Lately (…), a bunch of White people, predominantly White dudes, thought it über-transgressive to argue in favour of the word “neger.” Yes, it’s not like that’s been done before.
And who can forget the “neger uur journaal“… At any rate, you can imagine I was not impressed.
Both White liberals and White reactionaries had opinions about the matter. Asha ten Broeke wrote a piece for Trouw about the current “trend.” She explains that this type of lackadaisical racism is called “hipster racism” and credits Jezebel for writing a piece on “hipster racism,” thus obscuring the origins of the term.
Asha ten Broeke was praised for her calling out this trend as acts of “hipster racism.”
Hipster racism originated on the blog Racialicious. The history of the term is detailed in a post entitled A Historical Guide To Hipster Racism. I’d like to quote Thea Lim, Former Deputy Editor at Racialicious, who writes,
“And as our friends at Bitch pointed out, it is also distressing, though not in the least surprising, that the words “hipster racism” are more palatable, resonant, and listenable when they come from the mouth of a white blogger. It’s enough to make you get real low and start thinking terrible emo thoughts, like one white blogger is worth more than ten bloggers of colour.”
I’ve seen many a White liberal, appealing to empathy/sympathy, argue that those mean (White) men should stop calling Black people “negers” – because of the pain it causes Black people. I can’t help but feel that there’s something perverse about that.
Both Sherene Razack and Martin A. Berger have highlighted the slipperiness of White empathy/sympathy. Sherene Razack discusses in Stealing the Pain of Others: Reflections on Canadian. Humanitarian Responses the ways in which the pain and suffering of Black people often become sources of moral authority and pleasure for White people/saviours (i.e. I’m a Good White Person™, and it feels good to help non-White people), thus obscuring, in the process, the participation of White people in the violence perpetrated against Black people.
Martin A. Berger argues in Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography that,
“because white sympathy was dependent [on photographs of] powerless blacks, these unforgettable [pictures] undermined efforts to enact—or even imagine—reforms that threatened to upend the racial balance of power.”
On the “other side” of the spectrum, the dynamic underpinning the dismissive reactions of White reactionaries is the very same dynamic that underpins the process of dehumanization, which is always about power, and which – you know – made it so easy for Whites to exploit non-Whites. Joe Richard Feagin, Hernán Vera, Pinar Batur write in White Racism,
“White racism denies black others recognition as human; what blacks see emanating from racist whites is not a reflection of themselves as human beings but rather negative black images projected from the white person’s mind.”
Dear Good White People, it’s not about whether it “hurts” when someone calls me “neger.” It’s about respecting my boundaries, and recognizing that said word was/is used to dehumanize African peoples. When I tell you, White Autochtoon Dutch person, to stop saying some racist shit, and you’re like “I don’t give a fuck; I’m gonna call you whatever the fuck I want” you are not recognizing me as a human being – with feelings. Oh, and if you think that I’m being an uppity negro for telling you off… that twinge you felt that’s your racist thinking pricking you, goading you to tell me to “know my place.”
Let me paint a scenario you can “relate” to (I’ve used this example before, but what the heck):
If you are in a relationship and you say some offensive/backward/asshattish thing to your partner to which your partner vehemently/calmly objects and your immediate reaction is either one of these, or all of them, your relationship won’t last very long.
Why are you being so sensitive? You’re always blowing things out of proportion… Can’t you take a joke? What? I can say whatever I want, you’re not the boss of me. Why can’t I say that? You need to grow a pair. But, why can’t I say that, though? I need to understand. You’re acting like a(n) (expletive). It wasn’t my intention to hurt you (aside: cute, but the fact of the matter is: you did hurt them. And at the end of the day, it’s really not about what you intended to do or not: it’s about the damage that’s been done. Knowing that you didn’t intend to be a complete asshat just makes it ever so slightly better.)
Don’t be surprised if your partner a) tears you a new one b) sets your shit on fire c) tells you to fuck off and never contact them again. EVER d) or, all of the aforementioned.
Demanding/expecting/asking for an “explanation” or “elaboration” as to why I object to the use of “neger” is demanding/expecting/asking me to perform that “feeling of hurt” for you. The mere fact that I don’t want you to should be enough reason for you. So, dear White people if you ever feel the urge to use the N-word again just check yourself and think of the other N-word instead: Nee.