It seems like every year another one bites the dust.
Beyond wild nights and rocky romances with Chris Brown, multiple Grammy-winner Rihanna is now in the hot seat for another controversial offense: using the n-word.
While critics and fans are badgering the artist for posting "My lil n***a" in the Instagram photo caption of her with a black toddler, my response is minimal. Why are we so surprised?
Oh no, this is not to excuse Rihanna from saying a word that is unacceptable and derogatory, but as we all liked her marijuana smoke blowing images and nearly naked teases... did we ever care much to check our own Twitter feeds?
So I did and I fell into disappointment. The n-word is overused, misused and socially abused on sites like Facebook and Twitter all the time. It is used as a noun in one statement and oddly used as a verb in another. And while we act as if Rihanna has done something extraordinarily taboo, I challenge you to check the Instagram accounts and tweets of many other hip-hop artists and friends.
Oh, but you don't even have to cyber stalk them; just go straight to their music. Haven't we forgotten...the n-word is used in the lyrics to many of our favorite songs. And while a great number of us excused Jay-Z and Kanye West for "N***as in Paris," can we all really be that harsh to Rihanna?
Sure, because as one fan on the celebrity's controversial Instagram picture said: "The word is derogatory. If some cultures aren't allowed to say it, no-one should." Oh really? Who would have imagined? Did this picture just make you realize that or you hadn't had the time to realize how offensive it was?
In all seriousness, the entire buzz surrounding this picture is hypocrisy at its finest. The reason we are all mad is because a child is involved in this debauchery. Rihanna has used to word freely in several other pictures and tweets with little attention whatsoever.
What makes Rihanna any different from using the derogatory term than your friend you are probably going to share this blog with later? Oh is it because you think that here global influence might create a culture of others to think it is cute to use it? Too late for that; you can blame the music, movies, and most media for that.
As much as you may try to run from it, the social responsibility lies in our own community. We have spent a great deal punishing and condemning others for saying it and reminding them of how disrespectful it is that we hardly ever think about how we use it. Enough of this: "when we say it... it's different" buffoonery. In all honesty, we have been so detached from our own heritage that many of us cannot tell the difference. What is even worse is how we have gotten so obsessed with who can say it and who can't that we have forgotten the actual context of the n-word itself.
As other marginalized communities continue to claim defamation decrees against their own obscenities, the black community still fights to tackle with the vanity of using the very word that has oppressed them for centuries. As a black man in America, I have socially struggled with combating a word many feel "unites" and "divides" at the same damn time. Well today, enough is enough. Something's got to give.
Even though I am skeptical about the critics' intent of this offensive, I do not detach myself from the sentiment. I have never been a fan of the n-word and while I have publicly denounced it in other forums and felt like a loner, perhaps a better call to action is needed.
To the black community in general, we need to literally come to a consensus on this issue. No exceptions, passes, and extensions. Will the n-word be accepted in any capacity either via social networking, conversation or not?
Playing Devil's advocate, if we are to take back the word and reclaim it for a different meaning... this should be something that we can expect others to use as well. But let's not pretend that we are ready to see that happen, for any moment the media breaks a story of someone outside the African Diaspora using it, tensions erupt.
So if we are to dismiss the n-word from social media usage and urge Rihanna to stop using it, we ought to as well. We have to discourage it in the lyrics to the music we listen to. We have to put our friends in check on Facebook and Twitter when they blurt it. We have to make remind ourselves why it's unacceptable in the first place.
What isn't good for someone else shouldn't be good for us either.