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  • Aanya Bhushan

Jim Crow and the N word

The year was 1828. Segregation was at its peak and consistently present in every realm of life. Hospitals, institutions, restrooms, clubs and virtually everything was segregated. From books to newspapers to TV, everything portrayed the discrimination present in that time. It was so universally accepted that people did not even question it. People of colour did not stand up for their rights because their environment led them to believe that they were inferior to the whites, who were portrayed as a superior race, more tame, more sophisticated, more cultured and clever. The white community had shrewdly brainwashed the black community into thinking that they were inferior to the Caucasians.

Imagine, you as a person in the 1800’s, wake up, stroll to the kitchen and make yourself some pancakes. You see the face of Aunt Jemima, a black woman, on the bottle of maple syrup. She was a stereotype of black women of that era. She was illustrated as a wholesome elderly lady, unattractive to the standard of those times, and desexualized. You switch the T.V. on to watch a popular game show of that time, The African Dodger. In the game, white participants attempt to hurl balls at black people’s faces in cardboard cutouts. All this abuse was projected towards black people just for a couple of laughs from white people. The T.V. showed that black people were victims of white humour. It demonstrated that people thought that demeaning black people was peak comedy. Tired, you sigh and switch to another channel. Funky music plays as the leading comedian of the era appears, with over-lined lips and kohl on his face. He dances around as he sings tunes in a southern accent, “Jump, Jim Crow!”

This was Thomas ‘Rice’ Dartmouth, a playwright. He wrote this song based on the tune of a black slave on a rice farm, Jim Crow, who sang this song for his own amusement. Due to abuse from his white masters, he had dislocated his hip and his shoulder, making him handicapped. Rice mocked his posture and his Southern black accent and used ‘blackface’ as comedy. Other white comedians and showmen like him further followed this route and gave birth to ‘blackface comedy’ - a racist interpretation of black people and their culture, highly prevalent in an era of segregation and white supremacy.

Jim Crow went beyond just a comedy show. The name was used to refer to violent, racist laws that marked an era of struggle for people of colour. Jim Crow laws were downright repulsive and derogatory. Black people were legally required to not enter ‘white only’ places like bars, clubs, buses, water fountains and swimming pools. Interracial marriage was banned and even things that were not banned were looked down upon and considered controversial. White people considered them to be ‘foul’ and ‘dirty’. If a black person dared to break these rules, they would face a violent, bloody death. It was the fear of death spread by a predominantly white government that kept the black community silent. Jim Crow laws were regularly recognized and enforced by the state and to this day are held responsible for it. Jim Crow laws brainwashed the average black person into thinking that they were not equal to whites, as every single law prohibited things that could indicate equality, thus completely shunning the interests of the black people.


Not only were laws made, everyday language also included racist slurs. This slur is now infamously known as the ‘N word’ and is rightfully considered unspeakable on all grounds. The N word is an ethnic slur referring to African-American slaves and was used to degrade black people. It is derived from the Latin adjective ‘niger’ meaning black. It has largely lost its racist connotations (when used by black people) as they have proudly reclaimed it and use it in their art and general language. It still has racist connotations when the word is used against a black person by a non-black individual. The topic on who can say the N word is controversial but, according to numerous experts, it can only be used by members of the black community, even if not African-American. Note: Not all black people are African! Black people come from various regions of the world, like the Pacific Islands, Caribbean, etc. Many modern day Black Americans with African genetics also choose to not identify as African. Though the word is used in songs by black artists, it is wrong to sing along or mouth the word because such an action is ignorant of its racist past.


The year is 2022 and people of colour have made drastic progress in terms of rights. There have been movements such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ that have contributed to the educating of non-black folk about the tragic history (and present) that the black community has suffered. The struggle is not over yet and there is much more to fight for. We, as non-black people, can contribute to this cause by educating ourselves on black history, using our platforms to spread awareness, donating to organisations and supporting black-owned businesses. We must stop racism when we see it happening in front of us, because seeing evil happen and not ceasing it is just as bad as supporting evil.


Bibliography:

  1. Dr Pilgrim, David. “Thomas Rice” Ferris State University. Sep, 2012. Web. 29 Sep, 2022.

  2. <https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/who/index.htm>

  3. Dr Pilgrim, David. “The Jim Crow Museum” Jim Crow Museum. 29 Apr, 2013. Video. 29 Sep, 2022. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf7jAF2Tk40&t=1081s >

  4. n.a. “A Brief History of Jim Crow” Constitutional Rights Foundation. n.d. Web. 29 Sep, 2022.



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nandinimahori
12 thg 10, 2022

ur so right 4

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