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Just a word?

29 May

one direction

I remember a few years ago when I was a teen, I thought it was pretty ‘cool’ to use the ‘N’ word. I would constantly refer to my black friends as ‘Ns’ because, well, it was part of the culture – I mean we heard it used in rap songs and films and it became a part of our vocabulary and the norm to refer to each other as ‘Ns’. At the time it seemed to be part and parcel of being ‘cool’ and ‘down’, a sort of tool we used for reaffirmation. However, years have passed and with age comes a different perspective and I no longer use that word, because, well, I have my reservations.

Just the other day I was walking across a Supermarket car park when my attention was drawn to a vehicle parked in a bay, blasting the popular song titled ‘My Ni**a’ by rap artist YG. The occupants were jollily rapping and singing along to the words of the song. The irony was that the occupants of the vehicle were not black males (as one would stereotypically expect), but rather a group of white males in their mid 20s I presume. I couldn’t help but stop and think what would happen if these young men had to walk down the street in a predominantly ethnic area singing along to that song. I mean, they didn’t mean any harm after all – they were simply rapping along to a song by one of their favorite artists. Which brings me to the question – is the ‘N’ word really excusable? Is it just a word? Is it justifiable for the word to be used by a black person in any instance, and unjustifiable for it to be used by a white person in any instance? Personally I think the word should not be used by anyone, regardless of their race – black or white the word is unjustifiable and should be banned! I think it all starts with the entertainers who are idolised by the masses worldwide. A good example is Mr Shawn Corey Carter, affectionately known to millions as Jay Z, who is possibly one of the most famous recording artists of our time. If Jay Z decides to make an album and use the ‘N’ word in his lyrics, he does not put a restriction on the album which permits only audiences from a Black Minority Ethnic (BME) background to buy the album and sing along to it. Jay Z has a very large and diverse fan-base and if his white fans buy his album and love his music, surely they will sing along to the lyrics, right? It would then be rather hypocritical for a black person in a club (or anywhere else) singing along to a song containing the ‘N’ word to give a white person a screw-face for singing along to the song they equally adore.

I am not merely berating the use of this word but one must understand that the word isn’t JUST a word and was never intended to be used as a complimentary term or a term of endearment. A great many people do not stop to think exactly where and how the word originated. The ‘N’ word, as stated by Samuel L. Jackson in the film Coach Carter, was a derogatory term used to demean, humiliate and insult black slaves, whilst their masters cracked the whip on their backs. Wikipedia states regarding the term – “Often used disparagingly, by the mid 20th century, particularly in the United States, it suggested that its target is extremely unsophisticated. Its usage had become unambiguously pejorative, a common ethnic slur usually directed at blacks of Sub-Saharan African descent.”

So how then has this word come from being the above, to being something apparently ‘cool’? This word is insulting! It is insulting to the men, women, boys and girls who were slaves, some of whom never knew the taste of freedom all their lives because they lived the life of a ‘N’ – primitive and not equal to a white person. It is insulting to the brave men and women who were involved in the Civil Rights movements in America, Britain, Rhodesia, South Africa and many other parts of the world where racial discrimination and inequality were the order of the day! It is insulting to men and women like Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King, among others, who dedicated and sacrificed their lives to fighting the system that did not allow them the same rights, jobs, education and standard of living as their fellow white countrymen because, well they were seen as ‘Ns’ and had to live as ‘Ns’.

How does one defend this word when at times it seems so difficult to do so? In my opinion, the effect carried by this word centuries ago can never be mellowed down. Despite all the slang variations that have evolved from the word with time (e.g Nucca, Nikka, Nig etc), the ‘N’ word still carries a tremendous weight and we must not allow ignorance to cause the sufferings of a countless multitude, over successive generations, to be the subject of ridicule and jest.

 

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13 responses to “Just a word?

  1. Gregg

    May 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Some deep and real talk! Its easy to follow the masses and be complacent and forget the real meaning of some things and our battle to be recognized as equals! Definitely loving this piece!

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    • analyse196

      May 29, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Thank you very much Gregg – it’s much appreciated. I concur, it definitely is very easy to jump on the bandwagon and forget the origins of the word.

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  2. Hoodrat

    May 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    I fink yall over thinking this! Of coz we all remember slavery and all, but the word nigga no longer means anything bad. We’ve taken something used against us for us! Its not the first derogatory word to be used affectionately!

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  3. Hoodrat

    May 29, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Sprogs for example was a derogatory term used for kids and now its used affectionately. I’m black and I’m cool with my brothers and sisters using that word cause they not being racist, they black after all. Whites though shouldn’t be using it. Simples

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    • analyse196

      May 29, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Thank you very much for your reply Hoodrat. My question is, if the ‘N’ word, as you stated above, no longer means anything bad then why are you not happy for a white person to use the word? Secondly I am not entirely convinced that the word ‘Sprogs’ can be equated to the ‘N’ word. Sprogs, as you rightly said was used to refer to children – I am quite sure you’re aware that children regardless of race, are all the same – children – and I am sure children make the transition to adults and the term no longer applies. I doubt there are many adults who have been emotionally scarred because they were referred to as a Sprog many moons ago. The ‘N’ word on the other hand was intended for a race of people who would never have been able to change their identity.

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  4. Jonathan

    May 29, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    I’ll start wit a Shakespeare quote “What’s in a name? For a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet”.
    I too have, and still do use the ‘N’ word. I have however never used it in the negative. It is like a poetic defiance to the negativity of the word by attempting to, and constantly using it in jest. Sort of revolutionizing its meaning if you may. I believe we should listen to the message and not so much the choice of words. The message is usually carried in the rapport or intent of the person sending it.
    So I could say “Dude, you’re my Nigga” and you would understand that to mean I have mad love for you, then the N word is undergoing an evolution.
    Some more subtle words, but with similar effects are “sick” as in “this song is sick, meaning this song is great.
    Rapport and intent being the key words. As black ppl, even as strangers, we believe we already have an inherent rapport that allows us to use the N word amongst one another.
    I have no problem with a white person singing DMX songs “Niggaz wanna….” but then again I have no rapport with him, nor do I know his intent.

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    • Hoodrat

      May 29, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      I second that my nigga

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    • analyse196

      May 29, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      I totally get where you’re coming from with this one Jonathan – “I have no problem with a white person singing DMX songs “Niggaz wanna….” but then again I have no rapport with him, nor do I know his intent.” – does this imply that somewhere in the back of your mind you are automatically/subconsciously on the defensive when a white person uses it because you can’t relate to them using that word?

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  5. Leila

    May 29, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    What’s funny is when white people starting going “nigga please” to one another lol

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    • analyse196

      May 29, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      LOL would it offend you in that instance Leila?

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  6. LibertyAb0veAll

    June 20, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I blame Tupac…

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    • analyse196

      June 20, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      I concur, I blame Tupac and rap music mainly, although I also blame the root cause – slavery. I have tried, and failed, to justify the use of this word and still cannot look for any way of even defending it. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 2 decades everyone, regardless of race, is walking around saying it to one another without a care in the world.

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      • LibertyAb0veAll

        June 30, 2014 at 6:14 pm

        That would be the greatest thing that could possibly happen! Words only have power because we allow them to have it. To be “offended” is illogical and unproductive, in general. If I say a word that offends you, have I really done anything? Information has passed from my mind to yours. That is all. Your choice to allow yourself to become emotionally excited by it is indeed just that – your choice.

        But I digress. I blame Tupac because he was literally the first guy to casually use the word in popular music, and is pretty much solely responsible for it’s resurgence in pop culture.

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