Monday, May 2, 2016

The Recklessness Of Calling The President A 'Nigga'.

At President Obama's final White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this past Saturday night, jokes were told and punchlines were... well, punched. And yet, I can't help but feel a little disappointed after watching the event. Larry Wilmore, a rather talented comedian and news pundit, hosted the event. I typically enjoy Wilmore's comedy, but his closing remarks left me scratching my head. To quote:
“I’m going to keep it 100. Yo Barry, you did it my nigga.”

Now, I'm not going to lob accusations of racism at Wilmore. I fully realize that he did not intend anything atrocious by calling the President a 'nigga'. In fact, Wilmore most certainly intended the use of the word as a friendly gesture. And yet, the callous implementation of such a derogatory label represents the very problem I have with someone identifying the President a 'nigga'. Or, for that matter, anyone else. Our President, love him or hate him, holds a distinct honor of lofty esteem. The office of the President deserves respect, even in moments of anger or disagreement. It's not the person filling the shoes of Commander-in-Chief, but the position itself that should be venerated.

Wilmore's use of 'nigga' represents a continuing social dilemma that I've written about previously (read herehere and here). For hundreds of years in this country, minorities of African descent were chained, enslaved, beaten, attacked, raped and all-around denigrated, only to be called 'niggers' as a stamp of sub-human garbage. As recently as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's, our fellow citizens bled (and in many cases died) to live as equal men and women, free from the label of 'nigger'. Over the course of recent history, 'nigger' has morphed into 'nigga', essentially as a product of slang and street culture. Though they may be spelled slightly differently, they are one in the same. 'Nigga' is spelled phonetically to represent common vernacular.

And here we are, 2016... our President (a man of mixed heritage, nonetheless) being called a 'nigga'.

Such reckless abandon for our own shared history, no matter your ethnic heritage or place of origin, is grossly negligent. Despite the friendly motivations by calling another man a 'nigga', are we so blind as to not understand what the word means? Do we not understand the immense struggle behind such a connotation of disparagement? I don't believe in censorship of any kind, but I do believe that we must be responsible for the words that we speak.

No man is a 'nigga'. Not your friend. Not your family member. And most certainly, not the President.

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