The Reverend Al Sharpton called for a boycott of Niger on Sunday, urging Americans not to travel to or purchase products from the West African nation until its government agrees to a name change.
Speaking to supporters gathered in front of the Nigerien Embassy in Washington D.C., Sharpton called the county’s name “outdated and hurtful” and said that it was only one ‘g’ away from “total offensitude-ness.”
“For far too long schoolchildren studying geography have pointed to this county on maps and globes and giggled about it with their friends,” said Sharpton. “Well, I know what they’re giggling about, and the giggling must end.”
Although the nation of Niger is almost exclusively inhabited by Africans, Sharpton says that they too must refrain from using words that are only one letter away from being a racial epithet.
“If we expect other countries to refrain from using words that look and sound like offensive words, then we have to lead by example,” Sharpton said.
The rally was the first stop on Sharpton’s six-city tour aimed at building support for his new coalition, SOAC (Stop Offensive and Abusive Country names through personal responsibility). The group’s mission is to build the self-esteem of African nations by stressing positive aspects of African-American history. Members include will.i.am of the Black-Eyed Pees and Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover.
“What kind of country goes around referring to itself as Niger?” Glover said. “I’ll tell you what kind; a country that doesn’t know its history, a country that doesn’t know its roots. These people have never heard of Rosa Parks. They don’t even have an African-American History month! Well, this boycott is going to change all that.”
It is unclear what affect the boycott will have. Currently the Unites States has little or no trade relations with Niger. However, in 2007 Americans traveling to Niger spent a combined total of $3477 dollars, just over half of the country’s gross national product.
Although Nigerien officials have yet to respond to Sharpton’s demands, the Reverend remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached.
“They can name it whatever they want,” Sharpton said. “But I suggest ‘the N-Country’, Sharptanistan, or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard: the Country.”