The N word

"Niggers was the ones on the rope,hanging off the thing. Niggas is the ones with gold ropes,hanging out at clubs" ~ Tupac Shakur



The “N” word is a derogatory word used by black people to retain (and exploit) their ancestors’ past as slaves. Many blacks claim that it is a term of endearment towards kin, brother, homie, etc, but in no way can it be as its root meaning is ignorance. It's another double standard of racism in our current time. To many Africana and Black peoples, the origin of a frequently used word, “nigga”, simply stops at the derogative usage toward the slave, “nigger.” However, much like many other words in the American vocabulary, the word stems from the Latin word, Niger, meaning black. This is also significant as the Niger River in Africa, was the home of a large number of slaves before they were taken. In fact, the Niger delta was coined the “Slave Coast.” From niger, the word was transformed to the French version, Negre, then to the Spanish version, Negro. All of these forms are linked to some form of oppression and hatred toward Africana and Black people. Despite this fact, Black culture has transformed the word into a form of endearment, but a lot of controversy has begun to surround this

Many people have spoken for the “N” word. Rapper Q-Tip for instance briefly stated that it is “as a term of endearment.” In fact, many people in the Africana population feel this way. Just walking down the street on a regular day, one can hear sayings such as “What’s good my nigga?” or “Nigga where’ve you been?” This word has also become an expression of identity. Rapper Nas along with his wife were pictured on a red carpet with the word “Nigger” in bold lettering on their clothing. This particular support of the word built up a lot of controversy and in a follow up, Nas made an album called “N” with the letter pictured whipped into his back on the cover. Though Nas’s case may have been an extreme sign of support, we see many people of Africana and other races supporting the term today. Many other races have adopted the word “nigga” as a term of endearment along with African American and Black people. The biggest problem of this appropriation is that many Africana people take this word harshly from other races, especially from Euro-Americans.


With more recent events of racism and bigotry in pop culture, the movement to stop this word entirely has grown. We see many famous artists and activists using their reach to spread the halt of the usage of “nigga.” Reverend Wendell Anthony, head of the NAACP stationed in Detroit stated that “It doesn’t do anyone any good, whether it's a journalist on TV or a rapper on the radio.”  We have heard the “N” word used highly in rap culture. Some of the most famous artists on the charts have continuously used the word.  The famous poet, actress and activist, Maya Angelou’s voice was used on a song by the rapper, Common. The “N” word was used and in retaliation, Angelou was quoted saying “I had no idea that Common was using the piece we had done together on [a track] in which he also used the N-word numerous times. I’m surprised and disappointed.” Maya Angelou is one of the most respected African American poets and activists known. She had already previously stated that the word is “dangerous and vulgar” to black people along with Oprah Winfrey explaining that “When I hear the N-word, I still think about every black man who was lynched—and the N-word was the last thing he heard.” These quotes, from highly respected people, are self explanatory on reasons why we should not use the “N” word.

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In parting, I leave you with a few thoughts and questions to ask yourself. Though the “N” word stems from hate and oppression, Black culture has transformed its meaning to a word of endearment or love. Some of the most famous activists have blatantly spoken against the word in total while some of the most well known artists and personalities, even those known for activism such as Common, use the word regularly and proudly. What do you think? Should we continue to use this word or begin efforts to kill the word? Does the transformed word mean something completely different or does it still connect us to our past of slavery and hatred? What would the continued usage of the word mean for our future and will other races ever be able to use it? These are questions that we all need to answer before we decide whether to use the word or not.


~ALexis Becraft~