Essentially “Nigger”

Pardon my use of the n-word. But before I get to vindicating myself, a few things. I promised a review of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I have been unable to fulfill this promise because I have been unable to read the book. To be specific, I have been unable to get past the first page. I therefore cannot say much about it and I will reserve any fully fleshed review for the day when I am actually able to read it (although I suspect this day may never come). In short, I did not like the first page and this prevented me from going further.

What I have enjoyed reading, however, is the short book, “Aime Cesaire, poete martiniquais.” This marks the official beginning of my research on the Negritude movement. For the next couple of weeks, I will attempt to answer the question “what is Negritude?” But even as I do this, so many questions come up alongside. One phrase that Cesaire uses stands out in my mind. He cautions against “de-niggerfying the nigger.” Unless you want to translate “negre” to mean Negro, then why is it acceptable to use the n-word in academia? Why is this important movement called the “niggerness” movement. Wouldn’t “blackness” (noiresse? noiceur? noiritude? Help Rethabile) have done the job? Why can Cesaire and Senghor make claims about taking back ownership of the n-word and rappers today cannot?

My second question is actually one I’ve been wanting to post on for a while now. The post in my mind has been called “Problematizing Essentialism.” According to the book I’ve just read, the 3 fathers of negritude used a very interesting approach in developing their concept. Here’s my (probably flawed) translation:

[they] attempted to define the nigger by that which was his own and was common to all niggers, and also by the counter-values of the white race. This led them to conceptualize a “nigger archetype,” profoundly distinct from the other racial archetypes, although sometimes identical.

So here’s my second question of the day: is there any such thing as “essentially nigger” or essentially black? After barely 2 years in the US, I have quickly come to realize that some things are considered “black” and others “white.” A black person who dresses preppy is immediately an “Oreo” or “Incog-Negro.” I still haven’t figured out the name for a white person who acts “ghetto.” I am not particularly dying to know. What I am dying to know is if there are things that are inherently black or inherently white. Is there value in classifying things this way? Why do we feel the need to do it?

The questions could continue. They do continue and so does my research. Now I want to know, is it possible to “de-niggerfy a nigger?” What are the implications?