This Love Could Kill

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Throughout African American history our people have been continually brutalized and traumatized in this “land of the free.�
We have slaved and enriched this nation, while being denied our basic humanity. Then when we were “freed� the open season of lynching precipitated in an orgy of blood. If trees could speak, the awfully strange stories they would tell. All across this land our blood, like that of the Native Americans cries out from the very soil.

But the terrorism that we have endured in this country has, also, always been encapsulated in words. To justify their treatment of us many scholars, politicians, preachers and teachers sought to drill our supposed inferiority into the heads of both white and Black people. Several words were used in the racial dictionary to identify us. But one word more than any other was filled with all the hateful energy that whites were conditioned to feel towards us: “nigger.�

One needed only to hear this word to know that one was not welcomed in a particular place, or, that one was in danger of losing life and limb. So given the intense hatred that this country cultivated against African Americans it shouldn’t surprise us that this hatred became internalized. Dr. Joy Leary has often spoken very eloquently about this psychic trauma that has lead to the self destructive tendencies that plague our communities. We all see it daily. But if we listen clearly we can also hear it in the way the word “nigger� spits out of our lips.

Currently, there is a movement gaining some steam to once and for all bury this vile word. It’s about time. Some of this is sparked by the on-going Howard Beach trial of Nicholas Minucci. Minucci is charged with a hate crime in the beating of Glenn Moore. But Minucci’s defense has been to claim that although he used the word while bashing in the skull of Moore that he wasn’t using it in a racist way. He claims that he used it with the “arâ€? ending which is supposedly a term of endearment, instead of the “erâ€? ending. Yeah right. Crack my skull with love. Lock this man up for a long time.    
Unfortunately, this is the same nonsense that many young African Americans now use to justify keeping this word alive. The time has come for us to further heal ourselves. We must once and for all purge this word from our collective psyche. In so doing we will honor our ancestors and ourselves.

Benjamin is The Black Star News’s editorial page editor. Reach him at

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