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Don’t Call Me Nigger

Just about a year ago I ended a long (half) lifetime in Jamaica, Queens and moved to Ridgewood, Queens on the Brooklyn border. It’s pretty much an Eastern European neighborhood. My super is polish. There are two hands full of Russians, Czechoslovakians and I’m assuming some of these languages I can’t make out could be Romanian and Bulgarian folks chopping it up. There’s also a decent Hispanic population there. Black folks, not so much.

There’s a basketball court literally right across the street from my building, so I thought I’d go shoot a couple of Memorial Day jumpers before heading to the city yesterday. The second I get on the court, I hear, “… nigga.” I look over and see these melanin-deprived kids shooting around. So I finger (PAUSE) the culprit and see the kid getting nervous. He knew what he said was wrong.A few minutes go by and I just can’t let it go, so I head over to the kid and ask him where he’s from. “I’m Albanian,” he replies. [Sucks teeth!] I didn’t know they got a pass. “I couldn’t help, but hear you say that word,” I told the kid. Anyway, I turned into an old man and cautioned him against using the n-word. “I’m not trying to scare you, but you may end up saying it in front of the wrong person,” I warned. Shoot! If I was 13-15 as he appeared to be, I would have been the wrong person. I lived in Montreal for four years in the mid 90s and the racial tension over there is was crazier than some of you may think. They used to have these skinheads there. There’s black and white tension, but then there’s also black and wigger tension. Wiggorance is an epidemic over there. You got the French Canadian wiggers over there trying to be so down that they put on an Haitian accent. Dudes got thicker accents than my moms, yo. Wiggers used to get got for their Tommy Hilfiger just because back when Wu-Tang Clan wasn’t nothing “to fuck with.” Let’s not forget the Moroccan, Algerian and Lebanese kids. They are just some of the most hardbody dudes you’ll ever see stomp somebody. Anyway, my boy sent me a Youtube video of these two kids from Ontario recently getting beat within an inch of their life after using the n-word in Downtown Montreal. See for yourself.Them Haitian kids in Montreal don’t play, yo. I can only imagine what would have happened to those kids elsewhere. That’s my word, I’m about to ask this kid for his email, so I can send him the Youtube link and hopefully scare him straight, because the little chat we had earlier apparently didn’t. Just minutes after our initial exchange, I hear, “chill, nigga.” Ten minutes later: “get your hand off me, nigga.” I was annoyed, but realized that these kids didn’t know any better. It was like a freakin’ reflex. I’m not making excuses for them, I’m just saying. “We know it’s wrong. We’re just so used to saying it now,” one of the kids told me. His friend chimed in, “all our friends say it, so we just say it all the time.”

So later I head back to the court to play a little Utah with these college kids. They sucked by the way. Mind you, I’m rusty as hell, but I just murdered these kids. I creamed them so badly, I wasn’t counting points, started over a bunch of times and still won. I even Carl Chery’d Jayson Williams’d this kid circa 2000 to a point where he had to fix his shoe. But anyway, a little after the game we run this 3 on 3 and this 17, 18-year-old red head kid (with a bunch of parts in his head) shouts, “this nigga’s beating everybody at Utah.” Sigh! I look over and see two Hispanic-looking kids sitting silent next to Punky Brewster. See, some argue that white kids that grew up in the hood get some sort of pass. (What…ever!) But this is Ridgewood we’re talking about. In this case, this freckle-face kid was seemingly getting the n-word co-sign from Latinos, who themselves supposedly have been given a pass. WTF? Again, I went Bill Cosby on the kid.Jackpot: Excuse me, I could have swore I just heard you say the n-word.Red Head: Oh yeah! Why, are you taking offense? Jackpot: It is offensive. I know you don’t mean it that way, but why do you have to say it? You just say it like it’s not a big deal? You don’t think it’s wrong?

Red Head: Well, you know. It’s just slang.

Jackpot: No, no, no! It’s not just slang. Come on! Would you use that word in the middle of Flatbush?

Red Head: I would probably watch the way I talk.

Jackpot: You know it doesn’t have to be Flatbush. A kid you don’t know could hear you say it here and step to you whether you were being racist or not.

Red Head: [Hesitantly says…I know]. What about you? Do you use it?

See, this kid expected me to say yes. Well, you know what, I don’t. Go back to any of my entries and see if I’ve used it once. I’ll quote it while telling stories, but I try my best to abstain from it in regular conversations. Not to say I deserve a cookie or anything, that’s just what it is. Like I told the kid, I’ve been called that word one too many times to use it as a term of endearment and if I said it, I feel as though I couldn’t be mad at people, including other races, saying it. I initially was gonna mind my business and let the kid slide, but they’ll just keep saying it if nobody tells them to knock it off.

Let’s keep it funky here. The word didn’t start with hip-hop. I mean, there’s no denying that rap music has helped perpetuate it to a certain point. I mean, the kid called it slang. I’m wondering where he got that from. Still, I don’t blame hip-hop or even the parents. I blame us. Like, it’s Rick Ross and them’s fault that DJ Khaled uses the n-word so often. Check that dude. But naahh! Trilla in stores now, right? I hate to call them that, but none of white friends say it, not even to sing along a freakin’ song. Some have in the past, but I immediately told them that it wasn’t cool. If some some white kid says it around his black friends all the time, then who am I to tell him anything? Nas said that his goal was to turn the word meaningless or something. Impossible! Those n-word bans and funerals are useless until we start taking the word more seriously. Sadly, I don’t ever see that happening. Speak on it.

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