Is the N-word acceptable?
I think this is the most debated question amongst Black Americans… Ever. It is the question where we are split right down the middle. Rarely, will you even find a family where they all agree on whether or not the term is appropriate.
Well first of all, I’m not even going to discuss the word ending in -er. It’s pretty much understood that the -er makes it what we were called during the most trying times of our development as a people. That’s the general white pronunciation of the word, and the sharpness that Black American hear when they hear the -er may never be understood by any other races. As silly as it may sound, it’s true. Most Black Americans, like myself, draw a distinctive line between the two pronunciations.
Last year, after the continuos racial tensions that the media consistently bombarded me with, I was forced to think about the word. I was forced to think whether or not I wanted to use a word that was used to degrade my ancestors, equating them to less-than-human. I thought about it; I thought about it long and hard. I thought about the way my people had to withstand being called that to their faces, and take it; defenseless. I thought about whether there was really a difference between the original word and our derivative of it. I thought about it for a whole weekend before deciding, I’ll probably always say nigga.
The reason why is because it just does not carry the same baggage that it did in the 60s and prior. The word evolved. It changed. The way we use it, say it and it’s definition all changed. It’s almost a completely different word. I was born in a generation where the only negative way the word could be used was either by a white person or with the -er attached. I didn’t set that standard and I’m not trying to change it. I actually like the word and the way I use it. I knew the word nigga and I knew who my niggas were before I fully understood the magnitude and history of the word. That is the culture. I understand how ignorant it may sound to some, but culture is not and will not be completely understood by those who do not participate in it; and I should not and will not be ashamed of it.
We all have different levels of acquaintances. There are colleagues, coworkers, friends, associates and so-on and so-forth. How you group these people is completely up to you. I’m sure that you can understand how thin the line is between some of these groups. For example, you may work with a person that you chat with from time to time in the halls or in the break room, but you wouldn’t call that person your friend. You haven’t had any bad interactions with him, but just knowing his last name and some family information doesn’t make him your friend. It works the same way with young Black Americans — just because you’re my friend, doesn’t make you my nigga. That is the highest level of camaraderie anyone within a black circle of friends can be awarded. That’s what the word means to me; it’s simply the highest bond of friendship within my race. It is not derogatory. It is not negative. It is not a reminder of struggle and pain or oppression. I was born in a time when the word had lost nearly all of those connotations; nigger had not… But we’re not talking about that right now.
Now with my personal use of the word, there comes a responsibility to discern when and with whom to use it. I highly doubt if any older people I know have ever heard me use it. I recognize what it could mean to them, and I reserve what I feel is my right to use it. They may be completely comfortable with it, but I will not take that chance. The use of that word around a person who struggled through the Civil Rights Movement can easily be taken as disrespect. (If you know me, you know that I am completely against disrespect; especially against elders.) So I am very careful that I only use nigga when I’m with my peers. However, even with my peers, I have a few friends that have expressed that they do not like the word, do not use the word and would appreciate if they would not be referenced as the word, and with those peers, I refrain from using the word. Like I started, Black Americans are split with legitimate terms on each side. I believe that we should at least have a level of respect for each other choice though. For example, my friends never told me not to say it, but with their expressed discontent for the word, I chose not to say it around them so that we have a mutual agreement. But the minute you tell me not to say it because you don’t think it’s right, “Nigga please.” You will quickly get the other side of nigga.
How do I feel about white people using the word? I don’t think they should, but I can’t stop anyone from doing anything. My request has always been that anyone who feels the urge or freedom to say it, that is not of African descent have enough tact to not say it around people who are. There is still a weight that comes with the word that you have to be black to understand. After I grew older and went through a few scenarios that made me feel the weight of what it might have been like to have been called a nigger, I had to fall back and reevaluate my own personal usage and make a decision to continue or to quit. The University of Georgia has a tradition that students do not walk through the UGA Arches until they have graduated. Until you have put in the time required to earn that degree from that school, you will not be legitimately permitted passage through those arches. Now if you decide to walk through anyway, it’s not like the previous alumni are going to go crazy trying to get you to undo your actions, but there will be some kickback. It’s the same way with the saying nigga. I see it as whites wanting the privilege of using nigga, without ever experiencing what it is to be a nigger. Is there a double-standard there? Yes it is. And men still make more than women in the workforce for the same jobs. Women are still called whores for doing the same things that men do which bring them praise.No one is a stranger to the unfairness of double-standards, so the understanding that it’s going nowhere should be of no shock to anyone.
Now all of this is from my perspective; and until we come to an overall consensus that the word will not be used, this nigga is here to stay.