How America Made Niggas!!! (Part I of Four: Ignorance and Dependence)
Written by Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, PhD   
Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Anthony Samad
Anthony Samad
Over the next few weeks, I will examine the origins and psychological impact of the most socially stigmatizing word in America’s history, the word Nigger—and its afterbirth, Nigga. This series is dedicated to the memory of comedian Richard Pryor, who used the word as part of his comedic routine—at first as ignorant debasement, but later as a lesson of his own personal growth, rejecting the psychological reminder of what society said Blacks were and (in their minds) could never be. Nigger pathology is something America, black and white (and now Brown and Yellow), has yet to overcome. “We Shall Overcome” was the mantra of the 20th Century Civil Rights, and we have overcome a few things (not many). But one thing we, fo’ sho’, have not overcome is this Nigger pathology. Whites haven’t overcome it either. They may (emphasis on “may”) not say it as often, but many think it, non-verbally express it, and will offer it up at the slightest provocation. Now, recent immigrants—Asians and Latinos—have caught the disease. Niggerism is a disease, a disease many of us can’t seem to shake. Why? Because it is a “Made in America” commodity that all who come here choose to buy in to.

We know the word is explosive. It evokes passion, mostly negative (though youngsters try to make a case [a very weak case] for the positive attributes of Niggerism). The term was created to inflict pain, disdain, and create a socio-psychosis that sought to separate Africans from the mainstream of society. The term was meant to debase, demean and debilitate the African—later the American born African, renamed “Negro” for America’s race caste system. Ultimately, the term Nigger transitioned from a condition (a state of being) to a moniker for a person, subsequently becoming a mentality. Richard Pryor had to go to Africa to realize he had the disease. And he essentially said that when all you’ve ever been seen as is one thing, and then you see something (that looks just like you) that causes you to understand what you’re not, it’s a powerful revelation. Ignorance is a powerful thing. The purpose of ignorance is to keep one from being independent of the one with the knowledge, knowledge thus becoming power, or a form power to control or manipulate. If I was to describe what a “Nigger” was, the first two descriptors (there are eight) would be ignorant and dependent. A Nigger is a person who has no identity of self and relies on others to define who they are, and they play the role (in the most negative ways possible) because they have no way of changing their reality. And even when they do, they still haven’t found their identity (that’s why we have “rich Niggers”). Some people act like Niggers because that’s all they’ve ever seen, so it’s all they’ve ever been. Other people grow out of their Niggerisms but know how to go back there (a point we’ll make later in the series) Chris Rock once said, “I love Black People, but I hate Niggas.” Some people didn’t know there was a difference, largely because some people see all Blacks as Niggers. Thus, the constant struggle for identity among African Americans is always trying to prove who they are, and what they’re not. At work, at school, in society, the constant struggle is that the behaviors of one Black are the behaviors of all Blacks. Conversely, the debased perceptions that many Whites and others (including other Blacks) have of black people causes them to assume the same debased views about each and every one they meet. An expectation that all Blacks are ignorant and dependent is a fallacy that causes pervasive racism.

This ignorance, of course, means Niggerism isn’t a black exclusive. Society’s dependence on the term, in relating to Blacks—and Blacks with each other, makes black identity more difficult to establish, and the term, Nigger, easier to validate as a common point of reference. The confliction around the term, Nigger, is in the acceptance around the use of the term. Black mothers used to teach their children, “It’s not what someone calls you, but what you answer to.” Unfortunately, far too many still call themselves Niggers, and answer to it when they are called it.

It’s ignorant, but some Blacks are far too limited in their knowledge and dependent on others self-identity to change their own self-perception. They don’t understand they are not Niggers and are only perpetuating their own debasement. It’s the first challenge in overcoming Niggerism.

  • Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of 50 Years After Brown: The State of Black Equality In America (Kabili Press, 2005). He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com

 

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