Don’t be so Prideful about owning the word Niger- you were not the first
Many people take pride in a label or tag for different reasons but one of the constant reasoning is the belief that if you own a label or tag, you then remove the control it has over you and recover that control over it. Now while I can see some truth in this, there are still words that I personally would never seek to take ownership of the number one word for me is Niger.
It started out as learning about the origin behind this label and the results of usage of this term. The pain, suffering and deaths that are associated with this word made me decide early in the game never to accept it as part of my character, my definition or my reason. I saw the nooses and even felt the pulling of one around my own neck once so trying to tell me that it was okay for anyone of any color to use the word as if only a selected few had the right to use it only made me see them as nothing more than ignorant of this origin and these results. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that this label cannot be truly claimed without ownership.
I say that having the right to claim something means that the label was created strictly for those people or that group and no one else. I say that the word Niger was modified to possibly define those of color but the idea existed long before any ship ever landed on the continent of Asia which we now call Africa. I say that because a certain segment of society has always enjoyed having their own private Nigers and we only have to look to our Bible to tell us this. Consider that Moses said only those from the tribes of Levi could be high priests so if someone who felt the need to spread God’s message to those needing to hear it but wasn’t from any tribe of Levi was probably consider that group Nigers except maybe they were called being “unclean” back then. Still even before this was a group of people who were seen as inferior and not worthy of even being considered as anything other than property except that group was labeled women and lest we forget, the Native Americans who seemed to not only accept their role but adopted many of the roles of those who tagged them.
Now before anyone gets their underwear in a bunch, just take a few minutes to think about this. Every section of society had their own private section of Nigers. There were the Puritans and the Non-Puritans separated by different beliefs and not defined solely by color. There were Lords over Barons and Barons over all other non-landowners. There were Catholics over Non-Catholics and other unequal religious sections and there were and always be the privileged over the non-privileged. So you see, from where I sit the label may have been modified to fit particular groups but the over-all theme has always remained the same. One group seeing themselves as better than another in one form or another and that lesser group having to either fight to define themselves or sheepishly accept the tag given them by those who know little to nothing about them except that they are different in their ways, culture, looks or thinking.
So for me, accepting the label of Niger, regardless of how you spell it means that you are okay with being defined by people who don’t know you and you not knowing yourself. While that may be okay with you and it may be your eventual truth does not mean it shall ever be mine. I will forever respect another person’s truth but by no means does that I agree with it. To accept a label that has been modified and not truly mine means to accept any and all other labels created that very same way. To that I must simply say that when it comes to me personally “no way Jose”.