An Open Letter to Non-Black POC who use the N-word..
Yesterday I posted this post, it was a half meme half PSA— probably some sort of metaphor for my manner as a millennial always wrapping up my cynicism and frustration with an ironic sort of humor. Either way, I related to the post and promptly shared it on Facebook, in impulsive thought more to save the image for my self rather than get feedback from my “friends” anyway — but I got this comment:
“Hispanics are black though…”
It was that simple comment that stopped me in my tracks, leaving me with so much frustration, angry, emotional exhaustion and confusion. The meme was a gosh darn flow chart — it didn’t leave much up to interpretation and yet this non-Black Hispanic person objected. So I was left me to wonder:
Why? — Why do Non-Black people of color want to say the N-word?
I understand that it might seem like a “fun” word — removed from its weight when you consider how frequently you hear in songs, on television, in your daily life but the N-word is a slur — reclaimed, yes but still a slur. A slur used against a very group of people: black people.
I grew up in the Bronx in predominantly Latinx neighborhoods — in my own apartment building my family is the only black family in the whole four story building yet I constantly hear the use of the n-word — why? Why did two people, both who were most definitely weren’t black and would get quite offended if mistaken for such use a slur that didn’t apply to them? Why was it looked down on for me to bring up that point when I rarely mustered the courage to do so?
Under some further analysis I realized that sense of the entitlement that Non-Black POC have for slurs that historically don’t belong to them is just a extension of the wider held entitlement that non-black people have as a whole for black culture.
To put it simply — black culture is treated as a sort of common wealth, as though it is meant for the consumption for all.
Black culture is often stripped of its roots and made into general pop culture — this pattern can be seen in music, in fashion, with AVVE being converted into simply teen slang, even with memes. ( Think how many trends that black twitter had started and how said get deluded into the mainstream. Count how many Buzzfeed articles about how ___ number of AAVE words that recently started to be used by white folk should die. ) Black culture is never just black culture but a culture to be shared among all people of color but the truth is that this exchange is often one-sided.
When are black people invited to share in the cultures of our non-black counterparts — when are the black people within those cultures even acknowledged? Regardless of culture, black people’s position in social hierarchy is always the same — we always lay at the bottom. How else can we rampant anti-black in non-black people of color communities? This anti-blackness doesn’t exist in the abstract — it exists intimately with us.
For instance, my best friend who happens to be Dominican, admitted to me that her mother didn’t want her to invite me to her birthday party on the basis that she didn’t like her daughter having black friends and instead wanted her to invite our mutual Non-Black Puerto Rican friend — a friend who is white passing. I’ve been friends with my best friend for years prior, been to their house on a number of occasions and met their mother multiple times and yet she harbored such feelings towards me on the basis on my race?
Unfortunately this isn’t uncommon as I encountered similar hostility with non-black people of color when meeting partner’s parents — that look of disappointment and disbelief as I don’t come with the promise of bettering or “lightening” their family tree. But why is that? If we are all one united in our oppression why do non-black people of color insist on participating in my own oppression?
An extreme example of this habit would be with the case of Peter Liang, former NYPD officer who shot and killed unarmed Akai Gurley this past April ( 2016 ), this case is representative of the tragedy trend of police brutality against unarmed black people but the social backlash is reflective of an insidious anti-blackness within non-Black communities of color. If you don’t recall following Liang’s charge of 15 years for manslaughter the Asian American community was in uproar over this act of racism — not in solidarity with the victim of the violence or movements such as Black Lives Matter but for Liang. They argued if Liang was white that he wouldn’t be charged at all or at the very least that the charge would be acquitted. That’s right Asian American activist groups argued for white privilege rather than justice. That is the great conflict — the elephant that we refuse to acknowledge for the sake of false solitary. To ascend to whiteness, you must first step on the bodies of black people. To be a “model minority” you cannot be black.
Understandably, this example is rather extreme but take a moment to analyze the images that we are exposed to everyday.
Or think about what we are not seeing — think about the silence. How many non-black people of color spoke in solidarity with Black Lives Matter?
Why is that everyone wants to be a nigga but not suffer the hardships of being a negro?