A Dutch magazine, Jackie, has caused some controversy by leading with the headline “Niggerbitch” in an article about the Barbados born American music star Rihanna. As usual this has drawn the fire of people who want the head of the Editor. The write up, translated in English is below:
They’ve got street cred, they’ve got a ghetto ass, and they can sing well. Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate niggabitch and loves to carry herself as such which in her case means; dressing half-naked. Unfortunately, Dutch winters are nothing like Jamaican winters (who said Rihanna is from Jamaica?) so choose a style that will allow you to withstand the harsh weather conditions. No oversized sunglasses and porn heels but leopard print, pink ‘’shizzle’’ and everything else that shines.
In the book, A man of peace in a world of war written by Stanley Meisler, a story is told about how Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian former UN secretary general, visited a white barber to have his haircut in a Southern state in America. This was in the era of Martin Luther King and the American civil rights movement. The story goes that the white barber retorted after being asked by the young Kofi Annan who was a student at the time that “I do not cut nigger hair.” To which Kofi Annan apparently replied “I am not a nigger, I am an African.” Kofi Annan ends up getting his hair cut.
Kofi Annan’s tactic in disassociating himself from the “American Black” may have served him well but perhaps did nothing to make the point that the N word is unacceptable. It did nothing to stop the white barber from using the word in future or from getting a sense of the pain felt by those to whom it is targeted at. This was decades ago though, so perhaps Kofi might be forgiven for saving himself from further abuse or worse a lynching.
However, when the same emotive word is used in 2011, not in private but in a popular magazine then it makes one wonder if either the word has lost its painful impact and can now be freely used in polite society or that as is not untypical with human beings we are slowly regressing to the dark ages.
Regardless of whether or not we are moving foward or backward, what gives me food for thought is the way both handled being called a nigger.
Rihanna took to the almighty twitter to vent her frustration and to make what was a forceful point:
@evajackie I hope u can read english, because your magazine is a poor representation of the evolution of human rights! I find you disrespectful, and rather desperate!! You ran out of legit, civilized information to print! There are 1000′s of Dutch girls who would love to be recognized for their contributions to your country, you could have given them an article. Instead, u paid to print one degrading an entire race! That’s your contribution to this world! To encourage segregation, to mislead the future leaders to act in the past! You put two words together”
Rihanna may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, unlike Kofi Annan she stood up, albeit in a much more “friendly” world and with the power of a global super star for herself. The magazine has now been forced to ditch their 8 year veteran Editor. In a statement she siad “I have undermined my credibility. These errors, however unintentional they were, can only lead to my departure,”
The impact of this saga may have had a far greater effect on others who may be subjected to that level of abuse than perhaps Rihanna herself realises. For that she needs to be commended.