The ‘N’ Word

The single most controversial word in American history and our vernacular is the word ‘nigger’. It is a word that sounds as ugly and hateful as it is meant to be and to this day maintains, no matter how much progress has been made, the entirety of its loathing for Black people. This word is so powerful that most people I know can’t even bring themselves to whisper it, even if in only a narrative or academic context.

That being said it has also modified itself and ramified. If we drop the ‘er’ at the end and replace it with an ‘a’ it can become fraternal and friendly. But for many that still depends on who says it. Some people say white folk should abstain entirely. Others don’t think anyone should use the word, under any context.

This has always been an interesting topic to me. On the one hand I think context matters when it comes to word usage and one’s skin tone shouldn’t be a factor. But on the other hand I really can’t imagine a situation where a white person could justifiably use this word and not look either ridiculous or actually be racist. This is ultimately where I’ve settled on the issue.

This word for me, under any context, has absolutely no redeeming qualities and I don’t think skin tone legitimizes its use. But at the same time, with this particular word, skin tone can conjure a tremendous portion of suspicion over its usage and since there are no good reasons to use it in place of its ‘N’ substitute, I think it is better not said at all. As for its modified cousin, ‘nigga’, if you have to think about whether you should use it then it’s probably best you don’t.

Some gay people have compared this word to ‘faggot’ which I think is a stretch. The word faggot is not as steeped in hate history and has always had alternative meanings. Though I still find it suspicious when heterosexuals use the term because it can be hard to tell what the intention is, I do think it facile to put it alongside the ‘N’ word in hatefulness.

We could, of course, do away with all of this if we could all just be nice to each other instead of inventing insulting names to call people we don’t like.


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