I need to quickly explain the title and why I feel it is not only right for this book, but also proper, in EXTREMELY rare cases, for white people, but especially for white males to use the "N-word".That was the original beginning of this book, for I had intended to use that most offensive of words in its entirety "N_ _ e r." That was my intent from the inception of this book until November 13, 2004 the day I replaced that most hateful of words with what appears to be the universally acceptable way to write and articulate it, ESPECIALLY for white people, but even more necessary for white males. I had given the idea of changing "that" word much thought from the first time I contemplated putting my views onto paper until actually pulling the plug on it. On that date — November 13, 2004 there were 35 examples of "n _ e r" in the 580 pages of my then draft. I know the volume because I used the find function to change them all to the N-word. I experienced much angst over the usage of that word and went from wanting to remove it to leaving it in. I had intended to call the University of Iowa's Black student union — I live in Iowa City - and speak with its members about my using it. I had thought about taking a draft of the book to their meeting place and reading some passages and then ask their opinions of whether or not to remove it. As well, I read parts of a Harvard University professor's book, which happened to use "that" word as its title, which also gave me pause whether to use it. The professor is a Black male who wanted to give a history of the word and the dilemma faced by some for its usage.While I had issues with my handling of "that" word while writing this book, I believe the catalyst for my ultimately making the decision to change the word, on my own, without the input I had always intended to utilize, came from a television show that I will write much more about later entitled "Boston Public". The show centered on an inner-city school in Boston, which just happened to have an inordinate number of white students, for reasons which will be explained later in the book. The episode which eventually prompted me to make this relatively significant change concerned the use of "that" word by people, but most importantly white people. A Black male student reacted negatively upon hearing two friends refer to each other as "n _ _ as". While he may have had a concern, as some on the show did, to even Black people calling each other by that or any similarly constructed version of "that" word, he happened to react to two friends he overheard "joking" with each other - one Black and the other white — so much so that he assaulted the white friend and then had to defend himself from the Black friend. What happened next is what I believe was the strong motivating factor for the shows script being written in the manner it was. The teacher of that particular class happened to be a white male — a liberal one — who believes in talking through issues which can be as impact full as the topics themselves. Most of the Black students and Black teachers, including the principal (Black male), took umbrage with the white teacher's attempts to be the one who led the charge into exploring this "word" with his class. The white male teacher was almost fired for initially refusing the principal's order not to speak to his class but eventually the show ended with the Black principal — who had been so very much against even discussing this hot topic — leading the class, himself, in debating the finer points of "that" word's usage. That episode motivated me to replace that most offensive of words — especially coming from white males — to the more universally recognized way to handle such a delicate subject.In addition here is my inspiration for using the phrase, "If you can't be better than an N-Word, than just who can you be better than".
One of the many significant events which occurred during the Civil Rights struggles was the murders of three Civil Rights workers in 1964, one Black and two white. They were murdered because they attempted to register Southern Black voters. The three Civil Rights worker's names were Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. There have been a couple of attempts to dramatize and capture on film the events surrounding their brutal murders. One of those renditions was called "Mississippi Burning" a 1988 film which starred Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe as two bickering FBI agents who seemed to battle each other as often as they battled those who murdered the three Civil Rights workers, in addition to the townspeople who, because of their actions/inactions, enabled this evil not only to exist but to prevail far too long. My inspiration, for the title, came from that movie I first saw in 1988.Mr. Hackman played the shoot-from-the-hip Southern veteran while Mr. Dafoe was the play-by-the-book Northern wonder boy. In attempting to educate Dafoe's character about Southern life and culture, Hackman told a story, from his youth, which captures, in a nutshell, not only the theme for this book, but the doctrine that permeates our national culture. This doctrine is continually programmed into us; one which espouses white supremacy, at the expense of non-whites, but Blacks, in particular. It is analogous to - "There but by the grace of God go I." Your good fortune could well be reinforced, but better yet, your misfortune could well be lessened because there are those whom you personally know, see, or read about, who are less well off than you. Chances are good that these less well off people might make you feel more fortunate, and due to the constant brainwashing of supremacy to which whites are subjected, it may virtually be impossible for most not to feel somewhat superior, as bad as that may sound.As a young boy, Hackman's character often rode into town with his dad, a farmer. Along the way they needed to pass a farm whose owner was like most other farmers in that area - poor - but with two notable exceptions: one, which would normally be tolerable - his ownership of a prized mule; but, combined with the second exception - the farmer was Black - proved too much for Hackman's dad, and apparently other whites in the community. Whenever the young Hackman's character and his dad passed the Black man's farm, his dad would mumble negative beliefs. Then one day Hackman's character, after having heard that the Black farmer's prized mule died mysteriously the previous night, had the occasion to pass by the Black-owned farm the next day with his dad. But this day, the first in Hackman's memory, his dad had a smile on his face. When questioned by his son as to why he seemed so pleased, the dad happily spoke the title of this book.
Since finding the Lord in the mid-1970s, Thomas has been consumed by social justice, especially regarding African Americans. Most of his writings have dealt with ill effects of what he calls American-style Apartheidism, which enables the white supremacy mindset to continue virtually unabated.
Having witnessed or read about countless injustices has moved Thomas—driven by his religious values—to write about a whole host of issues/events/people, some documented, some not on our radar.
Thomas and his wife live in Iowa City, Iowa. He is sixty years old and retired from Pearson. Thomas Sass and his family escaped communist Hungary during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. His father got into trouble fighting for his own brand of social justice.
Thomas’s focus on social justice soon began to motivate him in ways that seemed to be not always within his grasp to understand, so he gives God the praise.