About That “Niggas Be Like” Meme

Memes, the modern day avenue for comedic relief on social media delivered directly to your desktops, laptops and smartphones. While some can be quite offensive it is the ability for any individual to customise a given picture with a caption that is most attractive about them. I mean how many of us could attend a comedy gig and find that the comedian does material personalised towards us? Very rarely. Meme’s are fine by me and some can be quite funny but the fact that the phrase ‘niggas be like’ exist on every meme that is the problem for me.

I am not a person directly affected by the commodification of this word, so I cannot pretend to speak of experiences I have not encountered. Nevertheless the fact that the term finds itself becoming further popularised in mainstream culture through meme’s presents a variety of problems for everyone. Firstly the online commodification of the term brings with it the eventuality that someone somewhere in the opposite side of the world is shouting out the word without any understanding of the term and it’s offensive nature. More importantly that the individual blurting out the term doesn’t fully understand it’s history is a major issue because they are simply furthering societal ignorance in my eyes.

You cannot separate the word from its long history. It would be like trying to separate the events of the second world war from the term WW2, it is ridiculous to even attempt in doing so and you’d just find yourself on Question Time in a matter of days being called every name under the sun!

The term itself is quite fluid and dynamic in the affiliations made with it historically, but it can never be denied that its history is soaked in blood for generations of people from lynching to the inhumane treatment of slaves. Generally speaking the word has previously found its place in popular culture through mainstream rap and hip-hop with middle-upper class non-black listeners, listeners who find it perfectly normal to use it as part of their everyday vocabulary. Now the music industry in my eyes is small potatoes to what the Internet is currently in the process of doing.

niggas-be-like-bin-laden-meme (1)Just type the phrase ‘ni**as be like’ on google you will be overwhelmed by the amount of social network accounts titled specifically ‘ni**as be like’. The Facebook page host 2.2 million likes where as the twitter page has 127 thousand followers with various accounts on Instagram hosting a thousand followers. What I feel meme’s are currently in the process of doing through such popular accounts is further endorsing the use of the word, but for new audiences! New non-black audiences who do not fully understand the lengthy and bloody history of the word, I am no history expert either! These new audiences who would otherwise shudder at the thought of being called a racist for using the term are now are able to use ‘ni**’ because it’s plastered all over the net and seen by these new audiences on a daily bases. Ultimately making it normalised.

The ‘likes’, ‘follower’s etc for these accounts show the growing popularity of such pages, however what makes the situation very absurd is the fact that a lot (not all) of the material released by such accounts (although rude) has little to do with black men or black people for that matter.

Any apologist would be joyous at such news stating no direct harm is being done! However the expansion of the word as an umbrella definition for online comedy presents a much bigger issue like I have explained.

My greatest fear is that we may find white/brown/yellow/red (and whatever colour we have been designated) who are aware of the history of the word but willfully ignore the implications of its use for ‘light humour’ or ‘banter’. The more the word becomes accepted and synonymous with present day things in our life the more easier it becomes to erase it’s history, a history already shunted by the British education system.

niggas-be-like-job-meme (1)It is neither my place nor my desire to tell you what to say or do; I am as humanly imperfect as anyone reading this piece. One day soon a black person ignited by the contradictory nature of this situation will do a piece much better then I ever could for I am not at the receiving end of this modern day dilemma. But here I feel we are presented with a scenario where society’s fickle nature becomes ever so visible. Laughter and comedic relief is only human instinct, it is the fundamental part of what makes us who we are. However it seems that when it comes to humour with a racial overtone we all enjoy a laugh…just at the expense of one part of the human family. Moreover I can bet all the coins in my pocket that if tomorrow the phrase was to be altered to ‘crack*rs be like’ then this meme craze would crumble in the matter of days. Ironically it seems the laugh’s on us all for we are furthering ignorance and racism in practice while preaching tolerance and education, enough comedy for you?