Why Using Any Form of the N-word Seems Ignorant

Why Using Any Form of the N-word Seems Ignorant

Why Using Any Form of the N-word Seems Ignorant

I don’t use the N-word, ever, and even right now, I’m hesitant to write about it. But since I recently read an article called, “Stop using the N-word if you’re not black,” I thought I’d provide my response: Don’t use the N-word, period.

But just in case there are some people reading this post who have no clue which N-word I’m referring to, I’ll spell it out for them, once. The forbidden N-word is N-I-G-G-E-R. Not negro, which means black in Latin America, or “nigga“, which is the Black English vernacular (BEV). The word is nigger, and when it’s used in its original, contemptuous and vile way, tempers fly.

And That’s How the Fight Started…

But what gives the N-word so much power?

The N-word is one of few words in the English dictionary that wreaks havoc on all of society without ever being spoken. Because there’s too much negative history behind the word. Still, too much anger, angst, hatred and bigotry held in each letter. So, when anyone uses the N-word in any way, it makes the person seem ignorant. Ignorant of the word’s meaning; its negative history; racist undertone; current impact on today’s society; future impact on language – just plain ignorant.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

~ George Santayana | Writer and Philosopher

Sometimes, just mentioning the N-word’s history, or discussing its etymology is enough to start an argument or fight. Not to mention, a barrage of judgmental questions aimed towards the user’s character and morals. But to me, this type of triggered behavior seems just as ignorant as the people who say the N-word out of habit.

The N-word is Not the Problem

I think the old saying: “It’s not what you say, but how you say it,” rings true here. Because the biggest problem with the N-word is not the word itself; it’s the people who use it.

Originally spelled “niger” the N-word dates back to the mid-1500s. It was a word to describe dark-skinned people, which also included Native Americans. But then somewhere between the 1600s and 1800’s, someone changed the word’s spelling and gave it a derogatory meaning. First, the rich, white people who used it to describe their black slave population. Then by the black slaves themselves because they knew that accepting the word as a job title meant they’d have some of their basic human needs met. People often take food, clothing, and shelter for granted, but having enough of anything during slavery was a luxury. So, black slaves did what they had to do to survive, which to me shows incredible humbleness and intelligence.

You Can’t Always Control What Happens.

But You Can Control How You React

Stop Giving the N-word So Much Power and Control

Fortunately, our nation abolished slavery in the late 1800s, and since then, we’ve tried completely eliminating usage of the N-word. But it didn’t seem to help. Because some people still use the N-word. Not only as a racial slur, but also as a term of endearment. Many people within the African American community still use the N-word as a slang: “nigga”. Except this time, it’s not for food, clothing, or shelter, rather to demonstrate an allegiance towards each other.

Somehow after two centuries of education, the N-word still has the same power and control over people. Why is that?

In an inspirational article written by Talib Kweli Green, Talib explains the purpose behind the word “nigga” in the black community:

“In every facet of our society, from economics to entertainment to law, the nigger became synonymous with stupidity, laziness and worthlessness. Nigger as a derogatory term was borne out of the fear that the slaves would revolt. Niggers were dangerous and had to be stopped. Soon, some blacks began to call themselves nigger as a badge of honor, which lead to a term of endearment. Why wouldn’t you want to embody that which most scares your oppressor and change its meaning?”

If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem

First of all, I agree with Talib’s assessment. And I completely understand why there’s a need for allegiance within the black community. But I also need to share a personal observation. The majority of people still using the N-word is the black community. The same people, who once felt oppressed and degraded by the word, now accept it as a title. No, it’s not the same derogatory meaning, but it still comes from the same root word.

But now we live in the 21st century, and people are much less oppressed, and more educated than ever before. Yes, there’s still ignorant people found in every community, but ignorance knows no skin color.

Also, people should be able to have an intelligent conversation about the N-word without fear of judgment. And without hearing a series of uninvited history lessons about slavery and human rights. Especially from someone who wasn’t even alive during the 1800’s, and only knows about slavery through stories.

The key to overcoming the unfortunate history behind the N-word is to stop using it; any form, and every version.


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