"The 'N' Word"
silkscreen on canvas
30 " x 80"

The hypocrisy surrounding the use of the word 'nigger' inspired this painting and spoken word poem. The audacity of one group of individuals to dictate to another what is appropriate absolutely galls me. The same people who eschew the term 'nigger' have no reservation using the substitutable 'PC' term 'N word' - with the same meaning. The title - A Rose by Any Other Name - was taken from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps those that would use 'N Word' in the place of 'nigger' should reference Shakespeare. He penned: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title." A 'nigger' by any other name ('N Word'), retains that dear imperfection imparted by the intent of the speaker.


The 'N' Word

The 'igger' is slight,
Like 'K' in Knight,
Dressed white, torchlight,
Midnight, cross bright,
Rope tight, eyes fright,
Last rite, drop height,
Head left, neck right,
Twitch mite, lynch site!
A good night to spite
The 'N' word.

It was used to abuse,
A ruse to infuse,
Accuse and refuse
Black views and black dues.
No acreage, no mules,
Left dazed and confused,
Battered and bruised,
Soon Lincoln excused,
Went north and diffused,
So why do we choose
To continue to use
The 'N' word?

I'll try to explain.

It once used to frame,
Nickname to surname,
Self-same it became,
We burdened the shame,
Pain deeded quitclaim,
That’s how we obtained
A name that remained,
You kindled the flame
Now deem it profane?
Can’t launder this stain!
The strain, the migraine,
Would wane in the brain
Of the pious and vain
Had they treated humane,
The 'N' word!

The transfer complete,
It's now used to greet
Whenever we meet,
From suite to the street,
Buckwheat to elite,
Embrace and repeat
Without malice, deceit,
And respectfully treat
The 'N' word.

Now time after time,
In line after line,
The youth in their prime,
Use rhythm and rhyme,
And rap to sometime,
Re-align, because I'm,
Defining what's mine!
So what was the crime?
The intent YOU assigned
The 'N' word.

Enough with the history
Still lacking clarity?
It’s ‘Negro’, officially,
You know what, secretly,
In their dictionary
‘N’ word’s just a proxy
Defining sublimely,
Physically, mentally,
Sexually, morally,
Socially, totally,
Yet packaged quite neatly.
More kindly, more gently,
Discreetly and sweetly,
On air waves and TV,
From LA to DC,
This term is now PC,
The ‘N’ word.

Not yearly or monthly,
Not weekly but daily,
The impact is mostly
On us criminally
By courts and the PD
For example, (i.e.),
All units, APB!
9-1-1, Come quickly!
Battery, larceny,
On Dagwood and Blondie!
We’d just left the party
When 'N' word approached me,
While drinking a forty,
A fist in my kidney
Dropped me to one knee,
Her jewelry?! My money?!
The Rolex! The Gucci!
Took off down the alley,
Six two, could be three,
Wore jeans, something costly,
Like FUBU or Tommy.
The shoes were by NIKE.
All units work OT
And profiled three swiftly,
Which one can you ID?
Too dark, didn't see!
Look carefully, closely,
At their identity.
Is this him, possibly?
Try that one, probably?
The third is a maybe,
Place all in custody!
Courtroom appointee,
No peers on the jury,
The verdict comes quickly
And finds all three guilty!
For the 'N' words.

So spared from tragedy
The whole Bumstead family
Feel lucky but worry
And question their safety.
They need security,
From every minority,
Unless they’re a caddy
Or read news on TV.
They must leave the city,
And move to the golf tee
With expensive realty.
Gated community,
The house is a beauty,
Manicured property,
A pool and Jacuzzi,
An Au pair for nanny.
The neighbors look like he,
A Vet and an MD,
Now Pop’s breathing easy
Of 'N' words he's free!
But mommy and daddy
Are too busy to see
That their little PG’s,
Watch mostly B-E-T,
Wear labels and hoodies,
And NBA Jerseys
With jeans really baggy
By Sean Jean (that’s Puffy)
Play gangsta rap CD’s,
In mommy’s Mercedes,
That’s rolling on twenties
Now pimped out on Spree’s
The bass beats by MC’s,
The lyrics of Jay-Z’s
And Tu-Pac’s and Fifties
Are quoted from memories
By Eminem candies!

Wow! Isn't life funny?
Ironic, a mystery?
Despite all the history,
Injustice and slavery,
Racism, poverty,
Prejudice, bigotry.
Their kids secretly,
Think it’s cool to be…

An 'N' word.

written by Colin Quashie
© 2004, Quashie, Inc.
All rights reserved.