NOTE: This article was once published under the title: The Origin of “MF”, And Why RAP Is Not: A Joking Matter (TheProgressiveAgenda, October 7, 2005)
Making a Point: I oppose the use of foul language in any shape or form; however, the use of foul language in this article is ONLY to make a point, and to show the impact it has on this generation, and society in general.
INTRODUCTION: Why do we make Comparisons? From my own layman point of view, comparisons are most often made between people who resemble one another – sometime people of the same sex or of similar age, race, and similar social level and, people who know one another. We tend to draw comparisons about things that interest us, i.e., intelligence, attitude, the clothes we wear or the way we wear our clothes or behavior in general, and how in some way the impact our lives. On the other hand, comparisons are attempts to reduce uncertainty about us, and to understand what we are capable of doing or not capable of doing. So, we observe what others behave; and if they are like us in many respects, and have achieved certain goals in life, we might feel that we too, can reach similar goals. Why, because changes in any life situation, should be “for the better and not the worse”. These are some of the issues, this article will attempt to address.
From my vantage point, I considered Americans as unique breed of people on Planet Earth. I say this because of their ethnocentric worldview. Most Americans believe America is the world. They find it difficult to believe that besides them, there are others too, who have made and continued to make valuable contributions to the development of the world in which we share in common.
In view of the above, Americans developed what I referred to as – the “America First” attitude. In order to maintain this attitude, they strive very hard to invent almost everything, which they have succeeded in doing – to some extent. For example, they invented their brand of English, which they called “American English.” African Americans too, followed suit by creating theirs, which is referred to as EBONICS – whatever that is! Whenever, you are engage in a discussion with some Americans regarding the contributions man has made towards civilization, they will have you to believe that the “Garden of Eden” was once in America. This general attitude is reflected in the foreign policy of the Government. On the other hand, they named their main pastime as “World Series”. Even though, only American baseball teams participate in the series.
As I may recall, before the Internet was made popular, most American knew very little about other countries and cultures. Sometime during this period, a phrase was coined to perpetuate their ethnocentric “America First” concept about the world. One that readily comes to mind is the phrase – “What is good for America is good for the world.”
My very first experience with this attitude was an encounter I had with a cousin-in-law of mine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This cousin of mine found it difficult to accept the fact that she spoke with an accent that was different from mine. During one of our discussions, she swore that it was I that spoke with the “funny sounding” accent. In order to convince my American cousin, I said to her, whose accent will be noticed if for some reasons you found yourself in my country – Liberia, and everyone you came in contact with sounded like me? It was then that she discovered that she too, had a “funny sounding” accent (Northern accent) that was different from mine.
In point of fact, the truth to some people is an ugly monster. It is considered ugly because when it is told, it stirs up unpleasant experience; therefore, if lasting changes are to be made, the truth must be told. It is sorely for this purpose, this essay is written. It is about the culture of lewd (obscene) language, a form of cursing that has become popular in 90s. For the purpose of our discussion, I will refer to it as the new “Inner City Black Youth” (ICBY) fad or expression.
These days, in most African American communities in the US, cursing has become a new way of expression for most ICBY. This new form of communication has found its way into popular black culture and pastime, such as Rap Music (Gangster Rap), movies and most standup comedies. From all indications, the use of abusive or foul language is celebrated as “hipness” or “coolness”. At lease, so it seems!
Why has cursing become such a form of expression? Is it due to the lack of proper home training? Or the removal of God from our institutions of learning as some suggest! For me, the use of profane and vulgar language as a means of expression is perhaps due to three factors:
- Children who use foul language either come from homes, where in many cases their parents did not serve as good role models, or left them unsupervised, and were reared by the television.
- These children have low self-esteem and are morally bankrupt.
- The society, in which they live, is partly responsible because it reinforces their negative behaviors, instead of discouraging them.
How does society reinforce these “negative behaviors,” one may ask? These “negative behaviors” are reinforced by the Entertainment Industry’s (music, movie and standup comedy) general acceptance of these behaviors. Most people that I have discussed this topic with feel that the reason the Entertainment Industry failed to set standards that will discourage the use of profane language in music, movie and standup comedy is due to what in business is considered – “The Bottom Line (profit)”
The question that one needs to ask is – do black youth have to curse in order to entertain? I don’t think so, because the generation that preceded them, made tremendous progress despite the many difficulties they had to put up with. They wrote, sung and talked about hardships, blues, sorrows, love, and at the same time celebrated their achievements without spending time using filth. Yet, today these young people use “MF” without even knowing the origin, meaning and purpose for which the phrase was first used.
For the purpose of our discussion, let me share with you how the phrase “MF” came into existence. “MF” is a phrase, which has its origin in the slave system of Antebellum South. During this period, most slave masters made it a preoccupation to pay frequent visits to the slave quarters at night for the purpose of having sex with the mothers of slave children. These children did not like the abusive manner in which their mothers were treated, so in their frustration and anger, they began to refer to their slave masters who engaged in this practice as “Mother Fuckers.” Also, the word “Cracker” means the same as “MF.”
In my country of origin – Liberia, the last person to mess with is another person’s MOTHER. Many fights were held over the cursing of another person’s MOTHER. This is even true among small children. Whenever you asked one of the parties engaged in a fight regarding MOTHER – why was the fight about? The response is usually the same; “He cursed my Ma (mother), so I hit him”. And if you say, “Why didn’t you curse his Ma, too”? The response would be, “Oh no, I can’t do that; it is not right to curse another person’s Ma.” At least, that’s how it was when we were growing up!
So, when I was conducting this research, I tried to find out the reason why the phrase “FF” (Father Fucker) was never used. I found out that in the culture of the Antebellum Plantation System, male slaves were properties of their masters; therefore, they could not claim to be fathers of children they begot without the blessing of their slave masters. In almost all cases, it was the master who had the ultimate control over the lives of these female slaves and their offspring. As such, a slave master could do whatsoever he desired with them. For example, at any given time, slaves were sold or separated from their natural families and there was nothing they could do about it.
I often wonder why we who are products of the “Turbulent 60s”, a period during which all sorts of rebellions and radical cultural expressions (hippies and Black Power, for examples) took place, did not adapt foul language to express our anger; instead, we were preoccupied with PEACE, LOVE and FREEDOM. And yet, these youth (inner city youth) today, who are “better off” than their predecessors resort to cursing as a new medium of expression. This form of expression has no respect for self, women, and the elderly. Moreover, the use of profane or abusive language in conversation, in songs, movies and standup comedies has become a way of life in many of the African American communities. Find below the result of a six-month study (observation) I conducted regarding the use of foul language by our young people (African Americans).
This study was done from June 1, 1999 thru December 30, 1999. It was conducted on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) train – around 9:15 PM thru 10:00 PM (From the East Point Station – Edgewood/Candler Park Station) in Atlanta, Georgia.
The most frequently used words and expression
- Mother Fucker
- Fuck the bitch
- Fuck the ass
- What the fuck
- Fuck you
- The bitch
- The bitch is stupid
- The Nigger this, the Nigger that
- The Nigger is too fine
- The whore or “hole”
- Fine ass Nigger
- The Nigger ain’t shit
- Fine ass woman
- Kick her/his ass
- Damn that shit/ass
- Can’t do shit
- Don’t know the shit
- Don’t know the god damn shit
- God damn
- Ass or shit
The result of my study (observation) showed that ICBY of the 90s elevated cursing to a level where it has become a new art form. Furthermore, foul language has become a major component of the Rap Culture because cursing is considered cool in the “hood”.
The fact of the matter is – whenever a person is rewarded for something he/she does, that person is likely to repeat it. Perhaps, this is the reason cursing has become a fad among hip-hop artists. Moreover, the American society of today rewards ICBY’s deviant behavior. As a matter of fact, ICBY artists are granted more lucrative recording deals and movie contracts, despite these negative behaviors. A good businessperson will not stop doing that which brings him/her millions of dollars in profit – if there is no pressure brought to bear on him/her to change. That’s the rule of the CAPITALIST game!
Personally, I feel that the generation today is capable of writing songs, movie scripts and performing standup comedies without making foul language the main focus. It was successfully done in the 60s, 70s and 80s! For example, Dr. Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al-Mansour provides for us with a good example in his book – Betrayal By Any Other Name. According to him:
“In the midst of the exploitation of the 60’s, one R & B artist managed to attract his people much like Marcus Garvey with a return to raw Africa pulsations and gutsy street message of challenge; that artist was James Brown, who was referred to as Soul Brother #1 and the Godfather of Soul”. He wrote and sang songs like:
- Don’t be a Dropout
- Money Won’t Change Me
- I Don’t Want No One to Give me Nothing, Open up the Door and I’ll Get it Myself
- Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
- Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud
This great United States has strong influence on many cultures of the world. In one way or the other, the US sets the standards followed by youth in other countries. Few classic examples are: the baggie pants with no belt (copied from inmates in the prison), tattoo, piecing of body parts (including private parts), speech pattern (slang), gold teeth, hair style (men wearing earrings and having their hair braided), etc.
While it is true that these practices are generational, that should not exempt individuals, especially young people from practicing “common decency.” Referring to a woman as “BITCH” in a song is nothing to be proud of. You see, songs of the “Old School” did not only entertain, they contained messages about love, struggle and the pleasure of life. Today, many of us cherished the memories songs of the “Old School” invoked.
From the beginning of this article I said, we tend to draw comparisons about things that interest us or impact us. We do so not because we dislike those we compare ourselves with. Many of us do so to understand what we are capable of doing or not capable of doing. Sometimes these comparisons are made to offer positive suggestions where those that look like us have falling short, so that they will be pointed in the right direction to make the necessary changes “for better and not for worse”. It was this approach that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to when he said:
“…Negroes (African Americans) must be honest enough to admit that our standards do often fall short. One of the sure signs of maturity is the ability to rise to the point of self-criticism. Whenever we are the objects of criticism from white men, even though the criticisms are maliciously directed and mixed with half-truths, we must pick out the elements of truth and make them the basis of creative reconstruction. We must not let the fact that we are the victims of injustice lull us into abrogating responsibility for our own lives” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom, 1969).
Brethren, changes are inevitable; they will occur whether we want them or not. Furthermore, changes are supposed to be better and not worse. However, not all changes are good for humanity. Therefore, if we are to practice or embrace any of them, we have to be selective in the process, because if we don’t, we will fall for the worse kind of change.
In light of the above, let me give you my suggestion; if we want these hip-hop artists or ICBY to clean up their acts, we must be selective as to which one of their music we will buy, movie and standup comedy show, and we will pay our money to see. I can assure you, if we do, they will be forced to make some changes, because if they don’t, it will hurt them where it counts the most, “The Bottom Line.”
Gwei feh kpeh! (The struggle continues)
Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the author.
About The Author: Elder Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr. is a life-long activist (*Troublemaker) in researching the true history of Africa, the people of African origin in the Diaspora. He had dedicated his teaching of African culture; spent over 50 years advocating for human, civil, and constitutional rights of all people, especially the Liberian masses. He is a Griot, poet, journalist, and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. To keep TEH’S legacy and memory ALIVE, in 2012, Mr. Nyanseor joined other writers and became BLOJU TARTY TEH’S SCHOLAR. BLOJU TEH is the late Liberian Literary Genius, Writer, Storyteller, Human, Civil and Constitutional Rights Activist. Nyanseor can be reached at: [email protected]