Niggers: Are We All?
I once heard it said that the term nigger was a corrupted voicing of the word Nidjer, originating amongst slave traders along the Barbary Coast of Africa because they had trouble pronouncing Nidjer or rather Niger for black Nigerians, which is the most populous African group. Webster’s New World College Dictionary affirms that it is a ‘dialectal variant of Negro,’ although I think Webster is stretching the etymology here, but then further indicates the word is taboo in everyday usage for anyone without appropriate patronage, being reserved for Black English only. This sounds racist to my way of thinking, and this should not be.
Growing up in Chicago and later the suburbs, ethnic groups were constantly referred to by colloquial slang English terms, it was hard for us not to catch them, and for the most part, few seemed to care. There was ‘krout’, ‘spic’, ‘kike’ and ‘dego’, ‘goy’ to mention several that come to mind, but back then, you were what you were. We received the name calling in the royal sense of a title conferred. Nobody was going to get bent out of shape because of the terms that best identified us. Along the way came the term ‘kracker’ to reference any of the above ‘white’ ethnic groups!
I really think the black community has missed a great opportunity with this Nigger thing. Let me explain. I can remember when Volkswagen first started importing those cute little Bugs! Detroit had a field day cause they were making automobiles as big as whales, and laughed at the diminutive VW with disdain. What did Volkswagen do? They capitalized on the Bug’s attributes, and those that fell negative, they spun as positives, making in the contrast the Detroit models seem exorbitant; small was not tiny, but ‘compact,’ tiny motor meant ‘an efficient, air cooled engine’, ‘increased miles per gallon’ compared to gas guzzling monster engines meant the Bug was economical, and so forth.
An Asian firm, Hawley & Hazel Company popularized a product line the logo inspired by Al Jolson with a stylized black and white face smiling from under a tall top hat, the Darkie brand of tooth paste! There may have been other Darkie toiletries such as mints, but not much. It was a very popular brand item in the Asia Pacific countries. However, after Colgate purchased the company a tsunamic outcry started because of the background history of that word eventually forcing H&H to capitulate and change the logo to Darlie, making the character on the packages more ‘Asian’ appearing. I felt the outcry absurd. Here’s what should have happened.
H&H should have partnered with a prominent ‘black’ figure, perhaps an actor or ball player to promote the brand. Expand the toiletry line into clothing, Darkie shirts, a Darkie jeans line, Darkie bow ties, dapper shoes, and so forth. Defamation could have become an identity emancipation of sorts having become a ‘positive’ influence.
And here is the crux of the situation as I see it. All these ethnic groups I refer to above immigrated to America for a better life. They came willingly. Black African people were brought here, (admittedly against their will) sold into slavery by their black countrymen, to labor here to bring about a higher quality of life for white American owners. When Lincoln established parameters of their freedom, they found themselves without purpose or status. The right thing to do at that time would have been reparate, to return them to their homeland, to the place that gives black people their heritage and identity. But that didn’t happen and we are all here in this Kumbaya social experiment. The fact that black people refer to themselves as ‘African American’ is itself a statement of racial inequality, and because today there are fifty-four countries that make up Africa, it would be more correct for each to identify their tribal heritage or country of origin, like in ‘ I’m Mali American, or I’m Congo American if they have to have the identifier at all! Why not, “I’m an American!” this would go a long way toward unification of this nation.
White people understand that Nigerians are black, we don’t need that fact flaunted daily in our white faces! Ok, now don’t get uppity, it’s the truth. And on that note I’m sorely troubled with what is transpiring here in America. The outcry to tear down statues erected to honor men of the South because slave descendants are offended by the history is offensive to me! What has failed to be recognized in all this is that the South fought for rights and liberties granted by this country’s government, do you hear that, rights and liberties granted by our government! Southern states were fighting for their very freedom and livelihood, granted to them by the then government, the same government that ups and decides to take that freedom from them! Rights and Liberties held in esteem one moment to be withdrawn the next is denigration to those holding those rights and liberties dear. The monuments stand as testimony for all of us that freedom is worth fighting for.
By the way, wouldn’t a statue of Martin Luther King resonate like the Liberty Bell more soundly if representatives of what he detested were also to be seen? Yet, if Dr. Leaky’s assumption is correct, that the first homo sapiens originated somewhere in central Africa, and the populations from that, couldn’t we all claim to be niggers?
Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 3rdED. 1996. Macmillan Publishers, USA pp. 916
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