Oh Look Mom, it’s a “Nigga Moment”

The Boondocks, an adult sitcom created by Aaron McGruder, critiques social, political, and economic issue through the use of satire. Significantly, I argue that the show does an incredible job exploring what it means to be black. In this blog, I want to briefly discuss the significance of what the show calls a “nigga moment”:

Before I actually go into the details of the video, I want to first I argue that this video epitomizes the title of Baratunde Thurston’s novel, How to be Black. In it, he writes, “It is an inextricable fact of blackness that one will at some point be referred to as “too black” or ‘not black enough’ by white people, black people, and others” (42). Here, Thurston accentuates that “blackness” is depicted through the “expected” behavior of a racial group. When an individual from that racial group behaves in a manner that deviates from the “expected”, they are criticized as not being a “true” representation of their race. In the video above, The Boondocks amplifies Thurston’s point as it demonstrates what the behavioral norm looks like for blacks. With this in mind, let’s analyze the video shall we?

Riley Freeman, a prominent character in the sitcom, beings “Webster defines a Nigga Moment as…” (0:21-0:24). Although said jokingly, the invocation of Webster Dictionary insinuates that a “nigga moment” is more than an abstract (something of the moment) thought. It is a concrete, worldly accepted, concept used to specifically depict and categorize “black” behavior. In other words, if you are black, you must have nigga moments. The absurdity of this concept continues with the actual definition, which reads as follows: A moment where ignorance overwhelms the logic of an otherwise rational Negro man. Already, the term articulates that it only occurs for “negro men”. I find this hilarious. Does moments of ignorance not at times also overwhelm the logic of any man/woman regardless of race? Was it not ignorance that CONVINCED George Zimmerman that it was okay to murder a teenage boy?  No, apparently this is something only black people do; only black people get so frustrated that they don’t think straight and do things they would not have otherwise done. This profoundly ridiculous thought process is emphasized when a white man almost has a “nigga moment”. He smiles, laughs, and says “Wait a minute, I’m white.” (1:10-1:30). By being able to classify and limit a thought process or behavior to a particular race, the white man (as a representative of society) demonstrates how the idea of race is understood, produced, and reproduced on a day-to-day basis.

This scene from The Boondocks is significant because of the following two reasons: firstly, it criticizes society’s assumption that only black people get “unjustifiably” angry. It uses humor to demonstrate what society believes would happen if two black people simply rub shoulders by accident: “oh of course! They kill each other!” Secondly, and probably most importantly, the scene demonstrates that “nigga moment” or not, black people are still victim to systematic brutality (0:58-1:05). The moment in which they are shot and killed by the police officer articulates that if black people don’t kill each other, than the system will. Why? Because they’re black.

All jokes aside, “Nigga Moments” don’t exist. And if they do, they are just as ubiquitous as “White moments”, or “Hispanic Moments” or whatever race you’d like to toss in. This scene demonstrates that as a society, we must stop believing that we can categorize a race by behavior and recognize the societal components that place particular races into particular life circumstances. Just for giggles, nonetheless, here’s another “Nigga moment”:

 

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One thought on “Oh Look Mom, it’s a “Nigga Moment”

  1. These Boondocks clips and your analysis of “nigga moments” reminded me of the big stir surrounding President Obama’s “folks wanna pop off” press conference. One article in particular that made its rounds on Facebook and Twitter dubbed this quote from “the blackest thing that ever happened this week.” (The article in case anyone hasn’t seen it http://verysmartbrothas.com/president-obama-saying-pop-off-at-a-press-conference-is-the-blackest-thing-that-ever-happened-this-week/) The article is quite clearly a gag piece, but this week’s discussion of “How to Be Black” and your blog post about the satirical commentary on race/racism in the Boondocks inspired me to read this article a few times over.

    One of the great things I loved about this author’s claim that Obama saying “folks wanna pop off” is the “Blackest thing that ever happened this week,” is the idea that the essence of Black culture and Black people was projected by, arguably, the most powerful man in the world. I mean, we’re talking about a world leader discussing America’s national security plans to take on ISIS; I wanted to label this “black excellence, opulence, decadence.” Along with the idea that Obama’s administration has become more aggressive in his second term and kind of disregarding the pettiness of partisan politics, this write-up gave him and the Black community a nice pat on the back for this lovable moment.

    I suppose I only took pause to consider whether Obama’s quote and its praise as a swaggy maneuver for a 54 year old dad would somehow be labeled as a “nigga moment.” The more I reflect on it, if a quintessential “nigga moment” is when you demonstrate you’re ability to communicate outside of high-sounding terms as you get frustrated with the dimwits around you because you’re the ex-President of the Harvard Law Review and the current leader of the free world, I think it makes for lovely paradigm shift.

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