Monday, February 25, 2013

Do Black Folks Need N-Word Therapy?

Abena Afreeka, is a Philadelphia-based social worker and family therapist. She has worked for over ten years on an especially interesting project that she is now offering to the public called the ‘Nigger Recovery Program.”

The program, she says is particularly necessary in the wake of the popular song ‘Niggas In Paris,’ by Kanye West and Jay-Z, which was nominated this year for two Grammy Awards, showing the awkward progression of society to the acceptance of a historically hurtful and racist description of black people. 

“I have put together a program of recovery that is uniquely designed with the African in mind," Afreeka told PhillyMag, based on the unique experience of early and ongoing adversity. The Nigga Recovery Program is uniquely designed with the rap artist in mind, specifically the rap artist of African descent, those addicted to the use of the word ‘nigger.’”

It was Tupac who first made the distinction between the words ‘Nigger’ and ‘Nigga.’ “Niggers,” Pac said, are the ones ‘on the rope hangin out to bake.’ “Niggaz,” he explained before his death, are the ones with “gold rope hangin out at clubs.”

Yet the distinction between these two versions of the word, for anyone on the outside without the cultural references in mind seems miniscule. Essentially, the former was developed out of the latter to emerge as a form of affection amongst a generation of outlaws known as the Hip-Hop movement. Before Hip-Hop emerged the phrase was still used interculturally amongst black people, but always in a negative reference, never as a show of affection. The Hip-Hop revolution has not only changed the perception of the term in the black community, it has given whites the greenlight to use it, which has historically been viewed as the most definitive representation of white racism.

Recently comedian Lisa Lampanelli gained headlines for using the N-word on her twitter page. The tweet read: Me with my nigga @LenaDunham of @HBOGirls - I love this beyotch!!

Lampanelli defended her use of the term according to The Huffington Post.

“The N-word ending in 'er' is far different context from the word ending in 'a.' Ask any person who knows the urban dictionary, it means 'friend,'" she said. "And by the way, if I had put the word ending in 'er,' that would have been a very derogatory thing about Lena meaning she is less than me, and I view her as very above me. 'A' on the end means 'my friend.'"

Apparently Lampanelli has embraced the same explanation of the term that rap artists have made popular. But even if black folks have agreed to take the hate out of the word by using it as a term of endearment amongst each other, does that give whites, whose race has for centuries used the word as a demeaning description of any black person, to now use it in a positive light or use it at all for that matter?

Afreeka, is one who believes the use of the word by anyone, particularly black people is problematic. She described to PhillyMag the process by which her groundbreaking therapy would be administered.

“They will meet with me in a group. It’s a group intervention. There would also be some individual work. They would complete a cultural genogram, they would learn to understand their relationships, their history, they would work to learn and understand self. This is substance abuse, the substance being using the N-word. And many of them are benefiting from using that substance.”

For a song with the word Nigga in it, no matter how it’s spelled, to have been nominated twice at the whitest awards show in music speaks volumes about how far this country has come in regards to race relations. What it says is that although we have progressed in many ways after having elected the first black president, we no longer need a society of racists whites to degrade us, as it was done for so many decades. We have become adept at degrading ourselves.

For the record Lampanelli, the urban dictionary does not describe the N-word as being a friend.

Is there a difference between using the word 'Nigger' and using 'Nigga?'

What does 'Niggas In Paris' Being nominated for two Grammy's say about our society's racial discourse?

Is N-Word therapy needed in the black community? 

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