“Foolish” Floyd, Paul Mooney, and the “N-Word”

I am confident that you recognize that although Floyd and I are from the same generation, we are distinctly different in our thoughts, ideas, and principles. Unfortunately for our ‘friendship,’ those differences have a tendency to clash without the slightest provocation.

Probably the most noticeable difference between Floyd and me emanates from our use of the English language, particularly the use of what I, and most respectful individuals, commonly refer to as the ‘N-word.’ Floyd feigns ignorance whenever this topic arises and informs all who raise this issue to him,

“I have no idea what the ‘N-word’ is. Now if you mean Nigga, be straight about it and let me know that is what you’re talking about. I understand that type of discussion, but the ‘N-word’ I don’t even know what that even means.”

Floyd is so committed to his use of the ‘N-word’ that he, and trust me when I say that he is not alone in this regard, has attempted to apply logic regarding his use of what is akin to the nitroglycerine of the English language.

According to Floyd, and a legion of like-minded brethren, “Nigga,” is markedly different from “Nigger.” The alluded to individuals have done their best to educate the ‘ignorant masses,’ meaning people such as me and you, regarding this most important matter. According to such thinkers, “Nigga” is an unmistakable term of endearment, while “Nigger” is offensive, derogatory term that only racists spew during angry rants for negative reasons.

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 seemingly emanates from the Paul Mooney school of thought. Mooney, a famed comedian who counts the greatest comedian ever to live, Richard Pryor, as his best friend, is known to say that he says ‘Nigga’ a hundred times each morning because it makes his teeth white.

On a more personal level, the most offensive aspect of Floyd’s habitual use of the ‘N-word,’ at least in my presence, is the reality that he knows my position on this matter. I cringe every time the word exits his crusty lips; largely out of embarrassment for what it reveals about Floyd’s view of his fellow African-Americans and what such language conveys to those outside of our community that already possesses skeptical views of us. I hope that you can understand that my embarrassment level regarding Floyd’s use of the ‘N-word’ exponentially increases when he uses such language in front of what is commonly termed ‘mixed company.’ Unfortunately for me, Floyd is slightly sadistic in the following way; he enjoys seeing my reaction to his inappropriate use of the English Language.

Now I would be a bit remiss, if not hypocritical, if I did not reveal that I have been known to use vulgarity from time-to-time, however, I have consciously attempted to rid myself of the burdensome, historically-loaded, ‘N-Word’; unfortunately, to no avail. It seems that individuals such as Floyd have an uncanny ability, through their actions nonetheless, to routinely pull such sentiments out of me.

I am quite confident that you are going to doubt the sincerity of my attempts to rid myself of the ‘N-word’ when you learn of my birthday plans for Floyd. I was planning to bless Floyd on his birthday with a trip to The Improv, Houston’s premier Comedy Club, to hear the infamous Paul Mooney.

I had come to learn that the enjoyment of great comedians such as Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Mom’s Mabley, Whitman Mayo, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Paul Mooney, Bill Cosby, etc. was an arena that Floyd and I were kindred souls. I must tell you that it is in the realm of comedy that I shed, without any sense of embarrassment or contradiction, my abhorrence of the ‘ N-word.’ As you well know, African-American comedians use the ‘N-word’ frequently and within every context imaginable.

So on Saturday evening, I picked Floyd up from his place and made my way toward I-10 West (The Katy Freeway). The moment Floyd stepped out of his front door, it was evident that this was a special night for him. Not only were we celebrating Floyd’s birthday, but also he was about to see Paul Mooney, his “favorite comedian this side of Richard Pryor” perform for the first time. And trust me when I tell you that Floyd had his finest threads draped on him, he was as they say ‘open-casket sharp’ with what appeared to be an 18-piece Lavender suit. At first sight, I laughed aloud at Floyd’s ensemble; he looked like a live Easter egg or something. 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 drive regarding not only Paul Mooney, but also the rare comedic genius known as Richard Pryor. Floyd was a walking Wikipedia of facts regarding the comedic duo; which spurred what I considered a natural question.

“Floyd, If you are so into Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney, how come you have never seen them live?”

“Ain’t had the opportunity. Meaning whenever they were performing close to where I was at, I didn’t have any 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 that to ol’ Floyd. You know that Floyd deserves better than that.”

I just laughed and related to Floyd that his acting a fool wouldn’t matter to me because I would already 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 only kicking it on our way to see our boy.

We arrived at The Improv, picked up tickets I had already paid for because I wanted Floyd to be front-and-center, it was his night after all.

Having seen Mooney several times before, I must relate that he was in rare fashion as he traversed across racially charged topics that ranged from notable figures such as Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, O.J. Simpson, and Ben Carson to “ordinary every day Nigga shit.”

As previously mentioned, Mooney was in rare form; however, there were two particularly memorable moments.

The first occurrence 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 memorable moment was a particularly personal one that was so hilarious that I nearly cried from laughter. Towards the end of his performance, Paul Mooney apparently 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, oops, I meant to say. Good look.”

To my amazement, Floyd rose from his seat and did a slow 360-degree turn that gave everyone in the building an opportunity to see all 18 pieces of his suit.

“Now I know that we are in Houston, Texas, and Y’all can be country as fuck, but that Nigga right there has got to be straight out of the backwoods of Mississippi. That’s the only place they wear shit like that; trust me, I Know what I Talk about.”

The entire crowd was laughing and hollering uncontrollably, so much that Floyd felt the need to respond to 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 tears were running down people’s faces by the time Mooney ended his roasting of Floyd. Above and beyond everything else, this moment made Floyd’s night complete; it was a memory that he would never relinquish, even if he were the butt of Mooney’s jokes.

Although we wished that Mooney could have stayed on stage for several more hours, the truth of the matter was that he gave 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 of one of his concerts.

I previously noticed that at opportune moments such as this one where he would be able to meet Paul Mooney, Floyd, like so many other African-Americans, would fumble such an obvious opportunity. So I was not surprised when the venue lights were turned on, Floyd quickly stood up and headed for the exit as if he had somewhere pressing to be. He would have exited the building had I not physically impeded his progress and walked him over to where Mooney was selling his DVD’s and taking photos with fans. As we approached Mooney, he burst into laughter at Floyd and jubilantly yelled,

“My Mississippi cousin!!!!!! Nigga, 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. It’s all part of the show.”

To my amazement, Floyd, who has so much to say about any and everything, fell silent as a church mouse. I explained to Mr. Mooney that it was Floyd’s birthday and this was his first time seeing him perform live; 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 Niggas like Richard and me 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.

Before the night ended, 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 gifting Floyd a DVD and the hat, which he graciously autographed, he had worn during his routine. A ‘star-struck’ Floyd was overwhelmed by the entire experience.

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

I have always heard that it is much better to give than to receive, this night certainly validated that famous axiom. 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 Road 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. Having never dined at a Brazilian Steakhouse, Floyd had a difficult time comprehending that the wait staff would bring rolls of meat, any meat he desired, and cut it tableside for him at his request.

Once Floyd got the hang of the way things worked, he behaved as if he were an old-pro and began ordering every type of meat imaginable. Apparently, Floyd became so comfortable with his environs that he took the opportunity to return to his favored past time; aggravating me.

“Now you cannot tell me that you didn’t enjoy Paul Mooney, even with him using 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 on that one word. It is kind of ridiculous when you think about it. There are so many other things to worry about: drug abuse, murder, poverty, teenage pregnancy, schools, domestic violence, and the list can go on and on.”

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

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

“Nigga, please. Using the ‘N-Word’ ain’t got a damn thing to do with domestic violence, high school dropouts, and poverty.”

I protested Floyd’s assertion and insisted that this stuff were indeed 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 article 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 cruel are 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 recall 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 realities mentioned above 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, if 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 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 might be a chance 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-Word, Nigga, and nigger from several generations of African-Americans.

Maybe the rappers mentioned above 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 confident 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.

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

“No! What frames their whole life 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 the children who were not raised in a loving home? Who life’s circumstances have led to their attending an under-funded inner-city school with downtrodden teachers? Who has 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 confident that Floyd saw my eyes tighten, a sign that I was about to tear into his ignorant ass. However, before I could leap into a furious tirade, Floyd cleared up his comment.

“Now don’t get all mad about what I said, hey, don’t take it personally. 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 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.”

“I do understand what you are saying, Floyd. However, Civil Rights groups are well meaning in regards to trying to point us in a new direction where we no longer demean each other and stop teaching our children to do such things.

When was the last time that you listened to a group of African-American youth talking, and you didn’t hear the ‘N-Word’? And don’t you dare try and tell me that they are using it as a term of endearment.”

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

“I can’t speak for no one else but myself, however, when I use it, I am using it as a term of endearment. Now tell me honestly, do you think that I am disrespectful toward you when I call you ‘My Nigga’? Honestly?”

“Nah, I don’t think that at all.”

“Yet, you still believe that this one little word, ‘Nigga,’ holds power to liberate our people? That’s foolishness. What will liberate us is shopping at Black-owned stores, voting, and valuing education. If we mastered all of the little things, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation for the one-millionth time.

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. We are doing the best that we know how to.”

All I could think was that Floyd was correct in his logic, something that was in and of itself 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, you ‘Niggas’ should stop using it behind clothes doors if you want everyone else 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. I promised to myself that it would never happen again; even if I had to strangle a ‘Nigga.’

 Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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