by H. Lewis Smith
Actor Samuel L. Jackson was recently interviewed by Ebony Magazine writer Kevin Powell. As reported in the “Entertainment Cultural/ Celebrities” section of the February issue, Mr. Jackson—who voted for Obama, was asked about his present thoughts on the President. He responded as follows:
“When it comes down to it, they wouldn’t have elected a n**ga. Because, what’s a n**ga? A n**ga is scary. Obama ain’t scary at all. N**gas don’t have beers at the White House. N**gas don’t let some White dude, while you in the middle of a speech, call [him] a liar. A n**ga would have stopped the meeting right there and said, ‘Who the f*#! said that?’ I hope Obama gets scary in the next four years, ’cuz he ain’t gotta worry about getting re-elected.”
Samuel Jackson goes on to explain his use of the n-word: “I’ve said to White Hollywood folks, ‘First thing you need to understand is, I am a n**ga. I’m a nice guy, but there are certain things that go ‘click,’ and I become that guy y’all really worry about at night. …N**ga became a part of my vocabulary when I was born. Because it was used on me in my house, often, ‘N**ga, you crazy?’ My mom, my grandmom, my granddad, my relatives, my neighbors. I know the word n**ga as an admonishment, an endearment, a criticism and an invective. So I use it; I don’t run from it. I don’t have an issue with it or who says it. I always put it in the context of how it was used on me.”
There is an 18th century slave mentality associated with the n-word; consequently, there is no difference in Samuel Jackson’s state of mind and a former old slave woman: An old woman, an escape slave, in a conversation with a missionary was quoted as saying: “We are n**gers. We always was n**gers and we always shall be. We’ve got no souls. We’s animals. We’s black and so is the Evil One.”
“The Bible doesn’t say the devil is black”, protested the missionary. “Well,” the old woman said, “white folks say so and we’s bound to believe them, cause we’s nothing but animals and n**gers. Yes, we’s n**gers! N**gers! N**gers!”
To Mr. Jackson, this must and needs to be said: “I have nothing but the deepest respect for and admiration of your acting abilities, and have no doubts that you are more than deserving of the financial success with which you’ve been blessed. HOWEVER, this is the 21st century and not the 18th century. At some point, all Blacks and African Americans need to stop playing the role of the helpless, victimized, mentally-crippled slave; or the ignorant, blindly-accepting ‘tradition’ black person. Just because a thing occurred in the past does not make it right or something that should continue to persist: Just because slavery occurred in the past or one’s family and friends referred to one as a ‘n**ga’ does not automatically make slavery ideal or continual reference or acceptance of being called a ‘n**ga’ right either.”
No matter one’s economic overcoming or continual social injustices, a black person should never accept being referred to as a n**ger. Moreover, by someone like Samuel L. Jackson embracing the term and blatantly saying that he’s a “n**ga”, he has further proven that even if one does attain a certain financial status or level of success, White America’s conniving worked. They successfully wrapped their grip around the black man’s psyche long ago, and have even had the black man confess with his own mouth that regardless of the economic level he climbs to in society, he will [always] be nothing more than a “n**ga” in the social spectrum.
Unless the black man consciously elects to enlighten himself and truly demand and proclaim his independence on all fronts—always remaining mindful of his past, but refusing to allow negativity to reside in any form in his current mindset, his mentality will always be shackled or hindered—sadly, he will always accept his appointed place in society.
Those “White folks” that Mr. Jackson alludes to programmed, conditioned and trained many like him to accept their concept of blacks being n**gers. It’s time for Black America as a group to flip the script and stop identifying with that word—regardless to who used it and how the term was applied. No liberated, self-respecting Black/African American is going to succumb to an inferior way of thinking about or referring to self.
People like Samuel Jackson must somehow wake-up to the fact that this is the 21st century and they are no longer obligated to look upon themselves as the n-word. People like Mr. Jackson are required to learn to understand why it was important to the white ruling class during the days of chattel, peonage, sharecropper slavery and the convict leasing slave system to intimidate the enslaved into THINKING of themselves as n**gers.
No, it was not only sufficient to refer to blacks as n**gers; rather, it was of the utmost importance for the slaves themselves to ACCEPT the so-called fact that they were indeed n**gers—sub-human, bestial savages; untamed beasts, and as a result, inferior to whites. The rallying cry to any black who dared to act and think differently was always: “Don’t forget your place, n**ger”. As the black soldiers returned home from WWII, they often returned to the ranting jeers of “n**ga”—a blunt reminder of the black man’s on-going subordinate role in the American society regardless to the honor, dignity and echelons of achievement he so well deserved and attained.
Some blacks may believe that no matter the levels of success they attain or blood they shed for America, they will always be referred to as n**gas and grouped in an inferior social class. The rebuttal to that line of thinking is that, that may be true. However, the primary concern is not what other races refer to one as, but the most important perspective is the black individual’s view and acceptance of self. In this 21st century, Mr. Jackson and many others like him, though the chains and whips have been put away, refuse to stray away from their 18th century appointed place of mental enslavement. Blacks must decide for themselves—within Black America, collectively, and within each black person, individually—what they are worth and willing to represent and accept.
As each black consciously decides to increase his/her intellect—as enlightenment cannot be purchased, understands the ramifications of the term, and refuses to be referred to as such by friends, family, self, or anyone else, then and only then will Blacks realize the respect within and without the community they deserve. Subsequently, the black community will progress unhindered.
Others may have referred to him as an n-word, but Sidney Poiter, of Hollywood fame, never allowed himself to succumb to the pressures of Jim Crowism, bigotry and biasness by being pressured into reducing himself to anything less than his own perception of his self-worth. Mr. Poiter was a mentally liberated man and, therefore, did not kowtow to the established norms of society. By remaining dignified and honoring rather than desecrating his ancestry and heritage or selling out the precious memories, struggles and sacrifices of his ascendants, he became a very successful, accomplished, and [respected] Hollywood actor.
For whatever reason, the black actors, actresses, and entertainers of today do not possess the mental strength of a Sidney Poitier. Rather, they feel compelled to sell out, and that is a sad commentary.
President Obama has a full enough load dealing with the infantile racist mentality of non-blacks without now having influential yet narrow-minded blacks increasing his burden. Rather than jumping ship and bad-mouthing a black leader in trying times, blacks must band together even more strongly, stand erect with dignity, and serve as an unbreakable foundation or barrier to protect the Commander-in-Chief. Those in Black America that originally supported Obama must continue supporting him not only because of his skin but because of their belief in his abilities. Equating the President to the n-word is an egregiously disrespectful and cowardly act no matter whose lips from which the word flows.
H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc. (www.theunitedvoices.com); and author of “Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word”. Follow H. Lewis Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thescoop1
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