Not all black folks embrace the n-word
And I'm not feeling Africans who embrace the word when speaking to African-Americans either
Writer’s note Sept. 29: After Instagram refused to unfreeze my account and froze a second one for being too “promotional,” I’m now finding Instagram to be as annoying as Facebook and Twitter. The username has changed, so the comment that initiated this post may no longer be visible. My opinion on the n-word remains the same.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m Ethiopian. It seemed so random for people to ask me that while walking on the streets of Chicago. It never happens when I am on the South Side (where the population of black people is higher) but seems to always come up whenever I am on the North Side. The population of African people living in Chicago is significantly higher northbound, so this started to make sense. Eventually, and because the question was so specific to a particular country in Africa, I looked up Ethiopian women. After that, I fully understood why they were so specific about my physical traits. Although I’ve done a family tree into the 1800s, Ethiopia never came up though.
But lately a segment of the social media population has assumed I’m African for a completely different (and wildly idiotic) reason: this video. First off, I love “Try Me” by Tobe Nwigwe. I was startled when my mother’s cell phone rang, and that was her ringtone, which made me crack up even more. (I didn’t even know she knew the song.) And although I’m not a fan of him (mostly because any time he talks about Martica "Fat" Nwigwe, it makes me cringe), he’s a dope lyricist, creative artist and has some phenomenal songs. I am never going to hate on his artistry. He’s incredibly talented. But there is nothing funny to me about that Instagram post.
Seventeen-year-old me would say 41-year-old me is being way too sensitive about this video (or the word), would go off into a naive rant about how black people changed the meaning of the word as though “a” magically changes the history of “er,” and would point out the two op-eds she wrote in magazines and her debate with an African-American history teacher. Teenage Shamontiel was loud and WRONG about use of the n-word and went all the way into college talking about how “black people changed the meaning of the word.” Real life taught Grown-Up Shamontiel “ain’t shit changed” and every time black people try to talk other black people into using the word, it makes racist police and the Ku Klux Klan stand back and smile. Mission complete!
In my actual comment on the Instagram post (a week ago), I stated the following:
“It is so strange to me how people are so hype to say ‘nigga.’ African-Americans say that dumb shit enough. I do not need to hear Africans saying it too.”
(Note: Although Tobe Nwigwe’s roots are in Nigeria, this comment is technically inaccurate. He is first-born Nigerian-American and born in Alief, Texas. Regardless of him repping Africa super hard, he’s American. It STILL doesn’t change my point, and brings up a larger debate about whether African-Americans should be considered from Africa or from America. That’s a debate for another day though.)
I also stated the following:
“[…] notice that Africans don't come to America, see EACH OTHER and call EACH OTHER ‘kaffir.’ Meanwhile, a disturbing number of black folks really just insist that other black folks should use their ‘changed’ version of a word.”
And in the most ironic turn of events, Instagram froze me from leaving comments for seven days after this exchange. Imagine Instagram not blocking black folks from making fun of Africans and using “nigga” nonstop, but me using this other slur as an example froze me out. The only reason I even knew it was a slur was because of one of Trevor Noah’s standup routines. (I’m a huge fan of Trevor Noah, but I despise when he uses the n-word too.)
Ironically, that Instagram freeze made the point that I was already stating. You’ll never hear Hispanic people call each other “wetbacks” or “spics.” You don’t hear Asian people call each other “chinks.” You don’t hear Jewish people call each other “kikes.” You don’t hear Australian people call each other “dago” or “wog.” But my response to black people not using the n-word was a couple users saying “nigga, shut up.” To no one’s surprise, they are NOT shut out from comment sections.
And around the time I started dealing with unapologetically racist people in my college years, I started taking note of this pattern. We’re the only group who is persistent about using slave terminology to describe each other. And if you dare to critique it, somehow the people reading it assume you must be African and “forgot you were black.” How in the world did you make this grand leap — with someone born and raised in Chicago?!