I Am Not Your N-Word*
Updated: Mar 13
By Dr. Gloria Latimore-Peace
Presented by Omni-University
"The one constant in the origin of ideas is that they all have an origin." Dr. Josef Ben Levi, "The Hell You Preach", "Our Daily Blog" #16.
As students, we were usually taught, "A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing", i.e, words that refer to the concrete phenomena that constitute our material world. Seldom is it mentioned that nouns also, and most importantly, name ideas -abstract concepts that originate in the image-inations and are expressed via the languages of those who conceive and give birth to them.
Phenomena that are concrete can be validated by the senses, i.e., quantified. Those that are abstract cannot be measured, weighed, etc. Hence, abstractions can be given any meaning to which both the speaker(s) and the listener(s) agree. The import and meaning of the ideas of "freedom" and "justice", "race" and "human" are within the imagination/"minds- eye of the beholders".
Assuming that not every group views the world from the same assumptions, it is inevitable that conflict will arise when the beholders, who are simultaneously the holders of the reins of the dominant "culture", persist in imposing their ideas on the beheld, i.e., those who are excluded from the in-group. It is with this in mind that we wish to examine some of the building blocks of the "reality" manufactured by the dominant society to maintain the status quo- race first.
The idea of race(s), as a hierarchical division of people based on skin color, was inconceivable among people who have no reality on which to build such a concept. Thus, it is next to impossible that this notion, i.e., race(s), could have originated among a people with no wide variations in pigmentation. For example, the Gikuyu/ Kikuyu people of Kenya, East Africa, were said, by Jomo Kenyatta , to identify people by where they live or what they do, e.g., "the people who live by the sea", "the people who hunt or fish'' etc.
The practice of dividing humanity into "race(s)"may have its root in Linnaeus' taxonomy. The Father of Animal Classification classified living things into plants and animals. Linnaeus' Animal Kingdom is primarily composed of Mammals, Birds, Fish, Reptiles, and Amphibians- with Mammals being given "top billing". The principal characteristic of Mammalia is "skin covering", i.e., feathers, scales, fur, or skin. Somewhere along the way ,the color of the "skin covering", became paramount. Ultimately, black skin was relegated to an "underclass" and white skin was designated the "Best in Class." However according to the African way of looking at the world, this assumption is irrelevant. We Are Humans- Not Animals! Thus Linnaeus' system does not apply to us.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
The foregoing Shakespearean observation works well as part of a 16th-century Elizabethan drama but, it wouldn't have the lifespan of a "snowball in Hades" if, regardless of their fragrance, roses were classified as harmful plants or weeds rather than as plants that are beneficial- such as flowers or herbs. Names define-give meaning and value to- phenomena. Unfavorable designations are inextricably bound to unfavorable treatment. Flowers are nurtured, protected, preserved, and encouraged to flourish while weeds receive the opposite treatment, i.e., they are "Round-Up", saturated with pesticides, and exterminated. Only the hardiest "weeds"- among them the dandelions and the Kudzu (both of which are known for their proliferation and indestructibility), manage to survive the unrelenting attempts to eliminate them.
To be called out of one's name by n- names like "animal"or "nigger" or "slave", is a form of low-intensity aggression which is inevitably followed by aggression that is higher in intensity. This has been the order of virtually every day since our forced return to the American colonies as captives. There appears to be no end to the litany of slanderous "n-words'' to which Black people continue to be subjected- code words that don't even begin with the letter "n": i.e., "subhuman"; "savage"; "3/5 of a man"; "underclass"; lower-socio-economic class", "disadvantaged"; "culturally deprived"; "inner-city" "minority"; "refugee"
(Katrina), ad infinitum- in short, everything but "A child of God".
What continues to ride under the radar and, thereby, to exacerbate the problem, is the Re-definition of Black people by classifying them as"things" with n-words like "chattel", and "commodities" to be traded like stock in the "slave" markets. Like the hides of cattle, the black skin of human beings was once branded with the monograms of the self- appointed "owners'' to ensure- by brute and lethal force- their property ownership rights. And, truth be told, this now centuries-old practice of nick-naming of Black people still plagues us. It is indelibly recorded in the 1857 "Dred Scott Decision"-an edict that has not been overturned to this very day. The main reason that Dred Scott could not get "Justice" in the courts was due to a fact that still prevails. Chattel, i.e., property/commodities, have no standing to litigate in the courts.
The "Emancipation Proclamation" could not grant freedom to the "slaves" because the Confederate States- the "Slave" States- had already seceded from the Union. Obviously, the decree could not have applied to non-Confederate States where there were no slaves. The amendments to the Constitution, which pertained to the populations of "emancipated slaves" (an oxymoron), exclude(d) those who were held in bondage in penal institutions of which Black people in the U.S. are said to represent nine percent of the world's total. The truth of the matter is that our freedom depends neither on men nor on documents. "It is the truth that will make us free."
The importance of names cannot be overstated: "...[W]ithin common African traditions, names were the means by which kinship and lineage were identified. Given names- the names we were born with-as well as names that are conferred on us by our kinship group, acknowledge lives that have come into being to fulfill an inherent purpose and/or to Re-present our Ancestors. Names were given which continued our connection to our kinship group rather than as mere designations of our unique individuality. Names embody culture and culture supports life. Hence, names- particularly cultural names- signify more than "meets the eye" [or ear].
With the foregoing in mind, we must never forget who we are and from whence we have come. We must refuse to allow ourselves to endorse or to co-sign any name or any n- word that reduces us to objects of ridicule and contempt. It is our duty to know "the truth of our heritage" so that we may know ourselves.
"Know Thyself" is an Ancient Egyptian (Kemetic) proverb that is enshrined on the entrances to the pyramids. It was, and remains, the order of the ages. It is our reason for being. "Our African Ancestors gave us "Ubuntu" or guidelines for what it means to be a human, a child of God, a human being. "Human-ness, as is divinity, is a state of being-ness, not merely a set of transient, physical attributes such as skin coloring, hair texture. etc. To invest heavily in the latter may permit one to "gain the whole world while losing one's own soul". We must steer clear of the inclination to fall for the "trappings" on this plane of existence. Instead, let us make the conscious choice to follow the wisdom of our Ancient Ancestors "so we can become what God birthed us to be."
"The Invention of the Negro" by Earl Conrad
 "Facing Mt. Kenya" by Ancestor Jomo Kenyatta.
 "African Holistic Health" by Ancestor Dr. Llaila O. Afrika.
"Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare.
 "To Save the Blood of Black Babies" by Kiarri T.-H. Cheatwood and"Forced Into Glory" by Ancestor Lerone Bennett.
 Oxymoron- terms which are mutually exclusive, i.e, cancel each other out.
 "What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?..." by Ancestor Dr. Margaret T.G. Burroughs.
 "Searching for Roots: Sankofa", an H3O Art of Life Blog, by Heru Kevin Bullard
 Op cit. Burroughs
 "We Can't Breathe" by Heru Kevin Bullard in "Our Daily Blog" #23, an H3O Art of Life Blog.
* This is a revised version of blog numbers 26 and 27.