Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jigga What?

Just when it seemed as though we had reached a new low in ghetto culture (Three 6 Mafia winning an Academy Award? Puh-leeze!) along comes something even more ridiculously ignorant.

Damon Wayans, you know, Homey D. Clown from In Living Color and one of the numerous Wayans siblings, has been trying for 14 months to trademark the term “Nigga” for his new clothing line.

In the words of one of Atlanta’s greatest icons, Lil’ Jon, “Whaaaattt?!?”

According to an article at, Wayans wants to “dress customers in 14 kinds of attire from tops to bottoms, and use the controversial mark on ‘clothing, books, music and general merchandise,’ as well as movies, TV and the internet, according to his applications” to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Office has repeatedly denied Wayans’ requests because of a law that prohibits trademarks that are “immoral or scandalous." Some people are arguing that hip hop culture has changed the meaning of the word, and that Wayans’ trademarked term will be that acceptable meaning, not the derogatory one associated with slavery.


I know we are trying to do the whole reverse psychology thing with the word so that it loses its negative connotation and its “power” and blah blah blah blah, but really, who are we kidding?

Maybe SOME folks wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if I was sitting in the library wearing a shirt that said “Nigga what?” and reading a book that said “Nigga Please” on the cover, but I know I would definitely be taken aback if I saw something like that. And while we are mass marketing such products, we must keep in mind that often entails mainstreaming it. Meaning, you know blacks won’t be the only ones buying or wearing the apparel. Maybe some of you can reconcile your psyche so that you don’t mind your white “homeboy” wearing one of the shirts.

But what about that openly racist co-worker? Do you think his wearing of the T-shirt would spark an intelligent debate about the pros and cons of the word, and whether or not wearing the shirt makes the word lose its power? Or do you think that you’ll just give ole boy a good ass whoopin’? I’m inclined to say the latter. And what about the redneck who puts a Nigga sticker right below his confederate flag decal emblazoned with the words “The South will Rise Again” on it. Do we give him a pound and thank him for supporting our thriving black hip hop culture?

We have to learn as a race/culture how negative that word is and that no matter how much we try to “empower” ourselves, we need to find another way to do it. You can’t regulate what people wear or how people feel, but if Wayans actually succeeds in his venture – or even if he doesn’t but is openly supported by the black community – it’s just another reason for other races to look at us as just a bunch of “niggas.”

No comments: