Sunday, April 30, 2006

"What's Up Ni@@a?" -- Double Standards in Racial Slurs

"Nigger - a black man with a slavery chain around his neck; Nigga - a black man with a gold chain on his neck."
--Tupac Shakur's distinction between "Nigger" and "Nigga," as cited by Wikipedia, the free online dictionary.

I CRINGE when I hear black folks use the term "nigga" in the presence of white people. I cringe because I know that by hearing black folks openly use and accept that word, white folks will think it is okay for them to use it. However, I will admit that I too have been guilty of using this word, but only in the comfort of my friends (not all black people -- just my friends). Does it make it any better to use the term "nigga" when white folks are not around, or does it make me -- and others like me -- hypocrites?

Whenever I use the word, I am usually telling a story, and referencing some ignorant person in the story. It's not that I purposely say it, or on the flipside, that I consciously try not to say it, but it just seems to flow as the best way to describe the level of ignorance of certain people. I am not necessarily saying that it is okay for me to use that word while in the company of my friends; however, I do think there is a distinct difference between that, and between using the term "nigga" openly and freely among white people. I know, based on experience, that white folks WILL take the liberty to use that word -- and more importantly, to think it is okay to use that word -- once they have heard a black person use it in his/her daily conversation, a comedian use it during a performance, or in rap lyrics.

Unfortunately, the Hip-Hop community shoulders much of the responsibility for widespread acceptability of "nigga." In a show about the TV series "Black.White" -- where a white family and a black family "swapped" lives, Oprah told a story about being in Africa, and being called a "Nigga" by an African man. When told the use of that word was inappropriate, the man told her that based upon the lyrics in rap music, he thought that is how all African-Americans referred to themselves, and shockingly, what they want to be called.

Black folks -- STOP SAYING THE WORD "NIGGA"AROUND WHITE PEOPLE!!!!!!!! Stop speaking so loudly at restaurants and other public places, to the point where white folks all around you can hear you refer to your boys as "niggas." I suppose that we all should try to refrain from using the word altogether, but in the meantime, we really need to curb our willingness to say it so freely in public. As long as we continue to do so, we can expect that white folks will think it is okay to refer to us as "niggas."

Call me a hypocrite, but that's just my honest opinion.



Dad of Notta said...

Notta, I think you are on the right track, but trying to refrain from using the “n” word when only around black people IS hypocritical. So, if using the word only around black people were acceptable then it would be okay to use it around young black children. What’s the harm? We cannot secretly use the “n” word and expect the next generation to be more prudent with the word than we were.

I know…I know, you say the “n” word is already in the lexicon and gets repeatedly mentioned by the hip hop culture in rap lyrics. Blaming it on rap just shuffles the blame away from us - to them. Imagine if no black person for the last 20 years EVER used that word. Would it still be used so freely in rap music? Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

I grew up in the 60’s and we used the word all the time growing up. Does any one remember Richard Pryor BEFORE his epiphany in Africa? Rap music just perpetuated the situation by using the words they heard growing up. Let’s stop perpetrating and stop using the “n” word…period!

thespookwhosatbythedoor said...

Tupac defined nigga as "Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished."

Like Notta, I too have been guilty of using the term "nigga" from time to time. But I do not use it as a term of endearment. If I refer to someone as "that nigga..." it is usually because he has done something to piss me off. I have even referred to George Bush as a nigga from time to time.

However, I agree with Notta's dad that we should eliminate use of the term altogether. It has a negative connotation and refers to a time in our history where were were hung from trees and burned alive.

Anonymous said...

I've had a few discussions with Notta on this subject. I agree with Notta's dad and we should eliminate the word from our vocabulary. There are two recent (spring 2006) articles that discuss this subject: (1) (2)

Here is analogy for you, and let me explicity state at the beginning that the history of these two examples are very different, but the concepts are the same. If I believed that it was o.k. to call women bitches/hos, I'm sure that most people (especially black women) would look at me like I was crazy. So what if I only referred to trifling women as bitches/hos? Does that make it better b/c I reserve usage for only the ignorant or trifling women? Do I have a right to get upset when someone calls my mother, wife, daughter, sister or friend a bitch or ho? Is it better if I only use it around men? Can I escape being a hypocrite (and an agent of paternalism) by saying that I hear women call each other bitch and ho as a term of endearment or when they are mad, so what's the big deal?

So although the history of the n-word and bitch or ho is different, the inherent root of the words remain the same: oppression and superiority. So if someone is acting ignorant, the word ignorant should be sufficient. If a woman is trifling, the word trifling should work. If someone pissed you off, then so-and-so pissed me off. Often, we end up saying those same things but we end up attaching the n-word as part of the statement: "...that n-word pissed me off the other day..." How about we just drop the word from our vocabulary and we will not have to worry about whitey trying to sound like least as far as that word is concerned...

tryin2learn said...

I don’t think there aren’t many blacks that can say they never used the “n” word these days. That word has been around since it was created in slavery times. I even see Hispanic calling themselves that and that does not bother me…now that is another topic

This is going to sound stupid but I like that fact that we can say the “n” word and whites can’t (well they can but not without consequences and repercussion ). It is so funny to me that when a white person becomes comfortable with me they always can’t help but ask why yall can say that to each other but we can’t and my classic answer is “because we can!”

There are certain schools in my area that are attempting to create rules to ban kids (blacks) from saying the “n” word. Well I kind of understand but they need to ban other racial words such redneck, wetback and so on not just the “n” word.

I received this email today and so happen today’s post were on time:
I believe this is true…Nigga is a state of mind!

The Difference...
Contrary to what many may think, there is a difference
between Black people and niggas...
Black people spend thousands of dollars on higher education and see the value of owning real estate.
Niggas spend thousands of dollars on ''getting high" and are concerned
only with keepin' it real...

When Black people have children, they try to get better paying jobs to make
sure they can support their child...
When niggas have children; they change jobs to avoid paying child support.

When Black people have children, they invest in college plans, piano lessons and braces....
When niggas have children they invest in designer clothes, platinum jewelry and mini-Air Jordan’s

Black people watch out for their neighbors and understand the importance of strong neighborhoods...
Niggas watch their neighbors, and look for an opportunity to take advantage of their weaknesses..

Black people appreciate the sacrifices made for them by; their families to help them get ahead in life...
Niggas will sacrifice their Families and steal from them in order to get their next high.
Black people appreciate expensive jewelry designer clothes and nice cars but realize that they don't make the person....
Niggas define themselves by their designer clothes platinum jewelry and nice cars.

Black people will know the people at their local bank branch by first name...
Niggas will know the people at the neighborhood Check Cashers and liquor store by first name.
Black people see hard working brothers and sisters with legitimate jobs as potential mates...
Niggas won't even look at you if you're not a Hustler, Baller or a Bad Ass B**ch.

Black people will work hard to be innovative or to build something out of nothing.
Niggas will work hard at getting something for nothing.

Black people work hard all week and then go out on the
weekend to relax and chill at the few Black night spots we have...
Niggas relax and chill all week and then go out on the weekends and work hard to mess up the few Black night spots we have.

In the words of Chris Rock, "I love Black people... but I can't stand niggas!!.

Curry said...

Removing the word "nigga" from the vernacular of modern English is not going to happen. Sorry to say, “nigga” is here to stay. Love it or hate it. It’s one of those major blunders in our culture that can’t be erased. However, having said that, I believe the nostalgia of using that word will fade like “proper”(Man that Cross Colors shirt is PROPER!, “fresh” ( That dance was FRESH!), “duds” (Where’d you get those new DUDS jack?, “right on” (RIGHT ON jack!) , “jive turkey”(It ain’t cool, bein’ such a JIVE TURKEY so close to Thanksgiving!) , “jack” (Right on JACK!) , or any other urban generated catch phrase of the day.

As our culture changes, hopefully we’ll migrate together and begin using other words that aren’t so degrading. I say “nigga”, and like others I use it as a term of endearment. But I’m beginning to learn that I probably should be a bit more prude about saying nigga, and start saying something else.

Latrodectus Mactans said...

I have always thought that black people who used the word nigger were less than a jackass.

And a jackass, being an animal, did not know any better. But when I hear young blacks use this word, all I can do is think of how this hateful word was used against black people for centuries. Yes, the survivors of slavery (I prefer to call them survivors, not ex-slaves), used this word after slavery, but they did not know any better. So-called black people of today who should know better, bandy this word about like it was going out of style.

Alright, I'm gulty of using the word nigger.

One day after my parents and I had gone through one too many trying times with the white contractor we had a sub-bid with, we left his office to get lunch. In the building where his office was located was a little cafe. We sat down, ordered our lunch, ad when it arrived, well, my anger was on full-steam. Remembering how badly he had treated us, I let loose a barrage of expletives which went something like this, if memory serves me:

"White people are nothing but niggers! Since their kind invented the word nigger, they were the niggers of the world!"

Oon and on it went for sometime. Nigger this, nigger that. I saw my parents, especially my father getting nervous, but I just could not be calmed down, until my tirade ended with the owner coming over to ask my father to put his cigarette out, since his eating establishment did not allow smoking.

Oh, by the way, we were the only black people there. Maybe the white patrons were afraid to confront me on my usage of the word, but i guess it was plain to see even amomg them, that my rage and anger was so profound, that I would have physically tried to take anyone "out' who tried to challenge me on the word. I certainly felt that way right at that time. I was ready to tear to pieces any white person who would even think about saying anything to me.

Needless to say, I no longer say the word nigger out loud, for you never know who not only maybe listening, but, like you, they may have been at the end of their rope as well, and would probably be just as ready to take you on as you would have been ready to take them on.

Yes I have always reserved the word nigger for white people, because their race invented the word. And to hear black people co-opt so sick a word, is downright self-hating and stupid. Where is the logic in calling yourself such a hated name? What? Lack of knowledge of self (your history)? Lack of respect for youself?

Anytime the word nigger came from my mouth it was always used as a term of insult, not a term of endearment. Used in the company of black people, whether at home or out in public, it is the height of disrespect to yourself and an utter disregard for civility and a sign of very little intelligence.

As for the use of the words "bitches and hos", any woman who calls herseller another woman a bitch or ho, has some serious psychological probelm that needs to be remedied fast. And any man who calls a woman a bitch or ho, obviously must think of his female relatives that way as well.

I don't know how the "real hos[whores] feel about it. But, I would think that they would not want the name of their line of work to be so badly thrown about by people who abviously have so very little respect for themselves.

And as for the word "bitch".

A female dog deserves better than to be put into the same company with human beings.

Latrodectus Mactans said...

Sorry for all the "typos", but the use of the words "nigger", "bitch", and "ho", anger me tremendously!

There is no sane reason for a black person to use them except as a sign of serious self-hatred.