Why I’ll Never Stop Saying “Nigga”

n-word

It’s one of our most valued and treasured yearly traditions.

A famous White person is caught saying nigger or one of its various derivatives. White person is immediately (and rightly) criticized. The criticism starts many sub-conversations, including one about whether it’s ever okay for White people to say that word, and if saying that word automatically means that a White person happens to be racist.

This sub-conversation spawns another sub-conversation—basically, a criticism to the criticism—where Black people’s use of the word is put under the microscope, with popular rap receiving a lion’s share of the blame. “As long as we continue to incorporate it so freely,” says the sub-sub-conversation, “we can’t really be all that surprised when White people think it’s okay to say.”

I even made a contribution to this tradition last year, spending 700 or so words over at The Root attempting to deconstruct the meaning behind our collective angst over the world’s most beautiful woman’s “niggas in Paris” tweet.

Ultimately, the tradition concludes with the same implied resolution. If we want non-Black people to stop saying nigger and nigga, it would help if we stopped saying it ourselves.

It’s an argument that makes sense on both an emotional and intellectual level. It was a word used to degrade and dehumanize, and regardless of how convincingly we’ve “taken it back,” the history remains. The nigga we use is only two generations away from this nigger. Yet, despite the history attached to it and the context surrounding it, I can’t bring myself to remove it from my vocabulary.

Why? Well, I love words. I love the way they sound. I love the way they look. I love learning what they mean. I love how different pronunciations—a stressed vowel sound or a pronounced vocal inflection—can give the same word multiple meanings. I love their rhythm. I love their personality. I love their etymology. And, most importantly, I love the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of them at my disposal when trying to get what’s in my head outside of it. Included in that hundreds of thousands are nigger, nigga, cunt, f*ck, f*ggot, bitch and every other word where the word alone is enough to offend, and I love and respect language too much to permanently cut any of it out.

Interestingly enough, my knowledge of and affinity for words could be an argument for not using some of them. Since there are hundreds of thousands of them—and since I seem to be very aware of this fact—why use one I know will offend when another will suffice?

That’s the thing. Knowing exactly what words mean and exactly how you want to use them means that, in some instances, another word won’t suffice. Sure, “man,” “dog,” “cat,” “dude,” “my man,” and even “ninja” exist and work, sometimes. Most times, even. But, there are other times when only nigga can accurately convey the feeling or thought I want expressed. And, in those instances, nigga is used.

This knowledge also comes with the realization that certain words probably shouldn’t be used unless you’re completely aware of the audience. Nigga is one of those words. Not only will I not use it around “mixed” company, I won’t even use it around Black people I’m not familiar with. This isn’t self-censoring as much as it’s just being considerate. (Who said niggas didn’t have feelings?) 

Ironically, I don’t even say nigga that much. Aside from when I’m joking with my girl or my friends or repeating lyrics from a song, I rarely say it aloud. Same goes for pretty much every other word on the “do not say” list. If nigga was a condiment, it would be Dijon mustard.

This conversation actually reminds of an experience I had during the first couple months of my teaching career. I started in the middle of the school year as a replacement for a 9th grade English teacher who was on extended sick leave. And, since I was the new guy, I had to be hard. (The “Welcome to the Jungle” beginning of Lean on Me was definitely a great teaching tool.) This hardness included me throwing kids out of class for saying nigga. For the first few weeks I was there, any time that word was said aloud in my classroom, I sent the kid to the dean’s office. Sometimes I’d just write “said nigga” on the referral slip.

I (obviously) didn’t have an issue with the word itself. I did it just to ingrain the concept of acceptable classroom behavior in them. Some of them used nigga so much that they didn’t even realize they were saying it.

After a month or so, I started to see some changes. You’d see kids literally catching themselves in mid-sentence, or letting it slip and immediately blurting out “my bad, Mr. Young” right afterwards. Point made, I started to soften.

A few months later, a couple of them were at an AAU basketball practice I was helping my man run. After practice ended, we all played together for about an hour. Although we (and coaches) were grown men, some of these kids were pretty good, so the games were pretty intense. During one of the games, one of the kids didn’t call out a screen, and his teammate—who happened to be one of the kids in my classroom—went over to him and said “Come on, man. You can’t let that nigga hit me like that. Call out the screen!”

After the game, he walked over to me and apologized. Apparently, he knew that I saw him correct his teammate.

“My bad, Mr. Young.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s cool.”

“I thought you didn’t like that word.”

“I don’t have a problem with it. Just wanted you to know when it was inappropriate.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

If You Love Me Say It, If You Want Me Show It…

tumblr_m8k2gnSIBI1rvqa42o1_500Two of your hos and a bottle of rum to the first person to name the inspiration for that post title.

I have a confession to make. I hate the book, The Five Love Languages. Not because its a bad book. It’s actually a great book with lots of cute stories and suggestions that are totally common sense based. It’s also written in a way that is very relate-able and not-condescending. It’s like the anti Yeezus. You know, if Yeezus was a book and not a frisbee…wait, does anybody cop CDs anymore?

Probably not.

I digress.

Ah yes, Panama hates The Five Love Languages book. Why do I hate this book? Well, I hate it because it became the go-to relationship fixer upper book for anybody with any sort of issue in their relationship. Hell, I almost decided to write The Six Love Languages JUST to try to capitalize. But then I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to Florida and as I explained to him my plans he got extremely upset and began yelling, NOT SIX, FIVE! Well, needless to say that’s the last time I pick up Martin Lawrence off the highway.

Back to the book. Again.

While this book offers very good solutions, it only works if one facet of your relationship is intact…a willingness to try whatever it takes to work. If vulnerability and effort aren’t present and accounted for in your relationship, and let’s fact it, that and communication is where a lot of relationships falter, then the book for all of its glory is a one eyed one armed flying purple paperweight. Again, it’s a good book that requires effort which, if it was present in the first place, you probably wouldn’t need the book in the second place. Of course, some people need suggestions on how to give effort so perhaps its all worth it.

Bong bong.

Where am I going with this? Good question. So, two of the chapters of the book that I’ve read plenty of times are Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation (the other three love languages are Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. The perv in you can achieve the last three with one good smang session.) All are aptly titled and pretty self explanatory.

Acts of Service is means of showing love (or receiving love) via doing things to show the other person that you care. Maybe you’re not so good at expressing your love verbally, but you will mow the sh*t out of that lawn every morning if that’s what she desires. Or you’ll hook that Strawberry Gecko Lizard Sloth Lemonade up that he likes. And maybe you can’t tell if he loves you unless he shows you via his actions. So he can say it all he wants but unless you need him to catch a bullet with his teeth to save your life so that you know that it’s real. Maybe she won’t, but then again maybe she will. You get the drift.

On the other side is Words of Affirmation. Basically, you need (or somebody needs) to hear lots of compliments and/or words of appreciation. My guess is that this works with men best. In the book it talks about the power of positive reinforcement. Dogs like that sh*t too. Positively reinforce me boo. Now, I’m pretty sure that somebody saying “I Love You” isn’t necessarily a word of affirmation, but I’m gonna lump it in her to make my point, since, hell, those three words could probably implode the world and/or take the world to new heights. They’re almost as powerful as “My God can kick your God’s ass.” Power.

This was a really long way of getting to this question and wonderance. See, most women I know want all of those love languages. All the time. And all the time, they want the love languages. Jesus on the mainline swag. Tell him what you want. You show a woman you love her, then its likely you don’t say it enough. If you say you love her all the time, its probably because you aren’t showing her. I believe it was philosopher king Warren G who said it best, “I want it all.”

To be fair, I’m guessing most men probably are somewhere in the middle. We only notice sh*t when things have gotten out of hand one way or another. We like it when you cook, and you stop that sh*t. Wholesale. Actually, its like when you piss of a woman, she quits everything at once. She ain’t using her words, hands, mouth, credit card or anything. That’s when us men start begging you to tell us that you still love us. Y’all always do. Awwwwwwww….

So here’s a question, if you could only have one: either your significant other showed you they loved but never said it, or always said it (and you know they meant it) but never really showed it…what would you chose? And why?

Do you need words or deeds?#BARS

And you can’t have both.

What means the world to you? What COULDN’T you live without in a relationship?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. I DON’T READ CUZ I HAVE A TELEVISION aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

The 10 Times It’s Perfectly Acceptable To Say “Bitch”

Earlier this week, the world’s greatest and most important recording artist went on a stream of consciousness tweeting spree about “bitch” and its numerous connotations. Although he drew no ultimate conclusion about his basic premise — Is the word “bitch” acceptable? — the short and largely rhetorical conversation touched on a topic that will never not be relevant to people who enjoy language, all language, and the myriad ways to incorporate it.

Personally, I think that, under certain conditions, bitch is perfectly acceptable. Like nigger/nigga and any other politically charged word, the word itself isn’t inherently wrong, and the rightness or wrongness of its use is completely dependent on context, speaker, and audience.

When exactly is it perfectly acceptable to say bitch? Glad you asked…

When speaking ironically

Example: “Hey man. What’s going on?”

“Just sitting here at my cubicle, filing expense reports, preparing for this staff meeting, mackin’ bitches. You know, the usual.”

“Cool”

When your entire wedding party, including your unborn daughter, has been murdered by a group of ethnically diverse and impossibly attractive world-class female assassins

Although you might not be as adept at tracking each of them down and murdering them as Beatrix Kiddo was, if something like this happens to you, I really can’t begrudge you the right to refer to your would be assassins as bitches. Plus, “I’m going to straight-up murk those bitches” just rolls off the tongue much better than “I’m going to straight-up murk that group of ethnically diverse and impossibly attractive world-class female assassins.”

When asserting dominance over an inanimate object

Examples: “You probably should put a jacket on. It’s getting chilly”

“Don’t worry about it. The approaching cold front is totally my bitch”

or

“What did you have for breakfast this morning?”

“Dude, I made those pop tarts my bitch!”

When alone in the car and repeating the lyrics to any rap made before 2003 by any rap artist hailing from somewhere west of the Mississippi river or south of the Mason-Dixon line

There are too many songs to possibly list that could qualify, but for the most bang for your buck, listen to “Bitch Ass Niggaz” just so you can recite the first couple bars of Hitman’s aggressively homoerotic verse.

When addressing a female dog

And by “a female dog” I mean an asshole cat who’s attempting to eat the shoe off of your foot because the shoe is gray and his dumb ass thinks it’s a giant mouse with a white swoosh on its abdomen”

When paying someone a compliment

Example: “Man, those new foamposites you’re rockin are pretty bitchin”

“Thanks, dog. I didn’t think anyone would notice”

“I always notice, man.”

“Always?”

“Always”

When derisively commenting on something done by a professional athlete

Example: “Kobe’s making his bitch face again”

“Why is Kobe always bitchin to the refs? F*cking bitch!”

“Ugh. I want to root for the Lakers this year cause I love Steve Nash, but I can’t because Kobe is such a bitch”

“There goes Hobe Bitch-ass Bitchyant playing hero ball again. F*cking bitch!”

When talking to actual, real life bitches

Because it can be very difficult to determine exactly what makes someone a bitch — and because most people properly and fairly given the bitch designation will still reject and scoff at said designation — it’s still probably not wise to refer to properly deemed bitches as bitches. You’d be morally, logically, and linguistically correct, but you still might get shanked.

If you’re a hipster, a liberal academic, or a person who shops at Trader Joe’s

Why? Well, if you’re one of these things, you can’t possibly be sexist, racist, xenophobic, or homophobic and nothing you can possibly say could be offensive to anyone in any context because you deeply understand how words can injure and insult and you’d never intend to do that to anyone

When someone owes you money

Doesn’t matter if it’s a priest, a bank, or your girlfriend’s great uncle. If someone owes you money, and has gone a suitable period of time without returning said money — and, for argument’s sake, “suitable period of time” is determined by a complex matrix dependent on how long it’s been, how much you’re owed, and how broke you currently are — it’s perfectly okay to mutter “That bitch better have my money” to yourself if on the way to see them.

Anyway, people of VSB.com, do you think “bitch” is ever acceptable? If not, why not? If so, are there any other situations where using it is appropriate?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Don’t forget to listen to The Blaqout Show tonight at 8pm. Panama will be discussing things that men don’t understand about women on his segment, CP Time! Listen to the squad of Beny, Angel, Malik, Prepster Punk Squad Gangsta Click, Komplex as they wax philosophical on all things waxy. www.blis.fm from 8-10pm EST!!!

The Practicality of “Ugly Affirmative Action”

***The Hill Review — a literary magazine blending essays, excerpts, reviews, fiction, poetry, criticism, cartoons and more to capture all things African-American culture — is launching Monday, September 12th. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and, if interested in being a part of this, hit us up at submissions@thehillreview.com (But please read our submission guidelines first)***

Yeah, it's not looking good for his earning potential

I’m a pretty big fan of words. I enjoy typing them, reading them, researching them, and, on many occasions, inventing them. (What, you thought “cunnilingusness” was a real word?)

In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to type a sentence, be “eh” about a certain word, go to a thesaurus at dictionary.com or Merriam-Webster to find a more appropriate word, and lose myself there; spending 20 minutes clicking on and learning new definitions, tenses, and antonyms. Along with my latent nerd tendencies, I think this obsession with finding the perfect word comes from a fear of being misunderstood; a neurosis that manifests as me making certain there’s no wiggle room when trying to convey some points.

Anyway, I’m bringing this up because, despite this need to be perfectly clear, there’s one word I try my damnedest not to use even if it seems like the optimum fit; a word so pejorative and condemning that I’d rather create a euphemistic phrase for it instead of just typing or speaking it: Ugly

What separates ugly from other common non-vulgar pejorative adjectives (dumb, stupid, fat, etc) — and why I’m reluctant to use it — is that it’s rarely accurate (“ugly” suggests a universal aesthetic belligerence — a quality very few people possess) and, more importantly, ugly sticks.

You can laugh off and forget being called stupid or dumb or even “unattractive” (the ultimate kind euphemism for “ugly”), but ugly tends to dig a tad deeper and tends to sound a tad meaner. We’re aware that being ugly might be the ultimate human albatross, and even jokingly giving a person that distinction is basically saying “your life is always going to suck, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

And, if you think I’m being too harsh about the burden of ugliness, check this out.

From “Ugly? You May Have a Case”

BEING good-looking is useful in so many ways.

In addition to whatever personal pleasure it gives you, being attractive also helps you earn more money, find a higher-earning spouse (and one who looks better, too!) and get better deals on mortgages. Each of these facts has been demonstrated over the past 20 years by many economists and other researchers. The effects are not small: one study showed that an American worker who was among the bottom one-seventh in looks, as assessed by randomly chosen observers, earned 10 to 15 percent less per year than a similar worker whose looks were assessed in the top one-third — a lifetime difference, in a typical case, of about $230,000.

Beauty is as much an issue for men as for women. While extensive research shows that women’s looks have bigger impacts in the market for mates, another large group of studies demonstrates that men’s looks have bigger impacts on the job.

This excerpt was written by University of Texas economics professor Daniel E. Hamermesh, whose new book “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful” explores a “duh!” premise and finds some intriguing results, including the “fact” that there actually is a universal standard of beauty and ugliness.

You might argue that people can’t be classified by their looks — that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That aphorism is correct in one sense: if asked who is the most beautiful person in a group of beautiful people, you and I might well have different answers. But when it comes to differentiating classes of attractiveness, we all view beauty similarly: someone whom you consider good-looking will be viewed similarly by most others; someone you consider ugly will be viewed as ugly by most others. In one study, more than half of a group of people were assessed identically by each of two observers using a five-point scale; and very few assessments differed by more than one point.

Basically, we’ll debate exactly where people on the top ten and people on the bottom ten percent of the looks scale should rank (“Yeah, she’s good looking, but she’s an 8.7 instead of a 9“), but we’ll all come to the same consensus that they definitely belong in their “good-looking” or “not good-looking” categories.

So, is there any way to rectify the fact that, on average, ugly people will make almost a quarter-million dollars less over their lifetimes than attractive people? Well, Hamermesh has a somewhat contrived (but somewhat practical) remedy for that problem.

A more radical solution may be needed: why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?

We actually already do offer such protections in a few places, including in some jurisdictions in California, and in the District of Columbia, where discriminatory treatment based on looks in hiring, promotions, housing and other areas is prohibited. Ugliness could be protected generally in the United States by small extensions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ugly people could be allowed to seek help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies in overcoming the effects of discrimination. We could even have affirmative-action programs for the ugly.

Now, I haven’t read his book yet (and this point might be addressed in it), but I question his methodology. While he suggests that employers discriminate against ugly people, it’s possible that people who’ve been called ugly their entire lives have developed a learned helplessness that affects their self-esteem and ultimately hinders their professional progress. The make less money because they’re worse workers and less ambitious, and they’re worse workers and less ambitious because they’re less confident.

Still, the idea of ugly affirmative action is an interesting one, and I’d be curious to see exactly how they’d construct the application process. (I imagine it would involve a ton of masks and funhouse mirrors.)

Anyway, people of VSB.com, I’m curious: Do you think that ugly is too powerful of a word to be used lightly? Also, do you incorporate it in your lexicon, or do you try to use kinder euphemisms like “unattractive?”

Also, if it is true that ugly people get discriminated against, ugly affirmative action isn’t really that crazy of an idea, right?

—The Champ

the compass: the vsb guide to what men really mean when they’re talking to you

much of the acrimony between the sexes is born from and cultivated by a latent communication breakdown. generally speaking, we have much different ways of expressing ourselves, and it can be extremely difficult to navigate the murky relationship morass without a working compass

ladies, in furthering our committment to crime fighting, the champ will be your compass and, if you’re hot, willing concubine. without further ado, here’s a portion of the vsb guide to what men really mean when they’re talking to you.

“hey, i just wanted to tell you that i care about you, and i think about you all the time.” = “i know that i’m a half-thread of toilet paper on the anal fissure of bad boyfriends, but i’m hoping this’ll make you verklempt enough to forget that and continue the post-dawn daily bj’s”

thats not what i meant” = “actually, i did mean exactly that, but since this unexpectedly upset you, i’m gonna to continue to rephrase it until i find something that works. take a seat. this might take a while”

huh? excuse me? can you repeat that?” = “i heard you, but i just need a bit more time to patch up this tattered story”

“whats your name?” = “not you, dummy. i’m talking to your boobs. are they fraternal or identical twins?”

i really dont understand women” = “i really dont understand why women generally think i’m lame”

“where did you learn how to do that?” = “seriously, where did you learn how to do that, and how crazy must you be to have that skill-set and still be single???”

“whats your friend’s name?” = “is there a clause for buyer’s remorse in our relationship contract?”

am i getting fat?” = “i’m gay.”

“we should work out together” = “i like you. i really do. but, i’m going to make your life a passive-aggressive living hell until you lose some weight”

“i’m not looking for a relationship right now” = “i’m not looking for a relationship with you right now…just your vagina”

when was the last time you had sex?” = “if we do the do and i decide to go down on you, i won’t be tasting geralds nuts, will i?”

my day was good, and yours?” = “even though this never works, i’m begging you to allow my blatantly succinct answers to rub off on you”

where do you see us in five years?” = “please break up with me now so i dont have to feel guilty about the inevitable sneak attack break-up three weeks from now”

‘hi” (to a girlfriend) = “whats wrong???”

“whats wrong? = what did i do???”

“what did i do???” = “i know what i did, i just wanna see how much mileage i still have on this ignorance card”

i’m sure i’m missing a few. fellas, feel free to chime in.

oh, and ladies, i aint forget about ya’ll, lol. you’re not gonna get off the hook that easily. share your compasses too.

–the champ