Just the devil in a new dress


Photo by unknown

Story by Ashley Diggs, Co-managing editor

The pen is mightier than the sword. This has been proven over and over again throughout history. The one tool that man possesses that may trump the power of dried ink is the spoken word. Libel can discredit, violence can silence, but the words of a great man spoken will reverberate in the ears of those who hear forever.

African-Americans have learned this lesson well. From the arousal of rebel thoughts by Nat Turner to the slaves of Virginia, to current president Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park, the African-American man has used the magic of speech to convey a lasting message. Yet within today’s youth, this power has been mishandled and underestimated.

The hip-hop generation is caught in a downward spiral propagated by no one other than themselves. Rap music is full of messages of getting through the poverty, living through a life of despair and managing to make it to the light at the end of the tunnel, yet the youth listening to these rappers hear only one word.

This word is used as frequently as “the” by young blacks. This word is what pigs called my grandfather. This word is what the master screamed as he cracked the whip one time too many on the dying, regretful slave. This word dripped like putrid sludge from the mouths of white teens who spat upon the Little Rock Nine. This word has connotations of ignorance and worthlessness. This word is as vile as any expletive. This word is a symbol of everything horrible the Africans have faced since they arrived in America.

Yet somehow, in the twisted minds of today and yesterday’s youth, it has become embraced.

This word means you are my brother. This word means I’ve got your back. This word means we are “cool.” This word is orated repeatedly in every hood anthem since the late ‘80s. This word is okay to say, just not with a hard R. This word defines the pride of the majority of African American youth.

It cannot be spoken if you are not a member of the “club.”

I can only say it because I lived that, bro.

My ancestors lived that, bro.

If you say it you mean it as an insult.

If you say it, it’s offensive.

If you say it, you’re racist.

If I say it, I mean it positively. I’m trying to make it. I’m gonna treat my girl like a queen and put my mom in a palace.

But, it’s not okay. It’s not positive, no matter how much you misconstrue it or change the pronunciation. In an era where skin color is losing its significance, where little white kids are wearing Lebron James’ jersey, black kids are wearing Josh Hamilton’s jersey, and Hispanic children admire Yao Ming, this word casts a dark shadow over the African American race.

It makes the African American race look like a joke to everyone else. No other word with such a negative connotation has been made into such a staple in the jargon of those it degraded.

This word is the plague of the black man but the culture that is embraced chooses to continue to let the rat infect their food. Anyone who uses the word is a fool and is fooling himself. There is no upside. There is no OK time to say it.

Snap-back backwards, Coogi jeans sagging, chains brighter than the sun, and rims that cost more than a house payment is the definition of style, class, and coolness.

Yet for every rap song that glorifies the word, for every black man that drops out of high school, every black teen that calls himself and his friends the word continues fueling the fire of ignorance that burns the African American race.

This word is the devil in a new dress. The black man’s bane at his own will.