We Are Holding Ourselves in Bondage

After I had a heated debated with my very intelligent brother, Kevin Edwards, I had to sit down to write this scathing column about Damon Wayans and his sad attempt to trademark the term “Nigga” for his proposed clothing line and retail store.

Incredibly, Wayans and a whole lot of other people of color – like my brother – see absolutely nothing wrong with promoting the use of a degrading racial slur that has been used as a verbal weapon against blacks for centuries.

I, however, see this subject through the eyes of someone much older – someone, like, Wayans’ father or grandfather possibly, who, I am fairly certain, had to battle racism and the “N” word on an almost daily basis when they were both young men. Which, coincidentally, makes me wonder how Wayan’s family members feel about the subject.

At any rate, let me make my argument against Wayans and his supporters.

Now, when I initially broached the subject with my brother, he was totally unaware of the ongoing saga and the national media attention it is garnering. However, he quickly rose to Wayans’ defense by saying things like, “We have other more important issues to worry about” and “Maybe he has another purpose for all of this.” As a matter of fact, one of my brother’s comments became the basis and headline for this article.

Incredibly, I couldn’t – and still can’t – fathom where this line of thinking could originate. I agree with my brother’s comment on the fact that African-Americans have a lot more important issues to deal with, but realistically, this exact thought process – combined with a lot of other factors – is at the very core of what is ailing African-Americans across the country.

How can our young people – who use this word so freely these day – and really don’t care about how it was used to degrade their ancestors – ever understand where they are going if they never take the time to research their past?

What’s even more bothersome to me is that it seems that most of our young people today don’t even seem to care about anything that ever went on in the world before they came into existence.

It is truly a sad day, when our government, which is in its own state of ineptness, has to save us from our own selves. Thankfully, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has adamantly rejected Wayans twice so far, which says a lot in itself since he obviously didn’t get the message the first time.

Trademark examiner Kelly Boulton rejected the registration dated Dec. 22, citing a law that prohibits marks that are “immoral or scandalous.” A previous attempt by Wayans was turned down on identical grounds six months earlier.
“While debate exists about in-group uses of the term, ‘nigga’ is almost universally understood to be derogatory,” Boulton wrote to Wayans’ attorney, William H. Cox, according to the application.

“The very fact that debate is ongoing regarding in-group usage, shows that a substantial composite of African-Americans find the term ‘nigga’ to be offensive,” Boulton wrote in rejecting Wayans.

Now before I go any further, let me say that Wayans isn’t the first person to ever attempt this boneheaded stunt.
In 1995, Marc Anthony Fitzgerald and Fred Harris of Houston sought to trademark the words “Naturally Intelligent God Gifted Africans” as an acronym. In 1999, Scapheld Productions in Cincinnati sought to trademark the phrase, “Rilniga – any individual true to his actions and or statements.”

In 2000, Damon James of Houston put “Field” in front of the word and tried to trademark it. In ’01, Wayde Jeffery Davis of New Orleans tried to trademark a 78-word phrase that ended with the N-word. In 2003 rolled around, Keon Rhodan of Charleston, S.C., wanted to trademark the term “Nigga Clothing” with no success.

I was also the first person in the country to interview the creator (David Chang) of the now defunct board game “Ghettopoly,” so Wayans doesn’t corner the market on stupidity, but he certainly has the highest profile of any of the predecessors who tried to patent the “N-word” before him.

To shoot down my brother’s other possibility that Wayans could have some deeper, hidden motive for wanting to make the term his own, I don’t believe it. I’m also wondering exactly how intelligent the man is at this point. I mean, it’s not like the man is starving or anything. Unlike the others who tried before him, Wayans is already a millionaire a few times over and doesn’t need the money.

Wayans’ intentions are also crystal clear from looking at his application. Wayans wants a retail store “featuring clothing, books, music and general merchandise.” He also wants to go global with online shopping available.

One of the things that bothers me most is the fact that a lot of our youth today say the word is a term of affection, and while I agree to a certain extent that Hip-Hop has redefined it for today’s youth, I must also say that I think that rationale is extremely bogus as well because the majority of black youths who use that word so freely amongst themselves, will go berserk if a Caucasian used that same term with racist connotations.

Wayans’ application, whether right or wrong, really serves no purpose except for monetary gain – and I, for one, say it is a sad day when a black man has to sell his own ancestry down the river for a couple of bucks.

If Damon Wayans can look himself in the mirror and sleep well at night knowing this, then I say let him live with it and everything else that comes along with it.

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