dat nigga sh*t
aight, so imagine you are walking down a busy street with damn near your life savings in your pocket, in cash (incredibly stupid, i know, but bear with me) and an acquaintance stops you for what you think is merely friendly conversation. after pleasantries are exchanged, he quickly digs in your pockets, pulls out your hard-earned money, makes it rain right there on the sidewalk, and hauls ass up the block. instantly, men, women, and children of all kinds are scrambling on their hands and knees, throwin bows and knockin you over to snatch up your personal belongings. what a violation! what do you do in this moment? do you fight off every passerby individually and try to reclaim each ‘stolen’ bank note (i mean, can you really blame these people?), or do you focus on the person who betrayed your trust and put your valuables in the street for anyone and everyone to claim? this example might not make perfect sense, but its how i view black folks’ current obsession with policing the use of ‘nigger’ in everyday conversation by blacks and non-blacks alike.
at some point in our history, we black people allowed popular music (not just rap), and other media, to take somethin personal and sacred from us (“nigger”), and distribute it to the hungry masses indiscriminately, for the sake of success and popularity amongst them. as is typical for traumatic events, different people process this loss in different ways, ranging from apathetic to irrational and hypervigilant.
my view? glad u asked. here it is: at some point you gotta realize that what’s done is done. “nigger” is everybody’s word now, like it or not, and we black people have no one to blame for its widespread use (and/or misuse) but ourselves and the folks we chose to hold up as heroes and celebrities. when they turned around and sold it to whites and others for the cheap, we got in line right along with everybody else, to buy back fragments of what we had already given away.
“nigger” used to be private, like most slurs. grandma might even have used it casually, but never in “mixed company”, cuz that’s the way personal family business was dealt with. but eventually, someone amongst us sold out, broke the code, and put our business in the streets. where they do that at? i’m sayin, when was the last time u heard two asian people call each other “chinks”? or hispanics refer to each other as “wetbacks” or “spics”? i dont even know if they do that. but you can bet they call each other “niggas” tho; cuz i’ve heard them do it— i’ve got the ‘big pun’ cds to prove it.
and on that note, how silly is it in 2012 to try to squash the widespread use and misuse of ‘nigger’ when its in like 90 percent of our music and movies? c’mon man, if i pay 12.99 for a cd, ima sing along with EVERY word i choose to. i bought it. it’s mine now. i aint tell u to put a price-tag on somethin invaluable; that was your bad. i’m not sayin that i like the fact that whites, asians, etc. have the right to use “nigger” and choose to try to identify with the word. i’m just sayin that i have learned to try to accept it, and when i do get mad about it, i focus my anger at the true culprits. but at the end of the day, we’re standin on the street corner lookin sad, with our pockets inside out, while so many different people have scooped up our loot and run off, that there’s NO WAY we could chase them all. we got caught slippin. it’s their money now.
however, losing our slur-of-choice to the masses hasn’t been too tremendous of a loss. i mean, “nigger” aint a magic word after all, just a popular one. some black people have it in their minds that if we only stopped sayin it to each other then all our societal problems would be over. they feel that our use of “nigger” around each other is not at all positive, or even neutral. rather, its the key to our global disenfranchisement. how silly! this is a classic example of missing the forest for the trees. black people saying (or not saying) “nigger” has no widespread societal effect; we have real, flesh-and-blood problems to tackle in our ‘community’, like HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, poverty and the prison industrial complex. how we talk to each other is way down the totem-pole of priority. every group has a corresponding slur; ‘ours’ only stings because we are actually treated like our slur, even today, by the ‘powers that be’. It’s the unjust reality that has weight, not the word. but that’s a lot harder and more complicated to fix, and would require us black folks who went to college and/or read a little marcus garvey to get off our high horses & stop scapegoating those among us whom we consider to be ‘less-evolved’. instead of trynna organize a boycott of “nigger”, let’s boycott the ‘other n-word’ (nike) which uses prison labor to assemble those $200 ‘foam posites’ we apparently can’t wait to shoot each other over. but y’all dont hear me tho.
if we owned property like other races do, taught our true history to our children the way other races do, received service and protection from law-enforcement like other races do, and played a crucial role on the ‘supply’ end of our economy the way other races do, we could call each other whatever we want. period. sh*t, if all that was true, “nigga” might even become a compliment.
Slavery and Jim Crow remain the highlights (for lack of a better word) of black oppression in this country. go ask any black person who lived through segregation to list the worst aspects of black life at that time. i’m pretty sure “black people calling each other niggers” wouldn’t even crack their top ten. recently, i expressed this view on facebook, to which a ‘brother’ chastised me for what he considered to be ‘advocating the use of the last word that so many fallen black people heard before they were murdered’. my thought is that our ancestors would be ashamed that we focus on the ‘last word they heard before they were killed’ & NOT that they were lynched in the 1st place! i’m pretty sure the noose hurt a little more than the foul language.
Lastly, whether i or anyone else chooses to use “nigga” does not mean i am less entitled to justice, or any more a victim of mental slavery than the next nigga. Don’t worry about what i say, worry about what i do. If you knew how I live my life, you’d know that I work daily to be part of the solution; not the problem. A big part of this is trying to sift through knee-jerk emotions and outdated useless traditions, in order to establish a relevant and pragmatic philosophy. If you can’t see that, then I only have two words for you: nigga please.
ever since i was a little kid, i wanted to be an artist— kindergarten, first grade, second grade. teachers would ask what i wanted to be when i grew up and i’d be like, ‘an artist’ with no hesitation. after a while, no one had to ask me anymore; i was known as ‘the kid who can draw’. when we moved from brooklyn to dc, it was the easiest way for a shy 11 year old to communicate and make friends. i’d slide a drawing to the kid next to me, he’d pass it around to the whole class, and by the end of the day, i’d earned respect and a name for myself.
but that was then. this is now. i’m not an artist— and i’m almost 30. for some reason, i never went to art school. well, i know the reason. its because i never thought i’d make any money being an artist, which is basically true. art has been a hobby, a pastime, a perpetual back-up plan. i still get positive feedback from time to time, don’t get me wrong, but it hasn’t progressed beyond my elementary school-level accolades. up until recently i still dreamed of art being my full-time gig, but i had to get real: people don’t buy art. i mean, they might, but just not mine. over the better part of a decade, i’ve been at countless vendors fairs, festivals, gallery shows, even retail stores (which cost me money to participate in) and had my artwork in several formats (tees, handbags, prints, posters, postcards, etc) and never had monetary success. ever.
for some reason, people think that telling you your artwork is incredible is just as good as buying it. if you can’t spend 3 bucks on something you say is incredible, then how am i supposed to believe you? you’d rather buy some anonymous sh*t from target for twice as much before you’d support me. how am i supposed to take that? save me your empty compliments, facebook ‘likes’, and retweets if there’s no money entering my pocket afterwards. this sh*t is not for fun, it’s for SALE. if i had a dollar for everyone who said they were gonna buy a print, a tee, a postcard (which cost me money to print up) and then changed their mind, i’d be rich enough not to care. that’s pretty effin insulting when you think about it. someone says fifteen bucks is too much to spend on a tee with your original art on it (something you put your heart into) but then they’ll spend 30 at the gap for a blank one.
and in their defense, maybe my art is just not that good, or at least not palatable for 99 percent of people. my work has slavery imagery, lynching scenes, and a lotta blackface; its emotional. not everyone likes that kinda stuff the way i do. people tend to have strong reactions to my work, which rarely, if ever, translate into sales. i constantly hear, ‘i love it, but where would i hang it up?’ in your house, dumbass. is that a serious question? ‘that’s an awesome t-shirt, but where could i wear it?’ really? am i supposed to think it up, make it, sell it and suggest possible venues at which to wear it? all for fifteen bucks? c’mon son. you might as well just tell me it sucks and that i need to give it up. better yet, i already told myself that.
i almost expect that from white people. i’ve joked that one day ima make a short film (a very short film) called ‘white people looking at my art’. so often they make a bee-line to it, because of the bright colors or whatever, look at it for like 2 seconds, and then their faces drop. they realize that it’s not made for them, that the artist doesn’t mind indicting them on his way to telling his truth, or spitting on what they hold sacred. that’s when they quickly walk away. if i’m standing there, sometimes i get a sheepish half-smile as they depart. its almost funny how consistently this happens.
black folks are the worst though. i do this for them and they don’t care. i make art for the black person who hasn’t been totally hollowed out by BET and public schools, who might have some credit hours under his or her belt, or perhaps even a w2 form or a savings account. that’s my experience, and i honed my artistic voice to speak to—and for— people like me. they’re the ones who say the most flattering things too. they even throw around words like ‘genius’, which is embarrassing because i don’t feel like a genius. at all. it can be nice to hear, though. but then they just walk away, as if i can fill up my gas tank with their compliments, or put food on the table with their ‘encouraging’ words. its a total mixed message. i’m left standing there with merchandise that i made for you, you say you like it, but your response is ultimately the same as the white person who can’t relate to it. it’s like putting your heart and soul into a love letter, complete with the ‘check yes, check no’ boxes at the bottom and perfume scented paper. then your intended target looks at it, says somethin like, ‘wow, that really made me feel good about myself. thanks for validating me.’ hands it back to you, and walks away. eff them.
so i’m quitting my pursuit of an art career. i’ll probably always draw, the way washed-up singers will always sing in the shower, but nothing more. no more website with the online shopping cart, no more facebook and twitter posts of my latest piece, no more gallery submissions or vendors fairs. i’m tappin out. no mas. i’m trynna sell these super-high quality prints of my work (which cost me $1000 to have done) that i’ve had in the trunk of my car for almost a year, but even that’s slow going. the only interested buyers so far are my parents. seriously, my parents are the only ones who will spend real money on my art. i’ve come full-circle. its like i’m six years old all over again. by july 4th, whatever artwork doesn’t sell, i’m trashing. i need my independence. i’m literally throwing it in the dumpster and being rid of it forever. i can’t look at it anymore. i can’t live in an apartment with my own art on the walls knowing i live in the only apartment on this entire planet with my art on the walls.
this isn’t meant to be a pity-party, or some kinda reverse psychology b.s. i am honestly at the end of my rope. i’m drained. i don’t want it anymore. there’s such a thing as not being ‘good enough’, and i’m not so arrogant to assume that that can’t be me. i’m tired of rejection, and i’m done. i refuse to do caricatures at king’s dominion, portraits of deceased pets, or draw looney tunes characters in urban streetwear. i’d rather bow-out than sell out.
check out the site before i take it down, or at least disable the online shopping cart feature. thanks.