The violent, vicious murder of Derrion Albert after school, in broad daylight, on video has the black community reeling. The anger, rage, and savagery of black on black violence and self-hatred are on full display for the world to see, with Chicago’s pivotal black community as the case in point.
Predictably, those who murdered Albert were without mercy or conscience. One participant in the brutal crime is reported to have said, “Put the nigger to sleep.” That’s the last time I will use the N-word in this piece. I only use it here to make the point that we have internalized a self-hatred so deep and insane that some black people publicly argue the ‘right’ to use the vile epithet as a ‘term of endearment,’ for public artistic expression and personal gain. The truth is we have allowed an unsuspecting generation of black youth to adopt our oppressors and persecutors tool of racist dehumanization. It is a dehumanization that facilitates devaluation of black life by black people and white people.
In 2009, black people probably use the N-word more than white people. And when we use it, especially in anger, we mean it with the same viciousness, murderous spirit as the vilest white racist. To devalue people wholesale requires use of the dehumanizing blanket epithet. Militaries to function must always dehumanize the enemy forces. Racism brings the same process in civil society. The N-word devalues all black life even to black people. At the highest levels of black leadership, when our anger becomes most passionate and vile against another black person, they are almost always ultimately dismissed unworthily as a “N.” At every class level in black America that word has a power over us and carries a murderous spirit.
I’ve always been puzzled by Matthew 5:2 in scripture where Jesus argues that an angry brother who uses a dehumanizing term for another brother was “in danger of hell fire.” I always thought that was an extreme response to a minor infraction. The revelation came with the video of Albert’s murder, “put the (N-Word) to sleep.” Yes, I get it now. Before humans willingly murder with their hands, they murder in their hearts and with their lips.
The young people have internalized the left over insanity and self-hatred bred in oppression. The socio-economic conditions, compounded ignorance and spiritual poverty have removed any restraints to wanton violence in the underclass and street subculture. But make no mistake about it, the self-hatred and spiritual violence of N-word bondage is at almost every level of black American life. Anyone who uses it regularly in indifference or anger, black or white, hates black people and helps to create an atmosphere for wholesale dehumanization of black humanity. If black people do not bury it, it will make us and our offspring open season to arbitrary violence – a violence today more than likely at the hands of another black person. The first line of defense of our humanity is not so much what others call us as what we call ourselves.
All of us are asking what we can do in the light of what we have witnessed in the murder of Albert. Each of us can do more. One thing we can each pledge to do collectively is bury the N-word and see everyone, even when we are angry with them, as brother or sister and a child of God.
Rev. Hatch is pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Church in West Garfield Park, and chairman of the LEADER’s Network.