After dragging an overstuffed suitcase down the subway station stairs and securing it in a storage unit, I ascended with curious eyes beaming at my face. A cigarette tumbled to the ground and a small yet handsome man approached. He had short burgundy brown hair with two diamond studs and two dimples that matched their glare when he smiled.
A sea of questions emerged towards my friend and me about our home, our destination, our experiences and our availability. And then he asked a common question that has been painted on the lips of many Koreans I’ve met. Would you like to have a drink? And as a knee jerk reaction in confirmation of appreciation and respect, after being given the responsibility to decide as the eldest, I said only one. As if to acknowledge his courtesy yet explain we would disappear shortly.
So legs descended into a bar named dragon and an army of toes tapped down to a basement layer. The bartender would give us a show. There were 7 of us now. Greetings and laughter were juggled simultaneously with bottles of vodka and cups. Conversations emerged as layers of unfamiliarity melted under the dimly lit lights. And then it happened. I like NIG.. My eyes swelled, my head shook ‘NO’ vigorously , and I held up my arms in the shape of an ‘X’ to give a visual aid, just in case the message was not clear. The leader of this event and once accommodating host became a student in my eyes immediately. He said that he has heard Chris brown and a lot of music use the word. And in my best Korean I declared “BUUUUUT” it’s still not good for you to say. “Bad” He looked confused and his friend followed up in concert with me saying “But still” as if confirming the error in his argument. I couldn’t believe it. People across the world feel comfortable saying this word because WE use it. I’ve often been in support of hip hop heads who firmly declare that the word is ‘nigga’ and a term used among the black community taking power away from the once evil term. But I realized that rationale was no longer rational. Other than native English speakers, people can’t tell the difference between “nigger and nigga.” It simply is the difference between two letters. Letters that mean very little to those that are not fluent in English.
Words are like water. Once spilled they never return back to their original place until enough has been collected by the atmosphere and it rains returning it back to its original sender. Words seep into minds and hearts and dance on tongues that spin them according to their own personal taste. If there is a rule that stands it is that those who have been oppressed by the world should take hold of it first. Not for entertainment or endearment towards those in the same community, but we should take hold of it in such a way that it is no longer paraded as part of our identity. We should take hold of it in such a way that we break the necks of opportunity to project this word into the wind as a reflection of our community. It is not ours however. We are only called to be teachers. Redeemers of former evils through education and action, and displayed leadership. I am not a nigger. My ancestors were not niggers. I don’t want to be a nigger. I guess I’m anti-nigga.