Should anyone say the “N” word?

The word “nigger” is often exploited in music, movies and different outlets of entertainment. The word is being minimized as slang and represents years of oppression through times of slavery.


File photo by Moyo Arewa
File photo by Moyo Arewa

What can we say? What can we not say? Which words should I use? Is it necessary to be concerned about offending him or her?

It is no secret that the racial climate amongst blacks, whites and different races can transform into a deeply regrettable stage-five hurricane at the utterance of one word.

This word is so potent that many people think twice before uttering it. This word is so powerful that some have been fired for using it.

This word is so strong that even saying it accidentally can cause a protest.

“Nigger” is that word.

Historically, we can date the origin of the word back to times of slavery. “Negro” was used to depict people of colour and their lessened value. In the 17th century, the word somehow changed to “nigger.”

However, the word’s new form had a new meaning stapled to it. It was used by the white dominant society to reaffirm their status and to keep the blacks in servitude.

The word promoted segregation and mental inferiority.

Another modification took place to suit our contemporary context and the word became “nigga,” but not without keeping its derogatory meaning.

The entertainment industry (mostly music and comedy) seems to be the only beneficiary of the word’s use. Numerous hip-hop artists and comedians use the word so often that it has become a staple.

The word intrudes our minds with its prevalent usage, and as a result, many who listen believes it’s now okay to use. It is very important to note that a double standard does exist.

Just like there is a double standard for gender, there’s also one for race. A black person can use the word and not generate a social uproar. The opposite happens when a white person does it.

“Nigger” is laden with a blood-soaked history in which acts of brutality were common against the black race. Its declaration, its sound and its utterance is a permanent reminder.

For decades, blacks have explored appropriating and re-appropriating; taking the word back hence its use in the black culture today. This is very similar to what the LGBT has done with the word “queer.”

The latest celebrity to fall, not by the sword but by this potent term, is Hulk Hogan. “I am a racist, to a point, f*cking n*ggers. But then when it comes to nice people and sh*t, and whatever.”

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) separated themselves from Hogan after he referred to black people as such.

Removing all traces of him online was an action taken in addition to his sacking.

Funnily enough, many people do not understand why the word is offensive.

Is it their fault that it was not explained to them?

Can you tell a judge you did not know murder in this country is a crime after doing it and expecting not to be held accountable?

We can discuss freedom of speech but this would be short. You can say whatever you wish.

You can say unicorns exist, you can call people stupid and you can call black people “niggers,” but you must be mindful that your words have consequences.

Think of it this way: you can go online and defame your boss but if they hear, do not be surprised if you get suspended, placed on probation or even fired.

Derrick Clifton, writer for The Kernel, said it best, “After all, it’s a word many black ancestors in the Americas had to hear while their relatives were sold off on auction blocks, while they were being raped by slave masters and mistresses, and while they were being beaten into compliance with forced labour.

Is that a legacy, decades later, that any non-black person would ever want to associate themselves with — even in the name of free speech?”

In surmising, pundits argue that only those who were affected can use it; others say that it is just a word so everyone can.

One thing is certain though, the word will always offend.

If you choose to say it, remember for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

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