Looking at Another View
It feels like deja vu. Not just because they have had this conversation before on The View, but because I have had this discussion with white friends.
“Why do black people call themselves the n-word?”
“Well, we reappropriated the word to make it a term of endearment, of camaraderie, of familial greeting. Poets use it, writers, use it, rappers and, of course, everyday people.”
“But I can’t use it?”
“Hell, no. You bet not.”
That is really what it boils down to, white people can’t use it so then it should be off limits for everyone. But trying to keep the n-word out of the mouths of black people is like trying to keep a fat person away from a half off all you can eat buffet. Yeah, it’s not going to happen.
At work they try to discourage it’s use among the teen adolescent patrons. The white librarians admonish the black kids for using the n-word because they are legitimately insulted. I, on the other hand, ignore them unless they scream it out. Like this one girl who came in one day. She had left the department with her friend, stepping out of her shoes and leaving them behind for some odd reason. The boyfriend left with a male friend a few minutes after her, carrying her shoes in hand and heading in the same direction she did. Five minutes later the barefoot teen comes back in and heads to the place they were sitting, finding her shoes gone.
“I can’t believe that nigga took my shoes,” the girl says to her female friends. “I’m gonna get his ass when I see him.”
“Hey,” I say to her in a low voice, shaking my head. “You can’t use that word in here.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she looked very contrite.
Did I mention the girls were white and the boyfriend and his friend were black? And the only reason I said something to her was that the majority of the room were black teens and I wasn’t exactly sure how they would act.
When I was a teen a couple of decades ago, I have a covey of white female friends who exclusively dated black guys. And they used the n-word incessantly. To them nigga was synonymous for black male. One friend explained to me the proper way to say it.
“You have to say nig-guh and not nig-gerrr,” she said in all sincerity. “Saying nigga shows you’re down, saying nigger shows you’re a racist.”
I had to agree.
I think as the world gets smaller and more connected we will see the word morph and change into something else and for better or worse more non-black people will become comfortable with using it. I’m not sure if it has been completely defanged but it is definitely something that Americans of all colors and generations need to think about.