Nov. 15, 2006 -- The African-American experience in the United States has been one filled with both triumph and grief, and essentially a uniqueness unlike any other in the recent history of the world.
African-Americans have made exorbitant contributions in both the history of the United States and its present. In spite of numerous obstacles to dissuade or discourage our attempts at equality and attaining our human rights, we have still managed to maintain our driving ambitions toward our greatness.
In the face of all of this, many complexities continue to rear the ugliness of our past and contemporary struggles.
One of these is the use of the term "nigga" -- a derivative of the word "nigger." This word was one created out of hatred and disrespect.
Exploring Her Own Identity
We all know the etymology of the word "nigger."
We also know that those who try to justify the use of the word are not using it in the same context as its origins. That is to say, that those who use it are not doing so because they simply mean to refer to a person as black. How do we know this?
The word was used as a derogatory way to impose inferiority upon a race of people. Its use transformed them from black-skinned people to a people described as "a negro." in vulgar derision or depreciation (Webster Edition 1913). Now that dictionary describes the word as just "an offensive term used toward black people."
Who I am and what I am, or what I call myself, is a direct reflection of the environment in which I was born, and this very same principle applies to our children even more so than it does to adults.
It is a reflection of my life as a child, a young adult, as a person, as a mother, or as a father. It all shaped my existence and the role that I am to fulfill while on this Earth. Who am I? In my ghetto, am I just some nigga?
In my school, am I merely just another nigga showing up to fill seats rather than showing up to learn? Was I just another nigga, as many people had called me and themselves? I spent many years trying to figure out whether I was such a thing.
But am I also vulgar -- lacking cultivation, perception or taste? No. I am not.
Was I morally crude and undeveloped? No. I am not. Should I then be seen as an object of ridicule or scorn? Was I so invaluable? No. I was not.
After much thought, I decided that neither I nor anyone that I knew was such a thing. Over time the connotations and the spelling of the word have changed, but no matter what anyone proclaims, the meaning has not changed.
Many people use the word and consider it a term of endearment, which is problematic.
We have taken a word so vulgar and turned it into a part of our everyday language. And now it has begun to manifest itself in our culture, in our lives, in our children, and in our neighborhoods.
We have called ourselves "nigga" and so many other awful things for so so long that now it seems that we can't escape it.
Everywhere we turn, we hear "nigga this and nigga that."
Teaching Children a Different Word: Tolerance
After having my ears and my intellect overpowered by this word, as its use is extremely pervasive within many African-American communities, I had an idea.
In March, I decided to write a book for children that would not only initiate dialogue surrounding this horrible word, but would also discourage its use.
The title of my book is "Don't Call Me Nigga." It was written for children age 6 and older.
The story line illustrates real-life characters whose dialogue, reactions and responses exemplify a true-to-life situation that can be experienced anywhere in America's African-American communities on any given day.
This book was written purely out of concern for the collective psyche of African-American children.
"Don't Call Me Nigga" was created based on the belief that we as adults have the responsibility for the information that is put into our children, and therefore, are partially responsible for the long-term results of such.
When we teach our children and the children of others, we are cultivating minds to think critically and to analyze all that is happening in this world.
To support and/or even use this word, to allow children to use the word, and to fall prey to those who would try to justify its use, would be unfortunate.
Our children need to understand the power in language, symbols and art.
These cultural elements are the lifeline that shapes our very existence. When African-Americans acquiesce to a word that overtly disgraces, it undoubtedly exemplifies a very serious and complex problem.