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Why Black People Can Use the N-Word: A Perspective

October 22, 2010

Written by guest blogger Luvell Anderson

Why is it okay for African Americans to use the N-word but not others (or mostly not others)?  Isn’t it racist to say that only some people can use the word while others can’t?  Doesn’t this create some unfair double-standard?

These are some of the questions one often hears in a discussion about the N-word and permissible use.  There are really at least two questions that should be addressed. First, what is going on linguistically?  Uses of the word by African Americans typically aren’t offensive, so-called appropriated uses, whereas uses by others (with some exceptions) generally are offensive.  What explains that difference?

The second question involves the morality of those uses: Should African Americans address each other with the N-word?  To be clear, we are focusing here on a narrow part of the phenomena, namely, those camaraderie uses of the word.  As was pointed out in an earlier post, the word has varied shades and uses in the mouth of African Americans, not all of them positive.  In this post I mainly focus on the first question, while saying a few things briefly about the second at the end.

That African Americans (and some Latinos) are able to use the N-word freely while others are not is, I take it, an obvious fact.  In one particular form, the N-word carries connotations of camaraderie.  The expression is used, as rapper Q-Tip has pontificated, “as a term of endearment.”  However, it is also widely known that this use is typically not available to non-black language users.  This is illustrated poignantly in this scene from Rush Hour where Lee (Jackie Chan) greets an African American bartender with the phrase, “What’s up my nigga?” essentially mimicking the way Carter (Chris Tucker) had addressed the same bartender moments earlier.  For some, the use of an ‘a’ on the end of the expression marks a distinct contrast with the ‘er’ ending, the former denoting endearment or camaraderie and the latter racism.  In spite of using the ‘a’ ending, Lee’s greeting was not well received, resulting in a brawl between him, the bartender and other African American patrons.

So, what exactly was the difference between Carter’s use of the word and Lee’s?  In order to say what the difference is we need to think about what makes terms like this, when used derogatorily, offensive.  The obvious place to start is to say the N-word means something derogatory.  The basic idea is that when some person addresses another by the expression, he or she is attributing certain characteristics and/or traits to the statement’s target.  In the case of the N-word, one might think that when someone (and I am talking about cases where the speaker is being derogatory) addresses another with the N-word, the speaker is saying something along the lines of blacks are inferior because they are black.

If this is how normal derogatory uses of the N-word work, then how do we explain appropriated uses?  The most sensible thing to say is that appropriated uses have a different meaning from the derogatory use, like ‘buddy’ or ‘friend’.  But notice this doesn’t tell us why Lee was not able to use the term in this sense.  If the N-word has at least two senses, i.e. a derogatory one and a neutral one, then why can’t non-African Americans use it?  I suggest there is a better way to understand what makes slur terms offensive in general and ultimately provides a way of explaining their appropriated uses.

I think that slurs are prohibited terms whose occurrences are offensive.  When enough people (or the right person or persons) say a word is not appropriate for referring to a particular group, then that word becomes a slur.  However, the prohibition is not absolute.  It does allow for some exceptions.  Among those exceptions are non-derogatory uses by members of the targeted group.  Immediately we can see why African Americans (and certain others) can use the N-word for camaraderie purposes while non-African Americans typically cannot.  It is just built into the exception clause that the former can and the latter cannot.

This explanation shows us why some can and others can’t use the N-word.  But it doesn’t yet tell us whether those who can use it should use it.  I think this question is difficult and requires careful attention.  Those who think African Americans should not use the N-word often argue that doing so perpetuates non permitted uses by non-African Americans, the idea being “if they use it, why can’t we?” Others, like Bill Cosby, claim that uses of the N-word are a kind of self-degradation by blacks, which illustrates a certain lack of self-regard or racial pride.  I’m not sure either one of these claims holds up.  The first claim, namely, that uses of the N-word by African Americans may cause others to use it freely, isn’t very convincing.  One might think that even if it were true, this doesn’t give non-African Americans license to use the word.  They are not permitted to infer that it is okay for them to use the N-word just because they hear African Americans using it.  The Cosby claim, on the other hand, may be true for some (that is, uses of it by some blacks may indeed indicate a lack of self-respect), but it is not clear that it is true for most African Americans.  We don’t have good reason to believe it is.

On the other end of the debate are those who think uses of the N-word by African Americans are totally fine.  ‘Nigga’ in the mouths of African Americans isn’t derogatory, at least in this camaraderie sense, and so is perfectly legitimate and okay.  However, I’m not sure I totally buy this line either.  I’m an African American, and I often experience a strange feeling of queasiness whenever I’m riding in a car with a white friend and a song by a black artist is playing in which ‘nigga’ is repeated often.  I can’t explain it, but there is almost a feeling of embarrassment.  Whether this means that I think the N-word shouldn’t be used I’m not sure, but it does let me know that the answer to the question can’t ignore the social consequences of saying it.

Luvell Anderson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University.  He works on the semantics and ethics of racial slurs, racist jokes, and offensive pictures.

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106 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandra permalink
    October 22, 2010 5:43 pm

    I’m white, and I would NEVER use this word, even in a conversation referring to the word. This is because I’ve heard white people use it in the derogatory sense (in front of only other white people), as recently as 20 years ago, and was completely disgusted by it. I figure it’s not up to me to decide whether it’s okay for African-Americans to use it, though it does make me uncomfortable.

    • indiaepps permalink
      November 29, 2011 12:14 pm

      exactly and thats good you feel this way as a black person i wouldnt be offended by this because people who use it are just ignorant and dont know what ther missing.

    • Latesha B. permalink
      September 25, 2012 12:42 am

      @Sandra…. Im an African American and I do not use the N word. I feel uncomfortable when other AA people use this word as well. I dont like it and I think we are better than what that word means. Not saying we are better than anyone else but better than the meaning of that word.

      • Pual Johnson permalink
        April 30, 2013 10:43 pm

        I feel a little confusion about this, actually. I am in high school, and at my school most white people are “aloud” to say the N-word by the African american groups. They seem to not be bothered by it, but I have noticed in my old school, African americans call white people “niggas”, but do not allow white people to use the word. It is a very confusing occurrence, and I am very confused by it.

    • Victoria permalink
      June 22, 2013 8:53 am

      I can see why white get uncomfortable when it is used. Because of this, I don’t say it in front of my white friends. To be honest, I don’t say the word that much, but my family does, like my uncles and aunts. When my white friend said the word with and A on the end, there was a long pause as my other black friends were processes if it was good or bad. We all laughed after a good three seconds. For me at least, it doesn’t matter the race that uses it, but just how they use it. I am growing up in a time were whites and blacks are getting a long wonderfully who are my age. My friend said it in a way were it was not harmful at all. This is the reasoning behind why we didn’t get upset, but I will admit their was a pause because we were definitely not expecting it. For others, it’s not ok at all for whites or any race for that matter to use that word. To me it depends on how it is used. thanks for reading :)

  2. Catherine C. permalink
    October 22, 2010 11:59 pm

    It’s an interesting phenomenon, because from a strictly egalitarian perspective the idea of a word that certain people are allowed to use but others aren’t is troubling, yet at the same time it seems to make sense in context. However I think there is an even more troubling implication that gets read into this usage on some level: African Americans can use the N-word with each other in both derogatory and friendly contexts, therefore the word itself is not an indication of the speaker’s intent. On the other hand, virtually any usage of the word by a white speaker is automatically racist, which seems to imply that we do not believe whites capable of non-derogatory intent when speaking to or about African Americans.

    Of course I don’t believe this to be the case, nor do I advocate usage of the N-word by white speakers. (I personally find it equally distasteful in most usages regardless of race, but like Sandra, I don’t feel it’s my place as a white person to tell African American speakers whether or not they can use it.) It is, however, one wrinkle in the psychology of the issue.

  3. vell permalink
    October 26, 2010 12:25 am

    hi Sandra and Catherine. thank you both for your comments. It’s quite right that blacks do use the n-word with many purposes, including derogatory ones. An interesting thing about derogatory uses by blacks: they don’t garner nearly as much offense (I’m supposing) as when non-blacks use it in this fashion. That suggests something more than intent is playing a role in the word’s offensive potency.
    Also, I’m not entirely sure I think any use of the word by white speakers is automatically racist. For example, I didn’t find and don’t think many blacks found Dr. Laura’s use of the word racist, but highly insensitive. I think the offense over whites using the word have to do more with a perceived trespassing on their part onto forbidden property, as it were. Where special permission isn’t granted (tacitly, and sometimes explicitly) an offense is incurred. For example, Bill Maher used the word during a Larry King interview and the only people who were upset were white conservatives complaining of “liberal double-standards”. Maher has a certain standing (apparently) in the black community and so “gets a pass”. Thus, features about the speaker, when the speaker is not black, like that speaker’s relationship with the black community, and the context play a large role in whether use of the n-word by that person is offensive (to blacks) or not.

  4. Melissa B. permalink
    October 26, 2010 12:52 am

    Personally, i think that the double standard does exist and it does create racial tension when it comes to the use of the N-word but i think such a double standard is one that will always exist as long as there is slang and “in-language”. Sure I may not be comfortable with saying it consistently but I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. Yes, African Americans can say the n-word colloquially and whites can’t. But the same standard exists amongst female teens with the words “bitch” and “slut”. If a male or non-familiar female uses the word, it’s offensive. If a friend says it, its okay. The same applies to, less severely, nick names and pet names. I feel a little creeped out when someone uses a very personal nick name or pet name with me without having the prerequisite amount of closeness with me.

    I feel that the argument over the n-word is virtually the same as a professor calling a student baby or a cab driver calling a passenger bitch or you calling my family crazy. But instead of a personal or sexual lens that this “personal vs offensive” question this issue is being viewed it is racial. it doesn’t stop it from boiling down to learn what you feel comfortable doing, learn can get away with, and learn what you will get punched for.

  5. Ginny permalink
    October 29, 2010 12:49 am

    Whenever I try to decide how I feel about this word I think back to the Oprah episode when Jay-Z was on. Oprah says she is firmly against the word, but Jay Z says that all the black community is doing is taking an ugly word and turning it into something positive. He also says that if you delete words from the dictionary then people will just think of a new word to use, so it’s better to directly address the issue.

    While I am still undecided on my stance, I can see Jay Z’s point. When you openly announce your fear/sensitivity/impatience of a word, you show the world a certain vulnerability that someone can easily exploit. But if you use the word yourself, then you’re taking the weight out of it. You’re telling the world that you’re stronger than a word, that you have the power to take something that was meant to hurt you and transform it into a marker of friendship. I think the fact that African Americans have done this with the n-word can be looked at as a very powerful statement, like a “you used this word to put us down once, but look how far we’ve come, now we decide what that word means”.

    Still, the issue of non-African Americans using the n-word is very difficult. I would never say the word (I am white) and I feel awkward when I hear other white people use it. I think your point about it being the black community’s territory is right. For me to say it just seems wrong. What that tells us, I’m not sure, but I think I can understand why it has become popular between African Americans.

    P.S. If you want to watch the Oprah/Jay Z discussion on it, here is the link. It starts around 6 min 30 seconds.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xallyv_jay-z-on-oprah-9-24-09-part-2-of-2_people

  6. Rachael A. permalink
    October 29, 2010 3:07 pm

    This is a tough one. Personally, it is hard for me to decide where to come down on this issue; being African-American, but not having grown up in an African-American community, I feel extremely uncomfortable using the N-word. However, I don’t find myself offended by it in, for example, most rap lyrics, which I attribute to the simple fact that most unedited versions of rap songs use the word an almost ridiculous number of times, and it just kind of blends into the rest of the (usually even more explicit) lyrics. At the same time, I do feel uncomfortable, and slightly offended, hearing the word in regular street conversation, even if it is a black person speaking. As I’m writing this I’m realizing how irrational this is, but I think much of the culture of rap lends itself to being an exception.

  7. Sonya K. permalink
    October 29, 2010 6:02 pm

    I think this is a classic example of reclaiming derogatory terms. According to Tajfel in Ch. 4 of the textbook, there is a reanalysis of words that reveal attitudes towards specific groups when the legitimacy and stability of intergroup differences are questioned. During this process, the words with negative and derogatory terms of reference become reclaimed by ingroup members by using them in positive ways. While I don’t think the n-word has been totally reclaimed in the sense that it has changed into a word with positive connotations for all people in all circumstances (kind of like a reversal of semantic derogation), this article has cited some instances where the n-word can be used to express camaraderie or endearment.

    The impression I got from the discussion so far is that some people are vaguely bothered by the fact that only African Americans can use the n-word while others can’t. People can understand why this is the case, but I think they have a hard time rationalizing it. For me, I think the use of the word is one of the ways the African American community empowers itself. As Ginny mentioned, it is how African Americans show that they are “stronger than the word.” Since the controversy of the term comes more from the history associated with it rather than the meaning it carries, the casual and positive use of the word can indicate the African American community’s rejection of the social stigma that was attached to the word by the whites. After all, the n-word stripped of all social connotation strictly means “A dark-skinned person of sub-Saharan African origin or descent” (from OED). However, as with the case with Dr. Laura, the use of the word by a non-ingroup member would be insensitive because desensitizing the word to non-ingroup members would almost be like desensitizing them to the injustice committed during the history associated with the n-word. Of course, as mentioned in another article, the n-word is not always used positively even by African Americans, but in the instance that it is, I think it’s an action of reclaiming a derogatory term to reassert and empower itself.

  8. Na X. permalink
    October 29, 2010 8:30 pm

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying the N-word unless it’s meaning is derogatory. I personally use it on various occasions, but none of which is meant to degrade anyone. Derogatory words stem from perception. Like stated in the article, if enough people believe that a word is a slur, then its meaning will have that connotation. From my experience, most African Americans use the N-word for camaraderie purposes only. But words have the tendency to change meanings over time. If people keep viewing the N-word in a derogatory sense, then it will always hold that meaning of insulting black people. It’s not really in the sense that it’s double standard to use the N-word since there are African Americans who doesn’t use the word, but more like who determines that it is a social taboo. I believed that if a white person grows up in an African American community that uses it, he would be allowed to use it as well. Look at Eminem and he is also part of mainstream culture. Why is it permitted for him to use the N-word in his rap? Race is a factor but not a determining one. Attitude is what is going to determine the direction in which the N-word will semantically shift. Lastly, if the N-word weren’t used to address only African Americans, but other races as well, the word would probably hold a different meaning today or one that would be less offensive.

    • Jacky stixx permalink
      April 24, 2012 5:28 pm

      Name me one song eminem says the N word in? He never has because he has too much respect for the word

      • Terrence Perlman permalink
        July 13, 2012 9:23 am

        I’m black and I 100% percent agree with you!! Its one of the reasons why I have lots of respect for Eminem, as to how he’s able to avoid the usage of the word at all costs. Nonetheless if he did I don’t think lots of African Americans would take offense in it.

  9. Yuliana permalink
    October 30, 2010 12:36 pm

    Sorry, I’m black and find the word extremely offensive. I do not use it nor do I allow anyone, black or white to use it in my presence. It’s a very hateful and disgusting word.

    • Dave Godfrey permalink
      January 23, 2011 12:11 am

      I’ve been reading though all the responses, looking for a place to jump in, and I finally landed on your site. Thank you! I’m a 1960′s liberal who worked hard in the civil rights movement, and to this day, I simply cannot tolerate hearing the N-word. In 1987, I bought a business in LA. My first employee was an African America. The first time I heard her say “Hey, Nigga,” when referring to a friend, I was shocked. I told her the use of that word was totally inapropriant! NEVER use that word again! She looked at me like I was crazy. “What did I do wrong”? she seemed to ask. And I guess she didn’t do anything wrong. In hindsight, it was clearly a cultural mis-communication.
      I continue to have very “mixed” feelings about the use of the N-word among African Americans. I guess, in the final analysis, it’s up to the African American community. It’s their decision. If they’re comfortable using the N-word, despite its historic negative connotations, then who are we (White America) to say No.
      But as someone who has worked so hard to foster racial justice in this country, all I ask is this. Help me out here.

      • sheila permalink
        June 26, 2012 9:50 pm

        I am white. When I am having casual conversation with African American acquaintances or colleagues and the N-word I all of a sudden feel excluded.

  10. M. Rifai permalink
    October 31, 2010 11:41 am

    I think this is an extremely interesting topic because there are two very strong points of view which both seem equally valid. Likewise, it doesn’t appear that there is a middle ground or compromise that would adequately solve this problem.

    When you have a word that conjures up so much hate and decades of repression and abuse to an entire section of the population it seems right to retire the word. The retirement would likely symbolize progression into a new era and a new way of thinking.

    But it doesn’t seem that this is the case. It seems instead that the N-word is taboo because we’re afraid of it. We are trying to forget that this atrocious part of our country’s past, exists. As a white female, I’m likely not in the position to say what about the N-word is necessarily offensive but it seems to me that this is the most offensive part of all. Ignoring or forgetting the past seems to be the worst way to deal with it.

    In this light, I think that it is quite appropriate for the African American population to adopt the word. It seems as though its a way to acknowledge what we’ve been ignoring, a way of remembering. In doing so, it takes away some of the hate and fear thats associated with it and instead creates a group word, that people who belong to a certain group are able to use, because of their life experiences or the experiences of their ancestors.

    It was mentioned above that there is a double standard about who can and cannot use the N-word. But I don’t think that it is a double standard at all. I think that there is still a lot of hate in the word and any person, black or white, who uses it in a derogatory way will offend. It is a word that was appropriated, originally, by white people to repress the African American population and therefore it still seems it would be wrong for a white person to use it. But, the African American population seems to have re-appropriated it to remove some of the hate from the word and therefore seems to have the right to use the N-word as a word indicating group-inclusion.

  11. Sylvia permalink
    October 31, 2010 5:23 pm

    What I think is most interesting about this discussion is the idea that there are two different ways the N-word can be used: for derogatory purposes and for camaraderie purposes. However, it is only members of the African American community that can use both forms: non-African Americans are limited to the derogatory version. But what I’ve noticed is that with the rise of popularity of hip hop, in which you hear the N-word used repeatedly, there have been incidences where both African-Americans and white people are singing along to the lyrics. My question is this: if a white person (or a group) is listening to a Jay-Z song in their car, let’s say, and the N-word pops up, are they using the word in a derogatory sense by singing along? My immediate response would be “no,” but that’s because I am reminded of a comment my friend once made about such situations. She said the only time that it is acceptable for a non-member of the African-American community to use the n-word is when singing along to a song where the word is used. Her stipulation was comforting: I (as a non-African American) was relieved to know that I wasn’t doing anything offensive or harmful by singing along to the latest jam. However, from a linguistic standpoint, I’m still confused as to why in that given context the circumstances have changed enough for the derogatory implication to be erased. I would say that audience design plays a large part: a non-African American may feel comfortable saying the n-word as they sing along to a song only in front of other non-African Americans, but may think it inappropriate to do so in front of African-American. On the other hand, there may still be others who would disagree with my friend altogether and say that there is never an acceptable time for non-African Americans to even utter the N-word.
    Here is a clip from the movie White Chicks, which touches upon many of these issues:

  12. Caroline H. permalink
    November 1, 2010 1:15 pm

    This topic is a very interesting look at the way a word can become an “in group” word. The N-word is particularly interesting because it has so much controversy attached to it. I don’t think the controversy should center around the question addressed – Isn’t it racist to say that only some people can use the word while others can’t? This question does not make sense for it assumes that the use of the word is still rooted in an ideology. Rather, the word is now become a way to distinquish an “in group” speaker (it is acceptable to say the word) and an “out group” speaker (it is not acceptable to say the word). It is not ‘racist’ because there is no reason for a white speaker to use the word solely because he/she is not a member of that particular social strata. Of course, the N-word has much more sentiment attached to it than another variable that distinguishes a speech community (ie the raised ae vowel of New Yorkers). Although putting sentiment aside, the N-Word has become a marker of the African American speech community. By looking at the word as a marker, the question becomes- Why would anyone outside of this community need/want to say the word? The answer does not lie between racial lines. The answer is found in the speech community. This is why the N-word is sometimes acceptable for a white speaker who lives in the speech community of African Americans. With this white speaker, he is now a member of the “in group” of the word.

    • Ken Browne permalink
      May 15, 2012 4:47 pm

      i think its a word and subject that is keeping us apart. its the same as a white person saying a black person can not do or say something just because they are black. today all races are somewhat together. we work, eat, socialize and pretty much do anything that does not include other races. as a fan of comedy movies, i find myself watching movies of black comedy, i am allowed to watch the movies, support the actors and laugh but i am excluded from being a total part of the culture because i am white? certainly seems like a form of racism. there seems to be this language that can only exist between blacks. since slavery is gone and i am sure that no one i know or interact with has ever been a slave, why is there still so much hate against slavery. we have evolved into a combined people, however creating lines that keep us in our own skin color also keeps us apart. when i watch a movie or show with Morgan Freeman in, i do not comment look at the black Morgan Freeman, i just comment, Morgan Freeman is great in the particular film. i really believe that we need to change the way we feel and act about this. One of the comments here references a black rapper going on Opra to discuss the N word. only black shows and black people are allowed to discuss. as a fan of black comedy, i feel it unfair that i can support everything about the black humor but i am eliminated as a fan for portions of the humor because i am white?

      • Vienna permalink
        May 18, 2013 4:57 am

        I can see what you mean but you really need to take into account history. You do not know their struggle. Family history is everything and it automatically determines how you are raised and what struggles you encounter. That is the cycle of life. It is not fair to say that a non-African American person has the same struggle as a African-American person because it is not true. Everyone’s is unique. There is a separation and we do not get to say it like they do because we cannot personally identify with it. Were your ancestors slaves? It changes absolutely everything. My grandpa escaped the Armenian genocide. Had he not, or had he endured abuse during it, my fate and my brothers fates would all be drastically different. This is why they get to say it and we don’t. History is very important.

  13. K. Goo permalink
    November 1, 2010 7:24 pm

    I agree with Mr. Anderson in the question: “If the N-word has at least two senses, i.e. a derogatory one and a neutral one, then why can’t non-African Americans use it?”

    For me, this question sheds light on the issue beneath the act of appropriating a word. What truly gives someone the right to essentially change the meaning of a word? There seems to be a message of ownership and perhaps even pride when someone appropriates a word. Take for example the Rush Hour clip. When Carter uses the N-word in his exchange with the bartender, a sense of ownership and pride is implied in the fact that he felt comfortable enough to use the word being an African American himself. And in a way, one can say Carter uses the word as a sort of bridge to connect with the African-American bartender. Thus, when Lee attempts to appropriate the word in the exact same context, it fails and is seen as derogatory because he himself does not “own” a part of the African-American race and therefore cannot be proud of that fact.

    So what am I trying to say? I’m not totally sure. But what I do know is that the act of appropriation (?) is very complex and hard to understand. Yet, somehow if someone says, “I’m black so I can say that”, we all seem to understand and accept the statement.

  14. D Robinson permalink
    November 1, 2010 8:04 pm

    This is a question I’ve asked myself since I first heard the word used in rap lyrics. I’d always been told it was a horrible word and no one should use it. My younger self couldn’t wrap my head around why people would refer to themselves as derogatory names. It wasn’t until I reached high school and even college that I started thinking it had something to do with solidarity as a community.

  15. Rachel D. permalink
    November 1, 2010 8:54 pm

    I think some really interesting comments about trespassing on the black community and the acceptability of the word within the hip hop community were made. There seems to be a pretty big overlap between the hip hop community and the black community seeing as how most famous, successful hip hop artists are also black. But I would argue that the audience of mainstream hip hop music is not entirely black and that mainstream hip hop artists would be foolish to market themselves solely to black consumers. Why, then, do we have album covers like the one where Nas has an “N” scarred into his back? The image is obviously a play on his name but it also alludes to the physical torture that was suffered under slavery. Is this an invitation for outsiders to use the word, or is it a merely a marketing ploy that attempts to sell records to the public by shocking them. If the second is true than we can see that there is a more complex aspect to the use of the word in today’s society. The use of the word by the black community has superseded simple re-appropriation of the word and actually turned it into something that works for their benefit.

  16. peter enzinna permalink
    November 1, 2010 9:13 pm

    The camaraderie use of the n-word has followed, from what i’ve seen, in the path of other AAE terms and usages that accrue “cool” cachet in non-AAE speakers. However, it comes with extra baggage and is infinitely more offensive than other forms that seeped into more general speech (“chill,” “crib”). Use of the n-word by whites has been extremely taboo and offensive even to many other whites. In my experience, black people tend not to use it in conversation with white people, even if they use it regularly with other blacks. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around how it became okay to use, given that its origins come from a distinctly derogatory place; I’ve always assumed it stems from re-appropriation of its oppressive status.

    The use in popular culture (especially rap music) seems not to consider these connotations in its casual use of the n-word. Except when it is explicitly addressed, it gets dropped most of the time as a space-filler or a simple exclamation; in this sense, it hews closest to the camaraderie usage. Rappers either take the word on directly (“The Kramer,” off of Wale’s Mixtape About Nothing, for instance) or simply don’t acknowledge its role in their lyrics.

    The differentiation of the n-word used for “endearment” and oppression or hate seems to me to posit a future for the word in which it becomes no longer offensive or contentious. This has largely been be the consensus among the people I’ve asked about it: by not caring about its use, people can effectively remove the general stigma about it. However, the legacy of the n-word seems greater than a mindset, greater than something we can simply ignore and make it go away. I’m not saying that using the n-word leads to old-school racism, but the fact that its use comes directly from this situation seems to me to overcome any personal or situational resistance.

  17. William L. permalink
    November 1, 2010 10:22 pm

    M. Rifai brings up an interesting point regarding the validity history might give towards the use of a word. Rifai posits that its non-use by non African Americans results not out of respect for the affected party but from fear or a desire to forget the word’s association with “so much hate and decades of repression and abuse.”
    She claims that the most offensive part of it is ignoring the past and that its use is taboo because we are afraid of the past and we want to forget about it. I would disagree given that the greatest association attributed to the word is not the racism of the past. Rather it has taken on the identity of camaraderie between African Americans of the present. I encounter its use most often in music or on the streets and rarely in reference to racism. I have rarely if ever encountered “nigger” or “nigga” as an expression of hate or racism towards African Americans. Most of the time it has been non African Americans adopting it and using it to express camaraderie or imitate the speech of African Americans. It seems that its use as a derogatory epitaph used in a racist manner is changing. Its symbolic nature is not what prevents me from using it but rather out of an understanding that I have no “right” to.
    I think it would be interesting to explore how its use evolves in children, whether it is picked up at school, its use at home and the role of parents in the integration of the word into a person’s vocabulary. A study might reveal how African Americans who use the word regularly view its use. What it symbolizes, whether it is viewed as offensive and if so in what contexts.
    I have difficulty understand how its adoption as a group word is an effective way to “acknowledge what we’ve been ignoring.” I doubt that upon hearing it, non African Americans would be spurred into remembering the trials and triumphs of the civil rights movement and so forth. If, as M. Rifai points out, it is important for us as Americans to be constantly conscious of the past injustices, how can its transformation into a word communicating exclusive camaraderie serve as a reminder? I am not sure that African Americans using the word would agree that in adopting the word they are helping us to remember the past. I tend to think that its new use has little to do with an expression of remembrance of African American struggles through disenfranchisement. It seems more to be a vessel for African American expression or identity championed by artists like Nas in high profile. Its occurrences in such innocuous songs like “Love in this club” by Usher seem to challenge any one person’s attempt to categorize its use without consulting the users extensively.
    I would argue that its current adoption does not foster mutual remembrance of prejudice and the story of racism in America. Rifai says that it seems wrong for whites to use it because they used it originally to repress African Americans.
    I think the real focus of the issue is determining whether we think its wrong to use it because we don’t have the “right” to; that is the historical ethnic struggle that constitutes identity or because it symbolizes a blind prejudice responsible for various evils. Perhaps it is a combination of the two.

  18. Chris V. permalink
    November 1, 2010 10:34 pm

    Just the other evening I was listening to a rap song with one of my African American friends and the N-word was said. Casually singing along I continued repeating the lyrics including the N-word, while my black friend censored herself and refrained from saying it. She was offended that I had used the word even though it A. was part of a song that we were listening to together and B. the usage of the word in the song was not derogatory.
    We began discussing the issue immediately after and my friend went into detail about her own opinion of the N-word. While she is an African American she was raised in a wealthy neighborhood in New Jersey where most of her friends were white. Tracing back through her heritage her black family has always mingled with upper class white circles and in doing so, her family has lost a lot of the solidarity of being part of the traditional black community (the one that uses the N-word as a means of expressing camaraderie).
    I found this very intriguing. While she identifies herself as a “black” woman based on skin color, she views herself inwardly as being generally white, and therefore feels that her using the N-word would not be appropriate.

  19. Apt241 permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:35 pm

    Examining the uses of the N-word under the terms that it is a word that “belongs” the African American English speech community seems to be one of the approaches that causes the least amount of controversy. The word “belongs” here meaning that the word is actively used by many members of the African American English speech community and when used, is frequently targeted at other members of the speech community. Basically, I agree with a previous comment: it functions as a marker of the African American English dialect. While this approach to the word designates that permission is needed for a non-member to successfully say the word without causing offense, it does not seem cover all potential usages of the word. It seems that when members of a speech community exercise the power to decide what non-member usage of their words is acceptable, contradictions and taboo statuses are inevitable. For example, acceptability for moments when a non-native English speaker uses the n-word (i.e. Jackie Chan’s character in rush hour) is not always granted. Even though the “camaraderie” purpose Mr. Anderson identifies may be intentioned during a non-member’s usage of the n-word, there still are differing reactions. The differing and often contradicting values of both African American English linguistic culture and non-African American English linguistic culture on the N-word leave it impossible to establish clear-cut “sides.” There are situations where speakers of African American English have permitted the N-word usage by a non-member, and at the same time non-members do not agree on this with this permission. These situations show how a lack of uniformed communicative competence throughout speakers of all variants of a language prevents the establishment of the norms for acceptable and not acceptable use. A sweeping generalization about acceptable usage for the N-word would be the least effective way to identify taboo usage, and it is best approached by a case by case basis.

  20. Kathryn S. permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:41 pm

    The debate brings to mind an afternoon I spent watching reality TV and happened upon The White Rapper Show, a Top-Chef-style, elimination-based competition (for white rappers, of course) during which the contestants live together in close quarters. One of the contestants started using the N-word, and another told her he felt uncomfortable. She apparently grew up around black people using it in the camaraderie sense, but the host dealt with this by making her wear a heavy chain labeled “N-Word.”

    Watch a recap and discussion of this here: http://www.vh1.com/video/shows/ego-trips-white-rapper-show/127086/white-rapper-episode-1-roundtable-the-n-word.jhtml#id=1549361

    I liked the chain, looking back, but perhaps not in the way the producers intended. I agree that it is a heavy word, a strong word, even when uttered in the camaraderie sense, because it still reminds those who have reclaimed the term of the term itself, of its origins, of the fact that it ever needed to be reclaimed in the first place. However, in the above video, the point is made that there is a time and a place for each word, and that if a word makes someone in your presence uncomfortable, you should respect that. That said, if a heavy word used in the right circumstances does not make anyone uncomfortable and the perceived meaning is as positive or neutral as the intended meaning, it’s no big deal.

  21. E. Viles permalink
    November 2, 2010 12:51 am

    I think there are two sides to the taboo of the N-word being racist. First is the more obvious one, that African-Americans are the only people “allowed” to use it, and if a white person, or anyone of a different race, says it, it’s a lot worse. The second half of it is that I think many people assume that all African-Americans use the N-word and are not offended by it if it’s said by an African-American. While many famous African-American artists champion the word in their music, others feel completely the opposite, like Bill Cosby for instance, who thinks it reflects a lack of self-respect and racial pride in users of the N-word. I think that enough people know of the taboo of using the N-word and it will be a disputed topic not necessarily for good, but at least for the foreseeable future. I don’t think enough people are aware–or they at least forget–that not every African-American uses the N-word.

  22. J. Finn permalink
    November 2, 2010 6:09 pm

    Because the N-word is such a derogatory word in general, I do feel that it’s usage by African Americans is a case of trying to reclaim the word (as Sonya pointed out). However, with reclaiming any derogatory word, such as the examples that Ginny listed, I feel that it is inevitable that distinct lines are going to be drawn between who can and cannot use the word. So even though African Americans may be trying to show that they are above the word and it’s dictionary definition, white people are not, and therefore cannot use it. I feel like only African Americans are allowed to use the word because they are ones who have been targeted by it’s meaning throughout history. To parallel it: I am a girl, and can say that I have called my female friends “bitches” before, and it has been perfectly acceptable because we are both girls and both friends. However, I feel mildly uncomfortable when one of my male friends refers to me as a “bitch,” simply because he isn’t a girl. So essentially, in any case, because the word cannot really apply to them, it isn’t right for them to use it. Just like (but on a much lesser scale) calling one of my guy friends a “bitch” wouldn’t really mean anything, calling a white person the N-word wouldn’t either, and therefore white people cannot use the word.

  23. N. Allassan permalink
    November 16, 2010 12:03 pm

    I would like to know your opinions on the comments made by Dr. Laura Schlessinger on this topic during her radio show “The Dr. Laura Program”.

  24. Devin D. Moss permalink
    March 24, 2011 10:08 pm

    I liked this article because it is well written. However, I do not believe it is a word anyone–Black, White, or anything else–should use in any variation. I feel strongly about this because of the history of the word and the message it sends when used inside of the Black community. First, when a White or other race person uses the term, I am turned off because it is offense. It is as if they are not observing the historical tense of the word and being respectful to me or my ancestors. Secondly, it is damaging when used within the Black community because I believe their is a strong difference between a man/woman and a nigga. A man/woman is what a nigga aint. A man/woman is what a nigga aspires to be. A man/woman has control of his/her destiny. A nigga is chain and enslaved to their mentality.

    My nephew used this word when he was about 2 or 3 years old. I stopped it instantly because I refused to be a part of raising niggas. I wanted to be a part of raising men. That’s my answer to the issue of the lack of Black manhood in America. We have to get out of the shackles in our mind and do more than be niggas all of our lives. We were niggas when we were point on those boats and our dignity and destiny was taken from us. Why continue that today?

  25. Casey W permalink
    April 10, 2011 9:54 pm

    Even though I am closely affiliated with the hip-hop community, and have been frequently referred to by my African American friends by the n-word (“Casey not real Asian, he a real n***a,” “This n***a be producin’ the real sh*t,” etc.), I would never think of using or referring to myself using the n-word. Many of my African Americans friends have asked me why I have chosen not to, and usually my short answer is that I do not believe that I have the right to use the word because my ancestors were not brought to America in chains. Asian Americans were not systematically subjected to the brutal and violent heritage that comes with the word. Although there is a violent hidden history that has occurred against particular Asian groups in America (i.e. lynching of Chinese from light poles in San Francisco, Japanese internment during World War II, etc.), Asians in America were not subjected to the physical and symbolic violence that occurred against African Americans in this country. That history is undisputed. The question of the n-word should be left to the only Americans in the United States with the moral authority to speak on the word, African Americans.

    • john permalink
      May 19, 2012 8:32 pm

      Use of the word has nothing to do with a violent history, although i appreciate your opinion and your choice not to use the word, but it has do with the definition of the word. I am a Negro and i feel that no one should use the word anymore, its gotten out of hand. Soon every easily influenced teenager of every race will start to use it to fit in as i have started to see.

      • Shannon permalink
        June 29, 2013 12:40 am

        ABSOLUTELY, you are Correcto! And also if some ppl would look that word up in the dictionary not only would it say it meant, Negro but also it would say by the word as a defintion that Ni**er means IGNORANCE!!~!!!!! and the ppl that use that word like its candy comming outta their mouth are very very Ignorant and they need to stand infront of a mirror and call the person thats looking back at them the N word because their being very ignorant for saying that word…….and not to mention being a JERK!!! Because im white and i would never ever ever use that word because of respect and also i treat ppl how i want to be treeated and i would NOT, want AA Calling me White Trash, Honkey, or anything of that nature soo therefore i do not use the N word, like i said out of RESPECT, you know that thing that Aretha Franklin sung about,lol…… anyways besides that, these ppl that are out here slinging that word out like its nothing sure as H3LL dont mind listning to the rap music that they produce, so basically what point im trying to get across is that ” TREAT PEOPLE WITH THE SAME RESPECT THAT YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO TREAT YOU WITH” and if anybody doesn’t agree with what ive just stated in this comment, feel free to express your concern with whatever it is that you have concerns about, untill then everyone should tread very lightly around that ugly and infurating word! Thanks soooooo much! Have a Great Day :))~

  26. Joelle Blackstock permalink
    April 13, 2011 10:30 pm

    Whenever we say that only african americans can use the n-word, this an example of rules being put in place to shape language. However, when we discuss rules that reflect who can and cannot use the n-word, I think that not enough attention is placed on the actual rule makers. Just as it is important who can and cannot use the n-word, it is equally important to know who is making the rules? After all, the ability to govern with these rules, even when it is placed on language is an exercise of power. A power that can shape how african americans communicate with each other and then possibly later on how african americans act towards one another.

    The reality is, we live in a white male dominated world and black people were denied access to power. It was whites who created the rule that the n-word would be a derogatory word to demean african americans. So how can we be so sure that it is african americans who are now making the rules that we can use n-word as terms as endearment towards each other? Could it be possible that the same forces who created that word to demean african americans are now making the rules to allow african americans to use it themselves? Would that not be the perfect way to control the mindset of a race of people? It would be an example of the way in which african americans have used the language of the exploiter to now exploit themselves while the possible white rule makers just sick back enjoy a race of people’s own demise.

    Therefore, when someone says that only african americans can use the n-word, my response would be “Says who?”

  27. Shaya permalink
    April 15, 2011 7:42 am

    The N word debate is timely and unfortunately, it may be timeless. The history of the word coincides with the presence of African people in America. This “new” supposedly innocuous/ synonym for friend/canon of urban speech is as insidiously damaging as its more overtly offensive use. I would never argue for banning a word but I can have my opinions about who I think should use it. I do agree that ONLY African Americans should be able to choose whether they want to use it. Call it an in-group “privileged”. Even then, in a perfect world those who choose to use it will be fully aware of what it means, its history, and what it implies when they utter it. I have a problem when people use it “mindlessly” as Jabari Asim says in his book on this subject.

  28. Angelica permalink
    April 20, 2011 1:38 pm

    I do not like this word at all, even if it is used by African Americans to express camaraderie. It can be historically traced to times of slavery, where it was used by white slave owners as a way to demean African Americans and keep them under control. I do not understand why the black youth today would even want this word to appear in the American lexicon of rap music, let alone use it in colloquial speech. I understand that words may experience amelioration over time, which is a gain in “status,” in terms of the word’s significance, but I do not believe “nigga” is one of them. It is censored when the word appears in a song; there is obviously still much tension surrounding this word. Black people are not the only ones listening to rap- everyone, regardless of race, can enjoy the transcending power of music. If this word is not ready to be expressed in a public setting, such as the radio, why is it okay for people to say it in a private sphere? Just because it is limited to fewer ears? This is absurd, to me. I would like to note that I am not African American, but I am Hispanic. I experience similar unease when I hear people say the word “spic.” Racial slurs are disgusting elements of our language- I am quite unmoved on this stance. We have access to millions of words, and I do not believe that “nigga” is an ideal term for endearment, even when it is said by an African American. To me, it conveys an ignorance of the suffering experienced by African Americans during the slavery era, by appropriating the same word with an altered phonological ending. The meaning is still the same, despite the word’s new appearance.

  29. G.Shapiro permalink
    April 26, 2011 9:52 pm

    Whites do not refer to one another as “crackas,” and members of the Chinese community do not refer to one another as “chinks.” Similarly, Hispanics do not employ the term “spic” in a friendly manner, Germans do not refer to one another as “Nazis,” and those of Russian decent do not call one another “Communists” or “Ruskis.” Or better yet, an example from a current multimillion dollar source of entertainment, “Harry Potter” — the human-born witches and wizards in the magical school of Hogwarts do not wave to one another in the morning uttering, “Whaddup, Muggle?!” on their way to class. I may be going a bit overboard with examples, yet each one of them further informs my opinion on the subject matter.

    In spite of the fact that I don’t particularly believe in the concept of “Because ______ people use it, I can, too,” it seems like an overwhelmingly probable explanation for the “n***a/er” epidemic that our society is currently experiencing. Although the treacherous and terrible history of the word can [practically] be considered common knowledge, a change in society over time has also resulted in an alteration of the meaning and connotation of the word itself. The word is, in fact, more publicly used as a term of endearment, both by the African American community and by various other communities (usually behind closed doors). It seems that a cause of this is most certainly the excessive use of the word in a friendly manner within the African American community itself; the word is slowly becoming less of an insult and more of a warm and welcoming label…or is it?

    Not to all, of course. The meaning of the word and its acceptance in society is overwhelmingly subjective, wholly based on its context, the manner in which it is being used, the circumstance it applies to, and the comfort of the company one is in while using it (although the meaning of a word should not be based on comfort, most aspects of society are, and language is an undeniably vital facet of society). For example, my best friend is an African American; him and I constantly refer to one another by the word “n***a,” yet I would never use it in front of someone whom I think may be offended by it, or someone I may not know, merely on the basis of knowing that the word is held under an uncomfortable double-standard. If we are unable to progress past this poorly crafted double-standard then we must, instead, adhere to it accordingly in order to avoid conflict (regardless of whether we view the word as one that is positive).

  30. Rachel R permalink
    May 1, 2011 12:26 pm

    I’m not African American, but this word always makes me feel extremely uncomfortable on a number of levels, regardless of who says it. Perhaps it’s because the first time I was familiarized with this word was when we learned about the Civil Rights movement in elementary school and were taught that it’s a very bad word. I learned this word in the context of slavery and discrimination, and the horror of this word was ingrained into me before I knew other expletives, and so I can’t shake the feeling of wrongness from it. I don’t think I began to hear this word used casually until middle school or high school when I came in contact with a wider demographic of people and began to hear some hip-hop and rap music that I had been sheltered from as a child. The people who I heard use it were usually either African Americans or white students who, for all intents and purposes, adopted African American culture.

    Even though the term is used affectionately within the African American community, that doesn’t take away the history of the word. It’s a strong word that has a lot of hatred and sorrow behind it, and I feel like it doesn’t belong in a modern world where we’re trying very hard to overcome racism. In a way, the shift in usage is analogous to how people use the term “Grammar Nazis.” As a Jew, the word Nazi sends a shiver down my spine, and even disassociating it with its original history and putting it into an entirely different context does not remove the uneasiness and discomfort surrounding the word.

    In my Texts and Ideas class, we just read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which the n-word was used many, many times. Even reading it, there is a definite discomfort and feeling of shame–for instance, I felt guilty reading passages that contained it, as though it made me somehow complicit in the history. I didn’t want to read the book where other people could see me, because I feared being judged if other people saw that word on the page of the book I was reading. In class, we discussed the power of that word and tried to pinpoint the cause of the discomfort. We determined that even though it’s uncomfortable to confront the word’s presence, it’s an important part of the text–Huckleberry Finn would not be the same novel with the absence of the n-word. It’s troubling, and remains as a reminder of some of the darker history of our country. That history will never disappear. But at the same time, I think perpetuating it in everyday speech is an insult to those who suffered in the pre-Civil Rights era in this country.

  31. Zuleika T permalink
    May 4, 2011 8:18 pm

    After reading this, these are some of my thoughts:

    In my linguistic class we learned that the N-word is appropriate for African Americans and some Latinos, primarily Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, but I have been wondering if Latinos usage of the word is appropriated by phenotype. If a Puerto Rican man or woman has a white phenotype, but one can tell his/her ethnicity, it may be okay. However, if that person does not look Latino, but white it may not be okay. The “rule” of using the N Word could also be tied into having an oppressed or dictated history like Dominicans being dictated by Trujillo in the mid 1900’s. However, if that were the case, Jews would also be allowed to use the word. Maybe the “rule” includes people from the Caribbean, which include Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. However, if a white-skinned Caribbean person were to say it, it would probably not be allowed. It all comes down to race and the phenotype of an individual. I think that for someone to be “allowed” to say the N-Word his or her race must be black or Latino (not a race) and they must have a dark skin tone, or light and look Latino.

    The reason AA use the N-word may not only be because, but to show that they are in control of something that was once repressive. They are the only ones allowed to take the word and turn it into whatever they want. But once again this question of allowing these particular Latinos to use the word comes up. I mean, I know the word “spic” is not used as frequently or probably at all anymore, but if an AA were to use the word, it would not be okay. Any thoughts on this?

  32. Eldrick Seaver permalink
    May 5, 2011 2:23 pm

    I think that it’s too much of an overgeneralization to declare whether a word like this is plain good or plain bad. I also think that it’s too general to say that its OK for blacks to say it but not OK for whites to say it. Words are just words, as the writer alludes to, a word like nigg/a/er all by itself could mean many many different things. A black man, calling a friend a nigga in camaraderie is different from a black man calling an enemy a nigga, and each of these situations are different then a white man calling his friend one, or a white calling a black man one, or a black man calling a white man one, and so on and so forth. So many combinations, and possibilities, so many different possible meanings; how could anyone declare that this word is either good or bad? It’s just not that black and white. To differentiate based on race or phenotype is a problem, its segregating and controversial. And while there are certain problems that may arise from differentiating usage based on intention, I think that it’s certainly a better system than differentiating based on color. If people only used this word with good intentions and camaraderie, then wouldn’t it become a word that had positive connotations and symbolized camaraderie?

  33. Anton permalink
    May 5, 2011 10:11 pm

    Let’s not forget that the N-word is just that; a word. An end product of a bunch of phonetic symbols put together. Of course, words are assigned meaning, most more than one. And often, the word takes on different meaning depending on context, interpretations and history. The N-word, though a word, has a powerful history behind it: the hegemonic relationship between whites over blacks in history. As Tim Wise puts it in his article “Honky Wanna Cracker?,” “Whereas ‘nigger’ was and is a term used by whites to dehumanize blacks, to imply their inferiority, to put them in their place if you will, the same cannot be said of honky—after all, you can’t put white people in their place when they own the damned place to begin with.” Given this history, it is understandable why it’s usage might be considered offensive, even if a white person might use the word as a term of endearment.
    Unfortunately, we cannot forget history. Even if the N-word can technically be used as a word referring to friend, I believe it is best to drop its usage altogether, both white and black (and every other race), out of consideration and social decorum.

  34. Taylor permalink
    May 13, 2011 1:03 am

    Being from Texas by way of Alabama, my perspective of the use of the N-word definitely seems to be a lot more sensitive than people from other places. I remember a time in elementary school, being the only black person in my grade, and hearing two white girls call me the N-Word behind my back. No not “Nigga” but the “real” one with the -er. I was taken aback, shocked, confused, and very hurt to know the very harmful and racist connotation that they were using it in. After that day, even though I was aware of the sometimes colloquial use of the term by older African-Americans though it was never said in my home) I vowed to never use the word.

    However, over the past 15 years, the gravitas of the word shifting more and more towards mass acceptance not only baffles me, but also makes it hard to be a member of the black community and NOT use the word. Though I do believe that the Hip Hop culture has enabled us to transcend many of the boundaries placed on blacks by popular society, it’s overwhelming use of the word “Nigga” has also made us wash over the fact that in some areas of the country racism is still very alive and well and this word is still used to demean and belittle people of the African American race.

    From hearing it in almost every single popular urban song, to it now being openly used in cartoon series “The Boondocks” which is Nationally syndicated and has a huge viewer audience, it seems as though the word is now being used not only by blacks but by ALL people who identify with the urban and/or Hip Hop community to refer to themselves and their friends.While I find this extremely problematic, I have also come to a realization of the impact that this word on the “others” who have appropriated it, has on the meaning of the word.

    Recently I started dating a guy who was born in Atlanta, lived in Trinidad, and has lived in Brooklyn for the past ten years. (Not the new trendy hipster Brooklyn, but the rough “Hard-Knock Life” Brooklyn that Jay-Z and Biggie used to rap about). It just so happens to be, that he is White. He not only has heard the N-word on a daily basis from people in his community, from his best friends he grew up with, and from the very people he considers his “fam” but he also uses the word to refer to himself. Of course the first time I heard it I was shocked and confused, but he said it so nonchalantly I didn’t know what to do but to begin to question the true meaning and use of the word in today’s society.

    Is it more important to have lived a “black” experience than to actually be black in order to use the word? Can someone “earn” the right to appropriate it? Does skin color determine ones ability to use the word, more than one’s cultural identification? And when it comes down to the bare bones of it, who am I…a black girl who lived in the suburbs, went to predominately white schools, is studying at NYU to tell him…a boy that grew up around nothing but black people, lived in the projects, and identifies with “Gangsta Rap” more than I ever could.. that I can use the word, and he can’t? Sounds like I’ll have to grapple with that one and get back to you.

  35. R Parker permalink
    June 11, 2011 5:09 pm

    If any group of people within a society argue for inclusion in that society, it is hypocritical and disingenuous to then make rules that hold themselves separate from that society and their actions then make moot thier complaints.

  36. Hiram Smith permalink
    November 1, 2011 3:50 pm

    Here is a panel discussion about the history and usage of the N-word in society that took place at the University of New Mexico. Among the topics discussed were: 1. What is the difference between nigga and nigger? 2. When did blacks begin calling each other ‘nigga/er’? 3. When did it develop ‘affective’ usages? The video is my property and I am publishing it on here. Please do not use it in an unauthorized way. If you have any questions please respond on this post and I will get back to you.

    UNM N Word Luncheon Part 1
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5775053388822036288#

    UNM N Word Luncheon Part 2
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=274781319953797942#

    UNM N Word Luncheon Part 3
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5775053388822036288#docid=-4987126127316432043

    UNM N Word Luncheon Part 4
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=274781319953797942#docid=-5202133199937436600

  37. November 20, 2011 8:21 pm

    “N”

    For my entire life the “N” word and all of its derivative forms has been a part of my vernacular. I’m not quite sure when I first started using the word, but I am sure I was using the word before I truly understood it. Growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded be a multitude of strong, responsible and independent minded men of color. Within our large Creole kinship, these men were fathers, uncles, grandfathers to many of the young men in my family. They were unsophisticated. However, this is not to say that they were simple or unintelligent. To the contrary, in fact most of them were beautifully complex, layered with imperfection that somehow homogenized them into men of uncommon character. Suffice to say that the example set by these men would be hard to follow, but we (my brothers and cousins) would try.
    I suppose this is how our use of the word got its start. In an attempt to emulate these men, whom we looked up to so much, we naturally mimicked them. And the fact is, that some of these men, NOT all, used the word. As we grew older it was learned that the term, while widely applicable, was only used within a narrow context of trusted “comfortable” company. Even so, some “worldly”, “cosmopolitan” or “forward thinking” persons may find it easy to issue an off-handed condemnation of the use of this word, perhaps they should pause. Pause and consider whether their disapprobation is weighted and informed or merely fashionable. I suppose it would be easy and popular for me to disavow the term and relegate it to the category of “inappropriate” or “unacceptable” words. It would also, however, be disingenuous. For me personally, to do so would require me to autopsy the character of these men whom I have held in such high regard. I’m not prepared nor do I feel it is necessary to do that. I am prepared, however, to accept that perhaps these men and many like them, understood without examination exactly what that word meant to them. Maybe they realized that this one little word represented a small but notable victory in the history of race relations in this country. The word has in effect been transformed from one that was used freely and boldly by some in an attempt to berate and belittle, to one that dare not even be whispered in mixed company. I am certain also that these men understood well, better than most, the sacrifices that have been made to rise above the derogatory connotations that this term carried with it. And never would these men be expected to explain or rationalize its use.
    So despite what the casual observer might choose to believe, about the use of this word, to dismiss its use as ignorant and “backwards”, may in fact reveal more about the observer than the user. It may reveal that the “forward” thinking cosmopolite that is “offended and appalled” may in fact lack the social acumen or intellectual maturity to allow for and accept that there may be a context to which he or she may not be privy. If you are uncomfortable with the word, don’t use it. If you are uncomfortable with its use in your presence then say so, respectfully. This may actually open up useful dialogue. If, however, you are convinced, absolutely, that anyone who chooses to use the word is beneath your elevated station, then you should exercise your third option… and leave. I doubt, however, that you’d be missed.

  38. Allen permalink
    February 17, 2012 5:30 pm

    Plain and simple; it is a double standard and the epitome of hypocrisy. I would expect more from someone who taught at Rutgers on this topic. Season 2, episode 11, of the Boodocks, makes a more comprehensive perspective.

    Who gets to decide the titles of a specific group or any group that is acceptable to all? The media? Record labels? In order to to give a perspective on a racial or endeared slur, you must look at some other factors that go unquestioned, which build up to these themes. Why are blacks singled out and identified as “African-Americans”, but we don’t call whites “European-Americans?” Why don’t Native-Americans have a history month? Instead, they have “heritage” month. Why? Why are they Native? Why are they not identified by their tribe? Should they be called “American-Americans” instead? So who gets to make the rules, and apply them to society? If misogynistic or racial slurs in lyrics offends me, does the record label get sanctioned, fired, or fined? No, I don’t think so. Ask Don Imus; a Caucasian using the word nappy and ho in the same sentence will cost you your job though. Not a double standard!?

    You don’t see Hispanic groups running around saying, “Hey wet back, what’s up?”
    Why are Asians eliminated from affirmative action when it comes to college entrance, when they make up a smaller percentage than blacks? Are all minorities equal, but some are more equal than others? All these questions are never addressed by journalism and academia. It would require some moral courage and a deep self reflection in the aftermath. The “PC” themes ensures job security, and pits Americans against each other. “PC” is nothing more than embellishing honesty, avoiding responsibility, and making excuses.

    If the word “Niggah”, is expressed as a term of endearment, then so let society embrace it — equal to all to identify with such a group or with each other freely, without retribution. Even a young child seems to be educated on the difference between “Nigger” and “Niggah,” and instinctively knows the difference. You notice how the record labels don’t have a problem selling it? Funny how when you pay money to hear a comedian tell a racial joke it is ok, but try repeating the joke. So where do we stand on what we can and cannot say? Who is allowed and why?

    Confusion serves the debate best in these types of topics, so people do not know how to address it, without offending someone, being accused of racism, or instilling fear where ever it can relegate the responsibility. In a classroom, avoidance is echoed by the ever silencing need for “tolerance.” If a group does not like a word that can be repeated, than don’t use it. Rather than blame, make money off it, or make excuses, accept responsibility, and set a positive example, by which we all can live by.

  39. Jordan Gross permalink
    February 24, 2012 2:37 pm

    I think white people shouldn’t say the word, yes it seems unfair but it strikes a chord in us, it makes us think about our family members and the stuff they went through. I’m only fifteen,and African American/ Hispanic, but yet this word when spoken by white people just sounds inappropriate to me. Many of the white people today are not racist or affiliated with any racist “groups” per say, but when they speak this terminology it makes us feel disrespected, but not only us our family, friends, and us as a group. And at this time “to me” when we think about this stuff, all black people are related and connected. If i were to say it to my friend “who is black” it means to me your my brother, we are specially connected through our common race, and i think white people don’t deserve the privilege of calling a black person this word if they were to say it in this manner.

    Now you maybe be thinking “this kid is ignorant” or “he’s to young to understand.” But any African American is educated on this subject as a young kid, and you may think this clouds our judgement on this subject, and it might. But this is the reason why any other person that is black will not get why we are so offended.

    • Eyeswideopen permalink
      April 9, 2012 1:04 pm

      No we understand fully why you are so offended. What we don’t understand is why your not offended when members of your own race use the derogatory term. Their is no positive meaning to this word and there is no reasoning behind trying to place a positive spin on this word for members of one specific race, but leave it in a negative light for other races. This solution will never work. Your right we don’t udnerstand why this term can ring so much pain and yet be used as a term of endearment.

  40. Linai permalink
    March 13, 2012 8:08 am

    I have a question about using the word in public. I am a bartender and the area I live and work in is extremly diverse…blacks, whites, mexicans ect. here is my dilema. We have a jukebox in the bar. Because the jukebox is an “internet” jukebox you can download just about any song and play it. Each bar can decide what they want to allow (genre, explicit lyrics) on their box. There was a “block” on our jukebox. All rap, hip-hop & pop was blocked. After a few months the block was no longer on the jukebox and you could download just about anything. Once some people found this out they started playing a lot of rap music with the “N” word in it. Some of the white people were very uncomfortable with the songs playing as well as some black people and I, as the bartender, was uncomfortable knowing that others were uncomfortable with the songs playing! I tried to talk and reason with some of the people that were playing the songs with the “N” word in it that there is a time and place for everything and a public place is NOT a place to play songs with that word. Some tried to tell me that the meaning is not the same as it once was and that I should lighten up. Is it that important to express yourself by making others who have done nothing to you, feel uncomfortable? Am I wrong? what are your views about this situation? By the way…I am just a member of the great “melting pot”!!!

  41. March 30, 2012 5:26 pm

    First of all, black americans are the only race who accepts a degrading term. The Chinese don’t call themselves “chinks”. Spanish people don’t call themselves “spics”. Italians don’t call themselves “wops” and so on. So why do blacks accept the term “nigga” and use it so much and as a term of endearment? This is just a pure lack of self respect, and idiocy. The term was created by prejudiced white people to describe us, and we still continue to embrace it. Sometimes I feel ashamed to be apart of this race because we seem to love corruption, and ill behavior. Filthy language, filthy music, very unclassy ways of dressing, and we call it “black culture”. No these things are not black culture. Black culture should represent positivity, spirituality, and a constant need for the best changes, so we can be an honorable people to be respected and looked up to. I truly wish as a people we “WAKE UP” and achieve our greatness!

  42. Eyeswideopen permalink
    April 9, 2012 1:00 pm

    You can’t “make” this word positive. Why? Because the second another race uses the word it becomes negative. This word will never have a positive representation behind it, and to use it creates a further racial divide. For a word as powerful as that to have both positive and negative meaning based on race, creates more of a divide and is completely ass backwards. If they truly believe a positive light can be spun on this word then the black population must also stop using it negatively and must stop creating such an outcry when it is used negatively (which i dont believe should happen). This word should not be used period.

  43. Simba Lage permalink
    April 10, 2012 11:00 am

    its dumb though. I live in detroit and most of friends and family is black. Its interesting even if you use the word as its dictionary definition to someone that actually is a nigger then your a racist, yet walk into a store and hear nigga what up and calling one another this changing it to nigga. I think its wrong that based on color one group of people can use the word, while another cant. If its a bad word its a bad word PERIOD should matter who says it.

  44. Joe permalink
    April 15, 2012 2:04 am

    Like it or not, and as politically incorrect as it sounds, African-Americans who say the ”N word” (nigga), are disproportionately more likely to be poor, have been raised in segregated urban areas and have less education.

    I want everyone to just make this internal joke to themselves. How many times have you been to a rap/hip hop club that predominantly black, with a ”hood vibe”, but still a lot of ”non-hood” people in it, including people of all races.

    How did you immediately know which black Americans there were ”hood” and which ones ”weren’t?” You don’t even have to look at the crowd they are with. You don’t even have to worry about the words that come out of their mouth. Just the tone and sound to it and their mannerism.

    Now here is where it really gets funny. This is one of the few areas where legitimately ”hood” poor folks end up in the same place as middle/upper middle class people with money. The middle/upper middle class people indirectly envy the music and style of people in the hood, particularly in their music. Meanwhile, the poor people at the club waste all their money trying to buy decent clothing or a nice ride to the club, even though it still won’t be as good as who they are trying to impress.

    This club doesn’t even have to have one non-black person in it to make you realize everything I’m saying. People know exactly who is who. What I want to know is why do the poor folks try impressing the people who clearly are nothing like them? They won’t marry you. They don’t date you. They probably won’t even have sex with you. And if you were lucky to even get that, they’ll pretend like you don’t exist on Monday morning.

    For African-Americans, there are 3 types of people who say the word ”nigga”.

    1) People who grew up poor (Not all African-American’s in these areas do this, but there is clearly more tolerance for a lack of self respect in those communities).

    2) People who grew up middle class, who convince their group of friends which are mostly white or non-black they are ”ghetto” or the closest thing they know to it, yet would be considered Bryant Gumble in Detroit.

    3) People who grew up as the ”upper echelon” in the poor communities. You sometimes see this group a bit at colleges. They aren’t as over the top as the 1st group and have more awareness about how to adjust their voices and vocabulary in particular settings. However, the truth is the people from those actual poor communities often consider them ”white”, ”sell outs” or something they interpret disrespectful as them, so they feel the need to compensate for their ”hood background” around non-hood people. This insecurity becomes obvious to everyone.

    If an African-American uses the word ”nigga”, it means they either have no self respect, have no problem with people assuming that of them or are so naive and idiotic that they think others in society won’t think less of them.

    Basically, if you say it, everyone, including blacks who don’t use it, will assume you’re either impoverished and stigmatize you even worse than people already uncontrollably do. Or at best, that they’ll assume you’re a person who is insecure about your ”blackness” because people from the ”hood” consider you nothing like them.

    I am black. I laid it all out for you.

    For the record too, most African-Americans who are comfortably middle class grew up that way. It’s not a Cindarella story. Only in the movies. 26% of African-American’s are below the poverty. It’s within this group that there is a disproportional amount of criminal activity, drug usage and out of wedlock births. The other 3/4 of African-Americans have similar rates of all those rates to whites.

    Now they’ll be someone who disagrees with everything I said. But here is what I want you to take from it, if nothing else: Even if you use the word ”nigga” and think it’s okay and you’re not ghetto or poor, society has the right to, will and reasonly should assume you lack self-respect and are trashy. If any employer knew that about you, you’d have a hard time getting a good job.

    So go ahead and deny everything I said but you know it is all true.

  45. Joe permalink
    April 15, 2012 2:15 am

    The majority of African-Americans, poor and middle class, do not use the term and think lowly of those who use it. Those who don’t use it are negatively stereotyped even worse by other’s because of these morons selfishness.

    So it’s not a matter of black Americans not having self respect, because most do. Perhaps it is a thing about poor Americans lacking self respect in their communities. People gladly call themselves hillbillies, rednecks and I even hurt bsomeone turn the word bumpkin into a positive one time. But this is not reflective of most rural Americans.

    I have a good story I’d like to share before finishing writing for the night. I hope the people I’m writing about are reading too. One time I went to this Burger King in southern New Jersey. Most of the kids who worked they sounded ”hood” and were saying the word ”nigga to each other (which was odd because this Burger King wasn’t in the hood, it was in Mount Laurel if anyone knows where that is). Even with customers in presence. It was loud too. Some of the employees were rude. Some were alright. As a group, they seemed semicomptent at their work tasks.

    I sent in an anonymous tip to their district manager the next day explaining the situation in extreme detail. Explaining who was saying it. Like what they looked like, the name tags I saw on their tags, ect.

    I go back there to eat a week and a half later and they cleaned house! The only people I recognized there were the managers. I had my doubts and thoughts, so I continually went back to verify if this were true and it was.

    This was so awesome it should be turned into a Family Guy clip.

  46. May 2, 2012 12:01 pm

    The “N” word is not a privileged grievance. It’s a total lie that no white can no what it’s like to be called that. It’s not just Blacks who know what it’s like to be stigmatized when they’re the ones who should be stigmatizing! All races, including us white crackers experience this. When I get judged by a standard, my compulsion is to judge someone else by it. Contrary to claims of hypocrisy, what I’m doing is making that standard my domain. I’m not necessarily judging the one violating the standard, Sometimes I’m judging the standard itself by making it look absurd. If a standard I’m judged by is shamed as absurd, so is the judgement against me. If a certain youtube regarding either Oprah, or Whoopie is understood correctly(the one w/ a crying white girl in the discussion) The modern use of the word is to take it out of the hands of the ones who use it, & make it there’s to use their one way. Certain specifics of the word may be ethnically unique, but not all.

  47. Rocket_TV permalink
    May 6, 2012 9:39 am

    On this subject, I think a clear differentiation should be made between an african and african american. I’m an african, Nigerian to be exact. I am 17 studying in the UK. Growing up, I never heard people calling themselves a degrading word such a nigga/er. It just doesnt happen. However people who used this word (as to every statement there are exceptions) used it because of the growing Hip-Hop influence there and although a few may have known the history behind it, I doubt they reaaally understood it. So my friends and I would say it only when we were listening to rap songs or were trying to imitate or satirise african americans (for some reason we didn’t like them) anyway its when I came to the UK, I slowly began to see the ‘danger’ of the word. At home from movies and such all I got was if a white or ‘onyibo’ person called you a ‘nigger’ you’re meant to be upset at it. When I began to look at african american history and all and began to kind of understand the history behind the word and relate it to the african struggle (which were very different if I may add) I could understand why people of different races got so jittery over it. Right now, I do get queasy when I’m listening to a song and it comes up or comedy skits such as katt williams’ shows. Saying all that, I do not understand why african americans use the word, maybe it is to hold on to some form of culture as theirs was taken away ages ago or as most rappers would say today ‘turn a negative word into a positive one’. If that is the case, people of all colours should be allowed to use it, if of course there is no intentional harm as saying only dark skinned people can say it is in itself racist. I say dark skinned because I don’t see a ‘black’ person when I look at the mirror, I see someone with brown skin. I digress. The author is right, due to the multi-identities of the word, is hard to make a distinction but in it there are two ways to go in my opinion. African americans should stop saying the word and let it ‘die’ which some may regard as a quintox seeing there are racists everywhere, or let everyone embrace and no get angry over it. It is first and foremost a WORD. Sticks and stones…. Lastly, i would like to say that people in general should understand that africans and african americans are very two different people even between africans there are soo many differences. Having the same skin tone and features does not equate us.

    • April 3, 2013 4:16 am

      It’s interesting that a few people have raised the fact that barely any other races have adopted their slurs against them (eg spics, chinks). I think the offensiveness of these terms is derived from a disrespect not to use the correct terminology. For example, in England where I’m from, a more commonly used/heard racist term is ‘paki’, referring to anyone of Indo-Asian descent. Pakistanis do not call each other pakis. I think it’s an incredibly disrespectful and racist term (I am white), and would never use it, but these factors are inherent in the fact that its an ignorant word. Surely, paki is short for Pakistani, and obviously not all Asians are Pakistani. The same is true for people with disabilities, who have many words used against them in the same manner ( spaz, spak to name a few). These words are offensive simply because they deviate from the correct term.
      I believe this is where the issue starts with most words alluding to a group of people. It is definitely true with nigger/nigga, as this started off as an ‘ok’ term for anybody to use, as it was close to ‘negro’, the supposedly correct term in, say, the apartheid years. I agree with others who have said black people have ‘reclaimed’ this word. Interestingly, aside from derogatory words which you may call you friends, the only other groups to have reappropriated slang are the gay communities. It is offensive (although possibly less so) to call a gay person a ‘homo’, ‘queer’ etc, but many gays use these terms in a friendly way toward each other.
      Perhaps it is groups which have been discriminated against so harshly in recent culture that feel somehow that they are entitled to anything used against them as recompense. I sometimes feel that, because of the awfulness of white history, I am made to feel excluded by other races. ‘Honky’ or ‘cracker’ for example, are regarded as joke terms, but I actually find it kind of offensive – after all, it is a term used to describe me solely on the colour of my skin, regardless as what I am like as an individual, which is the definition of racism.
      I don’t believe that it should be acceptable to use the word nigger, or any of the words I have mentioned. There’s too much history. Nigger is used vary rarely in the UK. It is occasionally in UK Hip Hop, but not used amongst anyone as a term of endearment. I have heard it used by white people and black people as an offensive term, but extremely rarely, and I think it’s one of the word insults you can conjure, seeing as for the most part in the UK we are multicultural.

  48. Joe permalink
    May 9, 2012 2:44 pm

    ”The “N” word is not a privileged grievance. It’s a total lie that no white can no what it’s like to be called that. It’s not just Blacks who know what it’s like to be stigmatized when they’re the ones who should be stigmatizing. All races, including us white crackers experience this.!’

    Although I know you didn’t mean negatively by it, I’d recommend not saying ”blacks”, ”whites”, because it can contextually come out sounding inappropriate. You’re absolutely right that it is no privileged grievance. It’s more like a crack within the social system of dysfunction. If someone says the word ”Nigga”, regardless of their race, they are ignorant. In the case of black people who use it, it is ignorance plus a lack of self respect. Now I’ve heard the same arguments made against white people who call themselves ”rednecks”. Not sure that it holds the same vigor but an argument can be made there too.

    In American culture, we have a tendency to oversimplify things. For example, if we hear why people don’t like sex education in school, we attribute it strictly to religion. Another example is that if a black person is a victim to something anybody could be victim to, people tie race into it, even when it’s not even potentially involved. It is not just black people though.

    In America, we live in a culture of a yearning to victimhood and lack of self responsibility. We are taught it is someone else’s fault if you slip in a puddle in a store outside while it’s raining. This is really a horrible way of thinking about anything. I have a friend one time who drove really fast past this cop was sitting on the grass. The cop pulled him over. The person in the car was of Puerto Rican background. Now I’m not saying he is necessarily of complete European ancestry down the line, but he does look quite white and it’d be physically impossible to see the guy’s face in the car driving by that fast. It wouldn’t have even been possible to look up his plate that quickly. Yet he insisted he was pulled over because he’s Puerto Rican. This cop would’ve had to have had super binoculars, beyond incredibly great and quick vision to have studied the content of someone’s face, which still couldn’t tell me if you someone were ”Puerto Rican” or ”Latino”.

    The fact remains. If you use the word ”Nigga”, you will never be taken seriously in the professional world. Even if you do it on your own recreational time, assuming people knew of it. Usually these trashy immature tendencies are syphoned out of ”ghetto” or ”ghetto wannabee” people the more education and prestige they receive.

  49. Joe permalink
    May 9, 2012 3:04 pm

    ”On this subject, I think a clear differentiation should be made between an african and african american. I’m an african, Nigerian to be exact.”

    Rocket TV – When black Americans are called ”African-Americans”, there is generally no association to the African continent being made. No more association that you’d hear of an ”Afro-Jamaican”. Only 3% of Americans have ever stepped on African soil and black Americans actually proportionately are less likely to have done so than whites (i.e. less economic resources).

    The reason black Americans are called African-Americans is because throughout history, the terminology has changed with political correctness. A century ago, it was acceptable to be called ”Colored”, but not black. Than that changed to ”Negro”, which obviously derived from black in Spanish. By the 1970′s, African-American began to sound more appropriate, but so do ”black” and negro and colored than became an unacceptable term to use. Generally speaking, most Americans say black over African-American. It is only within political or professional contexts that African-American is said.

    In areas where there are black immigrants and their recent descendants too, it can be used as a way to differentiate between African-Americans (an ethnic group that traces 250+ years on average in the US) from West Indians and Sub-Saharan African immigrants.

    In the UK, the word has never been used by anyone in the context we’ve used it, because it has simply never been there. If it did exist there, at best, it’d be imitating the music they hear from us. It’s not used in casual usage though. And to be honest, it just doesn’t roll with a British accent very well, even in hip hop. Even if the ”toughest” black British dude you know used the word ”Nigga” in a US city, all the ”ghetto” black people would laugh at him and call him white.

    As far as Katt Williams goes, he is just a crappy comedian. I’m sorry, but if you don’t have any material that you need to use the word that much, it’s not funny and it’s not entertaining. Although a bit irrelevant too, he does look very homosexual, so maybe he views it as a way of overcompensating for his masculinity.

    ”Saying all that, I do not understand why african americans use the word, maybe it is to hold on to some form of culture as theirs was taken away ages ago or as most rappers would say today ‘turn a negative word into a positive one’.”

    This would be nice to think in theory. However, in reality, sadly this is really not the case. The reason why people currently use it has absolutely nothing to do with ”preserving culture that was taken away from them”. The reason they say it is because people who came before them say it. The reason it can’t be corrected is because the people who use it disproportionately are the most uneducated, unskilled and disgruntled people in society. They have lots of things they could do to correct themselves before they worry about that. This is a feature of poverty. Not being African-American.

    ”If that is the case, people of all colours should be allowed to use it, if of course there is no intentional harm as saying only dark skinned people can say it is in itself racist.”

    And it is. It’s just used with more care. There are a lot of white and non-black people who use it. They just have enough of the ”trashy ghetto swag” to not upset the wrong people. Or at least be very good at imitating such. By nature, most people are not controversial and confrontational. Most will not abruptly challenge someone for using the word if not used maliciously.

    ”Lastly, i would like to say that people in general should understand that africans and african americans are very two different people even between africans there are soo many differences. Having the same skin tone and features does not equate us.”

    People very much know this. Generally speaking though, I’d say the majority of Americans, including African-Americans, have never met someone from the African continent once in their lives. Only about 4-5% of our immigrants come from the African continent and some of those people include non-black North Africans and to a smaller degree white South Africans. These people tend to live most in select affluent cities (or in the case of Somali’s, where the government placed them as refugees). And although a large amount of English speaking Caribbean people from their islands move here, the overall population of that region is so small, that they also are not that large of a group. They are also mostly only focused in certain cities like New York, Boston and Miami too.

    So ”black” to most Americans just equals African-Americans because that is all they ever met. Unlike in the UK too, due to our bureaucratic system which only involves admitting immediate family sponsorships and professionals (usually master degrees and above), Africans who move to the US are very affluent and educated. This leads them to usually not live in the same areas as where African-Americans do, unfortunately.

    Whether people would like to admit it or not, the children of African and often West Indian immigrants, assimilate into a white or non-black American culture, even though they’ll physically be perceived as black Americans. If I am wrong, you could use accent and speech as an immediate marker.

    Going back to the point I made before though, there is a tendency to oversimplify and manipulatively call someone something they aren’t, for the purposes of their argument (i.e. calling Barack Obama African-American, when he is really half Kenyan-American).

  50. June 11, 2012 6:58 pm

    Well, that was an interesting read.

  51. Nick permalink
    July 14, 2012 7:35 pm

    Not that hard..Depends on the person and they’re credentials as far as being a person..If you’ve known em or someone has know them and they’re intent should be fine. Common sense tone and facial expression play a HUGE roll.

  52. July 23, 2012 12:02 am

    I understand the intended difference between the “a” ending and the “er” ending when used by African Americans/Black people. However – I am not “white” nor am I African American/Black and I was raised that use of either word is slanderous and ignorant. When I hear the “a” word coming out of songs and youth greeting each other that way, it makes me ill. That would be like my family walking up to each other and saying “what’s up my ginny”. Or my husbands family saying “what’s up my border brother”. Or my middle eastern friends saying to each other “what’s up my camel jockey”. If African American/Black youths want to be seen for themselves, then they need to stop using negative connotations when speaking to each other. Don’t want to be stereotyped, then don’t perpetuate it. That’s all I’m saying.

    • July 23, 2012 11:42 pm

      Exactly what i was saying…bottom line!

  53. David permalink
    August 14, 2012 11:26 pm

    I’m a white guy and I find the word abhorrent. I grew up in a small town and heard it as I grew up. I personally find it offensive when anyone uses it. By using it in flippant or casual ways by anyone, you are slowly but surely making the word more ‘acceptable’, when I feel it’s meaning should be kept the same, so that you know if someone uses it, they are pretty much an awful human being. I don’t want my kids or my grandchildren to not understand the significance of the word. To me, it should be a word that throughout history should feel like a gut punch whenever you read or hear it.

  54. Joe permalink
    September 5, 2012 2:21 pm

    I agree with with you’re saying to some degree. But I think we could intellectually approach this issue of what vocabulary and the English language should and shouldn’t contextually symbolically mean. Every language has it’s bad and “taboo” words. This isn’t necessarily a unique case in English compared to other languages. It’s just that is most of what we know. Now what I would say is if we are to intellectually challenge what is offensive or not, the way many poor or uneducated youth are doing today by using the word and even middle aged people too, is simply not the way. It is obvious anyone who uses this word is careless and just doesn’t know any better. The part I disagree with you on though is that taking the meaning away from this word is not necessarily a bad thing. Like it or not, even if most whites and non-blacks aren’t racist and even if the racists don’t outwardly use the “N word” to African-Americans, they’ll always be people who still do use it in that context. This gives them a psychological power over them. It makes them feel like “If you ever think you’re better than me, I could degrade you much worse”. I’ve known people who you’d never think or know were racist. But than something happens to them like their boyfriend or girlfriend cheats on them with someone who was black or someone gets a promotion over them who was black and them abruptly use the word. It’s like a conditioned weapon in the back of their mind they’d only use if they had an irrational amount of anger in their mind. Most people still wouldn’t do this but you see my point that no one should have the ability to degrade someone else. Certainly not with one word. So I could look at it both ways. But because of the ignorance in those who use it today, with -er or -a, regardless of their race, it raises a much larger ethical question around the word. In any case, those who use it shouldn’t personally be respected or be taken seriously in an facet.

  55. October 22, 2012 10:20 pm

    if the word is offensive to one there is no argument that can be posed that makes the word benign

  56. kaye permalink
    October 26, 2012 6:27 pm

    excuse me for my english. but what i don’t get as a non african american is if the very reason for this whole “movement” of turning a malicious word into something positive is to show the world empowerment, then why not let the rest world on it. wouldn’t having more people using it ultimately help achieve the goal of taking “the power out of a word” as Jay Z said in his appearance in the Oprah show. but the fact that as soon as a non african american uses the word and they are right away LABELED as rascist clearly shows that people are still not beyond words and it still carries the same connotation as it did back then. the goal of empowerment then is not in terms of a global scale meant to challenge societal views but just of a self empowerment just how like a b.i.t.c.h. could be a babe in total control of herself or be an overbearing, immoral, lewd woman according to Webstser.that’s why non African Americans are and will continue to be excluded from using the word.

  57. Jimbo permalink
    January 22, 2013 2:01 pm

    I don’t really have a problem with black people using it although i don’t use it myself, however what is the deal with the top photo? I think it’s kind of pathetic that those artists are clearly just using it for shock value, which just makes them look childish.

  58. Mike permalink
    January 26, 2013 4:02 pm

    The “nigga” word is exactly the same as the spelling “Nigger”. Both versions are despicable spellings of the same word used to describe the primitive American settler’s derogation of the Spanish African word Negro(the Latin word for black, (Nigeria, the country). The lowly use of the word is nothing more than a gangster mentality, that only disgraces a beautiful race of people.

  59. Juliet permalink
    February 25, 2013 3:18 pm

    I’ve stumbled onto this site and would like to enter the fray: the reason I was ‘researching’ the use of the word ‘nigger’ or ‘nigga’ or even negro rose from a discussion with a friend yesterday evening. We are both white British. We both agreed this terminology is abusive in the mouth of a white person – even if they don’t recognise it as such. If you are white, and however comfortable you might feel in the company of your black friend these words should be totally taboo. You might perhaps argue that you are using the word ironically, or even (on the face of it) affectionately. But you are not: you are throwing down a challenge to see how your black friend is going to react. Are they going to politely ignore it? Look upset? Hit you? Whatever, you have tried to put yourself in a position of superiority whether a conscious effort or not. We have all of us been put in positions of ‘turn the other cheek’ and it’s not nice. But looking upset (‘oh, don’t be so sensitive) or reacting angrily (‘hey, what’s the matter? Can’t you take a joke?) provoke an even more disagreeable outcome and start to establish a pecking order in the friendship. In the end, we are talking about emotional bullying and people find ways of doing this the world over.

    I cannot comment on the usage of these terms within the black community: I can imagine it could conceivably be used as a term of affection or endearment because in such a context it is not likely to carry the baggage of history.

    In England, we have words that are not acceptable for use when describing the homosexual community. And yet gay people do choose to use these words when describing themselves. It is a similar example.

    It’s a shame that we’ve allowed certain words to gain such a high profile. Being taboo gives them extra cachet; bringing them into the fold and rendering them commonplace might have robbed them of their potency. But we are where we are and there is, thankfully, another approach that has stood the test of time: ‘Do as you would be done by’. Being sensitive to how what you say and do could be received is a simple courtesy. It is called being kind and showing respect to people. So if we use such words in public then we jeopardise our relationships with those around us and the wider community. If we use them in private then, frankly, it says everything about us, and none of it good,

    And that takes me back to my reason for thinking about this in the first place. There was a story in the British media recently: a public figure (black) had used the term ‘N-word’ to his black friend, apparently, at the time, to no ill-effect at all. In fact, the public figure attested that this was regular terminology between them and was used as comradely, affectionate banter. Unfortunately, the friendship had ruptured for some reason and the friend has made a complaint. The end result is that the public figure has had to resign in disgrace and now has a court case against him pending. My friend thought the public figure had got his just desserts. My sympathies tended in the other direction: this seemed like a very cynical act on the part of the complainant to meet out some kind of revenge for some other wrong or injury nothing to do with terminology, and is more to do with manipulating well-meaning public sensitivities to get his own back rather than genuinely injured feelings.

    I suppose I have arrived at some kind of conclusion: if you are outside a community be a good ambassador for your own; if you are a member of a community, you still need to exercise caution!

  60. Roy permalink
    March 16, 2013 10:46 pm

    My hope is that someday we will look back to see how this and many other issues around race, religion, ethnicity were no more than a way to keep us all judging and measuring ourselves against each other while we ignore the the real issues and misery around the world. Somebody’s sitting back laughing at how foolish we all are attacking each other over status, race,etc. The reality is there is only one race and it’s the human race. To thyne own self be true.

    Good luck at escaping the madness

  61. Kate permalink
    June 3, 2013 1:53 am

    Loved this article. Earlier today I got in a heated argument with my friend, who received a picture of her friend pouting her lips out in a “duck face” kind of way, with the caption as “nigger lips”. Now, I was totally and abhorrently offended by this, even as a white person. There are so many things wrong with that statement. First of all, the stereotyping of African American lips was not okay, but most especially because the girl seemed to imply that big lips are BAD through her unflattering picture. Secondly, the word “nigger” is never, ever, ever okay to use by a Caucasian. And it really didn’t help that the girl already has a reputation for being racist (I once heard her say “I don’t like going downtown. Too many niggas, feel like I’m gonna get robbed”). My friend, however, saw nothing wrong with it! I was appalled. She said that African Americans use it frequently, so why can’t we? Why? Because African Americans fought long and hard to get their equal rights. The use of the word by whites for the past hundreds of years has been in a derogatory sense. African Americans can use it because they earned that right from those hundreds of years of inequality. She said that it was a double standard that they were creating against whites. Maybe not, maybe so. Either way…I feel as if they have earned that right, given the preceding hundreds of years or so.

    Basically, this is how I think of it: if I spank my children as discipline, it might be frowned upon; but as their parent, they know I’m not doing it just for the sake of hurting them. However, if a stranger came up and spanked my kid, that would not be acceptable at all.

  62. June 23, 2013 9:05 am

    I have heard some really good arguments answering these questions, and you didn’t present any of them. Pejoratives, such as “the N word” for blacks, or any of the many used against Italians, Jews, the Irish, Latinos, Asians (in particular those with whom whites have gone to war) are used to dehumanize these groups. When that group, such as blacks using the N word, flippantly use the word it takes the power away from the degrader. Whatever sentimental attachment of white southerners, such as Paula Deen, might have toward the Old South, and the fact that hearing and using that word was the way they grew up, and they mean no harm by it, does not take away from the fact that for the last fifty years “that word” has not been okay, in the south or anywhere else used by white people. And the “simpler times” in which they used the word without thought were before the Civil Rights movement finally made law what their relatives would never accept on their own; that Black Americans are not only human, but human Americans who are equal to whites in this country. Dehumanizing terms, no matter how casually used by people who don’t think about the bigger meaning, are never, ever okay. Never.

  63. Khafre permalink
    June 24, 2013 2:01 am

    My opinion on the use of the word is this. If ‘er’ is at the end, regardless of race or intent, it is offensive. However if it ends in ‘a’ then I din’t mind, assuming I know you well enough. Example, my dad, close friends, and other family can, if they choose, say something like “wgat’s up my nigga.” However if it is someone I don’t know well or don’t particularly like, I do NOT allow them to say it, african american or not. I find it offensive to assume you know me on a personal enough level to say it in frobt of me. Just like a friendly punch to the arm, if someone you have never met does it, it’s annoying and they come off as a douch. But if it’s a close friend or relative, it’s perfectly fine.

  64. Linda permalink
    June 25, 2013 6:31 pm

    Thank you for such an insightful article.

  65. Miss A permalink
    June 27, 2013 7:15 am

    Hi,recently we have had an American Black comedian over here in England (UK) cause unease with his constant use of the word nigger during his comedy skit.
    He has since spoken out to say he will not stop using this word, well,in that case, he really should leave the UK.
    Sorry, this may sound harsh, but what the youth of all backgrounds do NOT need here is this Reginald chap all over the gaff with his *Nigger this, nigger that* comedy skits, attempting to make it seem like this word is okay,maybe in his home life it was/is, but this does not mean he can force this word upon others which he has been doing.
    As background for you all.
    Reginald was in a packed to the brim Premier Football Association bash(not sure why they booked him),and he launched into N’s like nobody’s business .
    According to the newspaper, The Independent,most of the audience seemed ill at ease,and did not know if to laugh or not.
    The audience were 99& White British, we do NOT need this comedian thinking he can come on over to UK(he lives here now..shame!) and throw this word around, it is simply not acceptable, and never will be.
    What is he trying to do?
    Turn parts of UK into parts of U.S, hell NO!
    I am a Black woman ,my mother is half Black and White,my dad West Indian, and we have all,both born and bred in UK had this word used as a racial slur, it will never mean anything nice to me.
    The photo with Nas and his wife Kellis is just sad, really sad.
    Maybe they were attempting to be ironic, or something, but it just seems odd they would have this word in bold on their clothing.
    As a Brit who is Black I often wonder of the *job* that has been done on many African Americans.
    To make things easy, no one should be using this word.
    the *a* does not change it for me, really does not.
    And makes me think that some Black folk really do not help themselves/ourselves at times, we want to be treated as equals, yet throw this awful word around, yet want to use it too, we can not have it both ways.
    I am quite peeved off really about this use of this word,are *we* so backwards, uneducated, lost, that we think we can *claim* a word such as Nigger and make it our own?
    This is laughable and makes many others think we really are an unintelligent group of peoples.
    And I say this as a Brit who does not have the same family history as many folks in the U.S,but has had word used as insult.
    As some have quite rightly pointed out, those from other groups do not use terminology against themselves that was originally used to demean them back on themselves and see it as some warped celebration.
    I detest what is now passed off as Rap.
    The comments regarding Eminem having never used this word are not true.
    The Voice newspaper a couple of years ago ran a piece of one of Eminems earlier recordings where he goes into great detail,rapping about a * trick Nigger girl *,sure he has used it, and probably still does, but not in public!!
    Last year I was walking home, and was turning a corner, in the distance I could see and hear two young White lads, I am 27, they were in their mid teens if that, they were rapping, *Nigger/a this and that*,interestingly, as soon as they clocked me they fell utterly silent,and walked past me almost meekly, if this word is so okay, they would not have thought anything about finishing off their little ditty, but maybe, just maybe, deep down, maybe not even consciously, their energy vibes knows this is a nasty word to use.,I could be wrong, but their ceasing of this rap was enlightening to observe.

    Black artists who continually feel the need to use this word are not the friends of Black folks in general, in fact I would go as far as to say, they are hell bent on continuing a myth(that at times does not seem such a myth) about us all.

  66. Miss A permalink
    June 27, 2013 7:23 am

    Me again, just to clarify, Reginald used the *er* one not the *a* one, see..this is all so silly, the word should just go away full stop.
    He also made many comments on Jewish folks, so me thinks he is just an unfunny comedian all around, that aside, people like this bugger are attempting to *normalize* this word and push it deep into British life/culture as a mainstream word,and it is simply not acceptable really.
    Really is not.

  67. June 27, 2013 12:56 pm

    Will “we” ever get past this schoolyard playground tit-for-tat behavior? There will always be subsets of ignorant individuals who perpetuate ignorance, but those of us who do not act like fools should stop letting the ignorant folks drive the country’s discourse.

    Why? “We” have far greater problems to attend to than worrying about what some ignorant fool called somebody. Who cares?

    For example, why are we wasting time bringing down some “n-word” using white woman who knows how to cook? As far as Walmart, Home Depot and any other corporation that disassociates and/or cans Deen’s product line is concerned… Well, does anybody really think it has anything to do with racial “sensitivity?” Hayull no! They are pandering to public sentiment to protect the bottom line.

    No? I challenge any one of these executives who has never used a racial slur, never told, listened to, or read a racially off-color joke to step up and make a public declaration stating so. If they can’t, then they are hypocrites and their companies deserve the same fate as Deen.

    “We” have to get it together folks (or as my pop used to put it, “you’ve got to get your $hit together son”) or “we” are all going down the proverbial toilet together and we won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.

    The ignorance and madness has to stop but the change has to start somewhere.

    Doing nothing to facilitate change is part of the problem. Are you going to be part of the problem or the solution?

    Think about it………..

  68. Denise permalink
    June 28, 2013 5:12 am

    As a teacher, no one will be using that word in my classroom. When any word is labeled as a word that should not be used, it is always forbidden by everyone.

  69. Don permalink
    June 28, 2013 12:41 pm

    I am African American/Native American.
    I believe as Bill Cosby believes, this word should NOT be used by anyone, and the use of it is offensive to me. Hence, I do NOT listen to any music that uses it.
    My belief, my choice. I also let people that I associate with know that this word is offensive to me. I will not associate with people that use it freely, because it’s root meaning can never be “changed” to mean something endearing.

  70. smith permalink
    June 28, 2013 2:16 pm

    its strange to me why any afro americans would use this word. im white and its disgusting to me to hear anyone use it, first of all. it was a word slaves were called as if they weren’t human. second it has always been used by racists.The nazis called the jews they tried to eliminate from the earth something too, i never heard a jew call another jew this word, by the way the jewish people suffered much much more than the afro americans did anyone that disputes this is a moron. hip hop artists use many words like bitches and whores to describe woman. this is a moral issue self respecting people would not use this word. skinheads and white supremacists do and decent white people call them idiots. this is a moral issue ignorant people with no self respect who follow the hip hop crowd love it.thats their culture showing their ass by wearing baggy pants cant talk without saying mf bitch or whore calling each other nigga who do you think this is directed to make no mistake wHITE PEOPLE

  71. The Words That Define Us permalink
    June 30, 2013 1:55 pm

    I have to admit, as a white male, the words use is very confusing to me. The reason it confuses me is because as I grew up and learned the basic rules of showing respect for others, I took the time to understand why certain words were off the table and why they should be off the table, if one wants to walk the road of kindness.

    The N word, when I hear it, harkens me back to a time when we treated the black community like property and herded them like cattle. For me, to hear that word said, is to disrespect in death, the respect they deserved in life. It is always explained to me that when those in the black community use it, they use it to empower, they use it as a term of endearment. How does one do that effectively though? When ones ancestors were treated in such an egregious manner and suffered hardship no human should endure, how can that word roll off ones tongue without comprehending it’s weight?

    Using it in front of white people, at least among the people I have been able to engage in this discussion with, it’s not that we are upset we can’t say the word, what respectful person would want to? When we hear those in the black community use it, or embrace it, regardless of their intent, or their perceived re branding of the word, all I think of is the ancestral history of it and I weep for those who were persecuted the way they were and how cavalierly it’s tossed around. The word is to weighted, it’s to blood soaked to play with in song or redefinition, it weighs heavy on my heart and it offends me. Why can’t that word be buried in the archives of time, as a way of respecting now, those people who were not respected and treated with kindness then? Otherwise, I am at a loss as to how, we as a society can ever get to a place where we understand what we once were as a people, to where we want to go.

    The word divides us, no matter who’s mouth it flows from. The concept of using that word, it baffles me.

  72. Hudson Hutton permalink
    July 4, 2013 11:24 pm

    Regarding your comment that you feel uncomfortable hearing music that contains the word, I wonder if I, as a white guy, am not allowed to enjoy Kanye. Or am I not allowed to laugh at black comedians who use the word? I am not going to use the word, but should I feel guilty or shocked when any black man or woman uses it? That said, I think Lenny Bruce was on the right track in his examination of offensive language. You are free to use it, but be prepared for the consequences.

  73. Vince permalink
    July 17, 2013 11:27 am

    Sorry it doesn’t work that way. One group doesn’t get to USE a word and the other condemned for it. IF its so hateful, stop using it, stop using it in the songs, in the movies, in everyday life. It’s so obvious and silly.

  74. Clifford Shepherd permalink
    July 28, 2013 11:10 am

    First of all I’d like to say I am a BLACK MAN WHO HAS A RIGHT TO SPEAK ON THE ISSUE OF USING THIS WORD. I’m 40, was born and raised on the streets of Los Angeles. I turned 18 in prison in California. I’ve served 11 consecutive years in prison in New Mexico. I’ve experienced being black as an innoccent child, as a criminal and as a law abiding, hard working citizen. Its been 5 years since my release now and I work and live in the oilfields of West Texas. There is no way in hell the word NIGGA could EVER be cool with me. It could NEVER be a term of endearment! I was called NIGGA by police all over Los Angeles county. In prison I had no choice but to fight. If someone called somebody else a NIGGA fighting erupts around you and even if you’re not involved you’re involved, so its either curl up in a ball like a coward and get beaten by the other races or fight back until the prison guards stop it. I work in the oilfield where they will call you a NIGGA in a heartbeat. Every where I’ve been never have I seen whites greeting each other saying what’s up my cracker or saying that’s my redneck or what’s up my peckerwood. Never have I seen Mexicans saying what’s up my beaner or what’s up wetback or saying that’s mi mojado(Spanish for my wetback). Hell I’ve even seen Mexicans fight because one Mexican called another Mexican a wetback. Never have I seen Asians saying what’s up my chink or what’s up my slant eye or saying that’s my gook. If you took all of those racial slurs I just mentioned and combined them, the word NIGGA is a hundred times worse! None of those words are associated with so much DEATH, PAIN, MISERY and SUFFERING. When I hear the word NIGGA all I can think about is the NIGGA that was drug out of his house and hung to die in front of his family. When I hear the word NIGGA all I see is the black people burned alive by people chanting die NIGGA die. When I hear the word NIGGA I think of all the black women that were viciously raped by slave owners. When I hear the word NIGGA I picture the NIGGA mother been sold to one person, the NIGGA father being sold to a different person and the NIGGA child being sold to another person. When I hear the word NIGGA I think about people that look like me that were enslaved and beaten while someone called them a NIGGA. When I hear the word NIGGA I think about the cops harassing me on my way to school saying, “where are you going NIGGA”. When I hear the word NIGGA I’m reminded of my ex coworkers and supervisor who called me a NIGGA, purposely injured me and the white judge who said, “black people say it” as he ruled against me. When I hear the word NIGGA I see the bad treatment I get in restaurants, stores and almost everywhere because I’m viewed as a NIGGA. When I hear the word NIGGA I see the ignorant black man who has no respect for himself or his race or the struggle we’ve faced in the past and still face today. Yeah it may not affect Jay-Z and other rappers because they’re rich but there are a lot black men and women trying hard to make it in the workforce and it sure affects us. Some of these entertainers are super-slaves selling out their race unknowingly. You can’t make money if you don’t use the word NIGGA in your rhymes. Open your muthafuccin eyes black America and see what is happening to us! Grow up, I had to because I was ignorant also. When I was 16 I was arrested for possession of marijuana. I was wearing an NY jersey and an NY hat with the words NIGGA YOUNG stitched next to NY on my shirt and hat. The white Detective asked me how come we could call each other NIGGAS and he couldn’t? I never thought about it until ten years later. The word NIGGA should never be used by anyone AND ESPECIALLY NOT BY BLACK PEOPLE!!!!!! If we as black people don’t respect our race then no other race will respect us.

  75. FuckYou Racists permalink
    July 28, 2013 11:20 pm

    If you’re walking around with a shirt on that says “Nigger”, how do you think a little kid who doesn’t know any better is going to think you are labeled? If you walked around with a shirt that said “Dumbass”, would you get offended if someone called you a dumbass? What if a dumbass called you a dumbass? Is that just a term of endearment? Should only dumbasses be able to call other people dumbasses?

    I’m not for the usage of the words ‘nigger’ or ‘nigga’, I’m against anybody using it except in quotes or to educate. I’m against it being used derogatorily or in comraderie. Bringing it up just keeps its use in fashion and now becomes something “cool” to say for a kid, and perpetuates and tribalizes our differences.

    If a kid calls another kid a nigger without realizing what it means, just because they saw it on a shirt or album or heard someone call someone else that, the mother is going to go “Don’t say that!” and the kid’s going to go “Why not?” and the only truthful answer the mother has is “Because white people can’t say that!”. Well, if you hate a word and hate people saying it, why do you keep bringing it up?!

  76. Emily permalink
    August 2, 2013 2:36 pm

    I’m white myself, and I would never use this word. It makes me uncomfortable when ANYBODY uses the word. The n-word was a word to make African-Americans inferior, and when a non African-American uses it, it’s still taken in that sense. I’ve even heard African-Americans use it to insult OTHER African-Americans, so it doesn’t seem to make sense that such an offensive word would be used as a term of endearment. Same applies to the world “bitch.” It’s NOT a good term for women. It’s very insulting, yet women throw it around freely and it bothers me too, especially as a biological female. Any term that’s used to insult people shouldn’t really be one that acts like a term of endearment between friends, but offensive otherwise if that make sense.

  77. August 2, 2013 3:01 pm

    Mr. Anderson, You are correct. We are all part of one race-HUMAN. I’m Caucasian (my color is not white like a sheet of paper) and I get a little uncomfortable when I hear racial slurs being used. That’s 2 of us, maybe if more people would be uncomfortable, we could eliminate the problem. Thank you,Sir.

  78. jboogie permalink
    August 3, 2013 12:14 am

    To make this as short as possible, I speak on a daily basis about this. Simply put , when Nubian Americans talk using the n-word we are not talking to main stream america so to speak we are speaking to our audience which, is usually the streets level culture or those who are comfortable with street life. Now, our short sitedness leaves us exposed for what we say on the streets and to each other when the main stream media takes it to their audience which has a wider mainstream base that are not familiar with the street culture. We are talking our “villiage” but it gets taken to a broader audience and not everyone understands that this is for a select few that understand the culture. The culture doesn’t have any racial boundries if you have been accepted into the culture. The mainsream media struggles with this valuable understanding. In my point of view freedom of speech is not if you’re getting paid for it. It becomes your opinion when receiving money weather on song or book. America should realize that there’s a battle between the modern mainstream nubian, which wants to progressively move forward and the village culture nubian, which loves to exploit our past. One lives in optimism the other pessimism. We have always had this issue even in africa before the slave trade in Kush.

    Sometimes, when we talk its not for all of America to hear. We are a neighborhood-village type people and we struggle on certain platforms. We talk to the village but the world listens. Sometimes its best to understand what we mean and not what we are saying. Moving forward the n-word should be replaced with “Nubian” at that point all can say it. People worldwide have not challenged themselves to move toward our greatness. We have difficulty eliminating our negative challenges the same as our forefathers. Become part of the solution….for evolution. We need to make a leap in our existance and get past the petty. Stand up world. Its our time!

  79. August 19, 2013 10:34 pm

    I believe the n word is ugly to say no matter what race you are and I prefer not to hang around people who use it.

  80. September 21, 2013 12:11 am

    Its all about context.. We put too much power in to words. Think about the words hell and damn, that are so casually used nowadays. To insult someone based on their race is wrong. But when people say the word “nigga”, they generally are not using it in a derogatory or degrading way. It’s also about the type of people you surround yourself with. If you aren’t a person that swears at all, then naturally, you would not be comfortable with using, or being around the use of “nigga”. But if you say “nigga” with unoffensive intentions, do not take offensive when it is used the same way by someone of another race (even if they are white!). Blacks were NOT the only slaves in America, so how come we put so much emphasize on this word? Take Native Americans.. They were called “redskins” yet we have a football team named this? Nobody is complaining about that! What is we had the name “Nigger” as a sports team?! People forget that there were Korean, Indian, Native American slaves just in the United States. But every race has been, at one point, a victim of slavery. Not always because they were considered an “inferior” race, but for various reasons. Blacks have not been the only slaves, yet when the word “nigga” that has, in the past, been used in a derogatory way we make such a big deal about it. Its all about the way you say it! Its all about what your intention is! Here is the list of words that have been used to degrade another race.
    http://gyral.blackshell.com/names.html
    Should we exclude all these words from our vocabulary, because at one point, they have been used to offend someone? I hope that if you guys take offensive to the word “nigga”, then you will speak up on other words as well! If you hear slut, whore, bitch, words that are meant to degrade woman, then speak up on these words too!

  81. October 19, 2013 9:25 pm

    I am of the Caucasian race and I get offended when I hear others use the word no matter the race of the individual (s) using the term. The word in and of intself is derogatory. I get even more frustrated when I hear an African-American use it. The race that it offends is the race that uses it most–be an example by setting the tone. How is anyone going to get PAST this issue if it continues to linger on a daily basis. My statement to ALL African Americans is: “Lead by example, STOP making it “okay” to say the “N” word; nigger, nigga, niggah, etc. No matter how it’s said, used, it still exists. If we want a better future WE need to stop living and bringing up the past.

  82. Zack permalink
    November 13, 2013 2:52 am

    I feel that no one should use the word because it was used and made for a derogatory sense. It is a anglo(white) slave holders lack of language on the spanish neutral word negro pronounced Nay grow. The bad way of saying it is knee grow. I am mixed Filipino, Spanish,puerto rican european and my sister and her friends use it all the time we have european but don’t look it. I still feel that it is very rude to use at each other or anyone else.

  83. November 16, 2013 9:16 am

    Respect the Sacrifices of Your Ancestors – Don’t Use The “N” Word

  84. Chris permalink
    November 30, 2013 7:09 pm

    Of course black people can say nigger. Gosh, say what you like!

    But don’t be surprised if young white kids grow up thinking the word is acceptable because loads of black people are saying it. Let’s be honest, the word would probably be a historical curio by now if black people didn’t say it.

    So yes, say nigger, but don’t get too offended when people who aren’t black say it, because your use of it is an implicit endorsement of the word.

  85. Mary C. permalink
    December 3, 2013 11:42 am

    As a white person I cannot make judgment calls on black people using the word nigger. I would never say it and I know that my white friends and family would never say it. Living in Ghana, I have heard Ghanian men use it with each other. One man who uses it explained how when they use it between friends, its ok. But white people cannot say it. Another man who does not use it, expressed how he feels nigger is just like saying “black man” and does not take offense to the word, but does not use it because the public does not see it as “decent.” I wonder how African Americans feel about Africans using the term.

    However in my majority white, upper-middle class, suburban hometown I have heard young white men use the word with each other. I find this quite disturbing. These men have gone to essentially, all-white schools growing up and attend majority-white colleges. I want to believe that these men don’t even know what they are saying when it comes out of their mouth. Perhaps they are so far removed from African Americans, so unaware of the institutionalized racism in our country, that the only contact they have with African Americans is through the rappers (who use it) that they listen to or see on TV. Maybe one day they will use it in the wrong setting and then become educated on the meaning of the word.

    Perhaps the word will be lose its negative power when racism is eliminated from our society. Because racism is still so present in society, it doesn’t seem acceptable for a white person to use it.

  86. Gifty Akuamoah permalink
    December 4, 2013 8:39 am

    African Americans hold a double standards when it comes to who can use the N-word. On one hand they use it among themselves for camaraderie purposes but when a non-African American uses it, it becomes a taboo and i use a non-African American because it doesn’t matter if u are white or Asian or even an African. What’s interesting is that, since the word, historically, has negative connotations, i would even expect that African American would not use in any circumstance or for any purpose. Some whites have come out to say that they are uncomfortable in saying the N-word likewise some African Americans but what surprised me recently was when i listened to an interview between African American and a white in which the AA was trying to force the interviewer to say the N-word http://youtu.be/qQdYM0ZzOEI. I think AA should not judge too harshly when non- AA use the N-word and i still maintain that it is not a very nice word to use at each other no matter the purpose it serves..

  87. December 13, 2013 12:06 pm

    I am of the view that African Americans have the right to, and must exclusively, frequently use the word nigger among themselves to deflate the heap of derogatory powers ascribed to it if the whites have not stopped using it to discuss the black Americans in their all-white social centres and homes.I think it is a natural phenomenon in human communities that groups tend to use insulting words against other groups they delusionally think they are better than in some endeavours. When that happens between two groups of people, the natural thing is for the insultee group to use the insulting word to apply to itself while stopping the insulters from using it. So, this situation is one of stimulus -response, and there is nothing the African Americans can do better than what they are doing currently.

  88. Brittany Botts permalink
    December 13, 2013 6:24 pm

    While teaching at The Harlem Children’s Zone this summer, I would cringe every time I heard one of my teenage male students use the word nigga. Yes, I used the word frequently with my friends but no I would not allow my black boys to degrade themselves in such a way. They were kings, and calling each other nigga, I felt, denoted that reality. However, when I asked Justice why he had to use such provocative language in the classroom, he pulled me aside and explained. “Miss, it basically means brother. It means I embrace you, I love you. That’s it.” Once he said this, I never scolded my boys about using the word again. In African American English class, when the N Word topic came up, it forced me to think about the context in which the word exists in my everyday life. I noticed that whenever I used the word, it was not for uplift or connecting. It was for bad talking black men with my girlfriends. The conversations usually go something like “these niggas ain’t shit”, “girl, let me tell you about this nigga”, “this nigga really thought I was stupid” and the like. The conversations do not empower nor embrace the black kings of which I am discussing. Instead, they devalue them and use the word in similar ways to how it was used initially by whites to oppress blacks. I decided after the class on the N word that I would be more deliberate and intentional about how I use the word. If it is not in a reclaiming and uplifting manner, then I do not think I or any other black person should use it at all.

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