To Black Comics and Rappers: We're Tired of the N-Word

by Lamont Palmer

When you use the n-word, whites think they can too.
You use it so freely. It is your drug, your nagging compulsion,
clinging like hair clings to skin.
It rolls from your tongue like racial spittle, this n-word. 
You are an insensitive circus act juggling blinding epithets.
Do they know it is a strange, backward endearment to us, 
that, frankly, we should give up?
Do they care? Some thin distinction 
of tissue consistency, some semantic nuisance,
wholey lost on rational minds?
Words change, impressions do not. Impressions are stones, meteors,
leaving pock marks on the inner mind.

When you use the n-word, they think that is a license
for them; a pass, to facetiously utter its stinging sound.
Do you think you remove that sting by repeating it over and over,
like a dumb incantation? The sting is indelible, did you not know?
Your stage, your lights, your glitter, your make-up means nothing;
the N-word is still the N-word is still the N-word is still the N-word
is still the N-word is still the N-word--
I see ropes and trees and white hoods. 
Repitition is no salve, no rhythmic balm.

In mixed company, I have to explain its use. Or denounce it. 
Social superhero. I hate wearing a red cape for you.
In chatrooms they repeat your n-word laced "jokes"
with a disclaimer--"well Dave Chappelle wrote it, not me."
Sometimes I say nothing till the sound of it goes away
like black smoke from a tenement fire, but the smoke is still smelled,
burnt, pungent. They smell it too. Fire-filled N-word. Word grenade
manufactured in our own dear South.

We know the word, every American does.
We know it like the clouds. We know it like our uncles.
We know it like a perverse Grimm's tale.
It has been here since Old Glory,
since Martha and George. Lincoln used it, I am sure, my Emancipator, my Emancipator. 
He gets a pass, perhaps, freedom's sad faced champion.
We need no introductions to it, no reminders of it. Most sane ones would
like to forget it, erase it from the world, from minds, from the ears of
the new ones coming along like daisies, untouched. Let their ears not hear it.

 This is not censorship. This is sensible-ship. 
The N-word on TV? Turn it off. It is HBO? Who cares? 
Shut it up, shut it off. 
History's crummy, bloody eyes still stare out from burned out churches,
and Jim Crow towns. This word smells like blood, garbage, and shit.
You with your jokes, find something else. 
Or find work at Burger King, away from a revealing spotlight. 
You with your raps, peruse a dictionary some time. Read, learn new shiny words.
All of you in the revealing spotlight with your N-word, 
dig deeper, dig deeper, we've had enough
of your facile, shallow shock, like lightning from an inarticulate god.
Dig deeper, for we have had enough of the N-WORD.

To Black Comics and Rappers: We're Tired of the N-Word by Lamont Palmer

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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