Our thoughts are the cause and our words are the effect. Words are generated by thought. If I call you by “your name” (word/speech), it is because I know (mind/thought) or have been introduced to you in some form. However, when I call you “a name,” it speaks to something else. The name I call you is the completion of my thought. What I call you can be based on no information, previous information, or bad information. When Michael Richards hurled the N-word over and over again at black people whom he had no information about-other than traditional comedy club heckling-his choice of rebuttal revealed something about who he is and his roots.

Am I judging him unfairly? I don’t think so. We know a tree by the fruit it bears. Apple trees don’t produce oranges and orange trees don’t produce apples. Racism is America’s shameful legacy tree. It is at the root of who we are as a country. Am I whining or complaining? No, because I understand that racism is merely a tool-a means, not an end.

The N-word is America’s socio-political sledgehammer, swung in a high and mighty arc by this mythological construct we call race.

Race. In order to enslave the African, it was necessary to make sure that he no longer thought of himself or was seen by others as an African-a real person from a real place. His consciousness had to be uprooted. Something else had to be implanted within him. This insidious and evil thought process became available and accessible to all at the thought-birth of the N-word. The N-word is powerful, controversial and if spoken by the “wrong” person, a unifier of black people. We may fight each other to the point of futility when it comes to economic, social and political empowerment, but let a “real” white person call us that word publicly, and we as a people come together at breakneck speed. We are frozen in a crisis posture and only unthaw in the heat of controversy. Once the controversy has cooled off, there is oft-times a re-freezing into a reactive existence. You see, no matter how we try to change the meaning of the N-word, it will always be true to its beginnings, to its roots. If you don’t agree, then why all the fuss?

Brothers and sisters, if we commit to changing that which we hear, we then change how we and those around us think. When our thinking changes, we change by default. When all people of faith and goodwill begin to deal with the root (legacy thinking) of this N-word problem and not only the stem (the product of such legacy thinking: racial slurs, various epithets etc.) that we see above ground, we will have a new movement-a movement to our new identity as a people committed to seeing the unlimited God-given possibilities in every person.

Why? Because we know that, at our root, we are and come from sacred dirt. In other words, God doesn’t make junk, and I know for sure he never made anything to be called the N-word.