Floyd, Paul Mooney, and THE “N-Word”

I am absolutely certain that you recognize that although Floyd and I are from the same generation, we are distinctly different individuals with thoughts, ideas, and principles that clash with the slightest provocation. Quite possibly the single-greatest verbal demarcation line between Floyd and me revolves around our use of the English language, particularly the use of what I, and most respectful individuals, commonly refer to as the ‘N-word’ and Floyd’s determination to use the word Nigga. A term that Floyd illogically maintains is markedly different than the use of the word “Nigger”.

Now that I think about it, rare is the occasion that I have been in Floyd’s presence that he has not used the ‘N-word’. Floyd seemed to emanate from the Paul Mooney school of thought in that he says Nigga a hundred times each morning because it makes his teeth white.

Most offensive of Floyd’s habitual use of the ‘N-word’ is the reality that he knows very well that I cringe each and every time he uses it; I must admit that my embarrassment is exponentially increased when he uses it in a setting with what we term mixed company. Unfortunately for me, I think that a significant aspect of Floyd’s refusal to let what is actually the nitroglycerine of the English language was his sadistic desire to see my reaction to its appearance, regardless of the setting.

Now I would be remiss if I did not honestly relate that I have been known to use vulgar language from time-to-time, however, I have consciously attempted to rid myself of the burdensome, historically-loaded, ‘N-Word’.

Considering such an initiative I am quite certain that you are going to wonder why I would elect to take Floyd to The Improv, a staple of Houston’s comedy club circuit, to hear the aforementioned Paul Mooney as a birthday present. I had come to learn that great comedians from Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Paul Mooney, Bill Cosby, etc. were an arena that Floyd and I were kindred souls. It was one arena that I shed, without any sense of embarrassment or contradiction, my abhorrence of the word Nigga as Black comedians used it frequently and within every imaginable context.

So on Saturday Evening, I picked Floyd up from his place and made my way toward I-10 West (The Katy Freeway).

From the moment Floyd stepped out of his front door, it was obvious that this was a special night for him, not only was it hisLavendar Suit birthday, but also he was about to see Paul Mooney, his “favorite comedian this side of Richard Pryor” perform live for the first time. And trust me when I tell you that Floyd was adorned with his finest threads, he was truly open-casket sharp with what seemed like an 18-piece Lavender suit. I thought it was a bit much, but hey, it was Floyd’s day and as the saying goes, ‘If you like it, I love it.”

Floyd talked incessantly during the entire drive regarding not only Paul Mooney, but also his best friend, the unparalleled Richard Pryor. It seemed as if Floyd was a walking Wikipedia of facts regarding the comedic duo; which spurred a question from me.

“If you are so into Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney, how come you have never gone to see them live.”

“Ain’t never had the opportunity. Meaning whenever they were performing close to where I was at, I didn’t have no money. Hell, I wouldn’t be going tonight if you weren’t paying.”

Floyd then sheepishly asked,

“You are paying, right? Don’t get me down here this close to seeing my main man and then I can’t get in the building. I promise you I will act a certifiable fool if you do.”

I just laughed and related to Floyd that his acting a fool wouldn’t really matter to me because I would be inside listening to Paul Mooney.

Floyd responded as I knew he would,

“Just like a Nigga”

For some reason I didn’t cringe at his use of the “N-word”, maybe because I understood that it held no negative connotations in this context. We were two friends simply kicking it on our way to see our boy.

We arrived at The Improv, got our tickets and enjoyed the show. Having seen Mooney several times before, I must relate that he was in rare fashion as he traversed across topics such as Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, O.J. Simpson, Ben Carson, and Niggas.

Two particularly memorable moments occurred during the night.

The first was when a white couple rose from their seats and walked up the stairs to exit the venue, witnessing this, Mooney stated,

“I still got my magic. They must have thought that they were coming to see Andy Rooney, not Paul Mooney.”

The overwhelmingly Black audience burst into uproarious laughter.

The second moment was a particularly personal one that nearly led to me wetting my pants. It was when Paul Mooney looked in our direction and spotted Floyd. At that moment, Mooney displayed the quick-wittedness that makes him such a great comedian. He stated,

“Awww shit, look at this Nigga over here. What motherfucking color do you have on Nigga? Nigga, please stand up so that we all can get a good laugh.”

To my amazement, Floyd rose from his seat and did a slow 360 degree turn.

“Now I know that we are in Houston, Texas, but that Nigga right there has got to be straight out of somewhere in Mississippi.”

Floyd shouted back at Paul Mooney,

“You Goddamned right!  Greenwood, Mississippi, in the house.”

Of course Mooney would not let Floyd have the last word and told Floyd to,

“Sit your loud country ass down. I bet you that Nigga got slave-catchers still after his ass. Out here dressed in a 54-piece Lavender suit around civilized people. Lavender, Nigga? Really, Nigga?”

I must tell you that there were tears running down people’s faces by the time Paul Mooney ended his roasting of Floyd. Above and beyond everything else, this moment of attention made Floyd’s night, it was a memory that he would never relinquish, even if he were the butt of Mooney’s jokes. And as you well know, it was better that it was him and not me.

Although we wished that Mooney could have stayed on stage for several nights, the truth of the matter was that he had already given us nearly three-hours of cutting-edge comedy for which we were all eternally grateful. Mooney even added a final touch of class to his performance by meeting and greeting every person who desired to purchase a DVD he had for sale.

I have found that at opportune moments such as this one, Floyd tended to shy away from opportunity. As expected, he stood up and turned for the exit. I had to halt his progress and walk him over to where Mooney was now standing selling his DVD’s and taking photos with his fans. As we approached Mooney, he burst into laughter at Floyd and jubilantly yelled,

“My Mississippi cousin!!!!!! What do you have on? Who in the hell let you come out of the house like that? Just kidding brother, you know that I had to give it to you.”

To my amazement, Floyd fell silent as a church mouse. I explained to Mr. Mooney that it was Floyd’s birthday and this was his first time ever seeing him perform. And that Floyd was the world’s biggest Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney fan.

Mooney, the classy gentleman that he is, responded,

“Well alright!!!! Now I know a Nigga that like two shit-talking pryorNiggas like me and Richard can speak. He ain’t mute is he?”

“Fuck nah, I ain’t no motherfucking mute. I got plenty to say, Nigga.”

Mooney laughed enthusiastically and told Floyd if he keeps talking like that he was going to have to take him on the road with him. Ultimately, Mooney took a gang of photos with Floyd, he even put Floyd’s Lavender suit coat on in a few of the photos as well as giving Floyd a DVD and the hat he had worn during his comedy routine, which he autographed for the overwhelmed Floyd.

The night was truly a special one, yet it was not over. I had planned on taking Floyd to a late dinner at FOGO DE CHÃO.

I have always believed that it is much better to give than to receive, this night solidified that belief. Floyd could not stop talking about either The Improv or Paul Mooney. My plan to ensure that he had a grand birthday was turning into an absolute success. Before long, we were turning off of Westheimer and into the parking lot of FOGO DE CHÃO.

After being seated, it took Floyd a while to understand how things worked inside of this venue. He had a difficult time comprehending that they would bring rolls of meat, any type of meat he desired, and cut it tableside for him.

Once Floyd got a hang of the way things worked, he behaved as if he were an old-pro at this. Apparently Floyd became so comfortable with his environs that he had an opportunity to return to his favored past time; aggravating yours truly.

“Now you cannot tell me that you didn’t enjoy Paul Mooney, even with him using the term Nigga so much. I am telling you that with all of the problems that our people have, we are spending way too much time focused upon that one word. It is kind of ridiculous when you really think about it. There are so many other things to worry about like: drug abuse, murder, poverty, teenage pregnancy, education, domestic violence, and the list can go on and on.”

I knew that I must immediately respond to Floyd’s opening statement.

“But Floyd can’t you see how so many of those other things flow from how we term and therefore envision ourselves?”

“Nigga please. Using as you and your people like to term it, the ‘N-Word’ ain’t got a damn thing to do with no domestic violence, high school dropouts, and poverty.”

I protested his charge that all of those things were most certainly linked together.

“Floyd, you do remember the piece that I wrote about this matter in African-American News & Issues, don’t you.”

Floyd admitted that he remembered the piece that follows,

MY NIGGA:

THE POWER OF WORDS ON THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MIND

I don’t wanna be another nigga,
Waitin’ with my hands out,
Broke in the hood, they give a damn ’bout
Braggin’ to my homie bout the hoes I fucked
Drinkin’ bottles after bottles, plus I smoke too much.
I never had a job that would pay me well,
I took what I could cause they gave me hell…
 I barely go to church but I say I will,
I bow my head right before I eat my meal
The world’s fucked up and they claimin’ I’m to blame
It’s a damn shame cause
I don’t wanna be another nigga,

Big K.R.I.T.

One of my core beliefs is that “the power of life and death is in the tongue.” Put simply, watch what you say as those words are living projectiles that not only impact the world around me, but also go a great measure towards determining my future path. My parents and mentors repeatedly told me to watch my word choice, particularly when it came to cursing, because, ‘a little bit of bad will tear down a whole lot of good.’

We all realize that America holds its African-American citizenry to a different standard. Most unfair is the reality that the antics, of one African-American have the ability to malign the entire race. Despite their best attempts to deny it, African-Americans are inextricably linked together. One’s public persona, from dress to speech, reflects not only that individual, rather it is extended to cover one’s family and race; especially if that image carries any negativity. When African-American elders are commenting upon the pride they exhibited during earlier moments, they are recalling their posture, walk, diction, and physical appearance. One abhorred being caught ‘showing one’s color’, meaning damaging the African-American image, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

The aforementioned realities are one of many reasons why YG’s hit single, “My Nigga”, is so disturbing; particularly its impact upon the image and psyche of African-American males. Although I find it particularly difficult to believe that there is anyone on the planet who has not heard this recording by now, in the event that there is such an individual, here are a sampling of the chorus.

My nigga, my nigga
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga?

The word ‘nigga’ is repeated a shocking thirty-one times during one chorus. Black America’s soul should be troubled by not only the verbal flurry, but also the fact that it has entered the impressionable minds of droves of African-American youth.

As someone who has been addicted to rap music from the first time that I heard Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message‘, I thought that it may be time to address YG’s recording, not with a denunciation of it, that is not only easily accomplished, but also predictable, rather I have decided to offer an artistic alternative to a listening audience that desperately seeks close association with the “N-Word”. Unfortunately, many of these individuals believe that YG’s record, and similar recordings, epitomize what rap music is. So, please consider this a desperate attempt to fight the blaze of ignorance that YG, Rich Homie Quan, and Jeezy began and Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Meek Mill fanned with their remix, with an alternative vision. Please click on the following links for an alternative understanding of the N-Wordnigga, and nigger from several generations of African-Americans.

Maybe the aforementioned rappers will trip upon this posting and learn something regarding the power of language and come to understand that their financial wealth is insufficient to hide their intellectual and moral poverty. I am certain that time will impress upon them that no amount of cash is capable of masking such poverty. One of their own, Jay-Z, a self-proclaimed rap God, once issued an admonishment that is particularly applicable here when he related, “you can pay for school, but you can’t buy class.” A lesson that I hope the entire hip-hop community learns before the power of their words leads to more incarceration, death, and destruction of their own.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture 2015.

 

“I refuse to believe that you cannot understand how the use of that word affects how our people, especially young children, male as well as female, see themselves. It frames their entire existence.”

“No! What frames their entire existence is the home they were raised in, the school that they go to, the church that they attend. That’s where I learned who I was.”

“And who are you?”

“A strong Black man who ain’t about to take no shit off of no white man or Nigga. That’s who Floyd is. Period. Point blank.”

“But what about for our children who were not raised in a loving home? Who attend an under-funded inner-city school? Who have never attended church or had a suitable male role model? What about them? Hunh?”

“Well they had better hope that God is still in the business of taking care of fools and babies. Because they sound like they are in for a rough life. However, that has absolutely nothing to do with the word Nigga. Think about it this way. Let’s say that I, Paul Mooney, and every other Nigga that you know stopped using the ‘N-Word’. It wouldn’t make a bit of a difference. We would still be as poor, uneducated, and jailed as before.

Man, I tell you, the more education some people get, the dumber they seem to get.”

I am certain that Floyd saw my eyes tighten, a sign that I was about to tear into his ignorant ass. However, before I could launch my salvo, Floyd cleared up his comment.

“Now don’t get all mad about what I said, hey, don’t take it personal. I wasn’t even talking about you, at least not directly. What I mean is this. Did you see in the paper where the NAACP had went out and bought a casket, opened it up, wrote the word Nigger on a single white piece of paper, placed it inside of the casket, closed it up and then had a funeral for the ‘N-Word’, burial and all. Now what kind of sense does that make? That’s what I am trying to say. Some people, regardless of their education are just plain stupid.”

“Now I do understand what you are saying Floyd. However, they are well meaning in trying to point us in a new direction where we do not demean each other and stop teaching our children to do such; for many of them, it is their initial lesson. When was the last time that you listened to a group of African-Americans talking and you didn’t hear the ‘N-Word’? And don’t you dare try and tell me that it is a term of endearment.”

Floyd looked across the table as if he were exasperated with this entire conversation and related the following,

“Well that is exactly what it is, at least when I use it. Now tell me honestly, do you think that I am being disrespectful toward you when I use the term? Honestly?”

“Nah, I don’t think that at all.”

“Yet, you still believe that this one little word, Nigga, holds the power to liberate our people? That’s foolishness. What will liberate us is collectivist economics, voting, and valuing education. If we mastered all of those things, then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But because the problem is so damn big, you and the rest of the Negropeans choose to pick on your own. Nah, quit being a coward and address the source of our misery and suffering. Go and talk to the white man and leave us little people alone.”

All I could think was that Floyd was correct in his logic, something that was in and of itself a bit startling, yet, I knew that I would never be comfortable with the use of the word Nigga in any context; or at least in public around mixed company.

“And another damn thing. Maybe, y’all should stop using it behind clothes doors if you want everyone else to pledge to abandon it.”

“Haha, I sense yet another victory for Floyd. On my birthday nonetheless.” 

I just stared at Floyd as he bathed in one of his most lopsided victories.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Excerpt from the book ‘Foolish Floyd’: The Life and Times of an African-American Contrarian. Available at Amazon.com

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