Lessons from S*t White Girls Say to Black Girls: Why Can’t I use the “N” Word?
By now, most have seen at least one version of the various permeations of the “S*it [insert racial or social class, sexual orientation or gender] says” videos spoofs whereby a member of a certain community pokes fun at the opposite gender in a video short blurting out one word or short phrases that are commonly uttered by those in that group.
The joke took a turn for the social media kind when comedian, student, natural hair blogger and short clips producer Francesca Ramsey produced her S*it White Girls say to Black Girls version. She put it on YouTube and attached it to an article on Huffington Post.
All of a sudden, what started out as a funny way to point out insensitive and aloof things that her white friends used to say to her and about black people out of blissful ignorance of how wack and inappropriate those things were, has turned into a full out online battle of what classifies as racist.
When I first saw the video, I cracked up at it and shared it with my sisters who all had a good chuckle because we could totally relate to it. We had been on the receiving end of one or more of those gaffes. But some people didn’t find it so funny. I got into a debate with one commenter who said the video itself was racist in that it classified all white girls in a negative light. Others said race shouldn’t have been mentioned and that whoever would say some of those things in the video clearly must be dumb. Never mind the fact that several hundred other white audience members found the humor in the piece and also admitted to being guilty of making those gaffes.
Members of other racial groups chimed in commenting that they too were frequently asked and told similar things.
Several mentioned that the video caused them to think about their words. When they uttered them, they had no clue they could be deemed offensive.
For the reason that many people have learned valuable social lessons from the video, it, in short, has served part of its purpose and has been valuable and worthwhile. There is also value to the dialog alone that has surfaced that maybe would not have taken place otherwise.
Clearly, those who say the video should never had been made or should have been made a different way were uncomfortable about some in their gender and race being called out. Point blank, many Caucasians hate being called racist and also dislike even minor inferences that they may be insensitive to race. It’s uncomfortable.
However, not everyone has that option and privilege to stay away from race and race issues.
I told one person on one forum discussing the video that as a black woman there are thousands of stereotypical ghetto and unfair characterizations of my race and gender in the media, every day and all day. If I were to get up in arms and demand each be removed because of the negative light they painted me in, I’d have a full blown anxiety attack from all the stress.
While going through various forums where people were discussing the video, I took note of one pretty well written treatment responding to a white reader pondering, hey, “why can’t we use the N word when blacks use it?” That was one of the “stuff” white girls say to black girls in Franchesca’s video. The respondent said:
Firstly, let’s cut through the fallacy of no one else using being able to use the word “nigger” (any and all variations). I can, you can, your parents can, your neighbors can, your neighbor’s parents can; anyone can. People of all races, from all creeds, and walks of life, can, and do, say the word “nigger” everyday; the only difference is now they get called out on it.
People don’t like being insulted, plain and simple. Moreover, people don’t like feeling degraded because of their race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender, which is exactly what happens when you use the word “nigger”. Now, some black people have tried to “take back” the word “nigger” and use it as a term of empowerment, much in the same way that some in the LGTB community have re-appropriated the words “fag”, “queer”, and “homo”. However, you need to realize that not every person subscribes to that ideology, and you need to respect the fact that people might get offended when you use those terms in their presence (maybe not you specifically, just to whoever happens to be reading this).
There are some exceptions; those using it for artistic-license (comedians, writers, directors, etc), journalist or academic endeavors, people that share a particularly close bond, and similar situations.
However, as a rule of thumb, just know that whenever a white person say “How come black people can use the n-word but get offended when I do!?” it translates as “As a white person, it is my responsibility to tell people of color what words they should and should not be offended by.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Or in other words, so what some comedians and rappers or some folks use an ugly pejorative in a casual context, in the lyrics or name of their songs? It offends millions, of all races. Some people’s offensive usage of that word does not and should not grant anyone blanket permission to also abuse and use it as well.
One wouldn’t feel they should freely be able to tattoo a swastika on their forearm just because some German American neo-Nazis have done so. Well, you could do it but be prepared for the outcry, to be lambasted and run out of polite company.
If you feel your life cannot go forward happily unless you are granted carte blanche permission to throw the N word around as you please and at your leisure, but are also not prepared to woefully offend millions of people who despise the word, your best bet then is to shut your eyes, mouth and desire for being able to say Nigger freely and try your best to move on in life.
I can think of 101 other words you could use in its stead.