Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Has The N-Word Now Become A Generic Insult In The USA?

My husband wearing his Maine Natural Guard t-shirt protesting the war last tax day in Portland.
It was Sunday and, once again, we went to the bridge. We went to protest the endless wars that scores of people used to join us in protesting, before they decided to look away. We went because the "cruise missile liberals" won't go, and because we don't care who is in the White House deciding to kill brown skinned children with oil under their sands. We went because that's what we do to keep our heads from exploding.
My husband holding the banner we tie to the bridge railing on Sundays.
This Sunday, there were only three of us. My husband attached the large banner that says Bring Our War $$ Home to the bridge railing, and held a sign I had hastily made the night we met 13 years ago. On that night my sign read NO WAR but in later years I appended the phrase FOR OIL. 

This Sunday, juggling our granddaughter and a stroller, I wasn't holding a sign. Heading back to the car for something or other, I heard yelling and turned around.

A man around age 30 was hanging out of the driver's side window of a passing car shouting at my husband: "Why don't you do yourself a favor and jump off the fucking bridge, you fucking nigger!"

There were other passengers in his car, including a child in the seat behind him, small enough so that the top of her head was just visible through the window.

I imagine that the shouter perceived my husband as being alone on the bridge. I was down at the far end of the pavement and could have been a random passerby. I imagine that I will continue to puzzle over this latest in a long string of insults and threats we've heard on the bridge over the years. My first thought was this:

Has the N-word become a generic insult since the demagogue with the bad hair rose to media-annointed prominence?

A family member suggested another explanation: that the shouter meant to say "nigger lover" -- that is, Obama supporter -- but flubbed his line. This is plausible, I think. For years people have shouted things at us such as "You voted for Obama!" as they drive by on the bridge. This is ironic since my husband has been the target of invective for years from liberals who insist (in error) that his vote for Nader caused the Bush victory in 2000 which in turn led to 9/11 and a cascade of invasions that roll murderously onward.

And I will leave you to ponder why calling someone a "lover" of any race would be considered disparaging.

Also, our friend wasn't there last Sunday with his usual sign: Nobama Depleted Uranium Equals War Crime. A message which I am sure perplexes many who drive by it. Because if we're lefties we must be for Obama --- right?

But I'm not ready to give up the generic insult theory, either. My husband isn't quite as pale as I am, but he's a blue eyed guy with two English grandparents and two Slovak grandparents. People are unlikely to see him as other than white.

Black families walking down the street with ice cream cones get the N-word shouted at them in Maine's largest city. Their young children have to hear and process the ugliness. They live and sometimes die in fear of the shouters and haters. Nothing new, yet heart breaking just the same.

Will it be better or worse for them if the N-word now gets yelled at anyone deemed undesirable?

Arabs, Afghans and other non-Africans have been called "sand niggers" by U.S. soldiers and marines for years now. It's part of the dehumanizing process in place to keep a soldier's finger on the trigger and his or her conscience in cold storage.

My husband and I will keep going to the bridge. We'll vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein for President. Our friends may or may not vote that way due to the fear factor that the race-baiting demagogue with the bad hair could win, but they will keep protesting the wars for empire that are killing us and the planet -- whoever is at the helm. Our grandson who is almost twelve won't stand on the bridge with us anymore, because he is embarrassed when people yell at us or flip us off.

We'll go the bridge anyway, and people can yell what they want. I'm listening.


Pete Sirois said...

Words can't describe those that shout any insult towards anyone exercising free speech in a "free" country. Pete Sirois

Hopie said...

I have certainly heard it used generically but, not more so lately. I guess we're going to find out the impact that horrible man has had on race relations in the US