe the color brown. They even use color words for white (blanco). Maybe we should take the subject of the “N-word” all the way back to the beginning – – feel the historical context and reeducate our youth – – and then relook at our current word choices again. A cultural revolution, in terms of self healing and societal reprogramming, is needed. This process will not be easy because it requires absolute trUthfulness and systemic surgery within all of our indoctrination systems over time. Are we ready to embark upon a collective trans-form-ation leading towards anastasia (reinvention) in terms of how we see each other? Wake up everybody – – a sea change of positive, high vibrational self identification is on the horizon. So, on this beautiful afternoon I say, “Good day my Kings and Queens”!

Take it all back to the beginning ….. What will you choose to call yourself now?

If we want to change the narrative, we must change the black cultural experience in America and redefine our perceptions of self. 

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