Republican Frank Artiles thought this year of our Lord 2017, the year of Maxine the Maverick, was a good year to call a Black female legislator a “girl” and a “bitch.” In the same boozy breath, he also called his boss and Senate President, Joe Negron, a “pussy.” But even that’s not exactly why his colleagues forced him to resign. No, Frank Artiles lost his job last week because he had a “niggaaa” moment. Let me explain.
If you haven’t guessed, Frank Artiles isn’t Black.
Buuuut he ain’t exactly White, either. He’s a White Cuban from Hialeah. In a bit of after-work, drunk trash talk, Artiles told Florida state senator Audrey Gibson (a Black woman) that Negron was elected by “six [Republican] niggas.” Besides the obvious offensiveness of the word, what stands out about this comment? The only Black people in the Florida Senate are Democrats, and none of them voted for Negron. In other words, by saying “niggas,” Artiles really just meant people.
Why is it hilarious to me that a White-looking Cuban used the word “niggas” in front of Black people while talking about White people? Artiles actually used “niggas” correctly in a colloquial sense. I’ve heard Black folks exchange the word “guys” for “niggas” to mean non-Black people. But Artiles actually thought he could use it in the same way. Hilarious!
If you’ve ever seen Aaron MacGruder’s series The Boondocks, you’ll know that the comic strip-turned-cartoon both borrowed from and seemed to foretell actual events. One of my favorite episodes is “A Nigga Moment.” Two Black men bump into each other on a busy street and tempers flare. The men whip out guns and press the barrels against each others’ temples. Huey, our precocious narrator, explains:
Webster defines a ‘nigga moment’ as a moment when ignorance overwhelms the mind of an otherwise logical Negro male, causing him to act in an illogical self-destructive manner (i.e., like a nigga).
By Huey’s definition, Frank Artiles didn’t have an actual “nigga moment.” He can’t. He’s not a Negro male. (Incidentally, this fact is exactly why the word should’ve never left his mouth). What he did have, however, is also a moment of Boondocks lore. He had a “niggaaa, not niggER” moment. Check out what I mean:
Artiles pulled a Mr. Petto. Because he grew up around and studied Black folks, the Republican thought “niggas” belonged to him. Oh, but I totally get his confusion. When you have PitBull and DJ Khaled and other rappers (the usual scapegoats for all non-Black “niggas”) using the word, why not a brolic, White, Cuban Republican? But he forgot one fundamental rule: you can only use the word “nigga” inoffensively if you can be mistaken for one. He tried to code switch from outside the club. Now, I don’t have any doubt at all Artiles doesn’t consider himself Black or a nigga. He just thought he had a Black Pass.
[Small print Frank Artiles didn’t read on his Black Pass: Black Pass may expire outside the presence of the Black person who gave it to you. Use at your own risk. Pass issuer not liable for your f**kery. Black Pass becomes null and void if pulled by an Actual Black Person. Pass may not be substituted for Actual Blackness.]
Artiles got what he deserved, but I don’t think he’s a Strom Thurmond-variety racist. He’s just stupid AF and so steeped in White-presenting privilege that he played himself.
Here’s exactly where Artiles had the game f***ed up.
- He forgot to ask himself what he looked like. As in, “What I look like calling a Black woman coworker a bitch to her face and she outranks me? What I look like in this pale skin using the word “niggas” around Black people I’m not that cool with? What I look like using Hialeah as an excuse for the reason I f***ed up?
- He actually tried the “niggaaa, not niggER” explanation. This fool should’ve kept his mouth shut about the alleged differences between “a” and “er.” It just made him sound even worse. Clearly, the distinction is one he personally makes all the time. “Niggas” don’t just fly out your mouth without runway practice.
- He underestimated real niggas. This is how I know Frank Artiles was being overly familiar with the Black people around whom he said “niggas”: they ratted him out. Artiles thought he was the homie because they were Black and he considers himself Black-adjacent. He didn’t expect them to report him. Initially, he refused to apologize to Audrey Gibson or to step down, which likely killed his career. The actual Black caucus voted to file a complaint against him. And that was all, she wrote.
And what can we all learn from this “niggaaa” moment?
Do I think the Black legislators are personally hurt that Frank Artiles called six White people “niggas?” Nah. I think they felt galled that he assumed intimacy where none existed. You can disagree with coworkers, sure. But you can’t badmouth your boss, insult your coworker, and try to trade in on your Black Pass for protection at the same time. He needed to pick a struggle. And here’s the lesson all non-Black people should learn from Frank Artiles: the “niggaaa vs. niggER” struggle is never the one you want to pick.
Given Huey’s definition of a “nigga,” Artiles acting in such an illogical, self-destructive manner makes him more of an honorary n-word than even he realized. Good riddance.