When rap and hip-hop culture really began to work its way into the mainstream fabric of American life — an hilarious and unintentional act of cultural revenge/subversion, if you ask me — I was in my second year of college (Fall 1984-Spring 1985) and began to notice white people spouting terms like "word up" and "word to your mother," among others, and I wondered if it was the resurgence of such collegiate lingo as "twenty-three skidoo" or "It's the bee's knees." Having finally had enough of pop music radio thanks to the oversaturation of the disco era and the nightmare of the early-1980's insinuation of soulless MTV-style music-as-product, I missed much of the early hip-hop, my knowledge of such stuff being pretty much limited to having heard "Rapper's Delight" exactly once in 1979, followed in short order by Blowfly's pornographic attempt at the form, "Blowfly's Rap." I didn't know "Planet Rock" from "Rock Lobster, but that would change as my fellow students shook their collective booty to Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and others, all while the genre's vernacular was disseminated, absorbed, and implemented across the nation, causing the rise of the white boy who would be black.
My fondest memory of the early days of this phenomenon was during a mid-1980's summer stint as a counselor at Westport, Connecticut's Camp Mahakeno, when one of my under-ten charges began to execute a sequence of spastic "moves" that were allegedly break dancing steps. A portable radio tuned in to one of the area's pop stations blasted "Jam On It" and the kid began a wild St. Vitus' dance that looked for all the world like he was possessed by a tequila-fueled Pazuzu, limbs flailing in all directions and displaying about as much rhythm as a demolition blast. I asked him just what hell he was supposed to be doing and he answered, "I'm breakin', Buncheman!" When I asked him where he learned to perform this borderline-epileptic display he responded, "I learned it on the street, man!" As I nearly pissed myself laughing (which he did not appreciate) I said "What street? The Post Road?" and told him to get up off the ground and rejoin his fellow campers in their current activity (which was making lanyards, or some shit). The kid ignored me, flipped over onto his stomach and began doing "the worm," at which point he propelled himself nuts-first onto an upturned rock. As he writhed in the dirt, practically vomiting from the physical agony, the other children exploded with howls of derisive laughter and pelted him with clods of dirt until I put a stop to it (admittedly well after I really should have stepped in).
I see unaware and awkward white niggers, or "wiggers," all over the fucking place nowadays and I wince when I witness their behavior. But while I find them annoying enough in the world at large, I really find it irksome to be in the midst of several of them while I'm at work. As I've mentioned in other posts, I'm one of the older employees at the design gulag, the average staffer ranging somewhere in their early-to-late twenties, just the right age to be among the first generation to have the hip-hop argot be a part of their lives since infancy, rather than having it enter their consciousness as a something happening organically in whatever urban region they grew up in (like my buddy Hughes, a Bronx-born and raised Irishman who is far "blacker" than I'll ever be, yet somehow isn't a wigger), or merely through TV or the radio; hip-hop is a part of their speech, the once-reviled "Ebonics" now an accepted part of the lexicon.I can make a statement in conversation with some of my white co-workers and hear them answer with a "true dat," be greeted with a " 'sup, B?" and a host of other terminology that makes me feel like I've been trapped in a post-modern TWILIGHT ZONE story where everyone in the world is a character in the AMOS 'N' ANDY universe except me. All of it is done with no intent to offend or offer ironic content, but it does put me off and strikes me as silly. And I'm curious to know if the same people would affect this way of acting if dropped into the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, near the old Slave 1 theater. Somehow, I think not.And do not get me started on "yiggers..."Or would that be "Chiggers?"