Nigga: A more troublesome word

I'm not your nigga.

“I’M NOT UR NIGGA”

The biggest trick that white supremacy has played on the Black community was to have them believe that “nigga” is synonymous with a Black Male.

There was a time when those Blacks who used this word would rationalize it as a term of endearment.  This is a common argument.  So let’s say that even if that were somewhat true in the recent past, it is clearly not meant that way today.   It is not necessarily meant as derogatory, it has simply become a word used to describe Black males.  We are largely responsible for its perpetuation and the fact that it has weaved its way into the American lexicon is problematic and troublesome for many reasons.

The word “nigga” is not used with the same venom nor is it bolstered by the systemic terror as the fully, phonetically-pronounced version of the word.  However, it is just as dangerous and we must understand what comes along with the use of this word.  Its use represents, at the core, a level of a lack of self-respect and the fact that the Black community finds itself anxious to see -often demanding that whites suffer repercussions for using the word, in any form, is a contradiction that is very difficult to reconcile.Those whites who brandished the word “nigger” understood that power.  They understood that “nigger” is the proverbial icing on the cake that is subjugation.  This word was on the tips of the tongues of those whose enslaved, terrorized, lynched, denied civil rights of Blacks. There was a time in our recent past that when the countless men, women and children who were called this word could expect to be stripped of their dignity, their rights, and in many cases, their very lives.

Many whites who use it today understand this and attempt to tap into that history.  It’s used, at the risk of some repercussions and therefore slightly more discreetly by the modern-day racist who seeks to discriminate, intimidate and provoke.

For instance, the Black guy who cuts off a white guy in traffic, doesn’t get called a jerk.  He gets called a nigger.  Why?  Because the racist believes that whatever conflict is has with Blacks is because of the Black people’s inherit inferiority.   As in, he or she not simply ignorant, obnoxious, inconsiderate or rude.  No!  The racist believes that they are all of those things because that’s what niggers are.   Conversely, when faced with a conflict with a white counterpart they can name-call, insult or assign whatever their particular character flaw may wish and not indict their entire race with these characteristics.  An ignorant white person is just that, a ignorant white person.  Yet an ignorant Black person is a nigger.  This is the racist view.

When one looks that some of the lynching photography they may wonder how can someone do that to another person?  They would not even treat wild animals they way tortured and killed those men and women.  They did this at with throngs of on-lookers who either participated, cheered-on or were in some way complicit.   How could they do this?  The answer is because they didn’t look as Blacks as fellow humans  from a different region of the planet, with a different cultures and traditions.  No!  They looked at Blacks as something sub-human, less than an animal.   And it was this word, nigger, that they used to describe this figment of their pseudo-scientific racism.   It was this word was used to break down and terrorize black people for hundreds of years.  No other word in language, has this history or was wielded in such a manner.   (I challenge the reader to come up with one.)

The Black community should not attempt to shake off the history of this word and reinvent it.  It simply doesn’t work that way -not with this word.  It is dishonorable to those who died at the hands of those who called them that.   To attempt to take ownership of the word is not disarming to the racist, because they know what they mean when they use it.  It is a figment of their racist beliefs.   It is hard for a Black person to even comprehend what a nigger means to a racist because niggers don’t exist in their world.    (Perhaps this is the problem.)

Therefore, knowing this, why would you call someone you love a derivative of this word?  Let’s shut down this “term of endearment” argument down once and for all and get to the root of the matter.

The use of the word nigga must be a reflection of self-hate.

Your friend, your man, your comrade, your partner, your cohort, your compatriot, your peer, your mate, your colleague, your buddy, your countryman, your affiliate, your ally, your homey, your BROTHER…   is NOT YOUR NIGGA!  Other ethnic and religious groups have enough dignity and self-respect to not to attempt to co-opt their nastiest slur and incorporate into their language.   Why?   It is because they don’t look at themselves through the eyes of those who have tried to subjugate, oppress and kill them.   They understand to do so would be to implicitly support white supremacy.

I contend that any person (-whether Black or white) that uses the word “nigger” is a white supremacist.

Everyone needs to know the root of this word for two reasons.  First, and most importantly, is so that we would not dare call ourselves it as a matter of self-respect.  Second, so that whites clearly know why the they should not be able to get away with using it without suffering justifiable consequences.

-Lazarus
9/9/2013

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One thought on “Nigga: A more troublesome word

  1. I have to say…I couldn’t agree with you more. This is a discussion that needs to be had more often in our community. And, let’s have the discussion in a real way. Enough of the blanket statements. “We must understand what comes along with the use of this word.”

    I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing the argument that “We took the White man’s power away when we decided to use this word as a term of endearment. We took the White man’s power away when we put it in our songs and used it in our daily vocabulary.” My response to that argument is, “How, exactly, have WE taken the White man’s power away when it still stings every time we hear THEM say it? Our usage of the word, remixed with an “a” at the end, doesn’t magically soften the blow when we hear it uttered by our White colleague, a White police officer, or Paula Deen. How have WE taken THEIR power away? In my opinion, THEY take our power away every time a Black man refers to his homey as “his nigga”… and every time a Black woman shuts a Black man down with “Nigga, please! No, you can’t have my phone number.” Every single time we use this term within our race, we confirm their sense of entitlement to make it synonymous with black people. Your words were right on point: “Because the racist believes that whatever conflict he/she has with Blacks is because of the Black people’s inherit inferiority. As in, he or she is not simply ignorant, obnoxious, inconsiderate or rude. No! They are all of those things because that’s what niggers are.” Because of this fact, we can’t afford to be irresponsible. Let’s be accountable…

    My “Ah-ha” moment came when I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Bucks County, PA. The word “nigga” sounded normal to me riding through the streets of Bed-Stuy blasting my favorite songs from “The Blueprint 3” as I drove past the Marcy Projects. “Nigga” flowed with the rest of the lyrics. It wasn’t taboo. It was a part of a language, a language that I spoke. Now, when I drive in my neighborhood on the not-so-Black streets of Bucks County, and I listen to the same album, the word “nigga” sounds so different to me. If I drive past a group of my White neighbors, and they overhear “nigga” in the lyrics coming from my speakers, “nigga” suddenly sounds louder, harder…it jumps out & stings. It sounds like a different word; a different language. So, it made me ask myself why I’m comfortable with it in Brooklyn, but uncomfortable in Bucks County. Why is it ok in one context, but unacceptable in another? Who decides? How can we intelligently differentiate?

    Yes, we have come a long way in terms of public acts of racism & bigotry. Yes, our president is Black. But, the reality is that we are just 140 years out of slavery & and only two generations removed from the legal racism of Jim Crow laws. Last week marked just 50 years since the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. Frederick Douglass, Dr. King, and those four little girls??? They weren’t our niggas…they were our people…they were our heroes. How dare we take any ownership of the word “nigger” or “nigga”? It’s our responsibility to stand in the truth of its origin, know the depths and relevance of its history, and reject any and all future contexts for it to exist in our community.

    Thanks for encouraging the dialogue.
    -AJ Jones

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