Retro Flashback: Ruminations on a Song and on a Word

by Latoya Peterson


Warning – Explicit Language

While I was researching a piece for Feministe, I stumbled across an old video.

The video is of a TV appearance for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, performing their song “Woman is the Nigger of the World” on the Dick Cavett show.

John Lennon goes into great detail as to how the record was made. He mentions that most of the people who have an issue with the title are white and male. Also in his explanation, he notes “All my black friends feel I have quite a right to say it.”

He also reads a statement from the then-chairman of the Black Caucus:

“If you define nigger as someone whose lifestyle is defined by others, whose opportunities are defined by others, whose role in society is defined by others, then good news! – you don’t have to be black to be a nigger in this society. Most of the people in America are niggers.”

Lennon goes on to say “I think the word nigger has changed, and it does not have the same meaning that it used to.”

They then go into the song.

Thoughts?