Monday, April 21, 2008

"The N Word" by Jabari Asim

On Saturday I attended a "meet the author" program at the Sherwood Regional Library, organized by my good friend, Pier Penic. This month's author was Jabari Asim: noted writer of children's books, former editor of the Washington Post Book World, and current editor-in-chief of "The Crisis" magazine.

Asim's book, "The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why," engages an in-depth analysis of not only the use of the N word during colonial and post-colonial America, but he also provides ample evidence for the ongoing denigration and subjugation of U.S. Blacks by the dominant culture. Asim's position is that when U.S. blacks contextualize the word within an continuous campaign of racism, then this should be evidence enough to eliminate the word from our vocabulary. Although Asim does not endorse censorship, the historical research and his analysis of literature, 18th and 19th popular culture, and jurispudence provide ample evidence to reassess the use of the N word.

One very positive aspect of Asim's book is its accessiblity. Having read the primary texts to which Asim refers, I can assure you that he has done an excellent job of researching and analyzing those texts. For those of you who do not have time to read Blight, Frederickson, Foner, Carretta and Berlin, to name a few scholars, please read Asim. Then if you want to delve more deeply into the insidious use of the N word and treatment of persons of African descent in this country, go to Asim's "Selected Bibliography" and start reading.


E. said...

We all know that the N-word is a force of debilitation. And yet, it is as American as a Big Mac.

I can't remember one period of my life where I was free from the constant bombardment from family, friends, foes and fakers, news media, music and movies.

I have even been called a "n%##@" by a Liberian man in Africa. ( And he was being friendly)

We are addicted to it.....

Q-TIP said
See, n***a first was used back in the deep south
Fallin out between the dome of the white mans mouth

It means that we will never grow, you know the word dummy
Other n****s in the community think its crummy

But I dont, neither does the youth cause we Em-
brace adversity it goes right with the race

And being that we use it as a term of endearment
N****s start to bug to the dome is where the fear went

Now the little shorties say it all of the time
And a whole bunch of n****s throw the word in they rhyme

Yo I start to flinch, as I try not to say it
But my lips is like the oowop as I start to spray it...


How will we every live without it???

I'm sure it can be done, I gave up Big Macs and all meat at least 10 years ago.

But how do you get a nation that basically agrees that a word is poison to stop using when our nation feeds itself poison in the form of refined sustenance as a way of life?????

At some point cane lost its nutrients and sand began to taste sweet when we were told it was only sugar.

M. L. Simms said...

E my response is unoriginal, but the word won't disappear until racism is eradicated. Hence I think that the word will have a lengthy longevity in this country: 1619 (when the first "negars" got off the boat in Jamestown, Virginia) until.......

Judy said...

While reading about Jabir Asim, I learned about a book that features him: The Readers' guide to Contemporary Literature. I have ordered it from Amazon, and I thank you for expanding my literary and cultural horizons yet again!

M. L. Simms said...

E and Judy, two of my favorite people. Judy read and enjoy, and e. thanks for the insight. You point one of the more denigrating aspects of U.S. Blacks' use of the word is the license it gives immigrants and foreigners to use the attribution to refer to African Americans in a derogatory fashion. As Toni Morrison so aptly argues, the first American English word that immigrants learn is often the N%##&^ word.