While hanging out with two self-proclaimed “Niggas in Paris,” A-List actress Gwyneth Paltrow — who for some reason can often be found shaking what her mama gave her somewhere in the vicinity of Jay-Z – decided to tweet that she was with “Ni**as in Paris for real.”
And the Civil Rights police turned on their loud sirens and went to work.
If you’ll notice by that first sentence, there’s a lot of “nigga” throwing going on, yet there was no outcry until the white woman said it. One has to question why exactly it’s perfectly acceptable for two, adult black men (Jay-Z and Kanye West) to make a song about a couple of “niggas” ballin’ in the City of Lights, but when their white friend tweets the name of the song, she’s all of a sudden racist.
[Side note: This criticism is directed towards those black people who say the word “nigga” freely or have no issue with it unless it comes from the mouth of a non-black person. If you do not condone the use of the word by anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, then the “hypocrite” label does not apply to you.]
It’s this kind of backwards thinking that always amazes me. Many in our communities have co-opted a word created specifically by white Americans to degrade black Americans; yet when we say it it’s supposed to be an inclusive thing. It’s the unofficial logo on the “Black card,” accepted anywhere that you can find a group of “niggas.”
I’ve never understood the semantics hoops some black people go through to justify the word’s usage. No matter which way you slice it or dice it, brotha is short for brother; sista is short for sister; and nigga is short for nigger. The word is no different when used predominantly by black people in financial bondage or living in prison slave quarters, than when used by a white plantation owner. It amounts to nothing more than bastardized slang and they know it.
Re-enter Gwyneth Paltrow.
She had no idea that her words would cause such a maelstrom of controversy. Why? Because it’s the title of a song written by black men and since when is it a white woman’s job to show more respect for Jay-Z and Kanye West than they show for themselves? (And as Kanye told a recent Parisian crowd, he’ll grant them permission to say it, you know, to sing along). For anyone to find her words in any way disrespectful or culturally insensitive — while simultaneously Diddy-boppin’ along to lyrics — would require such a giant leap into insanity that I would suggest they seek professional help. To be honest, I even get the fellas point of using the word in this song. If we’re to sift through the negative historical and societal associations with the word, it’s easy to see that what they are saying is, “Look, society calls us niggas, but now these niggas are in Paris and white people are paying thousands to come see us.” It’s a rags-to-riches tale of two homegrown “niggas” making it from the hood all the way to Paree. It’s exhilarating, cathartic, validation and confirmation that they’ve made it to the big leagues. Instead of shucking and jiving in the United States, they can now do it in Europe – and doesn’t it feel grand?
If anyone should offer an apology to the insulted masses of black folk, it’s those two for crafting such an ignorant song.
Still…just as I heavily criticized the censorship of the word “nigger” in Huckleberry Finn, I defend Gwyneth’s regurgitation of the word “niggas” here. She has an appreciation of the commercialized Hip-Hop that she has been spoon-fed. She respects Jay-Z and his art. She’s proud of him for being a “nigga in Paris,” just as he’s proud of himself.
Maybe it’s time that those who are screaming “off with her head” all over the internet redirect that anger to the real source. You know, her “friends,” Jay-Z and Kanye who have yet to come to her defense, even as “The Dream” and Russell Simmons jump in to protect her from criticism (The Dream now claims he sent the tweet from Paltrow’s phone). If “nigga” is the terminology of oppression for the black folks who cried wolf, then they must also realize that degradation will always be degradation – even if the oppressors have black faces.