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Why whites can't say the "N word?"

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Hypersonic

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I, as a black man, get this question quite often around my circle of white friends at my university, and although the usage of the word in etymology is historically offensive, I find it very difficult to have some of my friends understand the cultural climate of why African-Americans use the word. According to professor Eric Dyson the usage of the "N-Word" is as follows:

"N-i-g-g-e-r — 'nigger' — is a term coined by white supremacists and slavemasters who intended to harm the psychology and the social standing of black slaves," says Michael Eric Dyson, who teaches African-American studies at DePaul University and is the author of Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur. "N-i-g-g-a, n-i-g-g-u-h, n-i-g-g-a-z — 'niggaz' — are terms generated within hip-hop culture... attempts of black people to wrest control over how they will be viewed, or at least termed, by the dominant society."



According to some scholars the usage of the word represents an effort by black people to take over the word for themselves, stripping it of the hateful and degrading meaning historically given to it by whites. According to Patricia Williams of Columbia Law school, "in beginning to accept the new usage of the word, mainstream culture is unfairly ignoring the objections of black Americans like Bunny Plaskett who remember the pain of life in the United States before civil rights. "Words have histories embedded in them that don't ever quite go away," says Williams, "even though it feels like this is the word of the minute."

Can whites use the word?

Hip-Hop and the many white consumers of this particular music genre are overexposed to the usage of the word "nigga" as I've put in quotations marks highlighting the difference between saying "nigga" and "nigger" as the former is seen as a term of endearment and the latter having historical significance of superimposing a derogatory psychological term that was used against African-Americans. As I mentioned before, in California and in many black communities in America, blacks do not refer to themselves or each other as "nigger" as this term is historically derogatory, rather changing one letter "er" with an "a" and creating an entirely new meaning. The same argument can be said by women referring to each other as "bitches." Although the term is originally derogatory, often times women greet each other using that term as a term of endearment.

Should whites use the term "nigger?"

Resoundingly no.

It is an offensive term and its usage in this hypersensitive society especially noting the historical significance of the word's usage, and as Eric Dyson stated from a cultural standpoint, American white culture or european culture period has monopolized many facets of society and has changed the dynamics of how human beings perceive beauty, race, skin color, and physical features and so for once can African-Americans at least have one thing to call their own? In that I have to agree.
 

Hypersonic

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Furthermore, there are constant arguments from certain white Americans about why the "N word" is so taboo and yet African-Americans constantly use it. Alas in this thread I identified there differences between "nigger" and "nigga" and their meanings and usage. Now, although I disagree with using the either word, I understand the common usage of today since Hip-Hop/Rap songs constantly use word.

I think what society needs to understand that there are certain words that are culture specific, and in certain ways many cultures believe outsiders of that culture ought to not use those culture specific words as their meaning said by the outsider, does not have the same meaning as it is expressed by those within the culture.

Now I do agree with the argument that words can become meaningless if we move away from attributing power to them, however the idea of rendering certain taboo words powerless is easier said than done since we still live in a society where racism is still apparent. While we move to make taboo words powerless we must be cognizant to the sensitivities to the cultures effected by them.
 

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When I was a sophomore, I had a black friend who would call me nigger and I would call him cracker. Confused the hell out of people in the hallway.
 

tererun

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As a white person i have never understood why they want to say the word. I remember being introduced to the word in elementary school as part of a game kids were playing. I went home and told my mother about the new game we were playing and she of course got extremely bothered and told me what the word meant. Even way back then i realized that was a word i did not want to use. Believe me i have no problem with swearing. I could understand growing up in an area where people use the term freely and they are continuing the prejudice, but why would you want to use it once you know what it is about to a black person? I cannot say i would not use it if i was really ticked off at a specific individual and was going for a dehumanizing and awful term. At that point I am pretty much committed to trash talking that person to begin with and would just use the most offensive thing i could think of on them. Of course if i was surrounded by people i was not trying to offend I would probably chose another word as the collateral damage from that flame may hit people i do not want to offend.

It just always seems so stupid to me to complain about not being able to say a word that brings up such nasty and horrible things to people you do not know and you do not want to offend off the bat. If you want to be offensive then quit making excuses and just be an ass. If you do not want to offend simply do not use it. if black people want to use it i actually do not care. The connotation is just so much different when it comes from a white person, and I actually do not expect people to simply get over it because some people think it should be neutral. racism and it's ever present effects are all around us. I cannot blame black people for being angry at it, or even for some of them getting oversensitive to it. Being a TG person i have seen the glares and the people following me. i have heard the nasty comments from people I do not know. i have been caught in the collateral damage of a insult meant to be specific to an offensive person. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be able to take a break from all that BS like I can by simply blending in.

**** white people who are pissed off that they cannot call someone a nigger. Words you use have meaning and context and that one pisses people off. You may have freedom of speech but that does not absolve you from looking like a bigoted ass or from hurting people with those words even if unintentional. I am an asshole who likes pissing people off and even i do not want to call people a nigger for no reason other than to just use the word.
 

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There is no difference between Nigger and Nigga ... It depends who's using it, the context and the intent.

If a person goes around saying "those niggaz are all lazy and dumb," it makes no difference how he pronounced it, he's a racist .

If person says "I hate black people" it's no less racist than him saying "I hate niggers," the only difference is the word has some historical sting.

Context and intent makes all the difference. But at the same time, there are very few context's that would require a white person to say "nigger" without it being racist.

As far as black people using the term for each other, I don't see why anyone not black would care ...
 

Captain Adverse

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Curious. I find it strange to see justifications for usage of a perjorative like "nigger" simply by changing the ending of it into "nigga, nigguh, or nigguz" and then claiming one is defaming while the others are "terms of endearment."

We have "hate crime" enhancements which increase sentencing where crimes are identified as having roots in discrimination. Many times the trigger for this enhancement is the use of the word "nigger." I've personally observed Blacks beating down other Blacks while cursing at the victim and using "nigger, nigga, nigguh;" but of course since it is their common use form of "endearment" they must be acting out of love for the victim. <--(sarcasm) Yet I recall that there was a case in the NYC papers some years back of a mixed white/latino member of a black gang who particiated in a beat-down of a black, where ALL the assailants were using such terms but HE got the "hate crime" enhancenment. He was a member of a black gang but his actions were racist?

I have a comedian I enjoy watching, Ralphie May, who constantly uses the term in his comedy act. No problem right? Yet back when Michael Richards (of Seinfeld "Kramer" fame) tried to use it in his comedy act, he got slammed. What was the difference? Both white comedians performing in front of audiences containing Black members, and both using it facetiously in comedy...but one says "nigguh" and the other says "nigger" and that makes all the difference?

Words are constantly disappearing from common usage, but in order for that to happen they must suffer from disuse. Whatever the source, hip-hop, local culture slang, etc., as long as words which have any relation to "nigger" remain in public use the primary word will be perpetuated in the language. If Blacks want people to refrain from mistaken usage, set the example and stop using it themselves.
 

RGacky3

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I have a comedian I enjoy watching, Ralphie May, who constantly uses the term in his comedy act. No problem right? Yet back when Michael Richards (of Seinfeld "Kramer" fame) tried to use it in his comedy act, he got slammed. What was the difference? Both white comedians performing in front of audiences containing Black members, and both using it facetiously in comedy...but one says "nigguh" and the other says "nigger" and that makes all the difference?
No the difference is that Michael Richards was screaming it at black people saying that 50 years ago they'd have a fork up their ass and saying "kick him out, he's a nigger."

That's the difference, it's the context and intent, and for Michael Richards it was clear.

I think the whole Michael Richards thing was rediculous ... yeah, he's a racist ... so what ... it's obvious his "apology" was just PR, don't make him appologise, make him be honest.
 

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No the difference is that Michael Richards was screaming it at black people saying that 50 years ago they'd have a fork up their ass and saying "kick him out, he's a nigger."

That's the difference, it's the context and intent, and for Michael Richards it was clear.

I think the whole Michael Richards thing was rediculous ... yeah, he's a racist ... so what ... it's obvious his "apology" was just PR, don't make him appologise, make him be honest.
Hell, I just saw a video...my bad. He did go crazy. Okay forget the comedian comparison...what Richards did was totally uncalled for (although the audience member's racist response was also uncalled for) and I apologize for the comparison.
 

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Either we want to use the word, as a society, or we don't. It's either offensive or it's not. Either we drink from the same fountains or we don't.
 

MaggieD

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I, as a black man, get this question quite often around my circle of white friends at my university, and although the usage of the word in etymology is historically offensive, I find it very difficult to have some of my friends understand the cultural climate of why African-Americans use the word. According to professor Eric Dyson the usage of the "N-Word" is as follows:

"N-i-g-g-e-r — 'nigger' — is a term coined by white supremacists and slavemasters who intended to harm the psychology and the social standing of black slaves," says Michael Eric Dyson, who teaches African-American studies at DePaul University and is the author of Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur. "N-i-g-g-a, n-i-g-g-u-h, n-i-g-g-a-z — 'niggaz' — are terms generated within hip-hop culture... attempts of black people to wrest control over how they will be viewed, or at least termed, by the dominant society."



According to some scholars the usage of the word represents an effort by black people to take over the word for themselves, stripping it of the hateful and degrading meaning historically given to it by whites. According to Patricia Williams of Columbia Law school, "in beginning to accept the new usage of the word, mainstream culture is unfairly ignoring the objections of black Americans like Bunny Plaskett who remember the pain of life in the United States before civil rights. "Words have histories embedded in them that don't ever quite go away," says Williams, "even though it feels like this is the word of the minute."

Can whites use the word?

Hip-Hop and the many white consumers of this particular music genre are overexposed to the usage of the word "nigga" as I've put in quotations marks highlighting the difference between saying "nigga" and "nigger" as the former is seen as a term of endearment and the latter having historical significance of superimposing a derogatory psychological term that was used against African-Americans. As I mentioned before, in California and in many black communities in America, blacks do not refer to themselves or each other as "nigger" as this term is historically derogatory, rather changing one letter "er" with an "a" and creating an entirely new meaning. The same argument can be said by women referring to each other as "bitches." Although the term is originally derogatory, often times women greet each other using that term as a term of endearment.

Should whites use the term "nigger?"

Resoundingly no.

It is an offensive term and its usage in this hypersensitive society especially noting the historical significance of the word's usage, and as Eric Dyson stated from a cultural standpoint, American white culture or european culture period has monopolized many facets of society and has changed the dynamics of how human beings perceive beauty, race, skin color, and physical features and so for once can African-Americans at least have one thing to call their own? In that I have to agree.
If African-Americans don't want others to use the word "nigger," then they should stop using it themselves.

African-Americans' reasoning around its usage is as stupid as women trying to embrace the word **** to take the sting out of it and going around calling each others ***** all the time.

Ridiculous. It's a hateful word with an ugly history. Great way to advertise one's ignorance to the world.
 

greyhat

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so for once can African-Americans at least have one thing to call their own? In that I have to agree.
You can change the ending of a word but you can't take the root back- literally.

Owning the word as their own should not be an aspiration of black people.
 

Hypersonic

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When I was a sophomore, I had a black friend who would call me nigger and I would call him cracker. Confused the hell out of people in the hallway.
It's called joking and poking fun at racism. I do it to my friends all the time as if I am re-creating a Dave Chappelle skit. Don't confuse humor as an exceptance of that words usage.
 

Hypersonic

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You can change the ending of a word but you can't take the root back- literally.

Owning the word as their own should not be an aspiration of black people.
Not to be a grammar nazi but you mean inspiration?

You see changing derogatory words through changing letters do not have to make sense to you because you are not in that culture. Hell, there are a lot of things in white culture that makes no sense to me but in order for me to make some sense to me I have to experience that culture. I think once people immerse themselves in a culture they understand certain dynamics of that culture.
 

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Not to be a grammar nazi but you mean inspiration?

You see changing derogatory words through changing letters do not have to make sense to you because you are not in that culture. Hell, there are a lot of things in white culture that makes no sense to me but in order for me to make some sense to me I have to experience that culture. I think once people immerse themselves in a culture they understand certain dynamics of that culture.
Just like Hitler, you are wrong. ;)
 

lolabird

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There is no difference between Nigger and Nigga ... It depends who's using it, the context and the intent.

If a person goes around saying "those niggaz are all lazy and dumb," it makes no difference how he pronounced it, he's a racist .

If person says "I hate black people" it's no less racist than him saying "I hate niggers," the only difference is the word has some historical sting.

Context and intent makes all the difference. But at the same time, there are very few context's that would require a white person to say "nigger" without it being racist.

As far as black people using the term for each other, I don't see why anyone not black would care ...
You're mistaken. Rachel Jeantel explained the difference.
 

Dapper Andy

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Furthermore, there are constant arguments from certain white Americans about why the "N word" is so taboo and yet African-Americans constantly use it. Alas in this thread I identified there differences between "nigger" and "nigga" and their meanings and usage. Now, although I disagree with using the either word, I understand the common usage of today since Hip-Hop/Rap songs constantly use word.

I think what society needs to understand that there are certain words that are culture specific, and in certain ways many cultures believe outsiders of that culture ought to not use those culture specific words as their meaning said by the outsider, does not have the same meaning as it is expressed by those within the culture.

Now I do agree with the argument that words can become meaningless if we move away from attributing power to them, however the idea of rendering certain taboo words powerless is easier said than done since we still live in a society where racism is still apparent. While we move to make taboo words powerless we must be cognizant to the sensitivities to the cultures effected by them.
Does that mean it's acceptable for me to refer to you as a nigga?
 

Hypersonic

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If African-Americans don't want others to use the word "nigger," then they should stop using it themselves.

African-Americans' reasoning around its usage is as stupid as women trying to embrace the word **** to take the sting out of it and going around calling each others ***** all the time.

Ridiculous. It's a hateful word with an ugly history. Great way to advertise one's ignorance to the world.

Maggie, listen


Blacks on the street do not use the word "nigger" its "nigga" two letters replaced with one (hence the "a" at the end) changes the entire meaning in street lingo. So again, black people do not use the "er" in the word. I am not sure why certain whites don't understand this. I remember reading an article of two white guys wearing derogatory shirts. One guys shirt read:

"I can say nigger cause my shirt is black."

Again, one is derogatory, the other is used as a term of endearment. You understand?
 

AliHajiSheik

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Are people allowed to say niggardly again?
 

Hypersonic

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Does that mean it's acceptable for me to refer to you as a nigga?
No because you aren't in my circle of friends. Just as I am sure you wouldn't say what's up bitch to a female even though she may refer to her friends as bitches. Again, it's about being immersed in a culture and having or I should say, be given the right to use language. I mean, this America you can use it but I warn you saying that to random people you don't know can get you hurt or killed.

It's like gang lingo. Just because you perceive certain gang lingo cool or you identify with a gang even without being initiated, you still have not been accepted in that culture or group to earn the right to use that word.
 

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Prove me wrong please or did I miss the sarcasm
"aspiration" -- several definitions, including these:

Noun
#1 A hope or ambition of achieving something: "he had nothing tangible to back up his literary aspirations". #2 The object of such an ambition; a goal.
 

Hypersonic

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As a white person i have never understood why they want to say the word. I remember being introduced to the word in elementary school as part of a game kids were playing. I went home and told my mother about the new game we were playing and she of course got extremely bothered and told me what the word meant. Even way back then i realized that was a word i did not want to use. Believe me i have no problem with swearing. I could understand growing up in an area where people use the term freely and they are continuing the prejudice, but why would you want to use it once you know what it is about to a black person? I cannot say i would not use it if i was really ticked off at a specific individual and was going for a dehumanizing and awful term. At that point I am pretty much committed to trash talking that person to begin with and would just use the most offensive thing i could think of on them. Of course if i was surrounded by people i was not trying to offend I would probably chose another word as the collateral damage from that flame may hit people i do not want to offend.

It just always seems so stupid to me to complain about not being able to say a word that brings up such nasty and horrible things to people you do not know and you do not want to offend off the bat. If you want to be offensive then quit making excuses and just be an ass. If you do not want to offend simply do not use it. if black people want to use it i actually do not care. The connotation is just so much different when it comes from a white person, and I actually do not expect people to simply get over it because some people think it should be neutral. racism and it's ever present effects are all around us. I cannot blame black people for being angry at it, or even for some of them getting oversensitive to it. Being a TG person i have seen the glares and the people following me. i have heard the nasty comments from people I do not know. i have been caught in the collateral damage of a insult meant to be specific to an offensive person. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be able to take a break from all that BS like I can by simply blending in.

**** white people who are pissed off that they cannot call someone a nigger. Words you use have meaning and context and that one pisses people off. You may have freedom of speech but that does not absolve you from looking like a bigoted ass or from hurting people with those words even if unintentional. I am an asshole who likes pissing people off and even i do not want to call people a nigger for no reason other than to just use the word.

The fact that you wrote this especially not breaking it up in paragraphs lets me know you didn't read what I wrote. I wrote it in detail and demonstrated the differences also highlighting cultural aspects.
 
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