The discussion on The View has led to a lot of conversation in the blogosphere regarding who has the right to say Nigger. There seems to be some consensus among anti-racist whites that nigger should not be used, yet due to issues of privilege and power they are resistant to enter into conversations on this issue. As a committed anti-racist I take issue with this abdication on the part of white people. It is good that you own your privilege and your power, but not acting because of it is actually a negation of ownership. Creating spaces that are specifically black, is not necessarily a sign of respect, rather I submit to you that this is nothing but a performance of equality without responsibility.
To speak plainly…It is not appropriate to say that because my body is encoded with a certain social meaning I cannot, or should not operate within a specific sphere. Depending upon the context, if you truly believe that something is racist, it would behove you to speak against it regardless of the audience. It is not sufficient to only decry racism in safe places. It is easy to speak to a white supremacist, or tackle FOX news for their blatant racism because it costs you nothing. Being a committed anti-racist entails having the courage of your convictions and speaking out about issues of race at every opportunity. This does not have to be an accusatory conversation or even come from a place wherein it is presented as a silencing tactic or an order. If one is capable of acknowledging that the body is not free of discursive elements the conversation can and should be had.
I don’t believe in waiting for permission to speak, as this reinforces a sense of hierarchy to a conversation. If we understand that white bodies are raced then it is acceptable for them to enter a racial conversation. To say that race is the preserve solely of bodies of colour re-enforces the racism that we are working against. It is the same thing as saying reverse racism. Whites need to engage on this issue simply because the word nigger is damaging. To call the debate a black issue and declare it unfit for whites to enter means that once again we are creating separate spheres. Progressive conversations cannot evolve when we are divided not only in purpose but from one another.
Nigger was fostered on blacks to reduce our humanity and by willingly taking on this mantle some blacks are saying that they agree with this label. If we need to take ownership for something it should be the positive aspects of black history, and or culture not a hate label that reduces our humanity.
If one is truly an anti-racist or espouses anti-racism it should not be possible to support in language or deed a label that reinforces inequality. We cannot speak about equality while using the language of our oppressor for it is in the words of Audre Lorde to use the masters tools. As blacks we have a vested interest in racial equality due to the systemic nature of racism, and the way in which it impacts our lives, and therefor for us to continue to collude through language and behaviour with those that benefit from our marginalization is a form of racial suicide. Is it really any wonder that when black children were presented with dolls they overwhelming chose the white doll as beautiful. Self love begins with relinquishing the ugliness that society has chosen to construct around the body. We all have a role to play in this important issue if we hope to achieve the post-racial society we claim to be living in.