The N-Word: It Isn’t Just For Racists Anymore

What’s with the selective outrage over the use of the N-word? Has it not in some ways become an everyday word, with all kinds of new meanings? Thanks to today’s black people – not yesterday’s white people – it has once again become commonplace to use the N-word. Although many older people are still highly insulted by its use – myself included – young people use it regularly to mean ‘that guy’,‘my boy’, ‘my boyfriend’, ‘my close friend’. And get this, it doesn’t even have to be describing a black person anymore.

It seems that now the N-word is going the way of the curse word: mainstream. What used to be met with a gasp is now put forth as a deserved rebuke or a punchline. The B-word and the F-word were the last to find acceptance in the mainstream, after H-E-double hockey sticks, dam*, Sugar-Honey-Iced-Tea, M-n-F-er, and a**hole. These words, along with son-of-a-B , can be heard regularly on cable TV, social media, and even network television. So what’s to stop the N-word from becoming the latest taboo to be stripped of its stature?

In fact, the use of the word nigger, or should I say nigga, has infiltrated everyday conversation to the point where anyone out in a public place – a park, subway, store, social media – could easily overhear it, whether they want to or not. In fact, the inside of my ears have been scratched by too many black voices, ignorant to the sound they make when they utter that awful word in my presence. Their overt lack of respect and minimization of the power that word has to invoke horrific images and feelings in so many Americans is a testament to how far removed they are from historic racism. And perhaps that’s the only good thing about it; the fact that it shows we have come a long way from where we once were as a nation. But, I digress.

Let me try to summarize. Black people are using the N-word: in songs, mainstream comedy skits, and on social media; in friendly, complementary or braggadocious ways; to refer to black people and people of other races as well; and to show power and strength in themselves or to invoke fear in others. The same word that once meant only one thing: you are a worthless, disgusting, inferior, waste of space. Is it really possible, or reasonable, to take a word from such a cruel, harsh origin and make it into a friendly greeting, especially while so many who experienced it firsthand are still living amongst us?

Is it ironic that black people are using the N-word to other black people as well as other races, and then getting angry when those very races begin to use the word themselves?

When singing along with a wildly popular song, should non-black people go mute when the N-word comes up … again, and again. Are non-blacks allowed and encouraged to buy the music, but not sing its lyrics?

And if the word nigger, in certain contexts, no longer refers to slaves or inferior inhumans, what is the big deal with other races using the word to identify their close friends, the way black people do? The same way the word dog or bit** has been morphed into a way to pay respect or to compliment one’s close friend – as in, that’s my dog or that bit** is fine – wouldn’t the next logical step be for the N-word to go that same route?

I guess the problems come when you welcome the use of the N-word by arguing that it doesn’t have the same meaning it did when it was first used by white bigots to denigrate blacks; but, despite that point, you don’t want it to be available for anyone else to use in its newfound meaning. Unfortunately, the N-word is still used today by some narrow-minded, cruel bigots to inflict pain and trauma on minorities; although, that is not your average American, by far. When you want to become selectively outraged when someone from another race uses your same argument to justify his or her use of the word, you have lost some credibility. Being offended when someone is called a nigger is understandable. There is no place in our society to invoke slavery, violence, mistreatment, and discrimination against a fellow human being. So, why use the word nigger at all? Why not relegate it to historical teachings from which we painfully learned that all men are created equal?

Osmosis is the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, words and the like. Since the N-word is proliferating society, is it fair to say that by osmosis, non-black people are accepting and saying the N-word without giving it much thought?  We are seeing more and more slip-ups where people are being cited for using a “racial slur” when the context of that use might be informal and matter-of-fact, not racially charged. Do black people who use the N-word have some responsibility for drilling the word back into America’s daily vocabulary?

Words have meaning. They have definitions. You can’t just take a word and redefine it in a vacuum. Despite your having changed its definition within your circles, the rest of the world still abides by its assigned definition. So, choose a side. Either use the word and by doing so allow others to do the same, or don’t use it and allow its defined meaning to prevail. There are almost 200,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary, not to mention all the slang out there. So, why not find another word to express yourself? Or perhaps even more interesting, make one up and start a trend.

#notafraidtothink           #reunifyourcountry             #havesomerespect

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