How To De-“Nigger”-ize America,

In Black And White, Then, All Other Colors

Dr. Virgil A. Wood

Its time to let Don Imus and his family, down from the cross, and to crucify the real culprit. The dignified management of this whole affair by Coach Stringer and her girls, seems to be saying a similar thing, surely a moment of grace, rarely seen. Were he still with us, I believe Martin Luther King would take that same position.

Once more, a public figure, now following Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, (pining for the good ole days), and Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia (referencing the struggling people of his state as white niggers), has given our nation a valuable though inadvertent gift. It surely seems that our collective black fear and white guilt is leading us to reject, rather than to embrace and savor this, as a rare and significant teachable moment. The scriptures teach us that we wrestle here “not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers”, combining deep, unrepentant, virulent, and deeply hidden, racism and sexism, which continues to be the real culprit. The challenge we all face is, how shall we “de-nigger”-ize our Country ?

The term “nigger” has a tortured history, deeply embedded in the American soul, and will not be easily expunged. It has a certain mysterious quality which must be deciphered, decoded, and finally, defused. Although it was historically crafted to keep a whole race of people on the bottom, now it serves as a witches brew for profiteers, both black and white.

“Nigger”-ization is the continuing failure of Emancipation and Reconstruction, and it has returned with a fury, to bite our society in the places it would rather ignore, both Colored and Caucasian. This issue must be probed in all places, high and low. The question of why each of our youthful generations are caught up in this thuggish culture of self-denigration and self-hatred must also be thoroughly explored on both sides, and then together. I suspect that at rock bottom it is the result of our youth throwing back into our adult faces, our own major love deficit of hypocrisy and denial. This needs now to be explored in Church, Town, and Gown, and the life and teachings of Martin Luther King being now more urgent than ever, will guide and direct us as effectively as it did before.

This would indeed be the real memorial for which he lived and died, and passionately requested in his Sermon, “Drum Major For Justice.” Surely a second $100,000,000 as a start for putting the Black poor on their own two feet, is not too little to ask. He asked that we not memorialize him in bricks or stones, but rather in beloved community re-building.

For example, the disproportionate filling of the jails with Black and Hispanic youth is one result of the 40 year back lash against the work of King, and this jail trail must be reversed even as the most reliable way of reducing urban crime, as a first step. Secondly, as families, black and white, and any other color, meet at their own kitchen table to probe the deficit of love, not in black and white, but rather the love deficit within each family for its own family members. A newly emerging movement called RESTORATION JUBILEE has seriously undertaken this task. It invites all who want to do the work of healing the soul of a nation, as Dr. King challenged us all, of persons, families, communities, and societies to become Communities in recovery, one major remedy being proposed.

The work of “de-niggerizing America”, like a good beef stew should, must cook and simmer slowly, until all its ingredients and seasonings will have blended, combined and become indistinguishable as the most edible and delectable meal possible. Don Imus surely could be trained to be one of the Chefs.

Re-examing the work of Martin Luther King in light of its Biblical roots found in the Jubilee injunction of the Hebrew and Christian Bible, we find in Leviticus 25:17, the unambiguous requirement that “you shall not oppress (‘nigger-ize’) one another”. When oppression goes unhealed, the wounded wound-ers, continue to wound. When healed, wounded wounders, thenceforth, do the work of healing. Why not Imus, also ?

When America is “de-nigger-ized”, Black Folk will no longer be prevented from sharing the American Dream, and will then stand, as a people of the whole, on our own two feet, designing and developing its own choiceful future. That will be the time when we can all sit down at the table of true Brotherhood and Sisterhood, an authentic reconciliation in Black and White, when the requirements of restitution are being faithfully worked through, we, along with God, will all rejoice in the Restoration of the Human Family in Black and White and all other colors. With the promise of America being potentiated, the people will surely then say, Shalom, Amen, Asalam Alakum, again, and again,--- Amen.


The above is offered as a start for the further development of this as a plan, for working in our own, families, faith communities, schools, civic, fraternal, and service organizations. The right margins have been left for your own notes.


Dr. Virgil A. Wood, for ten years, was a co-worker with Martin Luther King, is the originator of the AFRICAN AMERICAN JUBILEE BIBLE, and author, IN LOVE WE TRUST: Lessons I Learned From Martin Luther King. He can be reached at


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