Dr. Laura (whom I consider pompous and arrogant) is hardly a significant problem for Black people. The recent “cause celebre” about her insensitive use of the most offensive word in the English language is merely the latest obfuscation of the problem. If Dr. Laura donated $10 million to the NAACP and joined them on their next picket line, it would do nothing to relieve our disproportionate unemployment, illiteracy, low test scores, high dropout rate, venereal disease epidemic, premarital pregnancies, single parent families, high divorce rate, ridiculous murder rate, poverty, lack of home ownership, low credit scores, and I could go on and on.

Most Black people are embarrassed, burdened, and even threatened by those of us who proudly call themselves N***grs. They personify a dilemma that has plagued our race since slavery. Most of us escaped the slave mentality (being a N***gr) through literacy, but too many of us are still functionally illiterate and/or anti-intellectual, even today, a century and a half after chattel slavery.

In fact, if every racist (and, the jury is still out on Dr. Laura in this regard) in America recanted and vowed to support our Black agenda, it would have little bearing on our problems. It is easy to make others scapegoats for our sad situation, but it is difficult to come to grips with the solutions, because a significant number of us hold on to and perpetuate aspects of slave culture, i.e., teaching kids to dance but not to read. Our culture has become our curse, and we refuse to critique it because we take any criticism of any aspect (no matter how ignorant) of it as an attack upon us all.

So, we defend entertainers who pander to the despicable term, and even the most ignorant and illiterate among us who call themselves N***grs, because they can’t code switch. Therefore, they feel sanctioned, and the insidious traditions that go along with being a “real” N***gr don’t die; they multiply.

For example, hip hop culture celebrates gangs, so they grow; it champions profanity, so it’s more valued than standard English.

R&B celebrates fornication, adultery, and drinking, so the behaviors are entrenched in the African American tradition. But, those among us who know better (and most of us do) protest feebly, if we protest at all, and worse, we offer no equitable alternatives.

This decadent but dynamic culture controls the values in our public schools, consequently, most of our students are stunted. This very complex conundrum continues to resurface, because its solution is key to overcoming the African American community’s malaise. The debate is a healthy one, but name calling and scapegoating do nothing to advance it. Let us roll up our sleeves and do the really hard work–“100 percent literacy for African Americans (gangsters, too) by 2012.”


Donald Bakeer, a retired South Central L.A. English teacher and author of “N*GG*S – The Black Curse” (the book and the song).

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