This is kind of a cool old post. It seems racist but I don’t think it’s racist at all. In fact it is a paean to the adaptability of Black people. And if Black people are anything, they’re adaptive!
Polar Bear: There’s such a thing as Black stability. I went to college with a postal worker and had multiple black coworkers that remind me of the same black guy. Simple men that were easy to get along with.
More like Black practicality to me rather than stability. But practicality itself is rather stabilizing, no? Black people are pragmatic. They have common sense. That’s one thing I really like about Black people.
You know that phrase called jerry-rigging? Well, another name for that is nigger-rigging. I know, racist. But people around me (My peers, not my parents and their friends – are you kidding?!) have been using that word in my presence my whole life in reference to their own actions, so I’m not even sure if it’s an insult. “I nigger-rigged it,” says my White friend about how he did a half-assed, cheap, and temporary fix to a problem.
Is it really a racist insult? A White person says he nigger-rigged something. Ok? That means…what? It means he’s acting like a nigger, right? That’s why I’m not even sure it’s all that racist. It’s sort of Whites calling themselves niggers, which doesn’t seem all that racist. Why would a White man call himself a nigger? And why would it be racist if a White man called himself a nigger? He’d only say that in a complimentary way, wouldn’t he? How is it racist for Whites to call each other niggers? That doesn’t make sense. Nigger is only an insult if you call a Black person a nigger. If you call a White person a nigger, it doesn’t even make sense!
Incidentally, we Whites do call ourselves and each other niggers. It’s a lot more acceptable than calling Black people that word.
It’s like straight guys calling each other fags, which is a lot more common nowadays than calling gay men that. How is that hatred of gays? I just called my friend a fag as a joke. That means I hate gay guys? Come on.
Anyway, back to the subject.
Even people who almost never called Black people niggers would use that phrase nigger-rigging.
“How did you fix it?”
“Oh, I just kinda nigger-rigged it. It’s good for now at least anyway.”
Usually chuckles follow because that word is always sort of funny for some reason.
To nigger-rig or to jerry-rig (let’s switch to jerry-rigging – enough with uncomfortable words) something means a cheap, adaptive, half-assed, yet workable and ultimately ingenious sort of a half-fix that is “good for now” but is not a long-term solution for the problem. It’s just a cheap, temporary fix.
It’s not a half-assed fix because you are lazy. It’s half-assed because you don’t have the materials or money on hand to fix it properly. But it’s a temporary fix that “works for now.” There is also a hint of ingenuity, inventiveness, cleverness, and adaptability in it. Which is why, despite the racism, the phrase is ultimately a compliment to Blacks.
Black people perhaps historically being often short on the money and materials needed to do a proper fix of something would then master the art of jerry-rigging (hence the version with the slur) not out of laziness but out of the necessity of the moment. Necessity being the mother of invention after all. Why do it? Because you don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, that’s why.
What I like about the idea of associating Blacks with jerry-rigging is that it suggests that Blacks are inventive, clever, adaptive, and ingenious (in a practical, not world-class inventor) way. And if you know Black people well, you know that is indeed a characteristic of them. Jerry-rigging isn’t good for long-term fixes. What’s it good for? Short-term fixes which are needed for…what? How about survival?
Black people know how to survive. I’ll give them that.