There will always be a plethora and steady flow of viral videos involving police officers allegedly behaving badly. The week of May 15, 2019, is no exception. A quick look at the news and social media will reveal another controversial video of a police officer shooting a pregnant female. I cannot and will not comment on each video which I come across. However, there is one video I think deserves my attention. This video concerns the Montgomery County police officer who uses the n-word in dealing with some subjects while they are sitting in a car. The white female officer can be heard using the word after one of the parties uses the word first. Then, of course, in typical unwitting hypocritical fashion, the person behind the cell phone camera claims that the officer is racist. The foolishness is so ingrained in the psyche, that many don’t know what the controversy actually concerns. This word has so permeated the American consciousness that even the former hit TV show the Boondocks, took it on in an eye-opening fashion.
My problem is not simply that the police officer used the word, and let me state with clarity that I do have a problem with her using the word. The bigger issue is that African Americans use the word, even with the “a” or “as” at the end. Oprah Winfrey and Jay Z tried to hash this out in 2009. Academic papers have been written on the subject as well as an overabundance of books. Scholars have tried to understand why it persists, despite getting an understanding of its legacy of brutality and inhumanity.
Years ago, I can remember standing in a restaurant about to order something to eat and hearing some want to be “gangsta”, of different ethnicity, standing behind me throwing the word around like it was the most natural thing in the world. Fortunately, his friend shut him down and had some semblance of respect. He wasn’t taking the power back in his own ethnic slur words. No, he was co-opting our struggle and experience. And why did he think it was ok? Because he (I’m assuming here) went to rap concerts where the word might as well be printed on the admission ticket. He can’t watch a black comedian get to the punchline without mentioning the word like it was going out of style. Maybe, he saw the Porah Jay Z interview and agreed with Jay Z about the word or watched the interview of Ja Rule. As a side note, notice how during the interview, Ja Rule uses the word in the most leisurely way when discussing its use during a concert he recently attended. If Mr. Rule had no problem with “other” kids using the word at the concert, then why does its use stop once the music does? If the kids are leisurely throwing the word around during an interaction with police, then why should the police not use that language or any language in which they seek to identify the individuals they are engaged with?
If as African Americans, we are seeking to make sure other people don’t use that word, then I say we need to ban it from out lexicon first. Every rap star, comedian, open mic specialist, everyone. Young and old, poor and rich, everyone should erase it from their dictionary.
I think an in-depth analysis of this problem must take place. Hard questions need to be thought through and find those answers no matter how difficult. Can anyone else go to another community and just throw their racial slurs around? Can you go to a Jewish concert and hear Adam Sandler throwing around Jewish slurs? Can you go to see George Lopez or Gabriel Iglesias and hear epithets constantly rolling off their tongues? The truth is that these questions aren’t really that hard. Why do we allow that in our community? I grew up in the ’90s, in the golden era of Hip Hop, when this language was emerging. Record deals were being passed to individuals who would forget about their communities and seek the pop charts. They sold their souls for a chance at stardom, fortune, and fame. And look at the carnage they have left behind. Do n****s, open stores, give back to their communities, raise successful children? Do n****s seek college degrees, pass along wealth or get politically active? Funny how we went from calling each other kings and brothas to n****as.
This conversation is not new and will continue to resurface as long as some people are willing to put up with the nonsense. As long as we are willing to support raps stars, comedians and any other entertainers who use that word, then it will be a problem. The sooner we kill and bury that word, then the sooner other members of other communities will no longer use it. That’s just how a brotha feels.