Earlier this week, the entire region was glued to their media devices watching a car chase that began in the city of Camden. It’s not surprising that that was the case since, most times, as soon as people hear “Camden, New Jersey” they’re automatically thinking the direst of circumstances have occurred.
What was interesting was one of the comments in the forum section of one of the news articles. It read, “Niggers-the main reason for police overtime”. (I’m writing from memory but the gist is the same and apparent). I automatically became offended thinking that the person was directing a not-so-subtle insult towards African Americans. But as the day wore on and I heard more and more individuals go whispering down the lane adding to the rampant rumor mill, I became less so as I realized something.
I realized that niggers were everywhere. I’d always known it, having been raised to understand that the word nigger was not solely to describe any one color but for me, yesterday was a sea change moment. As I looked at the pictures of the “Bonnie & Clyde” duo, I realized then that niggers, too, could be of the “beautiful” people. (Well, maybe they’re not so beautiful now. See updated story and photos here.) It occurred to me that niggers are like that all-inclusive drink offered at your favorite vacation spot. They come in all flavors, shapes and sizes.
Niggers ride the buses and trains with you; they have commuter passes and tickets. They work with you. They’re those toxic employees who are the broke spokes on the wheels of your business constantly causing your commerce to skip rather than roll efficiently along. You possibly meet them every day at the check-out counter when you purchase goods, evident in the level of customer service given. Niggers are smart and savvy not the insipid, shuffling ignorant fools depicted on screen and in print. And sometimes, it’s even more disturbing to discover that niggers are your friends.
From this, I’ve come away with some newly found ideas about the whole nigger/n-word thing and where we, not as African Americans but simply as Americans, go from here. I think it’s time to shed the weight of the past; the heaviness, not the memory. We must, all of us, hold on to the memory to use as a teaching moment for future generations. But the weight of words and attitudes long used and felt, yet recently re-defined however incorrectly, has us as African Americans still pre-occupied with that same bygone era. To move forward into a brighter tomorrow, where hate and racism seek to become standards of a yesteryear, we must re-educate the country about what the word nigger truly means. In doing so, we’ll find that it’s not only us but them, as well.