this disclaimer before I state my case. I am a cusser in rehab, a 12-step program.
Most of the people I know cuss – I’m talking about the saved and the unsaved. At least three times a year, I try to stop cussing and I do pretty good for a couple of days. My favorite word is the F-word, now I know that’s crazy as hell to say favorite word and “F” in the same sentence — I said I’m in rehab.
I try to stop because usually cussing is almost always accompanied by ignorant behavior. I’m not saying that cussing and ignorant behavior are brother and sister, but I’m pretty sure they are first cousins.
The only thing crazier than cussing is when we try and justify cussing by saying things like, “You made me do that, or I guess now you hear me.” I guess that’s why the Fugees said in their song Zealots, “And even after all my logic and theory, I add MF so you ignorant hear me.”
So why am I bringing this up? I’m bringing this up because it seems to me that it’s the little things like cussing, showing your draws (underwear) or G string are small steps to the erosion of a people and a community. This conversation isn’t for most of America. I’m only talking to Black people living in America. If anyone else sees something in this, GOOD, if not, oh well.
The reason I say this is a conversation for us (Black people) is because the world knows that we (Black people) have always been, and continues to be the standard of what’s cool, hip, just and right! It’s only when those that’s outside of the culture copy, mimic, and repackage things that they somehow convince the world that they discovered and created it and somehow, they convinced the world that that’s true.
Take music for instance, when you look at Frank Sinatra, K-pop, Justin Bieber, Marshall Bruce Mathers III aka Eminem and New Kids on the Block, America will promote and pretend they discovered something new, great, and innovative. I’m not trying to throw shade, but they ALL got it from us—can you say Nat King Cole, Jackson Five, Johnny Gill, Tupac Amaru Shakur, and New Edition just to name a few.
When America talks about Sigmund Freud, I see Frantz Fanon. They see George Herman “Babe” Ruth, I see Joshua “Josh” Gibson. When they talk about classical music, they see Ludwig van Beethoven. Well Black people, I see Charles “Bird” Parker. They will tell you the first was George Washington. In my world, the first is their 44th, Barack Hussein Obama.
Tony, what in the world does this have to do with cussing? Everything! From the beginning of time, we have always played a vanguard role in showing the world what was good, right, just, and beautiful! Think about this, it was our music that played a major role in our liberation struggle. I was listening to a couple of my Pandora stations – Luther Vandross radio, Anita Baker, Nancy Wilson, and Friends of Distinction radio – and for three hours, all I heard was songs addressing love, love making, love for one another, sadness, hope, possibility, respect for the environment. For three full hours, I experienced every emotion known to man and I didn’t hear one cuss word!
So, when I read an article that said that our anticipation of pain and our avoidance of pain, studies have shown that swearing can work as “a really effective painkiller,” I said OK, America wants us to think and believe that cussing is as good as morphine.
And here’s what’s really nuts — this is what American society does with most things when she wants to justify crazy (yes, I said it – CRAZY) behavior! She will trot out someone from Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, or even Harvard University to tell us that after conducting a study on the subject, this is now the way to go. And if you’re not strong and grounded in your own culture, you will buy into that madness.
Oh… did I tell you what really caught my attention to the article? What caught my attention was the title of the story. The title was, “Relax, parents. Swearing is not only developmentally appropriate, but it also helps empower children.” Whose kids? Not mine! All of this to say, Black people, we’ve got to do better, and we CAN do better.
I know the dominant society will pay us a ton of money to degrade, devalue and diminish ourselves in public. But as my friend Dr. Maulana Karenga would say, “We’ve got to step back on the stage of human history as a free, proud, and productive people.”
Malcolm X said, “I mean you don’t need to cuss. You don’t talk that “what-ya-know-Daddy” jive. None of that. A man curses because he doesn’t have the words to say what’s on his mind.” Black people let’s start with our words. Let’s affirm one another and celebrate one another.
And if we can start by controlling our tongue, our thoughts and actions will follow, and so will the rest of the world, after all we are the standard!