Nigga Fest

Many moons ago I encountered an instance of racism that still sticks with me today. My response to the racist remark wasn’t the best reaction, and maybe that’s why it still bothers me so much. It might have been a cold weekend night, but what I can say for sure is that I was drunk and in college and looking for a party.

I was walking toward the Alumni apartment complex on my campus. Coming toward me was a friend of mine, accompanied by a couple of his friends. As they got closer, I asked if they were coming from a party and if it was any good. Now, just to set the scene, I am African-American and my friend was Dominican, but the two guys with him were white. Upon the asking of my question one of his friends responded, “It’s a nigga fest.”

My response to this remark was to throw my hands up and shout “Wooooooo!” and run in the direction of the party. To me the ultimate and ideal party would be a “nigga fest.” But to hear that coming from a white person in such an off-handed manner was unbelievably offensive. More than anything I was disappointed in myself for not addressing the blatant racism. But I never really was one for confrontation.

I’m a frequent user of the word nigga. Among my black friends it means love and admiration. But it always carries the concealed baggage of its original meaning, which is to belittle and demean black people, whenever I hear non-black people use it. There’s no racial epithet that has quite the same power to destroy someone’s spirit than to be called a nigger. We use it amongst each other as a way to cope with and laugh through the pain, a pain that will never be experienced by anyone who isn’t black. So they don’t understand the weight of what it means in its fully racist connotation. Additionally, these conversations can always turn volatile at the drop of a hat. One minute it’s all jokes, and the next harsh words are being exchanged.

To round it all out, I’ve never been chased by the Klan, told I wasn’t good enough because I was black, or seen one of my own hanging from a tree. But this was my moment, a chance to change someone’s mind, really impact the way they thought, and address their poor choice of words. But maybe it’s a double-edged sword, because I really was looking for a “nigga fest.” Being at a predominantly white institution can be incredibly isolating for a person of color, and I found total comfort being around my own. But the fact that these guys left the party because it was mostly black people, listening to black music, and doing black things, spoke volumes about how they view black people.

This world isn’t made for us. It’s a sad reality, one I face every day when I leave the security of my home. This isn’t the end of my story. Many more things will happen to me over the course of my life. And maybe I’ll just have to throw my hands up, shout “Wooooooo!” and run in its direction.

-Khari

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