The N-Word.. Should it die?

So it turns out when ole Jesse Jackson was at Fox News network talking about Barack Obama’s nuts, that he may have also slipped out the ole n-word too. Honestly, I am not surprised, I guess if you are gonna talk about another man’s balls, why not drop the ole n-word in while you are trying to make a fool of yourself.

I am not interested in whether Jesse said it or not, but as I surf around in cyberspace, its been interesting reading various folks opinions on the use of the N-word especially as it relates to us Black folks using it. Before I start I must confess, I was raised by parents who made liberal use of the n-word, in fact I still try to tell my Pops that we aren’t supposed to use it and as he tells me “Why?. Good question, why aren’t we supposed to use it anymore.

I know, its a word laced with history and negativity. I technically know why we shouldn’t use it but as a reader and writer, I am not particularly fond of censoring words even ones that as a woman make me cringe such as c**t. Words are words on one level and they only hold power if we give them power, that said, if a white person were to haul out the n-word, I suspect that is a white person who would be tasting my red toes. No, that is definitely not what I am talking about, for me white folks don’t ever get to use the n-word, sorry, you just can’t….

That said, it seems in the Black community at times the idea of whether or not the use of the n-word seems to break down around class. See, back in my old neighborhood in Chicago, folks used the word and no one ever thought anything of it. However as I went to college and started interacting with more solidly middle class Black folks is when I noticed that if the word came up folks visibly got uncomfortable. I definitely noticed upon moving to Maine and interacting with Maine Black folks no one ever ever uses the N-word, I will admit that I still suffer lapses and occasionally the word comes out much like the b-word comes out from time to time. In my defense, I have a potty mouth in general, what can I say, cussing comes easy to me and I have to work at it much like I work at maintaining a decent weight.

A few years ago, comedian Paul Mooney who I love said he was no longer gonna use the n-word and truthfully I was bugged, I know it was in response to Michael Richards tirade at a comedy club a few years back. Clearly Richards was in the wrong using the word but did Mooney really need to retire the word? Mooney’s comedy came about in an era with great artists such as Richard Pryor and honestly I can not even imagine how funny Pryor would have been without the use of the n-word. Maybe that makes me small minded but its my feelings.

No, the current crusade against the use of the n-words by Black folks sometimes feels like a class struggle at its roots, I am not saying there are not working class Black folks who don’t cringe at the mere mention of the word but there definitely seems to be a connection with the more education/more income one gets, less of a desire to use that word.

Over the years, younger Blacks have changed the word from n***er to n***a, some folks feel it doesn’t matter since its still the same word.. yet on a certain level I am not sure its the same word. I wonder if its a way to reclaim it and use it in a way where we own it versus the traditional use where it was a label slapped on us. Just wondering out loud…

That said at the end of the day, I do think there are a lot more things to get pissy about than whether or not we should be angry about this word. I say for those in the middle class who get disgusted at the use of this word maybe we should look at the circumstances that continue to produce folks who cling to this word. I suspect that much like myself if one is surrounded by folks who no longer use this word that eventually it will fade away, there may be the occasional lapse but it will become less common.

So tell me should this word die?

7 thoughts on “The N-Word.. Should it die?”

  1. Being white, it’s not my word to say whether to keep or let die (or to say at all, for that matter). However, being trans, I do find some empowerment in reclaiming the word, “queer.” For whatever that’s worth. Seems to me black people have a right to reclaim it if they want to, and a right to call for it’s death, as well.

    Having said that, I was struck by the use put to it my Mark Twain in “Huckleberry Finn.” That book to me is immortal, as, through the process of Huck and Jim’s voyage down the Mississippi, Twain shows the superior nobility of the runaway slave without ever alluding to it. Granted, Twain was a white man writing in a different time; still, his use of the word was powerful and effective. To me, that book is a masterpiece of anti-racism.


  2. I guess my problem with the N word began when it came from behind closed doors. Remember back in the day when black folks pretty much knew to use it only in the company of other blacks who knew how to take it? Nowadays, if you go to your local college campus, ride the buses or subways (at least in the metro areas), you’ll run into young people who liberally lace their (loud) conversations with the word and truly it makes me cringe in embarrassment. Because it doesn’t matter to them who’s around be it children, white people, or old people. They’re dropping the n-word, cuss words, etc. like nobody’s business. At times like that, I wish that the word would die. And what really, really kills me? When I’m in the NY/NJ metro area I hear it coming from the young Latinos the most. Some would argue it’s okay because those from PR and DR have african roots also, but I suppose that’s a whole other post.

  3. Greetings! (waves}

    Thank you for addressing this issue.

    I believe that the word has created enough degradation for black people and SHOULD BE out of circulation permanently… but I do understand the perspectives of those who say that black people have taken the word and have made it a term of endearment rather than a term of scorn ….I understand the viewpoint but WHY NOT create another term of endearment all together?


    All have been used as terms of ‘endearment”… why NOT just let that go completely? Stop taking insulting words and attempting to turn them into ANYTHING….just stop using them period… how about that?



  4. Ah yes the N. word.
    Personally..the word will never bury itself.. Not when it’s has been spun and used according to who NEEDS it to benefit them.

    To further understand the basic concept of slang.. one has to understand code and communication.. the term.. NIGGA became an endearment term and used mostly as a point of reference in everyday difference than Bro.. homie.. etc.

    Does it have negative history YES
    NIGGER does
    NIGGA is the child of NIGGER

    While we as a nation argue of the sematics of a word, let us look at WHY we refer to such as NIGGAS.. and propose an alternative.
    will it work.. who knows

    I guess personally we should eventually realize that the words, in the end are as powerful as we make them..


  5. words are words
    you can only give them power
    that being said, the word isn’t important its the tone.
    anyone with a brain knows that any word with the right tone behind it can be a greeting or an uncanny offensive term.
    let’s move past this already

  6. I personally don’t use the word. None of my black friends used the word. I think there is a difference between ni**er and n**ga, but I still think it’s a degrading word, no matter how much people claim they can strip it of its painful history. A white person better not ever say n**ga in my presence, because no matter what variation, it will never be right coming out of his or her mouth.

  7. Ummm, I don’t know, but you know how I feel based on my Black like me post, I like you find myself slippin’ and in out of use based on the kind of black company I keep. What is funny is I have climbed the socioeconomic ladder a bit from my childhood, but still find myself most at home with someone who doesn’t feel personally assaulted, or insulted, by my use of the word even if they may never use it.

    Like, I view it like profanity I wouldn’t use it around kids or old people, well some old people use it more than me, but you get me. However I rarely use it in mixed company.

    You know I really don’t know. I will have to think about it, but I’ll use it til I decide one way or another.


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