Thursday, June 02, 2005

Exclusive Feature -Michael Eric Dyson no longer to use N word
(Stevie Wonder, Rev Jesse Jackson and Cornel West factors ? )

In February during the State of Race forum heated discussions took place among three featured speakers over the N word. The forum featured Emory Associate Professor in Theory and Jazz studies Dwight Andrews, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Humanities, Religious and African Studies Michael Eric Dyson and John McWhorter, a former Cornell University (N.Y.) professor. The evening’s most combative debate centered on the use of the “n-word.”

Dyson expressed a strong distinction between nigger and nigga, explaining that the former has been used as a stereotype and the latter as a term of endearment among blacks. After Andrews said that he didn’t use the word in public, Dyson emphatically replied, “That’s my nigga!”

McWhorter said it is inappropriate in all cases and displays a self-hatred that blacks harbor. In his opening statement, Andrews said the interdependence of “hip hop and commerce” has created stereotypical images of blacks that deeply concern him.

“Black music has always been racially informed,” he said. “But hip hop has some of the most retrogressive ideas, and blacks now support it.”

This forum was one of many in which Dyson had publicly used the N word but the displeasure seemed to reach a crescendo when early this year C -Span aired the latest Black America forum, when those concerned with pathologies facing the African American community were all tuned in. Since then syndicated national radio host Tom Joyner has announced that Dyson wont be using the N word anymore. asked Dyson if it this was true and wanted to find out why is contoversial regional DJ Star, of the Star and BucWild show always talking negative about him on the air and Dyson set the record straight on all the rumors.

Dyson told "I showed love to Star and Buckwild because despite the fact that they were hating on me, I chose to acknowledge the good work that they do. Even if I disagreed with their characterizations of me, I could forgo personal feelings of anger or hurt and embrace the need for healthy critical dialogue. I would love to appear on their show and engage in an open, honest examination of the problems that continue to confront the black poor in particular, and black communities at large.

Tom Joyner is right: I have decided to retire the use of the "N" word in public. Why? Not because I believe that it has lost its power as a term of endearment among black folk who use it with love and affection. Not because its meaning has become so bastardized that one may not recover its redemptive use by black folk who intend it to signify profound love and respect. I have decided to stop using it for two reasons: many black folk who otherwise supported my work and agreed with my perspectives were thrown off by my public identification with the downtrodden and the debased of our race through use of the term. Despite all the good they thought I did, they believed that the use of the word made it difficult for them to fully embrace me. [To paraphrase The Apostle Paul said in the Bible that "if meat offends my brother, I don't eat meat."] Finally, Rev.Jesse Jackson, after we both attended Johnnie Cochran's funeral, and after we engaged in a healthy political discussion with Stevie Wonder, asked me to refrain from publicly using the "N" word because it obscured what he termed the effectiveness of my intellectual witness. [As some of you may know, I've also had friendly debates with Cornel West on the subject, and even though we have disagreed about the subject, I have enormous respect for him and all my elders, including Rev. Jackson, who have different views]. So, I have decided to refrain from public use of the "N" word where I cannot explain the context of the word and its association with traditions of racial response to degradation. When I can explain it, I will feel free to engage in its use, although I realize those opportunities may be rarer than I'd like. In the end, the folk who know how I feel about the black oppressed, and all those who suffer regardless of race, creed, class, color or nationality, understand that I'm still riding for those whose backs are against the wall. But if those who otherwise feel me are offended by my use of the term, it makes little sense to continue its use. I have no problem with its use by hip-hoppers who continue to use it with verve, color, imagination, love and affection


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