Posts Tagged ‘Black Person’
Hey Susan—so glad to hear from you!!
I’ve dashed off something for you to share with the kids….I hope that it encourages a lot of discussion for many things!
Please tell me how it all pans out.
I used the words that I used to describe the black people in a way that was typical for the time that the play takes place.
Let me explain it this way in regards to black people—
Words are very powerful. You can use words to keep people down and you can use words to give power to people.
There are many ways that we keep people down with words. When we call people who look differently or act differently from us names:
a. We call smart people nerds or geeks.
b. We call students who need more time or instruction to understand their studies, slow, dummies or stupid.
c. We call females we don’t like, or threatened by, bitches, sluts or hos.
d. We call males who are interested in cooking, design or fashion faggots…sometimes this word is used in a very different way—like when males are acting ‘too feminine, silly or acting in some other less than desirable way.
e. We call black people niggers (N-word) when we are afraid of black people we don’t know or we when want to hurt feelings, or when we want to feel powerful by using the word to make the black person feel smaller and less powerful than ourselves.
There has been a lot of language that has been used in the American culture to describe people—and unfortunately much of it has been put people down, or being oppressive.
During slavery, black people were called niggers because it was slang term for the Spanish word Negro—which means black. When the Spaniards compared their skin color to the Africans –the Spaniards skin color looked (to them) white and the Africans skin color looked the opposite—black. The Spaniards and Portuguese were the first to enslave people from Africa—so they named the people Negro —because they had the power in that situation.
They didn’t ask the Africans what they called themselves or they wanted to be called—they just named them Negro.
As slavery progressed in North America, other Europeans nations got involved with slavery to make money. The British, not understanding too much Spanish, too the word Negro and it morphed into the word nigger.
The word colored was used in relation to black people in America. It was a simple straight forward word to describe nonwhite people.
After slavery black people were continued to be called less than desirable names like Sambo (a character in a story about a little black boy in India), Coon and Darkie (which were based on characters performed in Minstrel Shows), variations of the N-word…Nigras, Nigs; words describing black people who were more loyal to white people than to black people—Uncle Toms, Aunt Jemima and Oreos.
By the time I was in 7th or 8th grade, young black people started calling themselves black. The older generations of black people hated using the word because it made them remember words like Darkie and Sambo…they preferred to be call colored or Negro. But when the young people EMBRACED the word ‘black’ (“say it loud I’m black and I’m proud”) they actually took all of the negative power out of the word and infused it with a different kind of energy—which made it a positive word for black folks.
We started to look at other ways to ‘name’ ourselves….and very quickly (before I was ever out of high school) we were calling ourselves, AFRO-Americans. By the time I got out of college in the last 1970s, the AFRO was a hairstyle and we were now calling ourselves AFRICAN-Americans.
The fact that the young people today use the N-word, I feel, is because they’ve never experienced the negative impact of the word’s usage. The kids of today aren’t aware of their own history—hardly anything about the horrors of slavery, nothing about lynchings, nothing about reconstruction, nothing about Jim Crow laws and very, very little about the Civil Rights movement in America. As long as one does not know history—especially their own history—many times they won’t even KNOW that they are being slighted…cursed…or even oppressed.
Language is one of the most powerful tools known to man. We use language, whether it is written down or memorized by generations upon generations. We use language to record: for identity, feelings, discoveries and histories—just to name a tiny bit about how language is used.
I think we all have the right to name ourselves….and to give voice to how we identify ourselves. The worst thing a person can do (in my book) is not make the EFFORT to pronounce your name correctly….or to call you what YOU do not want to be called.