Maybe the “breaking news” that Paula Deen actually used the “N-word,” will help to bring racism into a new light; and can help all Americans to be more sensitive to the use of slur words to demean and insult others.
People born and raised in the south, even decades after the end of the Civil War, did not think it unusual for African Americans to be called “niggers!” That was merely a way of distinguishing them from White people; or people of other races. However, I completely understand that it is very offensive to African Americans.
That word in all cases was not meant to be a derogatory insult. I remember the first time I ever heard the word back in the early 1950’s. We had been raised to refer to people of a darker color as colored people. I remember the drinking fountains having signs above them as “White Only” and “Colored Only.”
My brothers were playing in our back yard in a little town in Georgia called Bolton. A Black lady came walking down the sidewalk one day and walked up to the porch and asked, “Them little niggers bothering them kids?”
As a pre-teen, I looked at her kinda strange for her having said such a thing and I said, “No, they are playing.” Then she said, “Well, if de is; you just let “Nigger Ruth” know and I will put a stop to it.” She was known by that name all through the community. That is what she called herself. No disrespect here in her dialect; but that is what she said.
Along about that same time, another Black kid – not these – called me a “cracker!” I was not upset because I didn’t have a clue what they meant by that. I thought I was being called a soda cracker because I was so very pale White. I was not offended because I was pale White.
For more information on the word usage of “cracker,” check this site.
I had no idea the word was a racial slur. Originally, teamsters who drove teams of horses or oxen used their whips to spur the animals on, and they were known as “crackers!” I had no idea about that either.
Long after I was an adult, I was told the term was used as a slur against White people because back in the days of the slavery plantations, owners used whips to beat their slaves. At 8 years old, I didn’t even know what a slave was. Did you know that very few families in the south actually owned slaves? In a search of my family history – there was never a record of anyone of them owning a slave?
Many plantation owners and slave owners were absentee owners who lived in the north, and in the early years of slavery in America, it was the people of the north who bought and sold them.
At one time, there was a baseball team in Atlanta known as the “Atlanta Crackers;” and also a Black team knows as the “Atlanta Black Crackers!” Perhaps that was because they “cracked the bat?”
You can learn more at this site which states it could be one of these: A poor, White Southerner, or someone who is quick or efficient at a task, or in reference to plowboys who cracked the whip over animals or a shortened version of “Atlanta Firecrackers,” the earlier 1892 minor league team. Another derogatory term used for Caucasians was “poor White trash!” Couldn’t the N-word also have other explanations?
In a previous place where we lived, there was a Black family who lived directly behind our house, and we drew water from a spigot on their back porch as we had no running water in our little house. We played with these kids the whole time we lived there. To this day more than 60 years later, I can recall them by their nicknames – Woody, Dar-Lou, and Boo Boo. I believe their last name was Johnson.
The Irish were also great for giving their kids nicknames as well. Today, they are called “street names” by gangs. I would give anything to be in touch with those former playmates today. We spent many hours playing together and never thought anything about racism. We lived on Rockbridge Road in Avondale, Georgia.
Sometime time later I was also exposed to racism and didn’t even know what it meant. I was called a “hunky” by a Black kid. The only thing I knew was to have my nickel ready and when the “hunky man” came through the neighborhood playing a music box theme, I had to run and stop him if I wanted an ice cream bar covered with chocolate. I later learned that the kid didn’t even know the correct slur word to call me as apparently it was “honkey.” For further explanation of this word see this site. Also at that site you will find listed other times the word honkey was used in entertainment. And there was no outcry.
When I was about 14 years old I went to work behind a luncheon counter in huge department store in downtown Atlanta. We were told that we could sell food to Black folks; but we could not serve them at the counter.
Being outspoken as I was, I asked, “Why, not!” The answer from the manager was, “We just don’t.” As little girl coming from the country, I had not been used to any type of discrimination against people of any color. It would break my heart to see Black mothers loaded down with shopping bags and several small kids in tow; and have to stand at the end of the counter to buy their food and then have to go outside on the street to eat it. I thought this very cruel.
While I didn’t leave for that reason, I didn’t work there much longer. They also cheated their little counter workers by not returning all of their tips that they required to be put into a lock box.
I learned about racism during that time while riding the bus to Atlanta. I would see empty seats on the front of the bus and Black people standing up in the back. I thought how terribly wrong – all of this was.
One thing I have regretted all of my life was when a Black woman sat down beside me on the bus and I crawled over her and stood up. I guess I had sat too far back in the bus. At that time, I didn’t have a clue as to why I did that. I only knew the sign said, “Black people seat to the rear of the bus!” I guess as a young kid I thought I was breaking the law. I have often thought about that and wondered if I had hurt that lady’s feelings.
Late in the 1950’s I went to work for a credit clothing store in Atlanta. I was a junior in high school and my first day on the job I was to type out “duns” as they used to call statements of account.
I had typed a whole stack of envelopes with the title “Mr. or Mrs.” on them. The owner of the store told me that I would have to type them over. I asked why and he said, “We don’t refer to our Black customers as “Mr. and Mrs.”
Another time, I asked him why his clothing was so much higher – higher than the most expensive stores in Atlanta – Rich’s and Davison’s. He said, he charged three times the rate because one-third of the people would pay their whole bill, and one-third would pay half and one-third would never pay a dime. There were no credit cards in those days, people just came in and bought and signed. The majority of their trade was African Americans and poor White folks who could not afford to pay cash.
I married in 1959 and was more out in the public and that is when I began to see real racism for the first time. Black people had to climb up high steps in the back of the palatial Fox Theatre in Atlanta since they could not be seated on ground level with White people. Still as a young adult I did not understand the reason behind this.
As a young mother in the 1960’s, I began to see all the racial tensions play out in Atlanta and in the news. I could identify with those who were sitting in at the lunch counters. I could identify with Rosa Parks who refused to sit at the back of the bus. But I could not identify with the offense they felt by the N-word. I didn’t have a clue why that was.
I just didn’t’ understand why African Americans took such offense at being called a “nigger!” Way back then I looked the word up and there was no mention of it being a racial slur. It gave the background of the word coming from the word Negro which came from the racial classification of Negroid. By this time, I often heard White people being called other words like “Whitey!” I never took offense to that because I was White. What was there to argue about?
As I grew into adulthood as a Christian, I have had many dear friends of all colors and different nationalities. I learned long before Martin Luther King, that we should not judge a person by the color of their skin; but the content of their heart and character.
In the 1960’s the Civil Rights Movement began to target churches for their sit-ins as well as restaurants. I shall never forget the conversation at a little Baptist church that I attended. The subject was brought up what we were to do should Black people choose to come to our church for a demonstration.
Some stood to their feet and said such as “We should just ignore them, or we could just say a prayer and everyone leave. I think they were mostly afraid of violence happening in their church more than the color of the people’s skin. But one brave lady stood and asked, “Why do we spend millions of dollars sending missionaries to Africa to teach about Jesus and to minister to the poor and lost, when we have a mission field right here at our doorstep?.”
Years later at another church, I remember the first Black person who came to our church. I made a beeline to him at the end of the service, as did others, welcoming him to our congregation.
Now Paula Deen, a renowned TV personality and author of many cookbooks, has been fired from the Food Network Channel for admitting that she had used the word “nigger!” Now I had to ask myself – who in this country at one time or another has not used some type of word to describe another person based on their race? We have often heard people referred to as nips, wetbacks, towel heads, wops, crackers, Whitey, honky, and other words not printable here.
These are all meant to demean a person simply because of the color of their skin. This type of bigotry and racism has trickled down to even calling people names because of their faith and religion. Bullying did not start on the school yard. It starts in the home and community.
We sang a little song as children that should be our mantra in all things racial. “Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world!”
Racism in America will never be solved and eradicated until people realize it is a two-way street. If racism is wrong, and it is, then it is wrong for every race. Until we come to the realization that God created all people and for His own purposes He created them of different races. He also created them male and female for His own purposes.
Every person God created was created for a reason and a purpose on this earth. Many have said that because of slavery, generations of people were blighted and doomed to be poor and uneducated. That is not so. Take a look at George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington and others of days gone by; and take a look today at the many successful men and women of the Black race who has risen above their birth status to become greatly successful men and women.
In the same vein, many poor White people of the south were not able to pull themselves up and out of poverty; but most did. Irish descendants who came to this country were treated in some cases much worse than the African slaves. They had no place to sleep, no food to eat, and no one would give them a job.
We grew up poor. My grandparents were uneducated and my parents had little education; but they worked hard to see that their children had a chance at a higher education than the one they had. Each generation did better than the one before. But we were rich in morals, character, and love for each other. That is something that no one can take away from you.
I once heard an explanation about why God made people of different colors. A little girl surmised that since we are all made of clay that God just made people according to the color of clay He was standing on at the time. Not bad for a child.
But as children of God, we each need to take full responsibility for our words, actions, and deeds. We learn to do that by reading the Word of our Creator – God.
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11”
Slavery is not condoned in the Bible, but deals with a matter that was totally man made like all sin. Few people know that one time a ship came up from Africa and kidnapped an entire village in Ireland and too them as slaves, and they were never heard from again.
Africans were the ones who sold their brothers and sisters into slavery. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own blood brothers. Today, there are nations and people who are making slaves from their own people. The sex-slave trade is the most hideous of them all. That is what we should be concentrating on – that which is happening today.
Just this week an statue of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist against slavery was placed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda alongside the other African-Americans such as Sojourner Truth, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, whose statue was unveiled earlier this year. As Americans we should be proud of all the citizens who have made and who still makes a difference for good in our nation.
History shows that there are thousands of evil people who have trampled on the lives of the innocent; and one is no better than the other. However here in 2013, we need to let go of what is past and look forward to making life better for those who come behind us. We need to throw down our racial arsenals and stop teaching hatred to our children.
About twenty years ago, we had our house up for sale. As was always the case, when I went outside the little Black door from next door would come running to where I was. On one such occasions, he was sitting next to be on the patio swinging his little feet and he asked me if I was going to sell my house to Black people. I told him I didn’t know. It was just whoever bought it. He said, “I hope so because I don’t like White people!” I had to laugh because that little boy loved me and apparently didn’t notice the color of my skin. That is the way we should all be – we should not notice the color of a person’s skin; but determine who and what they are.
“Where there is no fuel, the fire goes out.” We must stamp out the fires of racism by no longer fueling the fires. Why do we continue to fuel the fires in the lives of our children and future generations?’ There is no benefit in doing this. It just divides our country. “Just one life and it will soon be past and only what is done for Christ will last!” Our time on this earth can be better spent in doing good; and loving our neighbor by moving toward the high mark of the calling of Christ“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” Philippians 4:8
Families call each other names that are not fit for the ears of God – or each other. That needs to stop. Young people today call each other deplorable names and there seems to be just a total lack of etiquette and manners – a total lack of respect and honor for others.
However, we have got to stop being offended at words to the point that young men and women are fighting, committing suicide, and even killing each other over words. I remember my mother telling me, “Sticks and stones may break your bones; but word can never hurt!”
When I got teased at school I didn’t agree with her; but now that I am older I can see the wisdom in that statement. It is not the words that hurt, but the hurt we allow because of the words we accept and take to heart.
For more information and explanations check this site
Black people react differently when a White person uses the word than when another Black person uses it. The explanation is that Black people do not say nigg-er – but nigga. But they also call White people cracka – and not just crack-er. A person on BET, explained that nigga is actually a term of endearment – would it be if that word was used by a White person? Or was nigga just an emphasizing of the dialect?
Alex Thomas, a Black comedian, was reported as saying… “I still better not hear no White boy say that to me… I hear a White boy say that to me, it means ‘White boy, you gonna get your XXX beat.”
Another explanation for the word is:
“Nigger is a noun in the English language. The word originated as a neutral term referring to Black people, as a variation of the Spanish/Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger (“color Black”). Often used slightingly, by the mid 20th century, particularly in the United States, it suggested that its target is extremely unsophisticated. Its usage had become unambiguously pejorative, a common ethnic slur usually directed at Blacks of Sub-Saharan African descent.”
Was Paula Deen the first celebrity to use this word in public? “No!” To name a few others – Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Eminem, Kreagshawn, Elvis, John Mayer, Lisa Lampanelli, and Hopper Penn, son of Sean. How many more should be added to this list? Should yours?
What would be an actual understanding is to realize that we are now all free. And like it or not our Constitution condones free speech. It is it is true for all people and all races; or it is not for any.
I see and hear words that are offensive to me every day that must turn the stomach of God. Never in my 72 years did I ever think freedom of speech would include the burning of the flag, pornography, and violence.
In my generation, the use of any profanity in public was not acceptable; and men would fight over others who exposed their wives and children to such. There was a time when people did not misuse the name of God; and today you hear it fifty times a day as an expression of excitement and/or surprise. Hopefully, it is still used in prayer recognizing the Holy One as our God. One time, I was watching a show on TV and the woman used OMG seventeen times. That seems to be a total lack of vocabulary.
An interesting read can be found at this site where an African American taught a college course on the using of the N-word. You may find it helpful and insightful.
It is called, “Straight Talk about the N- Word.” If the embedded link does not work click on link below.
- How did the n-word become such a scathing insult?
- Why is the n-word so popular with many young Black kids today?
- What types of things do they confess?
- Most public school teachers are White women.
- How might they hold class discussions about this word?
- Do you think it would help them to lay some groundwork?
- How might a K-12 teacher go about teaching the n-word?
- What should teachers keep in mind as they teach about the n-word?
Let us remember the Words from Galatians. When we learn this principle, all the rest will fall into place.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” KJV