The N-Word: Can Others Use It?

In this day and age, this is still an issue among the black community, and other communities at that. The dreaded debate between saying nigger and nigga, two terms that as far as I care are on both sides of the same derogatory coin, but for some, it carries different contexts. For one, nigger is a highly pejorative term deeply rooted in racism, prejudice and oppression. It was a word used to denigrate and demean blacks of the racially divided segregation era of the early 20th century. There aren't too many people who regard this form of the N-word with positivity. And then there is the form nigga, which you would be hard pressed to not hear at some point in the day, especially if you are listening to urban radio stations or listening to rap music... or around certain black people (that's about as much sugarcoating it as you're gonna get from me).

We as blacks feel that we have a right to "take back the N-Word" and use it with to build ourselves up. We don't use it with the dreaded "er" at the end, but with the happy "a" that shows brotherhood and camaraderie. When I hear this justification, all I can do is shake my head in disgust as I feel this is one of the dumbest rationalizations I have ever heard, but not uncommon. After all, there was a time that you would get a heel or skillet to the back of the head for ever calling a woman a bitch or a whore. Nowadays, you're likely to see a woman walking down the street with "I'm a bitch and a whore" emblazoned on a t-shirt, proudly pointing to it and going, "Yup... that's me."

Now, here are where some of the problems start. One, I am black and have heard the N-word used ad nauseum to describe someone in a list of settings, and I can tell you now, that word was rarely used in a positive manner. And even when I did hear it used "positively", it still sounded incredibly ignorant. There are literally a million other ways you could refer to someone you love or respect, and other words that show genuine endearment; "my nigga" is not one of them, in my opinion. Two, you have the problem that has presented itself over time and the very reason I am writing this: when other races use it.

It appears that the N-word is now copy-written and owned by black America, meaning that only we are allowed to use the word in ANY context, whether good or bad, and if anyone else uses it, they are automatically racist. We don't even want non-black news reporters repeating the N-word  even if it is germane to the story at hand. Of course, let me qualify this by saying that when I say "we", I am referring to the individuals that have that double standard, not all black people (and that is the last time I will make that distinction; if you think I mean EVERY black person, that lazy line of reasoning
 is on you). I by no means am defending the racists and bigots out there that freely use this word, but it makes no sense to me as a black man why our society would want to set up this double standard that allows us to use it, but not others. Hell, I don't even understand why we even want to use the damn word in the first place. The way I see, if "nigga" is a term for endearment, then why does it suddenly lose that endearment when someone from another race says it? You can't say "nigga" removes the sting from "nigger" if a white person saying the "a" variation invokes the same kind of response as the "er."

If a word has that much power to make someone come out of character, to feel less than, or to elicit a response that invites harm, then why use it? If you really want the sting out of slurs, allow everyone to use them or allow no one to use them. In the case of the former, the words lose their power because they are no longer tied to a specific group; they just become part of everyday lexicon. In the case of the latter, taking those words out of our normal vocabulary (not forcefully of course) and allowing them to be used only by the truly repugnant removes any ambiguity about its meaning and intent. You can call yourself a bitch all day, but when you get mad at someone calling you a bitch, you look like a hypocrite... the same with the N-word.

I've said it before and I will say it again: I hate the N-word, regardless of the context, intent, or spelling of it. But if we as black people can sit there and justify use of the word between each other, I see no reason why people of other races should not be able to use the "endearing" form of it. Blame it on our colloquialism, our "Black Vernacular", or our culture, it doesn't matter. With hip hop, R&B, and rap being inundated and poured across mainstream media and Middle America, what was once ours is now everyone else's. So you can slowly but surely get rid of the notion that "nigga" is a term that belongs to black people, and rightfully so. If we truly want to advance as a human race, then that means treating each other as equal... meaning we all say it, or none of us say it.