Monday, August 6, 2012

Niggers, Internationally

To preface this post I would like to say there are very few black people in Buenos Aires. Most of the population was imported from Western Europe during the early 1900s and it is very homogeneously white.

              I had a very interesting conversation with my host cousin (I guess that is what I would call him) while watching the United States vs. Argentina basketball Olympic game. We were watching and nothing was out of the ordinary. He speaks English with minimal mistakes and I speak Spanish with many mistakes, but we are able to communicate well. While watching the game he remarked to me about the US winning and he said something along the lines of "Oh, those niggers!" and I was so taken aback and I thought I had misheard him and I just carried on as if nothing happened. He then strikes up a conversation with me about how it is very common in Buenos Aires to call black people niggers and he asked me how common it is in the US. I told him that if he ever goes to the US, he should never, never under any circumstances use that word or any derivative or it when talking to anyone or about anyone black or white or otherwise. Then he asked me why black people say it to each other and I explained to him that it is something that black people can say to each other and to white people, but that he, as a white male should never say it, ever. He responded by saying that in American movies black people say it all the time.

           He then explained to me that it is a word they use to talk about someone who is lazy or a thief or generally someone with no morals or money. They use that word to talk negatively about people from Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay who are considered to be poor and have darker skin that most Argentines because their populations have more indigenous roots than Buenos Aires. In Buenos aires they use this term loosely and in normal conversation. After this he asked me about a scenario.

For example: He is in America and he just got mugged by someone who is black and he sees a
 black police officer and he wants to tell the policeman what happened. What would the cop
do if he said that the man who robbed him was a nigger?

My response was that the police officer would probably arrest you or not take you seriously about the mugging and you would get no justice.

He was shocked. In Argentina, he uses that term in some of the following ways:

    If someone is poor or lazy, they are a nigger.
    If someone is winning at something or you thing they are treating you unfairly, they are a nigger.
    If there is something that you generally don´t like, it is a nigger.

            Shortly after this conversation we went to dinner and he recounted it to his grandmother, my host mother in Spanish and he tells her the ways that it is used in the US and then she says it at the dinner table and I almost fell out of my chair. First, my host mother is 80 years old and she is so sweet and I could not imagine her ever saying something like that, even though I know it means something totally different in their culture and it is not necessarily attached to racial connotations when they say it, but I disagree.

           Of course they do not realize that  the ways in which they use the word are discriminatory and reflect the negative connotations of black Americans shown in American media, for instance that black people are lazy, poor and criminals. They talked about how it is not attached to race when they use it, but the word, no matter how you use it has racial undertones and even though they are not using it to talk about African Americans like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, they use it to talk about Peruvians, Paraguayan, and Bolivians.

 It seems like no matter how much progress we make in getting away from those stereotypes, they will always linger, maybe not overtly, but someone, somewhere will always be calling someone a nigger.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the validity of the opinion about the use of the word nigger by all Argentines, this is simply the information I gleaned from one conversation with one Argentine.

1 comment:

  1. A rose by any other name is still a rose...... isn't it amazing?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...