Signifyin’: My ‘favorite’ incorrectly used words

Written by admin   // July 30, 2010   // 0 Comments

Everybody has one…or two, or three. The ‘tired and tested’ among us have dozens. I passed that street corner ages ago, so I can’t put a number to mine.

They numb you. Or send chills up your spine. Some make you utter a profanity… or two.

For many, upon our interception with one, we’ll just shake our heads in disgust.

I frequently try to ignore them, but if the venue is right, I’ll put on my stethoscope and offer a prescription to the abuser.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, ‘they’ are those incorrectly used words or phases that send shudders up your back. The words are all the more inappropriate because the users generally don’t know they are perpetuating a fraud on themselves. That’s usually because they are either trying to appear smarter than they are; they’re just ignorant (which isn’t a bad thing), stupid, or the victim of a global conspiracy to castrate the Black American family.

As you try to categorize the words and phrases, the following are a few of my “favorites”:

“Irregardless.” It’s not a word (in fact my spell check is threatening to override my usage in this article), yet I continuously hear Black professionals, including teachers, preachers and lecturers use the word, generally in the context of a sentence that makes them sound “articulate.”

“Irregardless” (or is it illregardless) is so annoying to some folks, that a U.S. Supreme Court justice criticized an attorney for using the non-word during a trial. He told the lawyer he hoped his usage of the non-word was not a reflection of his legal expertise. Ouch!

For the record, the proper word is “regardless.”

“Integration.” I have a special affinity for this word since politicians, civil rights activists and the White media have used it for as long as I can remember. In many cases, that has not been by accident.

Unfortunately, many have fallen for the ploy that integration is a synonym for “desegregation.” For the record, the definitions are vastly different, and cannot be interchanged. Yet they are, usually when there’s an ulterior motive at work.

If you were to believe the Journal, the old Sentinel, the Shepherd Express and other “missionary media,” in 1976 Federal Judge John Reynolds issued an “integration” order to resolve decades of educational apartheid in Milwaukee. Truth is, the judge (who also named a ‘special master’ to oversee the program; yeah a “special massa’”) instead issued a ‘desegregation’ order, which is the legal remedy (and opposite) of segregation.

No judge, legislature or minister can prescribe “integration” as the cure for the cancer that plagues this country. That’s because integration is not a drug, it a homeopathic cure; it is a state of mind, a step on the evolutionary ladder when people of different races and ethnicities want to live, work and grow spiritually together. It’s what heaven will look like–even if there’s only 300 or so people destined to live there.

(I remember a debate I had with then Superintendent Lee McMurrin. I had asked him to reveal how many schools were “integrated” one year after the ruling. He said 50. I called him a liar and announced before the assembled media that there was only one, North Division, because it hosted White kids who wanted to be there. The 50 schools he referred to were, in fact, “desegregated” using a numerical formula that placed the burden on the Black children.)

Despite the obvious socioeconomic ramifications of the two words, we continue to hear politicians, civil rights leaders and phony liberals intersperse them.

And, unfortunately, we see Black people falling for it, ignorant of the differences and the political ploy being played out.

That’s in part why we’re in the predicament we’re in today. We erroneously fought for court ordered desegregation (equality of resources and opportunity), and instead got a convoluted, neo-racist remedy that did little to nothing to solve the real problem, which was, and continues to be educational apartheid.

“I likeded’ that video.” “I ain’t got no money.” “They is gonna get some milk.”

There’s Ebonics, and then there’s bad grammar. If you don’t know the difference, shame on you! And shame on the teachers, parents and community that allowed our children to be stifled by their ignorance.

I consider myself bi-lingual. I speak Ebonics and English. But I know when and where to use the different languages.

The late Virginia Stamper, who instructed a class on Ebonics, which explored the African roots of certain words and phrases, taught us to respect the African roots of Ebonics. But she also acknowledged that if Black people are to succeed in America, versus Liberia, we better work to command the English language.

Moreover, she used to say, if you can’t speak, you can’t write. And if you can’t write (and read), you’ll go nowhere in this society.

“Liberal.” I don’t have a problem with the word from a historical perspective, but the reality is, liberal has evolved into a contradictory euphemism, a catch-all term that implies the titlist not only believes in diversity and integration, but by virtue of this badge of honor, has both all of Marvin Gaye’s records and 50 Cent’s as well.

Similarly, the adjective “conservative” has morphed to mean racist. Anyone tabbed with the tag, regardless of race, supports White Supremacy, is a capitalist pig, and seeks a return of Jim Crowism. Oh yeah, if you go to a Tea Party rally, you’re a bigot and want to kill Obama and overthrow the federal government.

Granted, there are some conservatives who subscribe to that aforementioned agenda. But then again, there are many conservatives who merely believe in fiscal restraint, smaller government (as opposed to the “mama state”) and less taxes.

I don’t use a wide brush when categorizing people (in fact, I try to avoid generalizations and absolutes) because to typecast all conservatives means I have to include most Black ministers (including my Mama whose right of center), many civil rights leaders (the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is socially conservative, as was Malcolm).

Conversely, I know many racist liberals whose actions are based on “patronization”—the belief that Black people can’t achieve or prosper because we’re culturally and genetically inferior.

The latter generally are categorized in my dictionary as “missionaries,” those who went to Africa with a bible in one hand and a bullwhip in the other. They were doing us a favor by taking us in their lovely homes as slaves.

Included in their ranks are the many teachers—White and Black—who harbor low expectations for our children.

The social workers who feel the need to envelop us in social welfare programs because they feel we can’t take care of ourselves; we’re uncultured and uncivilized. And the politicians, mostly Democrats, who believe it is their responsibility to create programs to “ease our pain,” versus, empower us.

Claiming “liberalism” gives the user a free pass…an Afro wig of sorts where they can travel through and dictate to the Black community.

In fact, you can tell the true agenda, or misleading rhetoric of those in that category because they say they love and want the best for us, but draw a line in the sand when we ask them to support campaigns to empower us.

You can also recognize the false liberals by their casual references to Black leaders who speak of independent political parties, or a Black agenda.  Before the liberals finish the conversation, they will tell us who to vote for, who we should follow, and where we should spend our money.

Many of them run the social organizations that provide us with a fish, instead of a pole; tell us that the only way a Black child can learn is when he sits next to a white child.

“I wanna’ thank God and my Savior, Jesus H. Christ.”

This is a simple case of “consider the source.” If your mother said it, it probably carries creditability. But it ticks me off when I see a gangsta rapper utter those words when accepting a BET or Soul Train Award; particularly if the rapper just released a new CD entitled, “Kill that bitch when you’re through with her.”

A gangsta rapper thanking God, ranks up there with him wearing a platinum cross used for snorting cocaine, or Michael Jackson wearing an Afro wig.

Speaking of Afro, it’s not a place or people. We are not Afro-Americans.

“Black Friday.” I received a coupon in the mail declaring a major department store was hosting “Black Friday.”

Without reading the details, my mind wondered off thinking either the store was “open only for us,” “it’s going to storm like hell on Friday (which it did),” or the store was going to drastically reduce the price of watermelons and chitterlings (also known as “chittalins”).

Of course my number one shudder word is “nigger” and its variations: “nigra,” and “nigga.”

I recently purchased Randall Kennedy’s book “nigger” (with a small ‘n’). I’ve only scanned through it thus far, but find it eye opening. In fact, I suggest it should be stocked in every public, private and charter school in this city.

Maybe if we can educate our youth at an early age, they can grow out of the self-denigrating (see the root word there?) cultural state of “Negritude,” they are destined for.

I won’t go into the history of the word, it’s meaning to those bigots and bigot wanna-bes who use it to define and ostracize us, or even how fruitless the argument is that we can somehow change the meaning to some form of endearment.

Suffice it to note that in 1964, during his successful gubernatorial campaign, according to Kennedy’s book, Mississippi Governor Paul Johnson, Jr. repeatedly joked that the acronym NAACP stood for “Niggers, Apes, Alligators, Coons and Possums.”

If that offends you, I ask, “why do you continue using the word; giving license to racism, self-degradation and inferiority?”

We can debate if you want, but my position has remained unchanged throughout my life: “nigger” is a vile, despicable and contemptible word, whether you use it as an adjective or a noun. And equally important, those of us who use the word can rest assured they will never walk outside the shadow of slavery.

The word is a chain that links us to our inglorious slave past; it links us to a deeply ingrained mentality that breeds ethnic and cultural inferiority.

Only a fool believes he or she can call their children, their heroes and their Messiah (according to some people Jesus was a Nigger because he was Black) and it won’t have a quantitative effect.

I’ll keep harping about this for the rest of my life. For this column, I’ll conclude by noting Black people will never be free, equal or empowered until we move from under the cloud of slavery. And ignorance.


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