The call of our reader and subscriber, Naylah S. Canty, to expel the offensive N-word
After all of the racial distortions and injustices we have shaken off through countless revolts, marches, and sit-ins, the one term “Nigger” still attaches us to being less of a human than others. That word is often on our tongues: in rap music, in everyday conversation, or in our insults to each other. In some cases between close friends, it is meant to be a term of endearment.
But in the same breath, it will exclude Blacks from being competent and provide the reason for racial discrimination. The word “Nigger” despite its derogatory meaning and its unpleasant history remains as the main element in the way African Americans speak and in the negative distortion of the Black image. However, the word must be expelled for the Black community to make progress within itself.
As of the early 1800s, Nigger was established as a derogatory term for Blacks. The word itself was created to give racism a way to devalue Blacks as a whole. Before we began to use it as a regular word, there were variations of “Nigger” to fit different situations, such as: “Nigger stick” (a police officer’s baton), “Nigger work” (demeaning and menial tasks), and “Nigger rich” (deeply in debt, but with enough to get by). ‘Nigger’ is not only a direct insult to people of color, but is a surname that racist Americans have given to ethnic groups to denote their unworthiness. No other American surname carries as much purposeful cruelty.
“Nigga”, a variation of “Nigger” caught fire through comedy, television shows around the mid-1970s. “Niggah” was promoted as the slang version of “Nigger” when it was first used in many of Comedian Paul Mooney’s skits and interviews. Another popular comedian in the 1970s, Richard Pryor defined “nigga” as a black person from Africa coming into American Slavery. Later Pryor said, “I’ve been wrong… I ain’t gonna ever call a black man Nigger again. Cause we never were no Niggers. That word was used to describe our own wretchedness, and we perpetuate it now. That word is dead!”
Some believe in rapper and actor 2Pac’s acronym for NIGGA: “never ignorant, getting goals accomplished”. Although, a Black person being called “NIGGA” (which was supposed to have a flattering meaning) by another race is still highly offensive to this day. Why is it degrading in some situations and endearing in others?
STOP BEING RACIST, STOP SAYING THE N WORD WHEN YOU’RE WHITE, STOP KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE, STOP MAKING THIS WORLD A SCARY PLACE #Dallas
— pinned if unf (@rihannatits) July 8, 2016
That is because the word and its slang version still carry its meaning. If “Nigga” was sincerely different from the belittling term, “Nigger”, then it would not be racist for a White person to say it and we would not be the least bit offended when it is said by them. Phonetically, it is not a surprise that these two words sustain the same old meaning. Like what African Americans have done with the words ‘sister’ , ‘brother’, and ‘preacher’ by pronouncing them as ‘sistah’, ‘brotha’, and ‘preacha’, we have done the same with the word “Nigger”. Yet, with the replacement of the “er” with “ah”, the meaning of those words remain the same. Therefore, a ‘sistah’ is a sister, a ‘brotha’ is a brother, a ‘preacha’ is a preacher, and a ‘Nigga’ is a Nigger.
Just because we are calling ourselves names, does not mean it isn’t name-calling. Just because we are the one branding ourselves with this term, does not mean that it is acceptable by any measure. The pain will still hurt no matter the bully.
By using this word, we have taken the job of degrading Blacks as a whole. Here we are, rising from the centuries-long oppression, just to become our oppressor. How can we be the fist pushing us to the ground while asking for a hand to get up? Just as Richard Pryor said, “That word is dead!”, but it is us who will not let it die.
The usage of “Nigger” or “Nigga” comes down to a matter of respect, self-respect to be specific. In this case, the golden rule can be applied: ‘Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you’. We call ourselves this scornful word that declares Blacks to be dirty, lazy, and stupid nobodies then expect others to treat us with the same amount of respect anyone else would get.
The respect we so crave starts at home, in the Black community. That is also where the self-hatred must end and where we must throw away this term, which ties us to old stereotypes. The word “Nigger” and its derivative, “Nigga” have no place in this society where the Black community hosts so many intelligent, creative, and magnificent individuals.
Without these two slurs, the Black community would be a union with self-respect, a sense of worth, and with the ability to see our full potential. By telling us that we are a people that simply can’t these terms have been shackling our aspirations towards the heights that we can achieve: they are more than a curse word to throw around in our music; they are a psychological weight that will not let us stand up. We are a people of dignity and pride. The sooner we start referring to ourselves with honor, the sooner we can abolish these negative weights.
Author: Naylah S. Canty
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