A Final Word on The Potent Power of the “N” Word
As you know, Gwyneth Paltrow has been catching a lot of heat for tweeting ‘Ni**as in Paris for real’ during Jay Z and Kanye’s Watch The Throne concert in Paris. I’m here to jump up and down on my soapbox and throw the last bit of gasoline on that raging fire. I’m also going to light up a few of her co-signers in the process.
Russell Simmons recently wrote a blog about how we shouldn’t take offense to Gwennie using the “N” word because it’s a badge of honor. He wrote,
“And in the case of “N*ggas in Paris,” it is clear that these two poets are celebrating the fact that they now travel the world and are literally ballin’ in Paris … it started as a badge of honor, something to be proud of, something to poke their chests out at. Because for them, when they were kids, Paris was a million miles away and now it’s a private jet ride. The idea of being in Paris with a movie star, whether she’s black or white, is incredible!
At the risk of sounding uppity, the life story of Josephine Baker never made Paris seem that far away to me. It seemed within my reach because of her. She was a woman of color living in Paris and broke down many a barrier during her lifetime. So as a little girl, the validation of an actress referring to me as a “n*gga for real” didn’t cross my mind. But Russell isn’t the only one who has given Gwen cover for her a** to fall on. Gayle King stated on the CBS Early Morning Show that the song “N****s In Paris” is the reason why she goes to Paris. Oprah’s BFF obviously caught amnesia and forgot about the time she and Lady O weren’t allowed in the store Hermes for literally being n****s in Paris. The-Dream, who was at the concert, even took responsibility for the offensive tweet and then promptly told Twitter to pretty much get over it because it was all about context. If it’s all about the way you say it, where did the “for real” part come from? That’s not in the song’s title.
The biggest offenders in this rush to defend Gwen for getting just a little bit too comfortable are her besties: Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Their silence is just as incendiary as the “N” word. It even speaks louder. They don’t have to denounce her, but friends check each other.
The Bible speaks on the power of the tongue. It holds life and death. Our history has left too many of us dead just because of the color of our skin. From the slave ships of yesteryear to the Trayvon Martin’s of today, we are being killed because our lives are being seen as having less value and that perception is built around the reality that we are just seen as “n****s” to many. Too many. A single word has damned the black community, but yet a lot of us want to change the meaning behind it. I suppose, but I don’t see Hispanics in a rush to reclaim any of the slur people use against them. GLAAD will fly down like a pack of locusts against those who throw around offensive language to gays and no exceptions or context is accepted. There are repercussions for others when insults of this manner happen in their community, but there’s always one of us leading the charge to absolve those that offend. What’s that about?
The default rationale is that we use the “N” word and so it’s permissible for universal use. In this instance, it’s the name of the song and therefore it’s okay. The word is littered in so many rap songs that you’ve come to expect it after the first beat drops. The use of the “N” word has become so commonplace that people just shrug when they hear it and that’s a Joe Clark Code 10 situation! It’s time to get out of the house and burn it to the damn ground.
Blacks who are in a position of power have got to use their influence. Their platforms shouldn’t be used to make a mockery as to why there is outrage over the flippant use of the “N” word. Their silence and apathy in lieu of some emotion shouldn’t be either. A lot of these celebrities shouldn’t act too surprised when they hear crickets at the cash register. If anyone can be that removed from how potent the “N” word still is and always will be, I can keep my hard earned dollars to myself. And that’s for real.
Follow Stephanie Guerilus @qsteph
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