Southern Alabama and “N.I.G.G.A.S.”

So tonight I was confronted by some interesting individuals upon entering Mobile, Alabama.

While sitting at a bar having some fried catfish and chips, a man approached me indicating his interest in my bike and asked if me and Gonzo were bike messengers.
gonzo n me
Being the “down”type of white-boy he told me that he loved Obama and that we have a Black President and that Black people in general were the most beautiful race on the earth.

I was flattered and downright touched…up until he dropped the bomb. “You know, I could tell when I first seen you that you was cool peoples, you know you my nigga!” He paused, and then added, “you know but its aight if I say it with the n.i.g.g.a and not end with the ‘E.R.’ ”
Crazy white Craig

Anyways, I was obviously a little taken back, however, seeing as how this gentleman had just paid for my dinner, I felt a little hesitant to argue his point that in Louisiana “all the black folks are cool with it”. Anyways, we walked outside to take a picture by the bike and were greeted by a black man riding on a mountain bike who took claimed he wanted to purchase my touring bike! Next thing I know ol’ cool white boy has greeted the man sayin “whats up my nigga?!” The outcome of the ensuing conversation was bleak. After trying to explain that his black friends in Louisiana are “cool with me sayin nigga,’ he claimed ‘man I’m a nigga too!” An argument and some macho positioning went around until I convinced the black man not to try and beat that “fat white motherf***az ass” . “Well F*** you too then, NIGGA!” the black man he finally said dismissing his newfound foe.

So in turn for not fighting the man over their miscommunication I bought the man a beer and asked him to tell me about his life. Turns out that he’s a Desert Storm Veteran, not receiving the services he needs as an plastic artery in his left leg clots often. “The government has really forgotten about us”, he expressed. When asked about Obama he said he was hopeful that the vets would be treated better for their service to the country.

Then he was kicked out of the bar. Apparently the owner thought that he was trying to work his hustle. According to the bar owner, he had a poor reputation for hustling folks nearby.

What do I take from this? Well, at this point just hours later I am still trying to process just what went on. I see one more example of how the Obama-era Post-racial society concept is bogus. People are hurting and neglected, and many of us can’t communicate beyond our differences.

Some more food for thought from my favorite cartoon, EVER! What do YOU think???


12 Comments on “Southern Alabama and “N.I.G.G.A.S.””

  1. #1 Bill Goff
    on Jan 2nd, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Hi Ryan,
    I’m glad you made it out of Texas and and still biking in spite of your accident. Please keep us informed daily of your progress. I am getting worried that you have many miles to go and fewer days to the Inaguration. I have read that bikes will be banned within a security zone around D.C. (I’m not clear exactly where). What plans do you have for riding into the capitol?
    My son who lives in Arlington is a captain in the Maryland National Guard. His unit has been called up for Inaguration support so he will not be able to be with me at the Inaguration. I will be packing today and planning for cold weather.
    Your supporter from Lake Avenue in Pasadena (older gentleman with white beard),
    Bill Goff

  2. #2 Rosny
    on Jan 2nd, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I feel ya ryan.

    I hate it, but sometimes you have to know when to push through.

    I love you, and I’m proud of what you’ve done so far. keep it up.

    Hallelujah Holla Back.

  3. #3 Anthony Beard
    on Jan 2nd, 2009 at 11:29 am

    A component for change or a member of the straight talk express? As an educated, peaceful, African-American Man, I have navigated through that one before. You did a great thing, especially riding away from it–for now! I am worried about the distance and the time also. Maybe you should head northeast now. The weather has moderated. FYI. There are mountains ahead!

  4. #4 bL-aKtivist
    on Jan 2nd, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I got a little confused in the he’s somewhere. You bought the black man a beer and he is a VET? What happened to the well meaning, but perhaps in need of a few lessons in social edict, white man?

    I think you’re courageous for trying to mediate the issue and for being able to help bring peace to what could have easily become a less than peaceful situation.

    About his love for black folks, lol, it’s admirable, but perhaps a little over the top. I don’t think race should be a measure by which we are judged positively or negatively. Even, and perhaps especially because of physical features. We’ve seen how poorly that kind of thinking can turn.

    I recently had a run-in with a black woman who told me she was a black supremacist, as if that was supposed to be impressive… I think I know what she meant but it was problematic nonetheless. I certainly am not for supremacy of any group based on race.

    I think black people are beautiful, I think it is difficult to REALLY swallow that compliment without dissecting it further. Who does he consider black people, and do those people consider themselves black? Does it matter? Would he think they were as beautiful if they weren’t black, and if not, what does that say about him. How does he feel about others. All things I’d love to know. Wish I could have ridden with you!

    Keep up the good work bro. You are loved!

  5. #5 yojimbo
    on Jan 2nd, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    ryan, just repeating krystal’s sentiments, i’m glad you were there to mediate the situation – recognizing it wasn’t the time and place for dialogue but rather to separate and let heads cool instead.

    also, great clip from boondocks!
    but it brings something up in it that i think is a big part of why that guy said what he said – the music of our day has bombarded us with the word, popular culture is inundated with it, and people hear it so much from such a young age they start incorporating into their own language. i’m just saying, thats all. it doesn’t make what the guy said right, or even excusable – just shows that the media is making is easier and easier for it to roll off of our tongues everyday.

    best of luck for the rest of the trip!

  6. #6 Dante
    on Jan 3rd, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I agree with Yojimbo. We, as Black people have created a complicated double standard in regards to the word nigga/ nigger. We have clothes, movies, music, and overall public usage that says the word is okay… sometimes. There are even times when people who aren’t Black are given a pass to say the word…sometimes.

    I can see how so many people are confused about the word nigga/nigger. On one hand, we say it is a term of endearment that shows that you are close to or care for someone. On the other, we are furious and outraged that someone would say the word in our presence, even if they are not saying it in a derogatory mannner.

    I personally feel like we should all practice what we preach. And practice it across the board. If it’s not okay for a white person to say it, it should invoke the same response when a Black friend or family member says it. If Black people can say it, it should be accepted when Michael Richards says it.

  7. #7 Cave
    on Jan 3rd, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    This is a very difficult issue for a non-American to understand, I think. Dante kind of encapsulates why.

    There are so many cultural overlays, so many assumptions. Is it a racial issue or a cultural issue? Colour or ancestry or self-identification? Blaktivist – “Who does he consider black people, and do those people consider themselves black?”

    I’m glad it was resolved peacefully, I’m sad it was ever an issue.

  8. #8 Tope
    on Jan 4th, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Nigger is perhaps the most controversial word in America. It is as problematic as America’s many times forgotten and unspoken history.
    This conversation you had reminds me of lyrics in the Game/ Nas song called “Letter to the King.” The lyrics go:
    The word Nigger is nothing like Nigga
    Don’t sound shit alike like game like jigga
    One came before the other, like aim and pull the trigger
    one is slag for my brother, one is hang and take a picture.
    the rope aint tight enough he still alive go fix it
    pour some gasoline on em/ call his daughters black bitches
    make him pick cotton/ while they mama cleanin up the kitchen
    same cotton in white tees- thats the cotton they was pickin’.

    The Game forwards the the word Nigga is slang for “brother,” while the word Nigger carries with it the history of lynchings and slavery. Picnics in America is a shorthand name for “pick a nigger,” a practice of hanging and sometimes burning of african americans that Game alludes to in his line “The rope aint tight enough he alive go fix it pour some gasoline on him.” For many years in America lynchings were commonplace, especially in the south. Many times men would work the fields on slave plantations, while women would “clean up the kitchen.”

    For me, this is why the word is so problematic. Nigger was never a word chosen by black people, it is put on us as a derogatory term, and in the scope of America’s long history it has been the last word some black people have heard before their untimely death. To put America history in scope- The international slave trade began in 1609 and ended around 1800. Slavery ended by law in 1864, but in the South Jim Crow (segregation) laws persisted until 1964. This makes the existence of legal slavery in America persisting for 255 years, and with the addition of jim crow laws, 355 years, the majority of America’s history.

    In response to Cave’s comment, in terms if it is a cultural or racial issue- it is and was both. America has had a culture of slavery and of white supremacy for the majority of America’s history. These social inequalities persisted through America’s legal system and are still relevant today. The existence of slavery was contingent on white supremacy, because for slavery to continue white people had to first believe that they are white and not black, and in doing so had to believe themselves better than black people, otherwise the institution would crumble. In terms of race, Slavery was the institution that put into play these different racial terms America operates as norms- Black and White.

    So in response to the man who believes himself to be a “nigga,” take it back 140 years the man would not be in shackles. This is not to forget that during this time in the north there was some free blacks.

    Dante– Michael Richards said “Look, it’s a Nigger,” and “If it were 50 years ago I would have you hanging upside down with a fork up your ass,” the same allusions the Game makes to lynchings. This is definitely NOT OKAY. Just as many hardships we have faced as black people in america, the word “Nigger” has been re-made to “Nigga” to symbolize some sort of comoradory amongst blacks. I can understand those who use it and how its use by whites can continue to upset blacks like myself who wonder if “the man” truly has any clue about the history behind the word that he feels like he has rights over.

    On the flip side, maybe this man heard Nas’s recent song called “Be a Nigger Too.”
    The hook goes
    “I’m a Nigga he’s a nigga she’s a nigga we some niggers
    would you like to be a nigger too?
    To all my kike niggers spic niggers ginea nigga chink niggas
    that’s right, ya’ll my niggas too
    They like to shoot a nigga blame a nigga hang a nigga
    still you wanna be a nigga too.”

    In this song I believe Nas is referring to the multi-layers of american racism. Kike is a deragatory racialized term referring to jews, spic to mexican, and ginea to italians, all people who have been the subject of hate throughout America’s history. I think Nas is saying fuck it, everybody is a nigga because America’s system has treated other people like Jews, Latinos, Italians and Chinese unfairly throughout history.
    However, I do not think the man heard this song or was trying to relate to it in a similar fashion. It seems like he is superficially glorifying black people and claiming some sort of affinity, and in wanting to be black, really separating himself from blacks rather than coming together to talk about the complexities of race.

    Ryan- Don’t feel like you can’t be critical of someone if they are financially supporting you!

  9. #9 Dante
    on Jan 6th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Tope- I understand a lot of what you are saying, but I don’t buy the premise that nigga and nigger are two completely different words. The only real difference is the way it is pronounced or how certain letters are emphasized. Other examples would be ask/ axe or police/ po-lice.

    I don’t think you can honestly say that nigga is only used by black people out of love or respect. You used rap lyrics to show ways that the word nigga is used to spotlight injustice, but I could quote countless other rap lyrics where the word nigga is used in the same manner that it would have been by a racist to inflict pain on a person of color.

    ex: “I never hesitate to put a nigga on his back.” Snoop Dogg
    “Two more to the head. Yeah, that nigga’s dead.” DMX

    These are examples of of the hypocrisy that people who defend the use of the N-word have to address. Defenders of the N-word say it is a term of love or endearment that is fundamentally different from the word nigger, which was used to demean, put down, embarass, and victimize Black people. That argument holds up until we turn on our TV’s, radios, or CD’s and hear the version of the word that is supposedly used to express love, being used to spread hate.

    I see no difference between what Michael Richards said and what I can hear on any hip hop CD. It may even be worse coming from another Black American because they are supposed to understand the history behind the word and the pain that it brings to so many people. It is also extremely hypocritical to be so outraged when something like the Michael Richards or Don Imus incidents happen, but say nothing when the majority of main stream hip hop and rap use the N-word to talk about killing, robbing, or generally devaluing the existence of their fellow Black Americans.

  10. #10 Tope
    on Jan 8th, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Dante- What’s up? Long time. I completely agree with you that the term has been used out of hate by black people on black people, especially in mainstream hip hop, which is sad to see, as many problems in the inner city continue to persist affecting issues such as jail populations being overwhelmingly black. I believe many of these mainstream hip hop artists advocate selling drugs and being a thug and killing other “niggas” is a huge problem that only exacerbates the problem even further.

    Can the word ever be re-made from its original negative connotations? Would erasing the word mean erasing the history behind it? Can the word be abaonded as long as people continue to feel the presence of current injustice because of historical injustice?

    I’m not sure what happened with Don Imus– But I feel that his use of the word— specifically pointing to a black man in the comedy club and saying- “Look, it’s a nigger” and threatening the man that he would basically be lynching him if it were 50 years ago is a racial threat, completely different than that of Nas’ use of the word or Dead Prez’s use of the word. Snoop Dogg , The Game, and Young Jeezy in some of his other songs definitely uses the word in very negative light, as I mentioned earlier, exacerbates the problems.

    I brought the issue up to my mother tonight, and she reminded me to not give the word too much power because these classification systems of humans is a way for society to keep us separated and to come to real change we need to get down to the human level— seeing people as humans- not as a nigga. not as a nigger, not as a white or black. I agree with her, but I am trying to find a point of intersection between the two. History definitely plays a role in the how society operates in the present, and we are continued to be separated along racial/gender/economic lines. I think breaking through that separation means that we have to get past these differences.

    Can America ever be a non-racial society?

    Because Barack is a black man, are we in a post-racial America?

  11. #11 Dante
    on Jan 9th, 2009 at 3:44 am

    To answer your question about the usage of the N-word and whether it can be re-made or erased, I think the word should be used in its proper context. I don’t think it should be erased because it is a part of this country’s history, but it should also not be celebrated or romanticized.

    I don’t think America should be or ever will ever be non-racial. It is a part of our human nature to want classify ourselves as one thing or another, even within our own separate groups (i.e. races, gangs, tribes, political affiliations, etc.). I don’t think people having differences and being proud of what makes them unique is a problem. The problem comes in when those differences become paramount in every relationship, incident, and social interaction. There are a lot of people who, because of history, past abuses, upbringing, or any number of reasons, view each issue through the eyes of their group. That type of close-mindedness keeps people from being able to relate to one another on a personal level. We don’t have to have to pretend that racism doesn’t exist, but we do a disservice to ourselves and others when we assume that every issue is affected and shaped by race.

    I think the most ideal situation for race relations in America would be a time when people are able to treat race as just another physical characteristic such as height or hair color. We can recognize and be aware of it but not let it be the determining factor in how we view or interact with one another. I think the Obama election was one example of that. His being Black never became an “official” issue in the election. A majority of voters felt like he was a man who they trusted with a message and a plan that they felt comfortable with, and they voted based on that, and not on skin color.

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