A few years ago, I read slave narratives to lớn explore the lives of blaông chồng agricultural workers after the over of the Civil War. The narratives came from the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration, a program that employed researchers from 1936 to 1938 to interview former enslaved people, producing more than 2,300 narratives that, thankfully, reside online và are fully searchable.Bạn sẽ xem: N-word là gì

Those whom the law defined as property recounted various quality human experiences — their daily horrors & monotonies, how they freed themselves or learned of their emancipation, the surge of exhilaration upon securing freedom, and how they endured life on the edges of a white supremacist society in the decades thereafter.

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As I pored over the narratives, I was struông chồng less by their experiences, as heartrending as they were, than by how their experiences sculpted their self-perceptions. The best explanation of what I gleaned, what social scientists called internalized oppression, describes the psychological trauma that ensues when a person from a stigmatized group believes those negative stigmas.

White folk indoctrinated them into accepting their supposed inferiority. These narratives illustrate the success of this chiến dịch of mental terrorism, & no word conveyed the depth of this internalized oppression more than “nigger.” Now, whenever I hear the epithet, a visual & emotional representation of the heinous process by which a people — my people — were induced khổng lồ think they were less than trespasses inkhổng lồ my thoughts. After years of habitual use of “nigger,” I banished it from my speech lớn honor the humanity that many never saw in themselves.

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The internalized oppression revealed itself in various ways. Sometimes the former enslaved people clearly, perhaps subconsciously, considered themselves subhuman, just like how their former owners regarded them. Jyên ổn Allen, for example, dubbed himself his master’s “pet nigger boy” và a “stray” và thought himself privileged because he could sleep on the floor beside his master’s bed. That he likened himself lớn a fortunate mangy mutt or frisky feline crushed me. The word laid bare a worldview that held blaông chồng folk as a lower order of being, as when Irene Robertson claimed her former master Mr. Sanders was mean, in part, because “he beat his wife lượt thích he beat a nigger woman.”

“Nigger” also signaled antipathy toward fellow blaông xã folk. After the over of slavery, Mattie Mooreman went north to Wisconsin with a Trắng family for whom she worked. Members of the family wanted her to go lớn the circus lớn watch a blaông xã boy’s performance. She told her interviewer, “Guess they thought it would be a treat to me to lớn see another niggah. I told ’em, ‘Law, don’t you think I see lots, lots more than I wants, every day when I is at home?’ ” But read how she talks about the family’s baby, whom she constantly watched over, fearing, irrationally, someone would kidnap him: “No matter what time they come home page they’d find me there. ‘Why don’t you go in your bedroom & lie down?’ they’d ask me. ‘No,’ I’d tell ’em, ‘sometoàn thân might come in, & they would have sầu lớn get that baby over my dead body toàn thân.” Her eyes fixated on the White baby, but she saw too many niggers.

Perhaps more depressing, ironically, was that circumstances sometimes led them to opt against calling a blachồng person a nigger. William Porter stated that “some of the Tennessee niggers was called không lấy phí niggers. There was a colored man in Pulaski, Tennessee, who owned slaves.” A blaông chồng man who kept others in bondage — he’s a “colored man,” yet those who were owned were “niggers.” I instantly thought of a moment from the O.J.: Made in America documentary when a white woman who saw black people talking lớn Simpson uttered, “Look at those niggers sitting with O.J.” Simpson delights in hearing this because she “knew I wasn’t blaông chồng. She saw me as O.J.” Porter’s outlook matched that of both the racist White woman và the unspeakably racially deranged O.J.

Since reading those narratives, I’ve noticed this mindset when perusing the remarks of freed people in other contexts. For example, before the trial of Rufus Martin, a blachồng man who stood accused of the 1903 murder of Charles Swackhammer, a woman whom the Fort Worth Star-Telegram referred lớn as an “old negress who occupied a front seat in the court room” bellowed:

It’s the Trắng people that is lớn blame. They know that they got lớn make niggahs work or they ain’t no good và they know as long as they ‘low niggah men khổng lồ loaf aroun’ low down saloons they ain’t goin’ lớn work. This man come from a good niggah fam’ly — one of the best I knows of, but the p’lice ‘lowed him to lớn loaf aroun’ without workin’, and to drink and gamble, till he just got to be no good and thought he didn’t have sầu to work. The p’lice ought lớn raid them low down niggah saloons every day và every night till they make every blessed one of the niggah toughs go lớn work or else sover ’em all to the county road. Them saloons is what makes bad niggahs and the White folks is to blame for it, ’cause they let ’em run.

That Martin sported a reddish mustađậy, light hair & skin so bright he could pass for trắng almost certainly colored her perception that Martin came from a “good niggah fam’ly.”

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