The “N” Word

Would you consider this little piece of flash fiction racist?  Or anti-racist?

I’m hoping it will be taken as anti-racist.

=================================

“Hey, what’s up, nigga?”  Rodney walked up to Jacob, who was leaning against a pristine vintage 1964 Corvette painted a beautiful metal-flake dark blue.

Jacob smiled.  “Like you don’t know, man.”

“You got a new car.”

“Yeah, check it out!”  Jacob stepped back from the car so that Rodney could admire it properly.  “This nigga’s got some classic wheels, man.”

Rodney ran his hand across the hood, as if he were caressing a beautiful woman’s bare skin.  “Damn, it’s fine.  How much did this set you back—“

“What’s up, niggers?”

The two men turned to see their friend Cory walking up to them, smiling.  Without a moment’s hesitation, Jacob swung his fist, punching Cory square in the nose.

Cory staggered backward to land on his ass in the street.  “Ow, fuck!”

Jacob and Rodney said nothing, just stood staring at him.  Rodney looked concerned.

“Why did you hit me, man?” Cory said.  He looked down at his hands, which had been covering his nose.  “Look, I’m bleeding!”

“You called us niggers,” Jacob said.

“But, you call each other that!”

“We can do that, but you can’t.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it.  I just said it because that’s what you guys say.”

You can’t say it.”

“Why?  Because I’m white?”

“Yes because you’re white!  What the fuck were you thinking?”

“But I’m your friend.”

“If you were my friend,” Jacob said, “you wouldn’t be calling me a nigger.”

“But you guys call each other that!  You call yourselves that!”

“White people don’t call black people nigger,” Jacob said.

“Friends don’t hit each other,” Cory said.  “And what you’re saying is racist.”

“What I’m saying is racist?!”

“Yes!  You’re excluding me from saying a word because of the color of my skin.”

Rodney took a few steps to stand beside Cory, who still sat on the pavement with his nose dribbling blood.  “Cory kind of has a point,” he said to Jacob.  “You shouldn’t have hit him.”

“White people are not allowed to call us niggers.  People who violate this require swift and immediate discouragement.”

“But I didn’t mean anything by it,” Cory said.  “I used the term in the same spirit you guys do.  In the same context, even.”

“You don’t get to use that word!” Jacob yelled at him.

“I can’t use the word because it’s a racial slur, but you can.  Because you’re black.  That is racist.  And if you don’t want people calling you that, then you need to stop calling each other that.”

Rodney held out his hand and helped Jacob to his feet.  “I’m sorry he hit you, man.  I know you’re our friend.”

“Thanks.”  He stood up.  “You know, you can call me whitey, you can call me cracker, you can call me anything you want — bastard, motherfucker, cocksucker — anything.  Because we’re friends.  But fuck — you never hit a friend.  Look, I’ve got a nose bleed now!”

“Your ancestors were never my ancestors slaves, Cory!  There’s a difference.”

“You have never been a fucking slave, and I have never been a fucking slave owner!  All I’ve been to you is a friend!”

“I’m not going to say sorry, man.  You don’t call us nigger.  Period.”

Cory tried in vain to wipe the blood away from his nose.  “Fine.  Lesson learned.  I’ll never say that word again.”

“That’s why I hit you,” Jacob said.  “So that you’d learn that lesson.”

“Fuck.”  Cory took a deep breath.  “Well.  Damn.  It’s a really good thing I didn’t call you jigaboo.”

Jacob lunged, and Rodney had to grab him in both arms and hold tight.  As they struggled, Cory turned and ran, leaving a trail of crimson red droplets to mark his path.

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14 thoughts on “The “N” Word

  1. I really, really hate the word “nigger.”  I would never say it to a black person, ever.  It’s the top pinnacle of my taboo words list.It boggles my mind that African-Americans use it as a term of endearment.For some reason, the word “jigaboo” has always made me giggle like a child, simply because it’s so WRONG and because it sounds funny.I have a serious problem with people who are racist, and when racism hides behind the mask of “equal opportunity,” it especially pisses me off.  Reverse racism is still racism.  What’s worse, it’s publically sanctioned.  Perfect example:  “Black Entertainment Channel”  That is self-segregation.  Self-segregation is racism.I don’t care if it’s politically incorrect to think that way.  It freaks me out to think that I could be labeled “racist” for being totally anti-racist.

  2. I agree with you completely.  I’ve heard the angle that they are ‘taking back’ the word, but when’s the last time you heard Koreans happily refer to themselves as ‘gooks’?  Or Hispanics says ‘spic’ with endearment?  *shakes head*  Thankfully, none of my black friends do.

  3. We’re all racist, even Stephen Colbert who claims he’s not (which is part of the source of the ironic humor when he, a comedian, makes such a statement). Anyone who says they’re not a racist or, to look at the bigger picture, claims not to be xenophobic about anything, is probably lying while ignoring a fundamental behavior of successful biological organisms. Specific to this particular issue, check out the South Park episode on ComedyCentral.com that takes it on, as I think they did a pretty good job.Btw, speaking of behavior, as a Behaviorist (my favored branch of psychology back in college), I have to take issue with your inaccurate characterization of “negative reinforcement“. Don’t feel bad though, as I was taking a psychology class in college from a professor (with a graduate degree in psych, no less) who also mischaracterized the concept. She admitted she was wrong during the next class, after going back and reading B.F. Skinner’s definition as I told her to (via an actual ‘book’, believe it or not, as that was long before ’93 when the Web was born), though I think I might have missed out on an ‘A’ in that class (pained smile). Such mischaracterizations were commonplace even when Skinner was alive, causing him to once express regret at coining the term.

  4. @trnunes – Technically, it’s my character’s inaccurate interpretation of the term.  So if you’re going to tell me I’m wrong, and you’re intending constructive criticism, then you really need to point out to me what the correct term is.  Otherwise how will I know what to change it to?Also, I have to disagree with your statement that “We’re all racist.”  At least in my point of view, no matter what goes on inside your head, no matter what percolates through your subconscious, it’s your actions which determine whether or not you’re a racist.

  5. I did follow your link … and, seriously, I don’t know what the correct term would be.  All I can find is that it’s incorrect.  I was hoping you knew.

  6. Sorry, constructive criticism was my intent (though I fear it may not have seemed so(?)), and I did provide a link to the Wikipedia defination (which I also reviewed in advance, to verify it’s accuracy prior to linking to it from my comment). Here’s a pertinent passage from said link provided in my previous comment:”Negative reinforcement is an increase in the future frequency of a behavior when the consequence is the removal of an aversive stimulus. Turning off (or removing) an annoying song when a child asks their parent is an example of negative reinforcement (if this results in an increase in asking behavior of the child in the future). “As for my comment that we’re all racists, I stand by my characterisation, though I completely respect the fact that you disagree. Human behavior in all its forms is a complex equation, from the subtlest verbal behavior to the slightest change in body language, and such behavior is natually impacted by an organism’s familiarity with its surroundings. Such xenophobic reactions are a survival instinct and, while I agree with you that a reasoning individual might be successful at controlling their more overt or obvious reactions in unfamiliar circumstances, 100% success in every physical response is (again, IMHO) inhuman and unachievable. The more effort we all exert to familiarize ourselves with those who are ‘alien’ to us (e.g. different sexes, sexual orientations, races, nationalities, etc) the better, but no one can feel completely comfortable and be in complete control in every situation, and racism is merely one example of the natural fear of the unknown. Once you get to know someone, realize they’re mostly just like you, the harder it is to dehumanize and demonize them.Again, I meant no slight, which is why I took pains to explain how often the term “negative reinforcement” is misused. I suppose my passion for the subject matter compelled me to comment in the first place, though it would seem that I may have misjudged the appropriateness of my action (which I do quite often, so no surprise there (pained smile)). This will be my final clarifying response, as I’m sure others have more learned comments to share, and my apologies if something I said in this response also comes across as ‘unconstructive’, as (again) that was not my intent.

  7. You know my thoughts on this topic.  Particularly as I have the pleasure of coming from probably the most xenophobic society in the modern world. Multiculturalism, melting pots.  Bah Humbug!  However, I do disagree with trnunes comment about everyone being racist.  I believe everyone has prejudices, I do not believe that everyone is racist.  Also, and this ticks me off no end.  Are they American or African?  They are NOT Africian American.  Just like they are not Irish American, or Italian American.  You are either Americans and should be proud of that fact OR you are Africian and proud of that fact.  Most of them have never left these shores, and are so far removed from the African culture that they wouldn’t have a clue how to behave if over there.  Furthermore, they need to get over this slavery issue.  There has not been a society or culture in history that at some point have not been subjugated to another culture.  AND if anyone even bothered to read about the slave trade (and not the revisionist version) it was the individual black nations capturing and selling neighbouring tribes to the white man, most of this injustice was perpetrated on the black man by the black man.  They are just as guilty of this inhumanity.  They sold their own people KNOWING what was going to happen to them, and for what?  Guns and profit.  The whole topic disgusts me, as does their attitude now. 

  8. @trnunes – I’m going to change it to “swift and immediate discouragement.”Please don’t misunderstand my earlier messages.  I wasn’t arguing and I wasn’t mad or anything like that.  I just wanted to figure out what the correct term would be.Thank you for bringing it to my attention, my friend!

  9. Great post and wonderful, provocative comments.  I might be one of the most politically incorrect people you’ll ever meet.  I am so against things like “Black Entertainment Television.”  I wish more people understood our point of view.Also, I love what Lady Savina said about labeling different ethnicities “Irish American” or “African American.”  I would never call myself “Indian American.”  I consider myself to be American American.

  10. Up through high school I attended school in a largish inner city school district which was pretty heavily mixed and over the years saw some tensions around this word. In middle school there was a kid who almost got beaten up in a situation very similar the one you give here. I think I’ve only meet one person who truly did not see race at all. That’s not to mean I think everyone is racist, just that people notice it even if they don’t act differently because of it. Just like you notice that someone is female or male. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve meet someone who actually doesn’t see it. Anyway, the guy I know who doesn’t seem to even notice it has ignored racial (and similar) barriers so long and so well that when dealing with him people who normally wouldn’t have anything to do with him because of his skin color actually consider him a friend. It’s been an amazing to witness.

  11. @Charon_Wraith – My own kids have mixed racial heritage, and my ex and I raised them to be as color blind as possible when it came to these kind of matters.  My older daughter looks white, but she considers herself Hispanic, which she is 50%.  Yet they wouldn’t let her join LULAC because she looked too white.While we lived in Dallas, she had friends of all racial backgrounds, but then one day a group of black girls beat her up for being white.One stupid incident derailed 15 years of teaching her that people are people no matter what their skin color.  I felt truly sick about it, and still do.Then you have the media who paint a picture of only white people being racist, and that is so obviously not true.  We’ve successfully attacked racism in whites.  It’s time to attack it across the entire spectrum.

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