Common Sense vs. Intelligence

By H. Lewis Smith

In a three-way conversation between Tavis Smiley, Dr. Michael Dyson and Dr. Cornel West on the justification of blacks using the n-word, the following ideas were exchanged during the discourse:

Tavis Smiley: “With all due respect to the power of your persuasive argument, your big mama and my big mama would stand here in front of you with all of your education and say you still ain’t got no business, under no circumstances whatsoever, ever uttering that word white folks put on us to demean us—period.”

Dr. Dyson: “There’s no question about that…but my pastor and others who would say [it]—referring to their congregation and their flocks who are highly learned, deeply erudite, profoundly scholarly, and who are able to understand both the folk and the vernacular tradition on one hand and the high learning foremost tradition on the other, [said] the word in an endearing fashion.”

It appears as though an attempt is being made to soften the use and encourage acceptance of the n-word because more affluent, educated, and outwardly intelligent African American audiences claim to understand and accept the word. Thus, since these intelligentsias have placed their blessing on using the word, referring to one another as the n-word should be an acceptable practice by all African Americans—regardless of socioeconomic status.

However, the basis of this argument stands on a couple of fallacies: Many other equally affluent, educated and intelligent African Americans despise the term, disallow themselves to be referred to as such, and have eradicated the idiom from their vocabulary. As well, during the conversation of these highly esteemed gentlemen, those arguing for the n-word failed to consider an extremely significant factor that greatly affects the soundness of their argument: common sense.

Given the past history of African Americans and the n-word, plain old common sense, which is defined as sound or practical judgment, suggests that it is not intuitively sensible for an African American to accept this word, drenched in ignorance, evil, immorality and corruption. Even with a high level of intelligence—the capacity for thought especially to a high degree, common sense must factor into the equation because it is the essential, instinctual element in developing one’s first thought about a subject.

Intelligence soon follows this initial thought, serves only as support to the common knowledge and should help individuals reason with why the n-word is unacceptable: The n-word was bestowed upon African Americas by slave masters, and represents every devious plot meant to destroy the black race; thus, is unacceptable. It is bewildering how individuals of such high levels of thought are blind to the insult that lies in the term. And even more perplexing is the fact that they argue in favor of using the term—and in an affectionate manner!

African Americans are so quick to shun other races for using the term, and demand total equality and respect. But how can one demand respect when they have no respect for themselves? One of the most prevalent drawbacks regarding the supposed desensitizing of the n-word among African Americans is that it is not a global or cross-cultural movement; the rest of human civilization recognizes the true purpose in and foundation of the word. The rest of the world indeed respects Black America for its musical, entertainment, and athletic abilities, but have absolutely no respect for our cerebral mindset.

This is due in part to the fact that African Americans continue to refer to themselves as a thing that was and is meant to dehumanize the race. Although many proponents of the n-word feel that their use and definition of the term differs from other races’ application and understanding, outside races only see the stigma attached to the term and, thus, perpetuate any thoughts of African Americans with that particular perception. Their thinking is such that if a person refers to themselves as a certain thing, they will embody that image and act as such. And because a “n**ger” was viewed as a sub-human, bestial and savage, other races neglect to respect and treat African American as equals, immediately become defensive toward African Americans, and continually ridicule the race—the true persona of the n-word.

Consider most recently Beijing, China, where attempts were made to ban blacks from Beijing bars in a pre-Olympic crackdown. In addition, Milo Bryant of the “Colorado Springs Gazette,” a black reporter, was all but ignored during press conferences by Chinese officials who refused to acknowledge his presence and would only solicit questions from white reporters.

Another put down of Blacks occurred in 2005 when Mexico had the audacity to print caricatures of Blacks on their postage stamps.

Countless incidences of condescending Blacks occur around the world—even in America. However, the most catastrophic and mind boggling of these incidences occurs right here in America by Black America. The Black community has proven to be very tolerable of anything destructive, degrading and demeaning from within. The poisonous lyrics of misogyny, crime, drugs; the glorification of ‘gangsta’ life and violence perpetuated by black rappers; and the use of the n-word are all self-destructive acts that contribute greatly to the demise and unfavorable image of the black community. The rest of the civilized world looks on in amazement, taking note, and heeding the messages sent about Black America from Black America—“straight out of the horse’s mouth.” No one takes the African American seriously. No wonder!

Dr. Dyson emphasized the linguistic creativeness of the younger generations’ use of the word, changing the suffix from “-er” to “-a”; however, changing the suffix does not transform the meaning of the term. (Pronouncing the word with an “-a” at the end is quite frankly nothing more than plain, old-fashion ghetto vernacular.) Where else in the world does a race of people take a word—that embodied mental genocide and perpetuated physical brutality upon their ancestors—and embrace it affectionately and endearingly? What other race of people devises justification after justification to continue to remain shackled, confined to a certain realm, and proudly flaunts the mark of oppression, degradation?

It is definitely the black community’s prerogative to demand respect, but good luck getting it collectively! In the end, African Americans are still referring to themselves as “n**ger”—or in more modern terms, “n**ga,” deafening others’ ears to Black America’s cry for respect.

In WEB Du Bois’ all-time, modernly-relevant classic The Souls of Black Folks, Du Bois notes that “[t]he opposition to Negro education in the South was at first bitter, and showed itself in ashes, insult, and blood; for the South believed an educated Negro to be dangerous.” Then Dr. Carter G. Woodson came along in 1933 and said in The Mis-Education of the Negro: Control a man’s mind and you don’t have to worry about his actions.

Although one may be highly educated in the educational system, or mis-educated according to Dr. Woodson, one can still be a dependent or controlled thinker. Obtaining an education was once thought of as the key to release African Americans from mental enslavement. Education unquestionably serves as the essential building block in unlocking one’s mind, and teaching an individual the basic fundamentals of reading and writing, but independent thought allows one to break the chains of ignorance and enter a state of heightened mind power where common sense always resides at the right side of intelligence.

At the end of the conversation, it was duly noted that the n-word was used in jest, as was also the case between Tavis and the rapper Nas in a separate conversation on the same subject. But who’s being mocked? White slave masters for embedding in African Americans a self-destructive mentality rooted so deeply that it goes unnoticed even by African Americans who continue to carryout the plight? Or are African Americans mocking the memories, struggles and sacrifices of ascendants who knew the intent of the term and literally felt its purpose through heinous acts during the “domestication” process? Certainly, no amusement was experienced in the atrocities perpetrated upon them, all in the name of the n-word.

In 1904, black sharecroppers Luther Holbert and his wife were chained to a tree. An audience of 600 white spectators enjoyed fine treats such as deviled eggs, lemonade and whiskey in a festive atmosphere while Mr. and Mrs. Holbert underwent atrocious and purely evil acts: first their fingers were chopped off one by one, then their ears, followed by a severe beating that left Mr. Holbert with one eye dangling from its fractured socket; next, “spirals…of raw, quivering flesh” were extracted from both Holberts with a corkscrew before the couple was finally burned alive. As they drew on their last breaths, the last words they heard were the jeers of “n**ger, n**ger, n**ger.”

All of these activities perpetuated upon the Holberts were done in the name of the n-word. The most ironic part of the matter, though, is that at least one person who condones, tolerates, and embraces the n-word is a descendant of Mr. and Mrs.Holbert; thus, this proponent of the n-word agrees with the malevolent acts perpetuated upon his great, great grandma and grandpa. Is that person you? Is that person your friend, family member, or acquaintance?

Perhaps one can intelligently justify acceptance of the 300-year-old African-American Holocaust, the n-word, and the supposed progress of Black America beyond allowing the n-word to negatively affect them. But, just because one is highly educated and can precisely articulate his argument does not make him right or smart by any standard—he just knows how to talk well and conduct research.

Common sense, which does not discriminate based on educational attainments, tells African Americans that embracing the n-word affectionately and endearingly “just ain’t right and don’t make no kind of sense.” The n-word should continue to be looked upon as a disfigurement to the African-American’s psyche and buried as far below the surface as those who lived to experience the true meaning of “n*gger.”

H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc., and author of Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word. Visit UVCC online at


7 Responses to “Common Sense vs. Intelligence”

  1. Common sense, and intellegence has left the building in too many of our black communities. We have suffered the worst dumbing down ever. And its not even being talked about. Being killed off silently without a fight. The chains of the slave master no longer has the desire to be on our hands and feet, but our minds. And they have succeeded. So many young blacks are addicted to what they consider the cool drug, marijuana. But its no more than a link in the chain to enslave us. We have made the makers of blunts over night millionaires because it is the choice product to use for weed. We have a leadership gap. I admire all the men featured in this piece, but for goodness sake they dont even get along. But all hope isnt lost. I do believe God will send us a leader, that will have the characteristics of Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, and Martin Luther King all in one. And will inspire a movement to bring ALL BLACK people around this globe together. And when that happens white man watch out. Every dog has their day. And theres is coming soon trust that.

    • I hear this often. Do you really think that black people are going to rise up and take over (watch out whitey…)? Thats the mentality that holds us down. We don’t need a malcom x, a Martin Luther the King, etc… etc.. We just need to focus on our kids, our families, on our education. We need to get it together and stop thinking of ourselves as slaves, and start thinking of ourselves with respect, and only then will we be able to KNOW in our minds that we are equal with all men. It’s YOUR mentality that holds us down. There will be no day where the black man runs the world, not at the rate we are mixing. We simply need to learn that morals, education, and family is the key to success and peace, and thats what we all really want right?

      • Well stated John! I would hope that if a black man runs the world, he would promote love for one another, the importance of a good education, the need for good male role-models in the family…in otherwords, build unity among all men. The last thing we need is more prejudice and hate between members of our species.

  2. It is with high regard, respect, recognition, admiration and compliments to Mr. H. Lewis Smith for this great read here for the education of us all. It is a shame how part of our struggle is having more pride, dignity and respect amongst our selves. I am one who is in constant argument with friends, family and associates of all kinds about the word and usage of. It is a shame how black entertainment (comedy, movies, rap music etc.etc.etc) is doing the worst to keep perpetuation of this going on and on. I would like to see how many black people can go around and be comfortable calling their mother and father this word all the time. I wonder how many would like to think of grandparents and all the ancestors as this word. I have known the disheartenment of black children when they were in classroom and other enviroments and their self esteem greatly damaged by what are the tear down thoughts of others. As I have said here already it is a shame that this has to be part of our struggle in a year when we are so close to having a proud historical moment happen. I feel all of the Black African American Community of good people are my brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins, and none of these people are[you know]. Thank you for allowing my two cents worth here.

    Charles Says___ your comments are right on time here my brother my compliments on what you say here.

  3. Lets Stop!!!1

  4. Thank you
    This is a cool website.

  5. Mary Heather O'Brien Says:

    THIS is a perfect EXAMPLE of why it is *not*
    a moral wrong to STERILIZE BLACK MALES
    (while still others should be castrated) – and then
    then move on to also sterilize the black females.

    They are the ONLY group in history to contribute
    nearly NOTHING to society — other than violence,
    low brain-functioning offspring (who they, in their
    arrogance and ignorance, then force society to raise),
    leeching off of others, disease, sexual irresponsibility
    demands for preferential-treatment; constant-whining;
    and (as evidenced in case-after-case) double-standards.

    Even though there is the occasional, anomalous black
    who has honestly ‘bootstrapped their way to the success’
    — everyone know that 99% of all of the black people, in
    general and all over the world, should simply be sterilized

    If our society considers itself to be “moral” then we all know
    that sterilization (and often castration) of the black male is
    the most decent, most moral choice we can make for them.

    The procedure is cheap and painless AND it helps prevent
    the arrival of innocent offspring being brought into a world
    where those who sired them care nothing about them and
    where they are forced to live as mental and moral inferiors.

    As a society it is TRULY our MORAL DUTY to do this for them.

    It’s a win-win for everyone involved and also for the entire planet.

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