In the Service of our Ancestors and African Love,
Listen Seeker, I come in peace,
“If you are searching for a Neter, observe Nature!” — African Proverb
The ‘N-word’ or ‘Nigger’ has been embraced by some members of the African Community for over four centuries. We see the common usage in the literature of the enslaved, in the works of J.A. Rogers (1880-1966), in Assata Shakur’s Autobiography(1987), and in the rap songs of the 90s. Many Elders would admit that the word’s usage has always been associated with an underclass and express shock at how ‘mainstream’ it has become. Yet the bottom line is ‘Nigger’ or ‘Nigga’ are far from terms of endearment or empowerment. Some would suggest its roots speak to a Powerful African Past. Some debunk the relevance. Nevertheless, the following dialogue speaks to the true essence of the “N-word” debate. One may read this and continue to use the insult; but for those who love African people, I present this dialogue to promote a clearer image of what the word means and what we must do.
Dialogue between a Man and Beast over the ‘N-word’
By Onitaset Kumat
Beast: Johnathan! May I call you Johnathan?
Man: Who said that?
Beast: Over here!
Man: Do my eyes deceive me or are you a beast that speaks?
Beast: I speak though I am no ‘beast.’ My name is Buyama and I am a Mnara. May I call you Johnathan?
Man: Surely, that is my name.
Beast: I’ve seen many Johnathans. Recently more and more look like you.
Man: What do you mean?
Beast: I have traveled the world and Johnathans look different, is all.
Man: Well, my name is Johnathan.
Beast: Strange. Johnathan, I noticed you for a while. You and others who look like you answer to and affectionately call one another ‘Niggers,’ as I am a Mnara are you a Nigger?
Man: I suppose so. I mean I can see why you would think so.
Beast: Is it not so?
Man: It is and isn’t. True, I call myself ‘Nigger’ or ‘Nigga’ but not to mean I am a ‘Nigger’ but to use a word against me for me.
Beast: I misunderstand.
Man: My people were called ‘Niggers’ by another people, so we call ourselves ‘Nigger’ to take the sting out of the name.
Beast: As a form of self-empowerment?
Man: You get it.
Beast: Actually, I don’t. A wise Halasiou once said ‘To name a thing is to empower it.’ I understood her to mean self-empowerment follows from the name one gives oneself not the name given one. This is why I would not answer as ‘beast’ but ‘Buyama.’
Man: Buyama, we do not name ourselves; every name is given to us. My name ‘Johnathan,’ for instance, comes from my parents.
Beast: My name comes from mine as well. But my people understand that we are born and reborn endlessly; so my parents are my ancestors and my descendants at once, as I am my ancestors and descendants at once. When I was named, I was named after my ancestors and descendants, the spirit whom I am. ‘Buyama’ is my name and has been before and will be again. ‘Buyama’ is the name I gave myself when I resonated with the Creator’s utterance.
Man: Well, my mother just thought ‘Johnathan’ was a good name and my father agreed.
Beast: Strange. Another wise Halasiou said ‘Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion.’ Though you were named Johnathan, you yourself are not ‘Johnathan.’
Man: Why not?
Beast: ‘Johnathan’ is not even of your language for one thing.
Man: I speak English, ‘Johnathan’ is English, you speak nonsense, Buyama.
Beast: ‘Everyone finds himself in the world where he belongs. The essential thing is to have a fixed point from which to check its reality now and then.’
Man: Let me guess, another ‘wise’ Halasiou?
Man: I’ve never heard of a Halasiou or an Mnara before today. I can fathom an Mnara now that I experienced you; but who are these wise Halasiou that you are fond of quoting?
Beast: Based on their physical appearances, you would probably call them ‘Niggers’ but these men and women would not answer to foreign words. None but the most destroyed, defeated and domesticated beings will answer to a name not their own. What you call ‘pets’ do that. In freedom, nothing answers but to its name. The Halasiou were no exception. The Halasiou were not pets: they fed themselves, clothe themselves, sheltered themselves and taught themselves.
Man: The Halasiou looked like me?
Beast: Physically, yes. But their stature was different. They stood tall and firm, straight never slouched, proud, confident and content. They had a look I’ve never seen on you. The Halasiou were you of a passed and better time.
Man: Buyama, what you said of your people being reborn endlessly, does that occur with the Halasiou as well?
Beast: The Halasiou were the second to articulate this truth to the world; after the Creator.
Man: In that case, if I am to be reborn as a Halasiou I must prepare a world for Halasiou rather than ‘Niggers’; for Masters rather than Pets; for Wisdom rather than Error. I will never again answer to a pet name like “Nigger” or “Johnathan” again.
Beast: That sounds more like you Kongna.
Man: So it does Buyama.