As much work as the people behind the Washington Post’s interactive project on “The N-Word” likely put in, its biggest and only beneficiaries are those who profited from the traffic it generated. Sure, the publication tried to argue the purpose of its package. When you venture on to the site, you are greeted with this message: “After the National Football League made the controversial decision to ban it on the field this year, a team of Washington Post journalists explored the history of the word, its evolution, and its place in American vernacular today.”
This, despite the reality that such exploration has been done for what feels like a million times already. I’m probably really close to the exact number.
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It may be serious in its presentation, but no serious person could expect any real evolution from long-established points: the word isn’t going anywhere; some Black people will continue to use “nigga,” and they are well within their rights to take a slur and morph it into a colloquialism they feel comfortable with; some Black people will never feel comfortable about “nigga” and they are well within their rights to hold that opinion; and most will reach an accord that a White person who uses “nigga” should immediately lose their lips and tongue.
Another basic albeit inconvenient truth is that it’s easier to have a conversation about “the n-word” than racism.
It’s not even a symptom of systematic racism so much as it is a response to that. A response that’s relatively small when you consider everything else going on right now.
The Washington Post makes note of this point of view, but where is the big interactive project on that?
A project that examines just how detrimental institutionalized racism is and how strongly it presses on. Just check the Washington Post masthead — particularly the very top of it.
Even if Black people took part in the project, this is another instance of White people holding a magnifying glass to Black people when they ought to be standing tall in the mirror, wondering just when are they going to give Black people a fighting chance in this country. Instead, we go for repetition and the superficial. And not surprisingly, we are met with the same results.
Enter television personality and unapologetic troll Piers Morgan (pictured), who wrote the essay “If Black Americans Want the N-word To die, They Will Have To Kill It Themselves,” where he attempts to tell Black people about themselves when it comes to the vernacular remix of “n*gger.”
Like other White men who have no realistic concept of racism because it has never been a factor in their lives, Morgan offers a naïve assessment of how racism works.
Black people are victims of racism. We cope with the conditions we’ve been given. It is not our responsibility to solve the problem we did not create.
It’s hilarious that a British White man wants to tell Black Americans about the state of race when he’s from a country long criticized for not even acknowledging Black people and culture.
In any event, Morgan got the attention he wanted from John Legend and writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Rebecca Carroll. And now me. He’s been smug in all of his responses to the aforementioned and basically told Black Twitter to shut up given he covered Trayvon Martin.
You know, despite it being those very members of Black Twitter who helped up the volume on the journalists and activists who worked to have the story of Trayvon’s tragedy told.
Problem is, the aforementioned Morgan critics do their part to raise the state of conversations about race, but they are drowned out by institutions like the Washington Post and high-profile media personalities like Piers Morgan no matter how reductive the narrative or simplistic their argument is.
We deserve better.
Yet to answer my own question, “Can everyone please stop debating ‘The N-Word?’” No. Because the structure is set up to keep the conversation about race on the superficial and spectacle than the substantive. I wish I had an answer to this, but much like my choice to make “nigga” my own, I can only deal with the conditions I’m provided with. As best I can.
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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick.