Just a few weeks ago the internet did what it does best. Pick a random, vaguely attractive young person, pluck them out of obscurity and thrust them into the limelight for approximately 15 minutes. This time, it was a little boy who shimmied his way into the hearts of little white girls everywhere as he stood bagging groceries in his tight Target t-shirt. His name? Why, #AlexFromTarget of course.
Now, how exactly does this little boy exhibit a problematic part of American youth culture you ask? Simple, his appropriation and usage of the n-word, or, to be less censored, “nigga.” Below you will find one of his tweets which has since been deleted, as has all of his tweets using the n-word due to me and several others scolding him about his ignorant, insensitive and rude usage of the word and essentially donning verbal blackface. Thankfully, I was planning on writing about this for a while so I had this picture in my mentions on my Twitter page.
I personally never get over the use of that word by non-black people. The history of the n-word is such a troubled and damaging one that for someone to trivialize it in such a way is beyond ignorance and beyond insulting to me personally. Many people nowadays make the excuse that it means something different now then it did back the. To that I say, yes, it does–to black people.
Black Americans took the hurt that comes with the n-word and turned it into a word, used among ourselves, for comrade or friend or simply a person. We reappropriated and reclaimed the word for ourselves, not to be used by teenage white kids jokingly as they try to boast their “street cred.” The nerve of some people is beyond me.
The least one can do is relegate that language to themselves and their own inner circles. The whole world isn’t your “hood” everyone is not your friend and using that kind of language around the wrong person just might get you popped. What someone says in the privacy of their own company has nothing to do with me and I don’t care nor can I regulate it. However, when you’re in a public space and you chose to call a woman “cunt” or a gay person “faggot” or a black person “nigga” or a Jewish person “kike” then prepare for the consequences and criticisms that come with such flippant use of historically oppressive words.
#AlexFromTarget will not learn anything from this, nor do I expect him to. He was the flavor of the month, his 15 minutes of fame are up. However, I hope he at least saw the tweets people sent him because in the words of Maya Angelou, “when you know better, you do better.” And appropriating the culture of oppressive language used against an oppressed class is far from doing better. It’s hurtful.
For a more in-depth look at appropriation of the N-Word, check out some of the links below:
- Charles Barkely on Using “Nigga” – White America Doesn’t Get to Decide
- A Cure for The “N-Word”
- Why Black People Can Use the “N-Word”: A Perspective