That Boy Kramer Ain’t Right
This is not a call to action as much as it is a confession. A confession that was prompted by Michael Richards, aka Kramer of Seinfield fame. That's who the audience attending L.A.'s The Laugh Factory over the weekend were expecting. What they got instead was no laughing matter - a case when keeping it real, went terribly, horribly wrong.
Usually, I don't buy into the idea that we as a people have built up our tolerance for behavior like this. I know I don't. A white man calls me boy and I'm ready to show him the hands of a grown ass man. And you can bet your bottom dollar if Kramer comes to my neck of the woods, his boy Jerry might be making hospital visits.
The truth is, I can't help but hold myself somewhat accountable for behavior like Michael Richards displayed. I want to get upset and never watch an episode of Seinfield again, but then I'll allow White Boyz to come into my hood. I say I'd whoop the ass of some non-black who has the nerve to call me a "nigger" but I'm dancing to Akon's "Smack That" in spite of what I know about Eminem's past and on top of that, I think the Em's verse is hot! I keep to myself on the train when I hear a group of others use the word as if it was their own. After all, they're not saying it to me. Besides, if I fight, I am acting like a you-know-what, "just because" I was called a you-know-what, and as soon as the police come, they're sure to lock me up like a you-know-what.
I went to a black college, so the n-word was always a heated debate amongst my people - thrown around with love and deceit. Some found it acceptable, some found it unacceptable, and I don't expect events like Kramer-gate to put it to rest anytime soon. But I know when I decided to use the word "ninja" as a placeholder for the other word (an idea I got from Bay Area rapper, E-40), it was a conscious decision and effort by my boys and I to erase the n-word from our own mouth and the mouth of others. And even though Kramer missed that message, I see now, it isn't going to be enough. It's the equivalent of telling your teacher "Eff-you!" and you didn't mean the f-word. Yeah, effin, right!
I've heard and admittedly said all the predictable things to justify why it's acceptable to use the word: "It's a term of endearment," I'd say. "I can use it because it's mine now," some will tell you. "A word is a word is a word," many will protest. And my favorite: "I mean, some of us just act like niggas" (Damn it, there I go again!)
But word's like the ones Kramer used have history - the kind of history that hurts me deeply. The kind of history I was taught to never forget. The kind of history even Kramer knows about. But then people like Damon Wayans, want to try and own the word? Trademark it even? That dog don't hunt. Not at all.
We didn't create the word. So obviously, taking the word, flipping the word, and owning it ourselves isn't the solution. Maybe we should try erasing it altogether instead. Maybe, I should start with me.