Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry in our language is a not so hidden secret we can afford to ignore

September 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, African American hair, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, Declaration of Independence, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, justice, justice system, language, law, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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The objective from the very beginning was division and on a permanent basis as the reason the founding fathers invented two races, a black and a white. Unlike the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that said we are one people, the concept of race has kept us separate and unequal. Subsequently, if we continue believing in the concept of races we will continue to be separate and never fulfill the objective of our democracy. If we are to ever have one nation, we will have to change the way to look, speak, and act towards one another. We also need to understand that the language we use helps to keep us separate. For example, as long as some people view themselves as black and white, they will not come together because of the historical significance of those words. They were meant to keep us apart.

Many well-meaning civic groups actually work against themselves by choosing a name that creates a negative and defensive feeling in others towards them. Take, for example, Black Lives Matter, a group that has an objective that is in keeping with the concept of democracy, but because of the word black in the name, it creates a defensive reaction in the minds of many European Americans.

We also have groups that use words like white, Aryan and caucasian that they believe makes them different from people who do not look like them. Their pronounced goal is to save or preserve the so-call white race. They need to visit history to learn what happens to people who are separated or separate themselves from other people; they become extinct, like for example, the Australian Tasmanian Aboriginals, and in America, the Eire people and the colony of Roanoke.

When civic activists call for unity among people of color, they miss the opportunity to enhance their programs by not inviting all concerned people. We as a society have been conditioned to identify ourselves based on our so-called differences when our objective should be for all to use the same identity. We are all Americans, so why is it necessary to use color or ethnicity as part of identity? When visitors come to America, they come using their cultural identity. When Americans get a passport they provide a picture, but no racial or ethnic identity, because our cultural identity is American, not black or white, Hispanic or Asian etc.

We do ourselves a constant disservice by identifying ourselves as separate groups which have been our legacy since slavery. We have to grasp the reality of our situation understanding that the concept of biological races is a myth, invention, social construction, and lie. Prior to the Human Genome Project, everything about races with the numerous divisions, classifications, and characteristics was conjecture and opinion. We now have scientific proof, validation, and evidence that all human beings are more alike than penguins, and the skin complexion, eye shape and color, and hair texture are not unique to a select group of human beings. We are of one race of beings whether we like it or not.

We might think that language does not play so great a part in our lives and our behavior, but studies old and recent underscore the fact that when the words black and white are used in a sentence referring to an identity, a measured reaction occurs. The reaction for the European American, usually an increased heartbeat, is observed when the word black is used because of the social conditioning associated with the word. African Americans do not experience a similar reaction when the word white appeared in a sentence because they are conditioned to seeing it and without feeling threatened.

The media in American society contributes greatly to the separation of ethnic groups by the way they use inappropriate identity language. For example, if a bank is robbed and the robber was apprehended, nothing pertaining to the robbery is gained when the ethnicity of the robber is identified. Except, in American society today the identity of the robber is omitted if he or she happens to be European American, but the identity is almost always given when the robber ‘s identity is a person of color. The effect of the naming the identity of the ethnic person serves to strengthen the negative stereotype society already has of the person of color.

Another way in which the media contributes to the negative stereotypes and biased attitudes held by some Americans relative to people of color has to do with the mentioning of the geographic location of an incident that is readily identified as being in a location where predominately people of color reside. Again, the mere mention of the location adds to the negative stereotype held by many people familiar with the location.

Today, with all the problems America is facing relative to our government and the various policies being addressed both positively and negatively, we need to take the opportunity to add our concept of race and identity into the mix and deal with it once and for all. We continue to talk about racism as if it was legitimate rather than bigotry which is what has been and continues to be practiced in society. Yes, our language uses the word racism to talk about social biases, but simultaneously serves to keep the concept of races alive and our society separate. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in as well as our children and grandchildren. Once we make that choice, we need to get to work and make it happen. We have been talking about racism for three hundred years to no avail because we are still talking about it without a change in the daily behaviors of people. Racism is not the problem, we are because we refuse to accept the fact that we have been living in a false reality. What we cannot continue pretending to not see is the rapidly changing demographics that will force changes in society relative to cultural and ancestral identities.

We currently have an opportunity to make great strides in addressing our oneness as a society by debunking the myth of race and working to make America what it was meant to be a democracy. We will not and cannot get to where we want, and need, to be if we do not change from using our misleading ethnically biased language of bigotry.

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Paul R. Lehman, The power of language continues to enslave American society

August 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, education, employment, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Genealogy,, identity, integregation, justice, language, law, lower class, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, socioeconomics, Stokely Carmichael, the 'n' word, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the constant conundrums challenging America today is race; the reason for it being constant is because while we experience and observe it, we can only describe it, not defines it. We cannot define race because it is a concept based on conjecture and myths.  Since the Greeks and Romans did not know why the sun rose and set every twenty-four hours, they made up a story about it. The story had some facts in it relative to the movement of the sun, but the facts were surrounded by fiction. Apparently, they thought that Apollo drove his chariot around the heavens riding up to the center of the sky in the morning, and down to the horizon at night. Fortunately, scientists came along to give more precise information about the sun and its relations to the earth. Today, the world knows the actual movement of the sun as well as the other celestial bodies in the universe and no longer need to invent myths. Unfortunately, we have not arrived at that point with the use of the term race. The myth continues because we have not decided to rid ourselves of its power to control our mind and bodies.

Language is the most important tool used in transmitting not only information but also a controlling influence over society. When the slave masters took away the slaves’ identity, history, and culture, they forced on the slaves a language that was meant to keep them enslaved. The language was such an important tool that the slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write it. The punishment for anyone caught teaching a slave to read or write were heavy fines, whippings, or imprisonment, depending on the state in which it occurred. The slave owners knew that language as a tool could be used to control minds, but they also knew that it could also be used to liberate minds as well.

One way in which language was used to control society was when it constantly reminded European Americans that they were superior to all people of color, and it reminded people of color that they were inferior to European Americans. Once the captive Africans arrived in America and were stripped of their identities and past; they were forced to accept the reality of slavery. The language they used always pictured them as inferior and European Americans as powerful, privileged, and in total control of society. The African captives knew that they were not Negroes, blacks, or other terms associated with their identity, but they were defenseless to do anything about it for fear of repercussions, including death. After years of social conditioning in which the language constantly reminded the African Americans that they were Negroes, blacks, colored, and a host of other denigrating terms, their actual identity became less of a concern than their civil rights as citizens.

In the early 1960’s language was used as a tool for protest by African Americans who combined identity with the fight for civil rights with the phrase “Black Power.”  Africans were forced to wear the identity of black from the beginning of American slavery and it was used as a derogatory and denigrating term. Even African Americans used the term as derogatory within the African American community. However, when the phrase “Black Power” was used by Stokely Carmichael during a 1960’s civil rights rally, it gained legs and moved throughout the national African American community as well as society at large via music and media. The reference to “black” was used to engender a new sense of pride and positive value to what was once viewed as insulting and denigrating to African Americans. The power of language to influence worked to change the negative concept of blackness as an identity for African Americans to one of positivity, pride, and beauty.

While the language shift worked to provide a new sense of self for the African Americans relative to a black identity, it accomplished little for the European American since no change occurred in their conception and use of the word black as derogatory. The major misconception of the African American community nationally was that the word black would somehow be transformed to represent a new identity. The problem with that happening is that the space the word black occupied in the language could and would not be replaced simply by repetition. Although European Americans could use the word white for their identity, it carried no negative connotations, just the opposite.  Many Europeans abandoned their cultural identity to accept the white identity because of the power and prestige it provided them. African Americans because they did not use their cultural or ancestral identities were forced to be identified as blacks and Negroes. Two reasonable identity choices are African American or people of color, but only for ancestral identities. The cultural identity has always been American.

Many people of color in America accept the word black as a form of identity without realizing that the words black and white are adjectives, not nouns; that is, as nouns they represent colors, but as adjectives, they usually precede the noun race. Therefore, if the word black is used as a noun, it serves no purpose as an identity because it represents no cultural or ancestral ethnicity. If the word black is used as an adjective proceeding race, then the identity is based on a false concept of a black race that is viewed as a monolith which is also incorrect. In other words, the use of the slave masters’ language still represents some control over society’s identities.

The late Malcolm X learned that language as a social tool could provide an element of power and influence. So, he worked hard to become proficient in the use of language, and as a result was able to educate, enlighten, inform, irritate, and intimidate his audiences. Partly due to his early death he had not gained the level of understanding that would have helped to unlock the door of ignorance relative to how language managed to retain control of the concept of race. He did, however, recognized that the identity given the African captives upon their arrival was not their true identity and so he rejected his family name (usually taken from the slaves’ former owner or master) and replaced it with the letter X which is symbolic for the unknown.  American society’s challenge now is to recognize how language has been used to control us so we can set about the business of freeing ourselves. We cannot resolve a problem if we do not recognize that it exists.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Trump’s use of the s—hole word more than a slip of the tongue

January 27, 2018 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Africa, democracy, ethnic stereotypes, European Americans, political tactic, President Trump, racism, respect, The Oklahoman | 1 Comment
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A recent statement published in the “Your Views” section of The Oklahoman (1/24/2018) by Georgia Newton showed how brief statements can reveal more about us than we might think. The title of the statement is “Grow up,” which can suggest a number of interpretations. Although the statement is brief, it provides a considerable amount of food for thought.

The first sentence stated: “President Trump’s alleged question about  ‘s—hole countries’ reminds me of something that happened when I was 12.” We know that Newton is an adult and has an opinion concerning the question allegedly made by Trump concerning countries inhabited primarily by people of color. We also know that she will compare Trump’s use of that “s” word to something remembered from her past. We know, in addition, from the title, that she has an emotional connection to the word.

In her second sentence, we are told about her experience when she was 12: “My cousin and I were playing a game of Monopoly and something didn’t go my way, and I said the same bad word.”  We now know that her experience involved playing a board game with her cousin during which she encountered a bad experience. As a result of that experience, she uttered the same ‘s’ word which she labeled as bad. We learned that sometimes when things did not go her way she reacted by using bad words.

Her third sentence indicated that “My cousin said she was going to tell on me—and she did.” From the actions of her cousin, we learned that the ‘s’ word was not socially acceptable in her family. Had the word been acceptable, telling an adult would serve no purpose. We were not informed of the repercussion she encountered from her cousin telling on her.

Her fourth sentence told us more about Newton: “Our lawmakers are making such a big deal over this!” This sentence indicated a lack of understanding relative to the significance of the ‘s’ word used in a negative context and with direct reference to countries of people of color. The political implications relating to the diplomatic relations that America has with those countries were underscored by the “Lawmakers making a big deal over “ it because they understood the possible repercussions from such a negative characterization.

Newton’s next utterance of “Really?” showed that her attention was simply on the use of a “bad word” as opposed to who used the word, namely, Trump, when and where he used it. Had she been fully aware of the history of Trump and his history with people of color, she might have given it a second thought. The fact that she asked the question indicated that she did not place any diplomatic significance on the lawmakers’ reactions to Trump’s use of the word in conjunction with the negative associations of his biases.

Newton’s final words were:”Grow up!” We can only assume that her command was directed towards the lawmakers who were making a big deal of the use of the bad word. However, her choice of phrase reflected more on her arrogance and lack of understanding relative to the situation than to the lack of maturity on the part of the lawmakers. The phrase “Grow up” means to progress toward or arrive at the full stature of physical and/or mental maturity, or to develop from childhood towards adulthood. Evidently, that definition is not what Newton had in mind when addressing the lawmakers since the qualifications for officer holders are well-established for adults. Her use of that phrase was probably meant to challenge their intellectual growth.

The fact that Newton would criticize the lawmakers for taking offense at Trump’s use of the ‘s’ words in the context in which it was used indicated that she was not conversant with the diplomatic history of the situation. The command also indicated that she had no problem with the use of “bad words” in general since they represent no big deal. The fact that ethnic bigotry and the social value of people of color was not readily apparent to Newton indicated that she simply viewed the ‘s’ word in isolation. Evidently, she believes that using socially unacceptable language is fine if one is upset or things are not going his or her way. That attitude suggests behavior more akin to a child than an adult.

An indication of the level of maturity questioned in Newton’s statement occurred when she used and compared a childhood incident in which she used the ‘s’ word to the one used by the President of the United States. She, unlike the lawmakers, saw no difference in the use of the word. The fact that she equated the use of the word in both cases as similar speaks volumes about her intellectual maturity. No one questions Newton’s right to speak freely about whatever she wants to address; however, once she has spoken, and publically, the readers have the freedom to comment on what was said, and view it critically.

Newton’s command to “grow up” at the end of her statement suggested that she was a grown up and that she judged the lawmakers, and subsequently, those who believed as did the lawmakers, not to be grown-ups.  Unfortunately, the fact that she did not understand the seriousness of Trump’s use of the ‘s’ word and the political impact it would have on our diplomatic relations with the countries included in his statement showed a lack of knowledge regarding the situation. Her lack of knowledge, nevertheless, did not prevent her from assuming a lack of intellectual maturity on the part of the lawmakers. What we readers discovered from Newton’s statement was the lack of information, knowledge, perception, and maturity from her as an adult.

As she continues to mature our hope is that Newton realizes that words do not exist in a vacuum and depending on how they are used, they have consequences that can range from soft and sweet to dangerous. Words also have histories, and knowledge of that history can be very important when used in a certain context. Really? Really.

 

Paul R. Lehman, The American #System of ethnic injustice slowly being revealed

June 11, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, blacks, Congress, Constitutional rights, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, discrimination lawsuit, Emancipation Proclamation, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, police force, Prejudice, Puritans, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system | Leave a comment
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Slices of reality are slowly being cut away from the apple of delusion that masquerades as American justice when we view the many videos showing how the law enforcement establishment denigrates the lives of African Americans. What we are witnessing via the videos is the system slowly being dismantled by virtue of its inability to maintain it’s creditability as a form of reality. The system was flawed when it was invented and put into motion by the founding fathers. For certain, the founding fathers knew that a lie could not last forever. Nevertheless, they believed that as long as they controlled society, there was little chance of the lie being discovered.  What is the lie that characterized the system?

American society was created by people with biased attitudes towards people of color, but especially Africans with dark or black skin complexion. The historian Gary B. Nash noted in his book, The Great Fear, that the English were familiar with people of skin complexions darker than their own because of years of trading in the Middle East as well as North Africa. However, when the fair-skinned English came into contact with dark-skinned Africans, they reacted negatively:

Unhappily, blackness was already a means of conveying some of the most ingrained values of English society. Black—and its opposite, white —were emotion-laden words. Black meant foul, dirty, wicked, malignant, and disgraceful. And of course it signified night—a time of fear and uncertainty. Black was a symbol signifying baseness, evil, and danger. Thus expressions filtered into English usage associating black with the worst in human nature: the black sheep in the family, a black mark against one’s name, a black day, a black look, to blackball or blackmail. White was all the opposites—chastity, virtue, beauty, and peace.  Women were married in white to symbolize purity and virginity. Day was light just like night was black. The angels were white; the devil was black. Thus Englishmen were conditioned to see ugliness and evil in black. In this sense their encounter with the black people of West Africa was prejudiced by the very symbols of color which had been woven into English language and culture over centuries (p 11).

The attitude described by Nash continues today to an appreciable extent because it was made part of the fabric of the European American psyche. Looking back through American history we learn that even though America made efforts to abolish slave trade in the 1770s, it was not until 1808 that Congress ended the trade. However, slavery did not end, and while slaves were controlled by their owners, the free African Americans were thought to represent problems. Nash noted that “After 1790 the free Negro, in both the North and the South, was subjected to increasing hostility, discrimination, and segregation. Once they had turned back abolitionist crusade of the revolutionary period white Americans became less concerned about the black slave than about black men who were not slaves.” Nash underscored where that new concern led:

Southern states began passing laws prescribing heavier penalties for black felons than white, stripping away the legal rights of free Negroes, taxing free black men more heavily than whites, banning the free Negro from the polls and from political office, and forcing him out of white churches where he had been free to go and in some cases encouraged to go while a slave (p 25).

The European American had exerted total control over the African/African American since slavery and the tool they used to justify that control was the invention of a white and black race. Any effort to free the African American would suggest that he was capable of living with European Americans on an equal basis; this proposition they would never concede because their entire belief system was based on black inferiority. Nash commented on the challenge to the European Americans’ need for control once the African Americans were freed: “…they found themselves at the brink of giving up a system of control and a sense of mastery which they had come to believe was natural and essential to the well-being of their society.”  He continued: “It was almost as if the logic by which the African had been held in chains had been shattered. To compensate, a new system of control must be devised so that the free Negro, who remained a Negro after all, could be dominated almost completely”(p25). So, ethnic bigotry, race, was introduced into the American psyche as normal and correct.

America has always been perceived by European Americans as their country. All the other people who are not Anglo-Saxons are here through the Anglo-Saxons’ generosity. Too often some Americans associate denigration of the African American with only the South, not so, said Ronald Takaki, author of “The Black, Child-Savage,” he noted that the negative” image of the Negro served a need shared by whites, North and South; it performed an identity function for white Americans during a period when they were groping for self-definition.” He continued:

It is significant to note the way that whites imagined the Negro in relation to themselves: the Negro was mentally inferior, naturally lazy, childlike, unwholesome, and given to vice. He was the antithesis of themselves and of what they valued: industriousness, intelligence, and moral restraint. These, of course, were values which whites associated with civilized society. (p 42)

What do these references to history and some European American attitudes have to do with the previously mentioned videos.   Simply this; that attitude is reflected in many of the actions of law enforcement today, regardless of the geographical location. So, we can recognize that behavior as part of a system. For over three hundred years officers have acted with impunity against African Americans. We also know that the law enforcement agents do not act independently, but under the auspices of an administration. The primary element that keeps this system operating is the false concept of races. Accepting the concept of races, invented by the founding fathers, ensures the continuation of ethnic conflicts. Fortunately, society is changing dramatically towards the devaluing of race.

The children and grandchildren of closet bigots were told the lie relative to democracy that life, liberty, freedom was for all people; that everyone should be respected and valued regardless who they were. So, now when these children and grandchildren see an injustice committed, they come to the aid of the victims, which is exactly what the bigots do not want to see. Many European Americans believe in a system of justice for all, not the one invented to control people of color. These European Americans did not learn that the system was to work only for them and that they are a part of it. So, now they want the American society they were told exist for all. The keepers of the system are fighting with everything they have to hold it in place, but it is too late; society continues to change.  With every video recording an injustice against African Americans and other people of color, another slice of the apple is removed and the reality slowly and painfully comes to the light.

Paul R. Lehman, Changing America’s social conditioning a challenge for all ethnicities

November 25, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Indian, American Racism, blacks, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, France, Human Genome, identity, Michigan, public education, skin color, Slavery, socioeconomics, South Africa, whites | Leave a comment
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Americans are ethnically conditioned to discern other ethnic groups with one exception; that exception would be recognizing European Americans. Read any newspaper or magazine article and if the subject of the article is European American, that information is usually not stated, but assumed. If the subject of the article is other than European American, then the ethnicity is identified. The primary reason for this activity is based on the influence and control European Americans have had on Americans for several hundred years. During American slavery and shortly after the Civil War, emphasis was placed on the irrational conception of race by color; that is, society created two dominant races, one black, the other white. Ever since that creation, fruitless efforts have been made to try and make the myth reflect reality. Nonetheless, what American society has been able to do is promote the concept of multiple biological races with relative success. Along with the concept of multiple biological races came the acceptance of the European American as the only normal representative of human beings. In effect, European Americans were conditioned to see themselves as not belonging to a race or ethnic groups because they were the model of mankind. So, the inclusion or exclusion of the European American ethnic identity in the print media simple reflects that concept of normalcy.
The concept of European American as being normal manifest itself in a variety of ways daily in society. The majority of models used to sell goods and services are European American. When models of other ethnic groups are used to sell what is generally viewed as normal goods and services, they attract attention because they are not seen as normal based on how they look. For example, beauty products aired on television usually employ European American models, male and female. Today, when an ethnic American model is used in advertisement the recognition of the difference is almost immediate. Again, the reason for this recognition is based on the conditioning we as a society have been exposed to regarding what is seen as normal and what is not.
One of the great challenges we have in America today is discontinuing the misguided practice of discerning ethnic groups and then stereotyping them according to what is considered to be social norms. For each of the major ethnic groups in America today, society has a stereotype of some sore used to characterize that group. These stereotypes lend themselves to separating and dividing Americans rather than uniting them. Take, for example, the celebrations of Thanksgiving and Hanukah, occasions that serve to honor events in American and Jewish history respectively. As a diverse society America recognizes and supports the rights of the Jewish people to celebrate some of their history just as America celebrates part of its history. In effect, we are more alike as human being than we are different. We need to learn to accentuate our similarities rather then focus on our differences. First, however, we must become aware of how we continue to separate ourselves.
A recent headline from USA Today identified the movie The Best Man Holiday as having a race theme. That assessment was probably due to the fact that the cast was predominantly African American. The suggestion implied from the reference to race is that because of the color of the majority of the cast, the movie’s theme had to be about race. A number of concerns are presented with the assumption of a movie being associated with a race; first is the acceptance of the false assumption of multiple races, and second is the assumption that skin complexion determines a so-called race. We need to clear the air on the two false assumptions.
If a statement is made about a movie being a race-theme production, then the idea of either a black or some other colored race is intended, because movies using European Americans are considered normal. The faulty logic in a statement referring to a race theme movie is that no such race exists. If the reference is to a so-called black race, then any movie with a cast of people of color, regardless of their geography or culture would be considered black. For example, a movie made in Nigeria, with a Nigerian cast, or in South Africa, with a South African cast, or in Brazil with a Brazilian cast would all be considered a race theme movie, because of the skin complexion of the cast members. However, a movie made in England with an English cast, or Germany, with a German cast, or France, with a French cast would simply be a movie because of the skin complexion of the cast members. We can readily understand just how ridiculous the concept of race by color is confusing and useless.
Because Americans are conditioned to see race based on color, they also accept the idea of so-called racial differences associated with the stereotypes. In essence, a so-called race theme movie would depict the elements of love, hate, happiness, and the range of human emotions based on the idea of some specific so-called race. Therefore, following that logic, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet performed by African Americans would be a play with a race theme. How stupid are we?
We, as a society could eliminate a large part of the ignorance and stupidity by forgoing the use of the terms black and white and their reference to so-called races. We know, but need to accept, the fact that only one human race exists, and we are all part of it. Every American belongs to the human family regardless of his or her ethnicity. We readily acknowledge the cultural differences that economic, education, geography, and social standing represent, but all those things are man-made. When we take the time to observe and examine our differences, we learn quickly that we are more alike than different and that movies, regardless of the skin complexion of the cast, are about human beings and the challenges they face learning to live with one another

Paul R. Lehman, The defense of the ‘n’ word by Charles Barkley cause for concern.

November 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, Media and Race, Prejudice, Slavery, whites | Leave a comment
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Charles Barkley recently expressed his thoughts relative to the ‘n’ word and in so doing exposed some gross defects in his thoughts. Barkley confused his freedom of speech with his personal freedoms not fully realizing the responsibilities of each freedom. In his comments on TNT he stated that “What I do with my black friends is not up to White America to dictate to me what’s appropriate and inappropriate.” He is absolutely correct in underscoring his freedom to associate with whomever he chooses. The problems come from his willingness to promote the idea of races based on color, and thereby underscoring the concept of ethnic biases. His thoughts on the use of the ‘n’ word also help to promote ethnic division in America.
As far as Barkley using the ‘n’ word is concerned, he is correct in exercising his freedom of speech. He is incorrect to think that his use of the ‘n’ word is excusable. Barkley is free to eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting; however, his common sense should tell him that to do so would incur some negative repercussions: stomach discomfort, digestive discomfort, and dietary discomfort. So, although he has the right to eat the ice cream, he understands the negative effects of doing so. What Barkley, apparently, does not realize is the negative effects of using the ‘n’ word in any context.
What Barkley seemingly disregards is the historical significance of the ‘n’ word and how that significance does not change regardless of who utters the word. True, the emotional impact experienced when the word is use by someone historically associated with its negative context cannot be denied, but it is precisely the negative emotional experience related to the historical significance that creates the difference. Barkley supposedly assumes that people who identify with the ‘n’ word are immune from its negative effects when the word is used by people like them. That assumption is false because regardless of the word’s intent, its historical connotations remain intact. He seems to resent the thought of a so-called white America dictating to him what to say and what not to say. One wonders if Barkley realizes that the ‘n’ word was first used by European Americans to identify Africans and African Americans in a grossly negative concept. The continued used of that term regardless of the user simply extends its historically negative concept.
One of the underlining concepts to come from Barkley’s comments is the false belief in multiple races based on color. That concept always serves to separate and divide human beings one from another for false and illogical reasons. One of the results of America’s creation of two races, one black, one white, is the prejudice and bigotry based on the assumed superiority of the so-called white race over the so-called black. Whenever either word black or white is used, the image of two different so-called races comes to mind. A similar experience is possible whenever the ‘n’ word is used. America is changing with respect to ethnic identity and the use of the terms black and white will eventually come into disuse. Society will come to rely more on ethnic identities that are more accurate and precise.
For someone to stand on their rights of free speech with respect to a socially unacceptable word make little sense. The user of the ‘n’ word presents two pictures of himself or herself to society simultaneously: one, a picture of someone who is ignorant of the word’s historical significance, and two, a picture of someone who is selfish and intent on doing emotional harm to another. If, for example, an African American believes using the ‘n’ word around other African Americans is okay, than a false assumption is being made. Not all African Americans accept the use of the ‘n’ word with respect to themselves as well as with respect to others. They understand the negative implications of using the ‘n’ word. Some African Americans believe that while their use of the ‘n’ word is permissible, that is not the case for people who are not African American. Why? If the thinking is that the word was associated in slavery and afterwards with African Americans so it should be reserved for their use only, then that thinking is faulty. No one person or group has a monopoly on the use of a word. The fact that one group sees the word as special to them only means that the word still retains some of its power to do harm.
The late great comic genius, Richard Pryor, used the ‘n’ word for years as a staple in his comedy routine. He even produced an album with the ‘n’ word in the title. He recalled receiving an epiphany on day during a visit to Africa. He was sitting in a hotel in Kenya and began to look around the hotel lobby; he described what he saw as “gorgeous black people, like everyplace else we’d [the people traveling with him] been. The only people you saw were black. At the hotel, on television, in stores, on the street, in the newspapers, at restaurants, running the government, on advertisements. Everywhere.” Pryor realized something for the first time; he turned to his companion and said, “Jennifer. You know what? There are no niggers here…The people here, they still have their self-respect, their pride.”
Pryor realized that the ‘n’ word was given to enslave Africans in America when their personal identity was taken away. Once he understood the historical significance of the ‘n’ word he said that he regretted ever having uttered the word on stage. He went further in describing it as a wretched word and added that “To this day I wish I’d never said the word. I felt its lameness. It was misunderstood by people. They didn’t get what I was talking about. Neither did I … So I vowed never to say it again.”(youtube.com)
The historical significance of the ‘n’ word should discourage anyone from using it or even promoting its use. Regardless of what anyone thinks, changing the context of the word or the setting in which it is used does not change is negative stereotypical connotations. No one wants to deny Barkley his freedom of speech regarding his use of the ‘n’ word, but he need to be aware of its historical significance and the fact that freedom is not free.

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