Dear Mr. Chappelle:
I write to you as a Black man who is nearly 30 years your senior. I have admired your social and political commentary over the years. I recently watched 8:46 and found it to be very provocative and informative. Nevertheless, I have only one question: Why do you and so many other Black rappers and comedians feel it necessary to lace your profound messages with the N-word?
May I remind you that all groups in America, including Italians, Irish, Jews, Japanese, Chinese, Native Americans, and Mexicans have been victims of racial epithets; yet WE ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO TOLERATE AND EVEN FLAUNT OUR DEGRADATION! (Lest we forget, the N-word was the last utterance of sneering White mobs before they lynched over four thousand Black people in this country. The N-word was also the term that Travis McMichael spoke over the dead body of jogger Amaud Arbery after McMichael shot him three times in cold blood in Georgia. Furthermore, Mary Trump, whose recent bestselling book reveals secrets about her family, has stated that the president has contempt for Black people and has used the N-word in her presence. As a matter of fact, Brother Chappelle, during this Age of Trump, the Internet is filled with hostile exchanges between Black people and Whites in which White people spew forth the N-word with hatred and bitterness. So why must you use it?)
I understand that you have a lovely Asian wife. I have never heard you speak of Asian people as Flips, Chinks or Japs. That of course, would be very disrespectful. Can’t you see that many Black people find your use of the N-word to be disrespectful to us? We cannot condemn White people for the use of that word while we flaunt it so shamelessly.
It’s gotten so bad here in California that youths of all races now routinely address each other with the rap endorsed and promoted N-word. As a matter of fact, I have often thought that, if a White man approaches me and shouts, “You damn Ni-ger,” I will not take offense. I will simply ask, “Sir, are you a rapper or a comedian?”
Seriously, one of our most renowned comedians, Richard Pryor, often used the N-word during his career. But after visiting the continent of Africa and marveling over our magnificent history and cultures, he vowed to cease using the word and maintained that commitment to the end of his life.
During this time when two Black men have been hung in California, several have been killed by policemen and a global uprising is affirming our dignity and cries for justice, there simply is no justification for casual use of the N-word. It has been weaponized against our people for centuries, and it boggles the mind as to why prominent Black comedians and rappers are so fascinated by its use.
I realize that the decision you make regarding this matter is personal; however, please bear in mind that as a public figure your influence reaches far and wide; and may well have an impact not only on how we and our children view us as a people but also on how the broader world perceives us.
You are a valuable Black spokesperson who has pricked the conscience of this nation. I humbly suggest that your message may be even more profound and persuasive if it is conveyed without the use of a word that has caused so much such pain and suffering to the masses of our people.
Legrand H. Clegg, II
Legrand H. Clegg II is the City Attorney emeritus for Compton, California, president of the Western Region of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations and producer of the documentary, “When Black People Ruled The World.” He may be contacted at [email protected] or at his Long Beach, CA office at (562) 624-2857. To read more extensive articles covering some of the issues herein, he may be contacted on Instagram @legrandclegg.