Thursday, July 4, 2013

What Would Lenny Do?

Those not living under a rock or imprisoned in Guantanamo have probably heard the latest earth shattering news on the Civil Rights front. No, not from the Supreme Court and not about Mandela. Turns out that a sixty six year old woman born and raised in the Jim Crow South has confessed to having, at some time in her life, actually uttered the Voldemort of Vulgarity -- the Derogatory Derivative of the Word "Negro". And it wasn't like someone put a gun to her head to get her to say it.

Now this News That's Too Old To Be New stirs up much emotion and greed, and on occasion a thought or two. Ponder if you will...
"What Would Lenny Do?"
Classic Lenny would book the Apollo Theatre and take the stage spewing that most Derogatory Derivative of the Word "Negro" until it had lost all its power to offend or he was reduced to a pale grease spot by an angry mob the likes of which are more commonly associated with Detroit winning the NBA championship.

That might be Classic Lenny, but Lenny, while not aligned with his times, was acutely aware of the times in which he lived. It is more likely that Modern Lenny would simply hop on the MARTA and armed with a smart phone take videos of those very people so quick to claim offense but who spew forth that very word as if an eighth grader filling verbal blanks and empty spaces with "like" or "you know". He would sample these into a hip-hop, beat-box satirical video sure to go viral on YouTube.

It is this unfettered non-offending use juxtaposed with oh so public claims of offense when used by others that makes this word both transcend racism and at the same time become the perfect embodiment of racism--new as well as old. And it defies logic even within the black community as it presents a conundrum so corrosive that it tears down many of the gains made by the Civil Rights movement. Even Oprah and Chris Rock cannot agree with one adamantly imposing a total ban and the other observing the futility of the ban whilst noting the ironic humour associated with allowable use vs suicidal utterance. This word no longer stands for just the racial hatred of the old South, but now represents a modern racial divisiveness that thrives on a new hatred which has rendered honest discussions of race in America nothing more than a bloodied mine field littered with the corpses of those who tried while the remaining generals of the Civil Rights movement laugh from the sidelines.

They have won their battle with one word their sword of victory. But they have slain with the edge not the point yielding a brutal and vulgar victory that may yet ring hollow because at the end of the day Paula Deen is being persecuted because of the money in her bank account and she is being judged not on her character but by the color of her skin. That is the very definition of racism.