By H. Lewis Smith
Plantation owners, overseers, merchants, bankers - all of those who were benefactors of the American enslavement of black people - had a huge stake in eliminating the true identity of the newly-arrived Africans. These benefactors knew that in order for their scheme to be completely effective, they would have to maintain complete control over the captives; the slaves would have to be resolutely obedient and loyal. They also realized that the slaves must be dependent on the master for guidance, knowledge, and anything else that they needed so that slaves would never think to rise up, revolt, and take back their God-given liberties. This objective could only be achieved if Africans were detached from their roots in every way and forced to live in an environment that would birth a warped mentality, and thus, the required obedience, loyalty, and helplessness.
Subsequently, slaves were stripped of their identities, given new names, and forced or coerced into believing that they and their African heritage was meaningless, inferior and barbaric. Slaves were taught that all that - was good, significant, superior, and civil - was of European descent. As a result, they eventually became completely dependent on and accepting of their masters’ teachings. Slaves began to voluntarily accept European values, traditions, and habits, unknowingly contributing to a total disintegration of the African culture.
Even though African Americans are no longer [physically] enslaved, this same notion of helplessness, inferiority, and disintegration has been passed down from generation to generation through lack of cultural dignity, cultural awareness and appreciation, as well as the accepted and continual use of the n-word.
History has proven that even though blacks did begin to adopt European values and ways of life for the most part, many blacks continued to fight hard against the idea of being some insignificant sub-human unfit for descent living and entitlement to self-thought, self-fulfillment. For over three centuries, blacks were chastised, beaten, and tortured to accept a self-hating, self-destructing, self-abasing and self-abnegating image of self. Slaves’ front teeth oftentimes were ripped out or broken off so that they may be easily detected if they ran away; they were frequently beaten severely and then had red pepper rubbed into their lacerated flesh, and hot brine and spirits of turpentine poured over the gashes to increase the torture. They were often stripped naked, their backs and limbs cut with knives, and bruised and mangled by scores and hundreds of blows with a paddle and/or whip. Slaves were terribly torn by the claws of cats drawn over them by their tormentors, hunted with blood hounds and shot down like beasts, or torn to pieces by dogs.
The slaves were often suspended in air by meat hooks, whipped and beaten until they fainted only to be revived to be beaten again until they fainted once again and sometimes died. Their ears were often cut off, eyes gouged out, bones broken, flesh branded with red hot irons. They were maimed, mutilated and slowly burned to death over dawdling fires, serving as examples and a reminder to others to know and stay in their [appointed] PLACE. All of the cruel acts were often carried out with the ranting of "n**ger, n**ger" ringing in their ears. And tormentors believed their acts were justified. They had convinced themselves that in the eyesight of God, black slaves were sub-humans (3/5 a person), and, therefore, any inhumane acts perpetrated upon them were acceptable.
Interestingly enough, even at the end of WWII after black soldiers had shed blood and given their lives for a land that they built but returned them no appreciation, they were greeted home with chants of "don’t forget your place, n**ger."
During the 60’s civil rights struggles, southern whites saw blacks not staying in their so-called place of being n**gers with the nerve to think they were real humans (and not 3/5 a person). Law officers would stop young blacks to harass them. These officials would beat the innocent young people while simultaneously asking them "What is your name?" They would not stop beating them until the words "I am a n**ger" flowed from their bloody and swollen lips.
Hurling the epithet n**ger at civil rights demonstrators wasn’t done solely to insult. It was a twisted way for biased whites to justify to themselves the pointless beatings, releasing of police dogs and use of high pressure fire hoses on the black protesters, and the fondling of black women who had been jailed for their participation in the civil rights demonstrations. To the racist protesters, blacks were sub-humans, inhuman; and as such, their unconscionable acts were deemed acceptable to them.
This same distorted perspective led to the heinous murder of a 14-year-old black male named Emmitt Till. During the 50’s, Emmitt, a Chicagoan, was on vacation in Mississippi. He made the dreadful mistake of allegedly whistling at a white woman. As far as the locals were concerned, Emmitt stepped out of his place of being a n**ger. So to remind him and every other black person of their inferior and unsafe position in society, Emmett was kidnapped from his quarters in the dead of the night, taken to the woods - brutally beaten and tortured to death - having an eye gouged out before he was shot in the head, and then dropped into the Tallahatchie River. There is no question that throughout the entire ordeal he was hearing the jeers of n**ger, n**ger, n**ger. In the warped minds of the killers, Emmitt was just a n**ger, something less than a human being, and, thus, it was fair game to bludgeon the young black man to death.
Masquerading the n-word as a term of endearment is a sign of an on-going disability to break away from an instilled and eventually cultivated self-hatred. Use of the idiom serves as a psychological conduit to negatively manipulate and shape the minds and collective perceptions of America’s Black population to perceiving an unfavorable and false perception of self. Descendants of slavery suffer from such severe psychological scars of slavery - which have been blindly passed down through generations via enslaved mentalities, that they have become immune to the idea of debasing themselves and think nothing wrong of defining themselves with a word that is drenched in carnage and bloodshed of their victimized ascendants. One hundred and forty-five years have passed since the abolishment of slavery; however, the needed healing process for blacks - as a group - never took place. This condition is referred to by The Osiris Group, a group of black psychologist, as Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder. Black psychologist Dr. Joy DeGruy refers to it as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS). Dr. DeGruy believes that,"The real recovery from the ongoing trauma of slavery and racism has to start from within."
Black America, though liberated from physical enslavement, has never been [mentally] liberated from the word n**ga and the self-hate, indignity, and inferior mindset in which the word strongly connotes. Continual acceptance and use of the n-word amounts to nothing less than a [self-imposed] cultural genocide. Perhaps as a step in the right direction, the black community should give strong consideration to a national day of liberation from the n-word. In New Orleans fashion, a celebration of the burial of the n-word could take place Juneteenth 2011. Blacks as a collective and united group are accustomed to locking arms to fight racial injustices - holding all accountable for their actions - we need to expand such efforts to include black public figures that use the n-word. We must NOW, at this very moment, come together to fight a common foe from within. The n-word has no good in it - never has - never will. Time has come to ban together, hold one another ACCOUNTABLE, and stop the self-abnegating, self-defeating use of the n-word and all other related mentalities and lifestyles associated with "staying in our place."
Initiating the healing process and ending PTSS starts now. The black community holds the key and is the only group who can truly help the black community. Change must commence on the inside, from within - first inside of each individual person and then within the community collectively. Blacks were taught to perceive themselves in a way that was not beneficial to a healthy individual self-development. Today, the entire black community must accept the fact that they’ve been "mis-educated", and now must seek and secure their truth, dignity, and respect.
The following videos are no joking matter; they prove that there is much work to be done, however, the task at hand is not impossible to overcome, but work must start now: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqSFqnUFOns and www.vimeo.com/3658572
H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc. (www.theunitedvoices.com); a writer for the New England Informer Online; and author of "Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word". Follow H. Lewis Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thescoop1