Why we (blacks) are our own worst enemy

Vincent Watson doesn't mind being called an "asshole." Just don't call him "my nigga."

Vincent Watson doesn't mind being called an "asshole." Just don't call him "my nigga."

I am black, I grew up black. And as far as I know, I will always be black.

You go ahead and feel free to use the term African-American if that is your preferred nomenclature and it makes you feel comfortable. I personally prefer the term black. It’s the term that I grew up with. I see no reason to change it simply because those who subscribe to absolute political correctness see it as a polite alternative to lines of color drawn in some meeting of bureaucratic label makers.

So yes, I am black.

What I am not is “yo nigga," "yo muthafucker," or "yo dawg.”

You will not catch me “sagging” my way through the hood with my home boys, referring to them as “ma nigga” to prove a point, insult or compliment them all with the same level of vulgar intensity. You will not catch me cruising the hood with rap music (I use the term "music" reluctantly) so loud that the only defining or memorable pieces of it are the obscenely frequent use of the word "nigga," the vibrating license plate, and the fact that the oversized backward spinning “rims” probably cost more than the car is actually worth.

I do not refer to women as "bitches" and "hoes." Nor do I post videos on YouTube of my children’s first steps with commentary like “Check dat shit out. That little nigga walkin'.”

I can appreciate many of the intricacies of the English language, such as not using “ax” instead of "ask," or “dat” instead of “that.” Is it too much to ask for you to fully complete an entire single word or stop using ones that were originally used to deride and control us? If it is your choice to be offensive, there are plenty of other words that will do without the extremely negative connotations of being “less than.” As far as I know, we are the only race to consistently and willingly throw ourselves under the bus and claim self-awareness under some misguided attempt to lay claim to a culture we never really understood in the first place.

Call me an asshole. I'm OK with that. 

The way I see it is this. If you call me an asshole, the connotation of the word becomes irrelevant. The word "asshole" is universal, a one-size-fits-all insult applicable to any race, and generally used to point out a behavior or belief. But when you call me a nigger, you are diving into a particular time and place, one where the word is universally and undeniably used to denigrate my existence.

You are implying that I am “less than human,” an animal to be acquired, used, traded, sold, or even killed at your whim because we were once considered property stolen from a nation in Africa and shipped to America to be used as free labor. You can, if you like, argue the point that “it’s our word” or “we’re taking it back,” or “it’s OK if you are black.” 

No, it's not OK. And I don't care what color you are. 

It is not OK to call people you supposedly care about niggas. Changing the word from "nigger" to "nigga" does not make it some cute term of endearment. It is what it has always been, which is to say a term of degradation.

It is not OK to refer to woman as "bitches" and "hoes." If you disagree, explain to me why you are not so cavalier when someone uses those terms to describe your wife, sister or mother?

I realize that it may be too late for many older blacks to completely revamp their ways of thinking. But I believe we must move forward and consider making changes that prove to the rest of the world that we can be better than the animals they see us as. There is something profoundly wrong with embracing a methodology that only shows those outside of it that we are only capable of behaving like the animals they think we are.

If you want the world to believe that #BLACKLIVESMATTER, a good place to start would be to act like they matter to you. As far as I know, we are the only culture on the planet that goes out of their way to prove that we are exactly the things we fight so hard against, then complain when people of other races embrace the very same negativity.

#BLACKLIVESMATTER chose to interrupt Bernie Sanders at his speech instead of engaging in a dialogue with him when he is one of the few candidates to actually speak out about social inequality. In Minnesota, # BLACKLIVESMATTER chose to “shut down” the State Fair instead of taking its complaints to the Capitol. What has the State Fair done to you?

If you want the world to believe that black lives actually do matter, then stop embracing music that glorifies the murder of police officers and the mistreatment of our women, then complaining that you are treated disrespectfully. We refer to ourselves derogatorily utilizing the very same words that our parents and grandparents fought so fiercely against while quoting Martin Luther King as we do so.

Unless there is an unknown draft of the “I Have a Dream” speech, I don’t recall the term “my nigga” being used. You don’t get to use our greatest civil rights activists as an example of the mistreatment of blacks while working to subvert their very message. We need to stop raging against “the man” and work to improve our own lives and culture. We need to stop perpetuating the myths and blaming the world for problems we have helped create.

The Civil Rights movement was a prime example of things working the way they should. What you saw was thousands of people marching, holding hands, singing, and speaking to each other respectfully. When those against their movement got in the way, they simply stepped around them. They didn't threaten to "buss a cap in they ass."

What you also didn't see were people burning down the very neighborhoods they reside in, then complaining that they have nowhere to shop once the smoke has cleared. You did not see them carrying off televisions as they marched, leaving a wake of destruction and theft. The greatest civil rights activists achieved success by not being the thing people believed they were. They achieved their goals by being better than those who opposed them.

Looting is not protesting. It’s theft. Destroying public property is not protesting. It’s vandalism. I understand why the people of Ferguson were angry. Not having been there, I chose not to believe all of the hearsay regarding the events leading up to the death of Michael Brown. I’m going to simply say that it’s tragic that another black life was lost through a police shooting. 

Trayvon Martin was killed by a man who simply thought he could get away with it. He was killed by a citizen who essentially stalked and harassed a kid on his way home.

The problem is that we let him get away with it. The system failed Trayvon Martin, his family and our community in general. We let a murderer walk away.

We all know that police have in fact gotten away with murder, but I have to believe that those officers that are simply out for the kill are few and far between. I believe that the best way to deal with these situations is simply not be in a challenging situation. Remember that the goal is to be alive, and that people can be ignorant and frightened by things they do not understand.

I was reading the comment section of an article about Black Lives Matter's boycott of the State Fair and some ignorant (I assume white) woman commented that if black lives really mattered, “They should stop killing each other.”

I managed to hold back my first and rather angry response, which was to say, “Yes, maybe they should go to movie theaters and high schools instead.” It was a knee-jerk reaction to bigotry and I didn’t say it, not because it would be impolite, but because ignorance is what it is, and understanding simply cannot be taught to someone who is universally unwilling to see past his or her bigotry.

I understand that there are people who still consider us as animals and would be content to see us wiped from the face of the earth. What we need to be concentrating on is teaching our children that the way up is through education and realized ambitions instead of spending every waking hour dreaming of becoming the next Michael Jordan. 

And yes, there are police officers out there who simply cannot wait for an opportunity to put down “one of those animals” under the guise of serving and protecting. Here is a suggestion I give my son should he be confronted by a police officer.

Be angry later and live now. 

If you expect to live in a nice neighborhood, teach your children what garbage cans are for. I watch many of the kids in my neighborhood throw trash on the ground despite the fact that they are 10 feet from several garbage cans. Stop sitting on the front porch with distorted music blaring from a speaker while drinking beer and tossing cans on the lawn. This isn’t a race thing. I don’t want to live next door to you either under those circumstances.

It’s about respect. It’s about you respecting me and me respecting you. But mostly it’s about self-respect. There are a lot of horrible things going on in this country, but there is a right way and a wrong way and too often, we choose the wrong way.