Nigger: (noun) A word born from racial animosity against black people. A word people are too afraid to use for fear of being branded a racist even though it’s used openly in popular culture and can be used as a term of endearment between two black men.
Last week I went to a comedy night with friends which of course was hilarious… because ya know… that’s kinda the point of comedy. One of the comedians was an Irish dude who started using the N word, nigger in his material. Now as far as I am aware, it was in context as much as it could be… as he was highlighting the point of how it can be offensive especially as he was a white guy. And the rest of the acts that followed were black guys who would say the N word as freely as one would blink. However, after talking to my friend about this, we both decided that he was far too white and uncool to use that word and so it didn’t work well at all. So this begged the question… when is it ever appropriate to use the N word without feeling the wrath of one angry black woman with a glint of Martin Luther King in her eye and a fistful of Black Panther rage?! But not only that, if it is seen to be ‘ok’ to use the N word, in what context and why.
I know… this shit is deep as I have struggled with this subject a great deal. It has caused much confusion, debate and poetic preaching’s as if I was the next Maya Angelou, but with slightly illogical BNP tendencies! But stay with me… I can’t lose you at the first hurdle!
If you listen to hip hop, gangster rap, grime or any other sub-genre mash ups under the giant umbrella of ‘music of black origin’ or have watched Blaxploitation movies, then not only will you be familiar with black men sipping gin and juice, sitting on 22’s, trying to hide from the po-lice, but still having enough ‘Benjamins’ to keep their ‘hoe’ in the manner she is accustomed to BUT they also use the N word. Like a lot.
On one hand I personally detest this and hate it when people say “well it’s in a song and the nice black man with diamond teeth and a pimp cane is saying it, so why can’t I?!” Yes it’s not used as a direct racist slur, but the word alone has forever been a derogatory term to fuck black people over. Plain and simple. The connotations of nigger is rooted in hate, ignorance and power over black people… and I don’t care if you heard it in a song, on the radio or in the mother sucking playground just repeating it… you need to think before you mimic shit you have no intellectual understanding of.
BUT here is my conundrum… on the other hand one of my favourite movies stars Eddie Murphy and is littered with the N word, but I love it because it’s funny. Did I just say that out loud?! The N word in that context is deemed as acceptable because a) it’s used for comedy effect and b) it is spoken by a black man and so it’s ‘fine’ and ironic to slag your own race. Right?! See I don’t buy those black folk who say that using the N word is ‘claiming it back’ rendering it useless to the white man. Bollocks. I say you’re just using it because you know you can get away with it. Hence, the age old argument continues… You can’t chastise someone who isn’t black for using the N word when it’s part of your daily vocabulary. That ideology just doesn’t make any bloody sense to me and the reason why we can’t have nice things!
My understanding of the word nigger is that it’s straight up wrong. I’ve been brought up and educated with the knowledge that no matter who you are or how big and bad you think you are, utter that word out loud… and someone is gonna get hurt. Like people throughout history have struggled and fought and died over the word. However the society we live in now has desensitised us to the N word and we allow it under certain circumstances, like Quentin Tarantino’s movie “Django Unchained” My mother however despises the word and hated that film because of its overuse regardless that it was spoken by black actors. Her opinion was the N word is toxic and just because you’re a nigger by text book definition, does not mean you have rights to throw it around like a casual greeting. Being black does not make you immune to the controversy of the N word. Idris Elba the British black actor of ‘Luther’ fame was interviewed by a journalist and asked how he feels about the N word… “I’ve used it in the past,” he admitted. “But it doesn’t feel like a naturally good word to use.” I ask whether this is because he is a Brit. “No,” he said. “Because I’m African, and the origin of the word is deeper than just some throwaway word so really I tend not to use it now. Ever.”
Personally as a black woman I could really live without the N word in my life. Use it around me and I will be encouraged to slap it outta your mouth. But I also find myself tolerating the use of the word if used in context, which I appreciate leaves a lot of my argument null and void. I asked my friend who is white but an avid fan of gangster rap so is not naïve to the coarse diction some rap artists use, “when is it ever acceptable to use the N word?” and her response was “it’s never ok!” And I think that is the ultimate concluding answer. It never is ok… even when you think it is.