What do Jay Z and I have in common? We're both making a public vow to stop using the b-word.
In light of his daughter Blue Ivy Carter's birth, Shawn Carter (better known as Jay Z) announced in an open letter that he was going to stop using the word in his songs and life. Fatherhood has made him realize the hateful implications of this particular word--one he has capitalized on throughout his career with hit songs such as "99 Problems" and "B----- and Sisters". I think this is another step in the right direction for Carter. He gained some serious cred in my book at the 2011 MTV VMAs when he refused to clap for convicted woman-beater Chris Brown.
I'm one of those curmudgeons who Don't Do New Year's Resolutions. If I want to change a habit, I can do it whenever I am moved to actually change and not on some arbitrary date. But this year on New Year's Eve, I was called a bitch to my face in an act of hate speech. I was pissed off that this bro called me that name when all I was doing was standing up for myself in a polite exchange. It seemed way harsh! As the night wore on and my rage burned like embers, I thought of all the times I had used the word with intent to hurt. What did it really mean when I called someone--anyone--a bitch? The connotation implies that the person is being a difficult, stubborn, unpleasant woman. Even if the subject is male, it's using femininity as an insult which is not cool. As minor as it was, it was this instance that made a word that my friends and I use too-casually into a slur.
I announced my resolution to some buds with surprising responses. Even the most progressive of the bunch were puzzled, thinking I had tipped too far into the realm of over-zealous political-correctness. A few got defensive, explaining that they only use it in jest. I get it! I used to feel the same way. But I think instead of trying to make the slur more acceptable, or "own" it, we should use our collective effort to eradicate it. Just watch network television. It's unreal how many times the word flies on regular, prime-time programming. The more it's used, the more okay it becomes and, well, that's not okay!
I know Jay Z is going to get a ton of flack for his announcement. It's a nuanced topic. What does it take to make a person realize the actual meaning of a word when it's rooted in hate? In an ideal world, it'd be intrinsic knowledge. But this world isn't ideal and sometimes it takes becoming a parent or having your feelings hurt to realize how degrading a word can be. Here's his letter below--what do y'all think?
Before I got in the game, made a change, and got rich,
I didn’t think hard about using the word B—-.
I rapped, I flipped it, I sold it, I lived it
now with my daughter in this world
I curse those that give it.
I never realized while on the fast track
that I’d give riddance to the word bitch, to leave her innocence in tact.
No man will degrade her, or call her out her name
the women won’t despise her and call her the same.
I know it’s gonna miss me
cuz we been together like Nike Airs and crisp tees
when we all used to hang out front
singing 99 problems but a lady ain’t one.
Excuse me miss, can I be your mister
cuz I can tell the difference from a little girl and a sister,
She never grew up, her father left her alone
I promise not to talk like we used to
until Kingdom Come.
I’m so focused on your future,
The degradation has passed
I wish you wealth, health, and insight
forever young you may pass.
Blue Ivy Carter, my angel.
Text source Oh No They Didn't