Vaccinations have been proven to work in almost every quantifiable and verifiable fashion. There is a long list of diseases that could be wiped out if only a minority were to accept their benefits. Those closest to joining smallpox in being eradicated include diphtheria, measles and polio. Yet due to just a few who refuse to have themselves or their children vaccinated, for whatever reason, these problems continue to manifest. Eradication requires everyone to play their part. At risk of sounding like Russell Brand, eradication is a collective effort.
Combatting racism, like eradicating a disease, is a challenge we can only achieve as a collective. Recently, the true prevalence of racism in our modern society has been revealed. Paris has been particularly affected, viral videos of public anti-Semitism appearing online and anti-Islam chants and slogans breaking out in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. More recently, a small group of Chelsea fans managed to further lower the reputation of the average English football fan. While physically denying a black man from getting onto the metro in Paris, they were filmed chanting, “we’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it”.
Football as a whole has shamed the nation with repeated racist episodes, as well as multiple sexist incidents, by players, fans and pundits alike; the cases of Luis Suarez, John Terry and Andy Gray being most well-known. Beyond that, western culture is plagued with examples of racism and a lack of diversity. Black nominees were conspicuous by their absence in the top categories at the Oscars, awards voted for, incidentally, by an academy of which 94% are white. At home, the British cabinet does not have a single black member sitting around that famous table in No. 10.
But this is not just a problem of diversity. Jay-Z and Kanye West are arguably the two most famous rappers on the planet, and very powerful men in their own right. They have the ability and the platform to project their ideas whatever they may want. Yet their songs continually feature the prominent use of the word n*****. Kanye’s newly released single All Day features the word a total of 42 times, almost every single line. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in September 2009, Jay-Z spoke of “taking the power out of the word … and turning it into a term of endearment” amongst the black community, a view that Winfrey was keen to disassociate herself from.
During the furore over Jeremy Clarkson’s apparent use of the word, no newsreader, no commentator and no newspaper felt comfortable enough to use the N-word at any point in the debate. Even now, I am unable to write it explicitly in this piece. Clearly this word is still immensely powerful. However, it is now the white people who fear it, as they desperately try to find the correct terminology. Its use can kill careers and reputations. Benedict Cumberbatch, a vastly more popular man than Clarkson, was scorned after using the phrase “coloured” while arguing in support of opportunities for ethnic minorities in the British film industry.
Its use in the music industry does not empower, it hinders. It is present in a vast proportion of popular culture. It is screamed at concerts and gigs around the world. On YouTube, thousands of young, white Americans can be seen watching Kanye’s Made In America set last year while blithely singing along to the rapper’s uncensored lyrics. Soon enough, they’ll be singing along to All Day, and the 42 N-words that song contains.
Teaching the true meaning of the word and the hatred, cruelty and inhumanity it represents should lead us to erase it. There is no empowerment in this word. In order to accelerate the eradication of racism, words like this should no longer be glamourized. It has no place in society, and its use hinders, while also insulting the memories of those who suffered and died. “I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree.” These were Oprah’s poignant words on the matter.
Of course, racism goes far deeper than a single word, but the elimination of n***** from everyday life, while not solving the problem, would be a huge step forwards. While it remains so conspicuous in popular culture, it will always be a hindrance. Total eradication of racism remains an ideal only attainable by the collective. We were heading in the right direction, but recent events have highlighted not only racism, but also sexism and even terrorism in the streets, which have allowed us to see through the false veneer of our society. A blanket ban on the use of the N-word is just one part of the solution, it will require much more action if we are to make this ideal, a reality.
By Ben Grimshaw, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.
Twitter: ( @bengrimshaw5)