There was a time in the history of my country, when an entire demographic group was regularly pushed aside and disregarded – legally and socially. That group had some but not all of the rights that were granted to the rest of society and the rights they did have were ignored and denied with shocking regularity. Each member of the lower class was socially valued by how well they were liked and how useful the were to their superiors, the privileged class.
Members of the lower class were best advised to mind their manners around their betters. It was best not to say things their superiors wouldn’t like and in some cases it was advisable to avoid looking directly at them.
The lower class of people were expected to accept their treatment and some of them seemed to. It seems odd that anyone would accept their systemic mistreatment and abuse, but who could blame them, it was the safest thing to do. Those who fell in line and did their part to keep the superiors happy suffered less abuse than those who did not. It was easier to keep your head down and if asked a question or spoken to, it was safest to smile and say whatever the superior wanted to hear.
As is the case with any oppressed people the lower class became angry. Some of the lower class people became disobedient. They had the very laughable goal of equality. Those of the lower class who complained were troublemakers. Any member of the privileged class who supported those troublemakers were traitors.
There were words the upper class used to keep those lower beings in line, and check those who’d forgotten their place. One of these words seemed more effective than the others.
That was what they were, after all.
Niggers weren’t the same as human beings. They were legally and socially less than the privileged class. Niggers could be harmed and the police probably wouldn’t help them. Niggers were subject to vigilante justice.
I don’t know if it happened on a conscious level but I do not doubt that when a nigger was reminded that he was in fact a nigger, he realized he had stepped out of bounds and if a privileged citizen decided to punish him, there would be no help for him. That little reminder must have done wonders to shut an uppity nigger up.
The word was used so often that, it seems, it lost its effectiveness. Niggers learned to ignore the word, it didn’t hurt as much and sometimes it simply made them angry. The magic was gone and it was just another word, like stupid, or ugly.
In that time of social unrest there was a member of that lower class named Melvin B. Tolson. If you don’t know who that is, look up the ‘Forensic Society Debaters of Wiley College’ and you will learn that he was a troublemaker who dared to think that lower class people should be allowed to hold civil debate with the privileged class.
It was a rather unpopular idea which met great opposition. However when he did succeed in arranging for the oppressed to debate their superiors, the lower class people won. Looking back that is not surprising, the lower class were morally correct. What I find most interesting about their victory is the amount of struggle it took for the matter to reach debate.
The privileged class seemed to believe that the lower class were just dumb niggers, but I believe that was an excuse. I think that the privileged people knew that the societal norms were wrong and that everyone would realize it if the lower class people were ever allowed to show their intelligence. If the lower class showed the public that they were not dumb and dangerous, the injustices against them would be unnecessary and cruel.
It would be revealed that the privileged upper class were the ignorant, dangerous fools.
The opposition to a simple debate came from a fear of exposure.
You may believe that such societal norms and treatment are a thing of the past. That sort of thing could never go unchallenged today. People are more enlightened now… Right?
But I see it.
I see an entire class of people who can be harmed by a member of a privileged class and there is no help for them. They can be legally abused and everyone looks the other way. There are those members of the lower class who try to make themselves as useful to their superiors as possible or keep their heads down unless spoken to and then he’d better say what ever pleases his superior, that is the safest way to behave.
I hear the privileged use a few words to try and keep the troublemakers in line. One seems to be a particular favorite.
Misogynists aren’t the same as other human beings. You don’t have to listen to anything a misogynist says. They aren’t allowed the same rights as everyone else. Debate with the superiors? Pfft, what for? They are just a bunch of angry misogynists after all.
Don’t talk to me because you hate women…Nigger.
Their misogynistic posters got torn down? Serves the niggers right!
Debate? No, they are dangerous nig- oops, I mean, misogynists.
Of course this refusal and opposition to the very idea of debate has NOTHING at all to do with the knowledge that the people they call misogynists really do have something to complain about. This opposition isn’t fear this time… right? It’s legitimate concern that the people you so flagrantly antagonize, openly taunt and yet who have done nothing at all to harm you, will suddenly go ape-shit and assault a helpless innocent member of the privileged class.
It’s okay to wave weapons at them, because they’re misogynists.
Its okay to silence them. They are just misogynists.
It’s totally cool to disregard them cause you know… they’re misogynists, and everyone knows it.
You don’t have to treat the misogynists like human beings, so it isn’t bigotry. Everyone knows misogynists don’t get rights.
I can only hope that using this word to silence and shame someone you disagree with someday reaches the same public regard as coming right out and calling your opponent “nigger.”
Editorial note: See also Janet Bloomfield’s article on Thought Catalog making precisely the same analogy: Seven Ways Black Sociology Shows What Is Wrong With Feminism