It happened for the first time when I was seventeen.
I was interning for a local politician in Fresh Meadows, Queens. The environment was a predominately white office perched in an affluent neighborhood. My parents were over-protective and would not let me go onto the street and hand out literature, so most of my time was spent handling office duties—and as I would learn, engaging office politics.
One day while inserting data, a young white man rehashed an event that happened at Howard Beach. Rather than give an overview of the event, he decided to recite a racially charged graffiti act verbatim. The epithet read “f*ck all you n*ggers.” After reciting these words, he looked straight into my face, seemingly searching for something that I refused to acknowledge by returning his piercing gaze.
A similar event would occur years later in an interaction with a racial psychopath I mistook for a friend. Similar to my first experience, my pseudo friend expressed outrage in the use of a racial epithet, yet took it upon herself to repeat her uncle’s use of the word n*gger. Like the previous incident, she too stared in my face as she uttered the term, a gaze I saw in my peripheral because I had refused her longing gaze. This same friend would go on to show me her white boyfriend dressed in blackface for Halloween. We have since lost touch, her face dissipated into a grudging appreciation for presenting a necessary evil to awaken my consciousness.
These particular incidents illustrate the antiracist efforts implemented by whites uncomfortable with black presence, working to transfer their discomfort onto the oppressed black body. This transfer is never painless. Rather it reflects the evil deemed necessary to maintain a fictive whiteness. The black body has historically been used a canvass for western anxiety, making the n word a common painting drawn on the black body to appease the demands of a white supremacist hierarchy.
Despite having the opposite effect, these incidents overtly functioned to distance the individual white body from their racist collective– an impossible, and disingenuous feat given the racial climate that defines America. It is this racial climate that predisposes any antiracist effort to inevitably help not hinder white supremacy.
Flash forward to this past semester. The setting is a writing course at a private university in New York City. To introduce a unit on critical queries I play Jadakiss’s “Why?” I am sure to play the clean version because as a black female on a journey to conscious, I have no place for expletives in my life let alone my classroom. Yet despite my efforts, when prompted to respond to a question in the song, a white female student stated “Why N*ggas can’t get no job?” despite the version played in class that stated “Why brothers can’t get no job?”
To which I responded “what did you say?”
She then proceeded to repeat the sentence and epithet. Every student in the class looked down. But, the worst is yet to come. When confronted about her word use she became combative and argumentative. This is the issue with the n word.
Is it an issue that white people use the n word? Yes. But this is not racism. It seems an essential component of oppression to preoccupy the oppressed with branches of racism and not the roots. Take for example the often unpleasant white and foreign businessmen that dominate black communities throughout America. Is it a problem that they are often unpleasant? Yes. Is this racist? No.
It is racist that the white and non-black foreigner monopolizes black economy—taking our money out of our communities. It is racist that the American system is designed to prevent black business ownership. Racism is the systemic action and language seen in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. It is the societal hierarchy white people observe in every aspect of western culture. Using the n word is yet another means for white people to assume their acquired hierarchy over black bodies. This student used the n word in the classroom of a black female instructor and fought for the right to use a racially offensive term–that’s racism. Bill Maher illustrated a similar dynamic in his use of the n-word Friday evening.
Bill Maher welcomed guest Senator Ben Sasse on his HBO show “Real Time” in which the pair joked about the fields of Nebraska. When invited to “work the fields” by Sasse, Maher responded “I’m a house n*gger” to a reserved laughter from his audience, to which he expressed his gratitude.
Was Maher wrong for using the n word? Yes. But this was far from the first racist comment Maher has made and won’t be the last. It seems his sexual fetish for black Women serves as a means to validate his racial insensitivity to those foolish enough to believe that having sex with blacks makes forgives their racist tendencies. The very house slaves that he references were both products and victims of the white slave masters, and it is this ignored context that composes the core issue here.
The historical trajectory of black bodies in this country is not funny. The means for initial western wealth, who received cyclical disenfranchisement in exchange for centuries of labor, is hardly a laughing matter, at least for those robbed. In using the n word, the white person induces a collective amnesia that when retrieved portrays the retriever as “living in the past” or “playing the race card.”
Blacks have yet to receive reparations or even inclusion into canonical history for providing the greatest sacrifice for this country, so it seems a fractional effort for the western world to retire an epithet used to verbally subjugate the black body.
So why can’t the word be laid to rest?
The answer is simple, it bears too much power.
Many will say that “n*gger” is “just a word” and blacks put “too much emphasis” on this word. But it was never blacks who put too much emphasis on a term foreign to their indigenous tongue. This was never our word, rather the word is conjured from white creation solely to conceptualize black denigration. Yes, it’s an issue that blacks use the word. But until the black collective maintains power in economics, media, employment and housing , they lack the ability to be racist. Furthermore, it is not the black collective who have issues getting over themselves, it is the white collective that expresses difficulty “getting over” their fictive placement on a stolen land.
The abducted African remains the foundation for western wealth, and their significance much like the emaciated and overworked bodies have dissolved into the stolen American soil. Yet instead of sprouting seeds of progress, this soil breeds a continued oppression of black bodies. This oppression is perhaps most evident in the western words implication that colloquial or comedic use of the term “n*gger” symbolizes racial progress.
Thus, in waiting for the term’s retirement, the black collective anticipates the impossible–for the white world to take a small step to relinquish their systemic power. The term was implemented as a means to maintain a position above the black body, and whites continue to use the term publicly for the same reasons. Maher, could have easily, and I’m sure he and the majority of whites do, used the n word off camera. The decision to do so publicly was because he could. Similarly, in my provided examples, each white individual used this racial epithet in a public place, drunk off a systemic white power that conceives every public space as subject to white domination.
The sadistic white mind— historically inebriated off power—assumes the height of racial psychopathy in staring into the black collective and calling them what every stolen opportunity, every stolen dollar, and every drowned, whipped, lynched, burned and raped ancestor symbolizes in past and present America.
Interestingly, this gaze into the black eye, is a central component of my two earlier examples. Notably, both acts seemed centered on not just saying the word to a black person, but staring them in the eye as they did so. I align said behavior with the traditional racial psychopath who looked blacks in the eye as they raped them, who looked as black flesh was chewed by dogs, who watched the life leave a black body during public lynchings. Namely, my mind thinks of the late Claude Neal and the white eyes that watched his flesh be torn from his body and jammed down his throat in a torture murder that lasted several hours. Let us not forget the white gazes that purchased the mutilated portraits of black bodies, and those who purchased black limbs ripped from their bodies in mob attacks.
White desire to induce and see pain illustrates white assemblage as contingent on black dismemberment—substantiating the white collective as what Dr. Bobby Wright labeled a racial psychopath who performs evil with no conscious.
Maher does a similar act in staring down the contemporary pain of the black collective, and mocking the very institution that proved a platform for his lucrative whiteness and conventional success. His ability to stare into the collective gaze of the black collective and use a term that jests the narrative of the abducted African violates the black body in the same manner as a lynching or rape.
Using the n-word is a socially accepted means to verbally assault the black body. The word does not function with the simplicity of an article, or the certainty of a noun. For the “n*gger” is no person, place or thing, it is an action. In a 2007 essay for The Atlantic entitle N*ggerization, Cornel West defines “n*ggerization” as the following:
N*ggerization is neither simply the dishonoring and devaluing of black people nor solely the economic exploitation and political disenfranchisement of them. It is also the wholesale attempt to impede democratization—to turn potential citizens into intimidated, fearful, and helpless subjects.
To use the word “nIgger” is an attempt to “n*ggerize,” to subject the black body to a verbal bludgeoning that ties the contemporary black body to a tree beside the ghosts of their ancestors, bare-backed and anticipating the physical wrath of white supremacy designed to force the black mind to mentally acquiesce to inferiority.
Therefore, it goes without saying that Maher’s apology is as insufficient as it is insincere. It also goes without saying that Maher should lose his job. Although it is doubtful that he was every deserving of such visibility anyhow. Nevertheless, whether fired or not, Maher’s fate will not stop racism. Who knows, Maher may have a clause in his contract that promises a huge payout if fired. He is also at the end of his career, and in addition to being a white man in America, it is guaranteed that Maher will not suffer, because earth is not hell for whites. Thus, it is not his job that the conscious community desires Maher to lose, it is his privilege.
Will the heat of hell change the setting? No, just as firing Maher will not end black suffering. If Maher does get fired the firing will function to imply that the world has “come a long way,” despite occurring in a world where Bill O’Reilly can get fired for “sexual misconduct” but cops are not fired for murdering black men, women or children.
It will also serve as the foregrounds for firing blacks who saying things like “white people,” “pass the crackers” or even “white privilege.” As an oppressed group, we must be sure not to misconstrue what appears to be an opportunity for progress for what it is—an opportunity. Nothing in America has been said or done for the sole purpose of helping blacks, and America proceeds cyclically not linear.
Welfare, affirmative action, diversity initiatives, financial aid, etc all function to aid whites, despite seeming to provide opportunities to the disenfranchised. Moreover, in accordance with the historical trajectory of a country established on the spilled blood of those labeled “other,” the white world will find a way to turn n-word, a source of collective black pain, into a gain for whites.
Article by CC Saunders
Those who have loved and dated across the color line have to negotiate the realities of race in our society, and by extension, its impact on their relationships. For many, this is done through explicit conversations. For others, these dialogues come implicitly, through gestures, and taken for granted shared assumptions.
Contrary to popular notions, BDSM is not about abuse. It’s consensual and trusting and people refer to it as “play” (as in “I want to play with you”). The point of BDSM is not sexual intercourse. In fact, when Williams recalls her first experience as a masochist seven years ago, she says she met her partner, a white man, at a bar and “fell in love at first sight.” They made their way back to his hotel. “For the first time I felt someone could see who I really was.” And that was someone who found it erotic to be a submissive to her partner.
In recent years, Williams has added another element to her repertoire as a masochist. She’s begun to engage in what is called “race play” or “racial play”—that is getting aroused by intentionally using racial epithets like the word “nigger” or racist scenarios like a slave auction.
Race play is being enjoyed in the privacy of bedrooms and publicly at BDSM parties, and it’s far from just black and white. It also includes “playing out” Nazi interrogations of Jews or Latino-on-black racism, and the players can be of any racial background and paired up in a number of ways (including a black man calling his black girlfriend a “nigger bitch”). White master seeking black slave, however, seems the more popular of the combinations.
I could not engage is such types of role-playing. My personal politics would not allow it; my libido would not respond.
That is my choice. I do not deny others their pleasure.
However, as someone interested in the relationship between race, politics, and racial ideologies, I am fascinated by how individuals negotiate white supremacy and Power.
Vi Johnson, the black matriarch of BDSM, has presented on race play at kinky conferences and she believes the appeal is different for each person. “When you’re being sexually stimulated, you’re not thinking that what’s stimulating you is a racist image, ” she says. “You’re just getting turned on.”
So, for some, she says, race play is about playing with authority and for others, it might be humiliation.
Well-known sexuality and SM educator Midori, who is Japanese and German, often presents her theory that humiliation in BDSM is linked to self-esteem. Take the woman who likes it when her boyfriend calls her a “slut,” Midori says. Perhaps the woman internalized the idea that “good girls don’t,” but she enjoys her sexuality. Because the boyfriend sees her in all her complexity, Midori says, when he calls her a slut, “he is freeing her of the social expectations of having to be modest.”
That’s different than having some stranger (and jerk) calling you a slut. The stranger doesn’t see the full woman. It’s similar with race play, Midori says. By focusing, for example, on a black man’s body, while he’s bound as a slave, she’s bolstering his own perception of himself as strong and powerful…
Her workshop demonstrations have included full auction scenes mimicking those of the Old South. In them, she is the plantation mistress inspecting a black man for “purchase.” He’s in shackles and “I slap him on his face and push him down on the ground, make him lick my shoes,” she says, emphasizing that she only does the demonstration after the “psychological” talk.
Here a white “slave owning” master offers some insight on race play and “plantation retreats”:
My major kink-interest is in chattel slave-ownership in today’s world but following the historical models of 8,000 years of historical slave-ownership tradition (from Greek-Roman through modern day)…along with everything that might relate to it (which sometimes can go pretty far into the realm of BDSM activities, depending on the partner). I’m very knowlegble in the field of historical slavery.
Some of my other non-kink interests include history and philosophy, classic cars, music, science, singing and writing lyrics, architecture, comparative culture, language, reading and counseling..
I get a lot of questions about “Plantation Retreat”…so here are some basic facts:
My goal in creating and hosting Plantation Retreat is to provide a safe and welcoming, private place (and opportunity) for White Masters and plantation slaves/niggers to meet and explore their mutual fantasies. I get a lot of questions and answer many individual questions. To simplify things…here is some general basic information:
The gathering lasts for up to 2 weeks this year, with the main gathering around the 4th of July…folks can stay as long or as short a time as they want (some stay even longer). Masters can stay at the compound here or in a hotel if they want to (as can any personal slaves that they bring with them or any other slave that is ordered to do so).
Slaves arriving on their own stay here and are considered (and protected) as property of the plantation or my personal property.
Slaves sign up for a specific length of service. Slaves can specify what their limits are or that they will serve in any way the Master/guests desire. Sex is not required, but depends on individual choice (as do other activities). Most Masters desire to use slaves sexually in addition to normal domestic services. Some slaves are used only for hard labor. A slave’s assignments and duties are based on its experience and ability-level (some require whipping or punishment). Masters have their own king or queen bed (up to 5 available); slaves sleep where they are told to sleep (unless they are ordered into a Master’s bed and allowed to sleep there). Normally a slave sleeps at the foot of a Master’s bed, but some can be chained or caged elsewhere.
The minimum requirement for slaves is that they be obedient and respectful of all Masters and work to give the Masters and enjoyable time. This can be anything from preparing and serving drinks and meals, doing housework or yard work, to providing sexual relief on demand, to hard labor in the compound (depending on the slave’s previously-stated limitations). Slaves should expect Masters to be totally comfortable and free in using humiliating or degrading racist speech in referring to or speaking to mud-slaves. It’s not all punishment and misery for slaves…there is plenty of time for camaraderie and playful fun also. Some slaves even form a brotherly bond with the other slaves that serve with them. Masters also form lasting bonds and friendships based on their mutual interests and sharing slaves.
It’s just a small friendly gathering of White Masters at my house/compound….being served by mud-slaves as might have been in a modern version of slave-days. one might call it a situation of consensual non-consent/slavery. Slaves can set their limits and the time they will be in service as slaves in advance…. and also what they expect to learn and experience from the experience. The more that a slave lets me know about itself in advance, the better I can guide its growth from the experience.
Backstage racism mates with BDSM, the eroticization of the black body, and finds a place online through a variant of cyber-racism. Amazing. We do in fact live in interesting times.
Following Trump’s inauguration a series of Women’s Marches occurred throughout North America. The protests erupted to preserve the female liberties seemingly threatened by a “conservative” president who boasted of sexually assaulting women. As a female, I empathize and even support the initiatives that foment this March. However, although a woman, I know that I am inevitably black first. Thus, I can’t help but feel that by supporting the women’s march is to support the very means of my oppression.
On my a tri-weekly journey to a previous job, I recall seeing a number of protestors outside of Planned Parenthood at the wee hours of the morning seeking to shame female patrons. One protestor stood out from the others—an elderly white man surely north of seventy-five. He stood hunched over, holding an oaktag with a message written in ballpoint pen. I did not bother to read the poster, but judging by the stoic expression on his face, he was there to cast the stones of white male privilege onto the female body. Standing at the intersectionality of race and gender, the black woman knows this gaze all to well. While the literal gaze casts itself onto the black female body countless places throughout North America, the figurative gaze consumes black femininity in its entirety. The women’s march solely speaks to the “woman” component of this gaze, eliminating the most defining characteristic of black female identity.
Reproductive rights in general proves controversial to the black female trajectory. A quick glance at history reveals that the black female endured sheer deprivation in terms of reproductive rights—her body used as means for mayoral economic franchisement. White women too encompassed an existence that also regarded them as property, however their fair skin warranted privileges denied to the black female body. These exclusive liberties afforded to white women illustrate the concept of “woman” as a privilege solely applicable to non-male whites. Consider the phrasing “black” woman. The label “Black woman” illustrates that black female intersectionality separates black females from the term’s initial meaning. For any “woman” of another marginalized faction, their race or ethnicity always precedes the term woman—proving their genitals deem them female but their race and ethnicity is first and foremost. Femininity is also a privilege extended exclusively to non-male whites. This exclusivity persists as the black female body only earns femininity when adopting western aesthetics and behavior.
Given the exclusivity of the term “woman,” I find it quite disturbing that white women ( and other oppressed groups) call on the black women for support in their times of distress, yet alienate the black female body when their children, brothers and fathers lay slain on the streets or untagged in the morgue. How many white women “said her name” after Sandra Bland was murdered? How many white women were overtly outraged after the Trayvon Martin verdict was rendered?
To take a trip down memory lane, how many white female feminists supported Tawana Brawley in her 1988 trial? If autonomy over the female body is right every woman deserves- why was their no feminist congregation when this young, black girl was sexually assaulted by a number of white men? The answer is simple. Issues that engage both blackness and femininity become “black” issues instantaneously. This fact reveals that feminism is simply not built to encompass intersectional identities and thereby is not equipped to extinguish black female disenfranchisement.
It seems that former President Barack Obama’s victory disgruntled feminists, who supported this victory as long as it was a symbol of the feminist victory to follow. It seems feminists felt that history would repeat itself. Namely, black male voting privilege preceded white female voting liberties. Thus, feminists deemed Clinton’s victory inevitable following Obama’s 2008 victory. Dr. Angela Davis expressed a similar sentiment in the following excerpt from her book Women, Race and Class,
“The representative women of the nation have done their uttermost for the last thirty years to secure freedom for the negro; and as long as he was lowest in the scale of being, we were willing to press his claims, but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is sIowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see ‘Sambo’ walk into the kingdom first.” (Davis 70)
Now that it seems that the black collective has something that the white female collective does not, the bells of white privilege right loudly under the veil of feminism.
Feminism functions to afford white women the same liberties as white men. The main component of these liberties is racism—deeming black female participation in any feminist activity injurious. Thus, to participate in a woman’s march as a black woman is to march along to the stagnant beat of white supremacy. For the black woman is a queen, but to the western world she will never truly be a woman.
Article written by C.C. Saunders
It seems most fitting to begin this piece by stating that mathematician Katherine Johnson is a genius. Thus, a movie celebrating black brilliance sounds progressive, however the actual portrayal renders Johnson a “hidden figure” in a supposed commemoration of her legacy.
The film briefly shows audiences a young Katherine, whose academic ability foments opportunity despite the obvious oppression of the early 20th century. The film attempts to inspire audiences though depicting Johnson’s contribution to launching the first American body into space. However, in actuality Hidden Figures illustrates that black brilliance yields white advancement.
Audiences watch Johnson put in long hours, travel forty minutes to use the bathroom and endure a segregated coffee machine. Subversively, the film suggests that the only place for a black intellect is in a white world. This conflict is not exclusive to this film, but extended to all encompassed by the phrase “the first black (fill in the blank)” While this phrasing appears complimentary, it shifts the focus away from the individual of African descent to the white vessel who “accepts” them.
In Hidden Figures, this white vessel is Al Harrison, played by Kevin Costner. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy scenes is Costner breaking down the segregated restroom signs. The scene received zealous plaudits from a stadium sized theatre. This applause undoubtedly erupted due to the mostly white audience’s attempt to overtly align themselves with Harrison’s seemingly integrative initiative. For me, this scene provoked an adverse reaction.
Watching this scene brought me back to a Dr. Carr lecture I attended almost a decade ago. During this lecture, Dr. Carr said that “nothing has been done for blacks that did not benefit others.” Namely, these segregated signs existed at NASA although there were no no black individuals worked in this particular wing. Thus, the signs served no direct purpose but to remind those who cleaned the facilities that they were good enough to scrub toilets but not sit on them. Thus, Harrison’s acts are not commendable—they’re selfish. This very deed exposes the fault in integration. The segregated bathroom only becomes an issue when it deterred white initiative. Namely, only when segregation proved an obstacle to his advancement and reputation was it taken down. It is this selfishness, not ideas of equality or unity, that continues to fuel black inclusion in traditionally white spaces.
Before concluding this article, I would like to state that my criticism is not to take away from Mrs. Katherine Johnson’s legacy. This article does function to state that this film is not an accurate depiction of this legacy. I would love to have learned more about her life pre-Nasa, the parents who raised her, her experience at school, how she balanced motherhood and work, and the strength it took to raise three young kids as a young widow. Hidden Figures abbreviates Mrs. Johnson’s life, making her a largely enigmatic figure in a film that is seemingly about her. Johnson’s hidden figure status in her own film suggests that all black excellence yields hidden figure status in a white supremacist society. In veiling sentiments of deprived visibility, the film highlights how imperative it is that we as black tell “our story” and not his-story. For the moral of the story is not Johnson’s greatness, but what history continually tells in in films like 42, The Blind Side and The Help, which is simply that blacks can do anything if whites think they are special.
Article by C.C. Saunders