So, last night, my Twitter feed blew up. Chris Rock was trending. Initially, I thought two things: 1) Please don’t tell me Chris Rock is dead or 2) Please don’t tell me Chris Rock has become another casualty of the #metoo movement.
It turned out it was neither. Instead, Chris Rock was trending because of the word “Nigga.” A word that is up there as one of the most talked-about, most contested and most heated words in the history of language.
But what had Chris Rock done? Well, a clip from 2011 (not even this year, which shows how easily triggered the internet, and by extension, our society, since the internet is a more accurate representation of our society than actual society, has become) shows Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais and Louis CK humorously talking about comedy. During this segment, Louis CK starts casually throwing around the word "nigga" a few times, and Chris Rock rolls back his eyes in laughter. You can watch the clip here.
Did I mention how easily triggered my generation is? The twitter mob formed in droves to condemn Louis CK for uttering the word, sacred only to black people, and then proceeded to shame Chris Rock for sitting there during the entire segment, doing nothing while a white man with a ginger beard was letting the word roll from his tongue right in front of him.
Now, I’ve watched this clip a few times. After I did, I just shrugged my shoulders. Once again, ‘woke’ Twitter has exaggerated its anger, acting like everything is a slight against black people (*yawn*) without really thinking logically about it.
However, this new ‘issue’ did get me thinking about my relationship with the word ‘nigger' or ‘nigga' (is there a difference?), how I feel when I use it and my thoughts on non-black people who use it.
What’s up my, Ni$$a?
I am not going to feign some intellectual superiority and say I am above using the word. It would be a lie, and I do my best to always remain authentic. So yes, I do use the word ‘nigga.’ Not always, mind you, I am not in a rap video. But I do sometimes use it, like many young black men, in a few different contexts as described below:
As a term of endearment to my black friend
e.g. “What’s up, my nigga”
As a derogatory term, if I feel a black friend, always male, is acting selfish
ly, e.g. "Give me more pie. Don't be a nigga."
As a derogatory term, if a black male is behaving in a way that one could consider stereotypical
e.g. “Look how he is behaving. Like a nigga.”
Of course, I would never use the word within a professional context because I am not an idiot. But when I am around friends, even white friends, in a casual setting, then yes, I’ll sometimes use the word and always in a humorous way.
I am aware of the history of the word and what it once meant. But words can take on new meaning, especially when they become a colloquialism. To me, the term ‘nigga’ has become a slang word among many black people, and I use it in that context. It once meant something else, but black people have given it another meaning. Words can be malleable like that.
But should non-black people use the word?
Now, this is where we get into the sensitive and touchy ground. Earlier this year, on stage, Kendrick Lamar angrily called out a white fan when this fan shouted the word “nigger.” I didn't quite understand his anger. He uses the word "nigger" in his lyrics but then becomes inflamed when someone says it as part of the lyrics to his song? But he's okay if a black person says it? It's illogical.
The problem in my opinion (and it's an unpopular opinion I know), is that black people have reclaimed the word "nigger" and now suddenly we've become all precious over it. We act as if it only belongs to us, thus given the word a 'forbidden fruit’ aura. It’s like we're tempting non-black people to use it because we make such a big deal about it.
No word belongs to anyone. If you use the word "nigger" in your lyrics, how on earth can you be pissed off if a white fan, who bought tickets to see you live, says the word when he or she is reciting a song you wrote? Is that fan supposed to censor themselves if they’re not black?
I am not advocating that white people can use the word any way they want. Naturally, when the word comes out from a non-white person's mouth, it takes on a dark history which I don't need to explain (slavery, duh). It is for this reason why context and common-sense is always so crucial.
If I humorously call a white friend a historically derogative term for white people and then he calls me the n-word, then, within this context, we are both joking around with each other. So, I am not going to be offended. Now, if a random white man came up to me on the street and shouted "nigga" to my face well that's a whole different context.
Of course, a non-black person should ask themselves why they are using this word in the first place. If it's for light comedy, if it's part of a song lyric and it is not said maliciously or used as a way to legitimately belittle a black person, then, for me, it wouldn't be a problem. However, a white person who carelessly says the word all the time because they think it's "cool" is an idiot but I probably still wouldn’t be offended. There are much more cruel things in the world to be offended about, trust me.
" The problem in my opinion (and it's an unpopular opinion I know), is that black people have reclaimed the word "nigger" and now suddenly we've become all precious over it. We act as if it only belongs to us, thus given the word a 'forbidden fruit' aura. It’s like we're tempting non-black people to use it because we make such a big deal about it. "
In the case of this Chris Rock video, I am not mad at Chris Rock or Louis CK. It's evident that Chris did not mind Louis CK saying the word because they have a certain camaraderie. I am sure Chris Rock has probably called Louis CK all kinds of names relating to his gingerness and his receding hairline.
As always, I love ‘woke' Twitter, but at times it frustrates me. The black community in western society need to stop being precious about the word ‘nigger.' Consider the context in which it is used. Not everything is a deliberate slight against us.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you would like to share your opinion on this issue
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