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My Nigga, My Nigga: Why Larry Wilmore Said What He said

For all of his missteps, President Obama is cool as a motherfucker.

Ok, I know we’ve all had this conversation with ourselves; if not, fuck it but it can’t be just me. Early on in his campaign for the presidency I remember thinking to myself, “thats a cool ass nigga right there”. It could have been the stroll, or how he would give certain people fist bumps and others handshakes. I even appreciated the way he would bend and raise his voice to invoke the spirit of MLK during speeches. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something that I liked about this guy. It wasn’t necessarily because he’s black either. Coolness isn’t exclusive to race at all, but this was a level of swagger we’ve never seen in the oval office. His was a personality better fit for one of your cool uncles; street smart but still educated formally. The guy who snuck you your very first beer, but would still tell you the importance of a college degree. The uncle who you once found smoking reefer in his garage, but you wanted to keep his secret because it meant somehow you were cool, too.

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Flash forward to Larry Wilmore’s “Barry, you did it my nigga!”comment at last week’s White House Correspondence dinner. This shit was the ultimate nigga moment. Two proud, successful men in different fields from different walks of life giving each other that look when you both realize you aren’t supposed to be there. I’m reminded of countless times being on tour and staying in ritzy hotels across the country. Every so often I’d be at the continental breakfast, eating a muffin or some shit while reading a newspaper, and I would unintentionally catch eyes with another brother. More times than not he’s on a business trip, much different business than mine of course, but the acknowledgement would always be the same. A brief nod with eye contact that insinuated “good shit, glad to see you made it, my nigga”.

I completely understand the outrage from both black and white people who were taken aback. One short and sharp statement unified and excluded so very many. On one hand there are scores of black people who feel at times that our true interactions should remain within the realm of the community, locking our customary behaviors away behind closed doors “for coloreds only”. Adversely, there are the “keep it 100″ guys, cut from grittiest cloth; the urban gents who are who they are, unapologetically, and represent their neighborhood to the fullest extent. I personally fall somewhere in the middle. I know the importance of maintaining some sort of discretion when greeting the homies outside of our natural habitat. However, I also recognize the need for greeting my nigga and telling him how very proud I am of him when he escapes the pitfalls that consume so many where we’re collectively from.

“When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t except a black quarterback….and now to live in your time, Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world…words alone do me no justice.” – Larry Wilmore

There are many black folk who feel the word should die a quick death, like Sirius XM host Joe Madison. During a CNN interview with “journalist” Don Lemon, he expressed that the word nigga (or the hard “er”, at least) should be put to rest. If you ask me, that’s some shit you hear from old niggas; but I digress. Madison compared it to how Jewish people didn’t use the “k-word” (kike) towards each other and eventually the slur died out. Speaking honestly, I’m not sure the k-word, as it were, was ever used with such maliciousness for hundreds of years, so there wasn’t a real opportunity to turn racial lemons into lemonade.  It didn’t hover over them like a personal cloud, so one day the shit just went away. I understand Madison’s perspective, but I don’t agree at all.  He doesn’t seem like the type of guy I’d call my nigga anyways.

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Here’s a message from my nigga’s on the front line:

Dear old ass Joe Maddison, we love and respect you, but respectability politics in American society is completely over now. We give less than a fuck what the white dominate culture has to say anymore, unless it’s to partner with us for socioeconomic liberation. As of now, our voting rights are being stripped from us, kids are still getting murdered, Donald Trump is cultivating a constiutency of white supremacist, mass incarceration still plagues, the school-to-prison pipeline persists, and the inhumane American caste system continues; and you’re worried about a fucking word?

Nigga please.

We know you sit complacent in your radio’s armchair, but in case you haven’t noticed, the genie is out of the bottle now. White and black American spaces are now blurred. The idea that we should censor ourselves around white folks is no longer acceptable or adhered to. We’re not tap dancing to the dominant culture’s music anymore. We have bigger fish to fry, motherfucker. Not saying the word nigga, a term of endearment in our young culture, doesn’t protect us against systemic racism, so it damn well won’t stop us from being called that by others. We respect the elders, but now it’s time for us to take the helm. The torch wasn’t passed, we took the shit and we’re running the flag up the hill.

It’s our world now, Joe. You know what time it is. Lead, follow, or get the fuck out of the way. Your support would be great but we aren’t begging for it. Show love and not shame. As an elder, you and Al Shapton should be examples of leadership and guidance, not revolutionaries for hire. Hip Hop and the movement for black lives is dominating the narrative so either get down or lay down because we will continue to, in the words of Frederick Douglass, ” Agitate!, Agitate!, Agitate!”.

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So when Wilmore dropped the nigga bomb the other night, we can question if this was the correct venue. We can question situational decorum. However, we cannot doubt that this was THE time for it. Honestly, it encapsulates how so many of us feel at the end of the day, blunders and broken promises be damned.

Nobody’s perfect right?

Plus, when would a nigga get that chance again?

 

 

 

 

 




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