Remember group chats? How many do you have going on right now? What if ONE of those chats were accidentally shared across social media? What would you do? I would DIE from embarrassment. Everything that is written is personal, inappropriate, shit-talking, and in most cases – hilarious! However, I'm going to tell you what I've been discussing with my friends in the latest conversation of my “black girl warrior” group chat. (I believe all group chats deserve a name!)
The name rhymes with moon. It is often used to describe a black person who appears as if he or she is ashamed for being black in KEY MOMENTS of choice or decision making. That’s my politically correct way of saying the word “coon.”
It’s an informal way of saying racoon but I'm not talking about the nocturnal omnivore. I'm referring to the extremely offensive word that's used to describe Blacks for centuries. The word was introduced into the lexicon as a way to describe a lazy slave. (FYI, there is no such thing IMO.) Slave owners would complain and say that the slaves were not hard-working, docile, or smart, but eager to please their OWNER. Similar to the “Sambo” stereotype from the early 1900s, the coon caricature – and it's over dramatic looks, like the big red lips and the darkest skin tone – has been created for prejudice and degradation. And Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum states that the stereotype was mainly used to defend slavery and segregation. “Sambo” identified Blacks who accepted Jim Crow laws; whereas “coons” identified Blacks who disrespected whites and the laws.
Nevertheless, coon is still a very offensive word at best, but it's more commonly used – as of late – by black people when referring to someone who does not “represent” the culture. Which leads me back to the BGW group chat mentioned earlier.
I had an encounter with a young man who occasionally works with me, and it left me feeling like I wanted to beat his ass (figuratively speaking). He was so arrogant and corny-dismissive as if he was the most important person in the room. No one is that important, especially an ‘uppity negro’– a term many Blacks are comfortable using when venting their frustrations.
Recently, the young man found his 15 minutes of fame. He has an unbearable personality – not just from my opinion, but many of our peers agree. My immediate reaction was to tell his ass to “go sit down(!).” But instead, I entered into the group chat where all my venting finds its humor. And without hesitation, there were bubbles filled with responses that I wanted to send to him at that moment – one of which, called him a coon.
Dare I say, that word is more offensive than the n- word. I repeat – being called a coon by another black person is more hurtful than a white person calling me the n- word.
It essentially means that you are a disgrace to the culture. That you add no value to our collective fight for equality. It means, if there were a race riot, black people would “give you up” to the enemy. It means you are not invited to the “cookout.” It means that you DO NOT speak for US. It means that you DO NOT have the right to discuss the shared black experience on a large platform because you are not considered BLACK. You do more HARM to us than GOOD.
HOWEVER, we often find that people who are considered “coons” have the largest platforms. For example, actor Terry Crews sent out a series of tweets during the extremely sensitive times of the pandemic – like when he said how “defeating White supremacy without White people creates Black supremacy” – and as a result, many black people called him a coon. He doubled down and said that COON stands for CONQUER OUR OWN NEGATIVITY. Like – What the hell?!
Imagine how ‘black twitter’ let him have it! But to be honest, he did ask a sobering question. Should black folks use a word that is steeped in so much hatred to describe ourselves? Let me answer that question – yes, if I have the opportunity to privately tell that BLACK man or woman that their rhetoric is harmful in the fight for equality!
Let me illustrate this in a fictional conversation between Mr. Shields and myself:
Cari (me): “You sound like you just want to please the masses, and you don't understand what it is like to be black in America.”
Mr. Shields: “The problem is that you Blacks act as if slavery is still happening till this day. You need to be grateful and focus on the bigger picture. Yes, slavery happened, but that’s in the past and this is the present. You should be happy that you have a job and live in this country. All lives matter.”
See how Mr. Shields is not invited to the cookout? And while I would never use my public platform to call him a coon, he deserves a lesson privately.
The word is an alert; It's a dog whistle of sorts. It simply says “we have a problem,” and he or she can’t speak for us because their message is harmful to our progress. We all know a “Mr. Shields,” or someone who is more focused on pleasing them – the “others” – and not pleasing us. In fact, Mr. Shields is not kind to us because he has no grace for us. And while I hate using the word “coon” because it is so damn painful, it's necessary – and it should be used in case of an emergency “clapback.”