The thing about the word “Nigger” that we’re coming to realize with Rick Santorum’s telling slip-of-tongue is how it truly operates.
Nigger is not, like people commonly believe, just a rude way of referring to a black person. It isn’t simply a bastardization of the Spanish “Negro”.
It is a leveler. An oral devastation of sorts. A place-putting, a head-bower.
I truly realized the power of “Nigger” when a friend of mine took me to her friend’s house where she lived with husband and his two buddies. They were skinheads who were obviously not happy with my being there.
One of them was watching “Hitch”, featuring Will Smith. Will Smith, for those who don’t know, is an enormously successful and rich black Hollywood actor whose career spans decades. This skinhead more than likely didn’t past high school and lived in a trailer park, playing video games, getting high, and shooting BB guns at beer cans all day. When asked about what he was watching by someone else in the house, he said “The movie with that nigger Will Smith.”
With that, they switched stations. The skinhead was no longer a lower-class white male with little education and bleak prospects. Will Smith ceased to be an accomplished prosperous man with the world as his oyster. Will Smith was just a nigger, and the skinhead could laugh and spit on that, easily.
When I got home I hid in my closet and cried. Cried not because it hurt my feelings but because no matter what I did, how hard I worked, how far I went, I was always going to just be a “Nigger” to some. An uppity bitch leaving her station.
That is the true nature of anti-black racism in this country. Even one of the men who lynched Emmett Till said himself that he had “no problem with niggers”, he wasn’t a bully. He just liked them “in their place”. In our place, under your boot, quiet and castrated and cowed, right whitey? President Obama was a nigger who stepped out of his place, and Rick Santorum was more than eager to remind him of this sin.