“If You are Not Black Do Not Say It”

Aisja Cunningham

Black people’s use of the word “nigga” is controversial due to its derivation from the word “nigger,” which is a racial slur directed at black people. On one hand the word “nigger” is utilized as the ultimate insult that has oppressed African Americans for generations, and on the other hand “nigga” has become a term of endearment utilized by the same ones the word once oppressed.

Due to the word “nigga” derogatory and racist roots, the meaning of the word changes when white people use it versus their black counterparts. When the word is utilized between black people, it is used as a term of endearment in informal social settings. The common use of the word within the black community was a way to dilute its degrading effect through embracing the word amongst the community. When white people use the word, it is an offensive reminder of the suffering, degradement, and oppression African Americans had to endure throughout history.

The controversy of the world lies in the fact some people, black and white, believe that there should not be a double standard on the use of the word. Dr. Chieke Ihejirika, the chair Pan Africana Studies recommends that, “You have to have a zero tolerance for the word. If it is not a good thing then do not say it, so that whoever uses it can now be held accountable for it. What is bad is bad. We are better off if we remove it out of our lives because it has such a bad history.” Due to its derogatory origin, the rational route would be to remove the word from the vernacular altogether.

However, the word has become common term utilized in informal settings amongst friends apart of the black community. There is no denying that words and actions have double standards in general. The meaning and interpretation of words shift in certain context. For instance, Michael Harriot, World-renowned wypipologist uses the example, “If I overheard a woman playfully referring to her best friends as a ‘bitch,’ I wouldn’t think I could refer to that woman in that way. I am not dumb enough to think that I enjoy that privilege.” Communities utilizing terms that at one point degraded the community amongst others apart of that community is recurring approach used to dilute its effect. This approach may not be the most effective or ethical, but there has to be a clear awareness on when to use certain words or not.

Due to the word’s degrading history, it will never be okay for a any white person to use the word for any circumstance. Because of this, it is debatable whether or not the common use of this word has diminished its derogatory meaning. The word remains very offensive and racist when a white person uses it.

Non-black people tend to have a fascination with using the the word “nigga” because black people use the word, and they cannot accept the fact that everything does not belong to them. “If I keep doing something that I know hurts you, then I have no respect for you. But if I have respect for you, then I will avoid anything that can remotely hurt you,” Dr. Ihejirika advises, “If there is a possibility that I am doing something that is going to hurt you, and I am still doing it tells you the level of my respect and care for you. If it is going to make you unhappy I shouldn’t be using it.”

The use or nonuse of the word is a preference solely for black people. Everyone has the right to say whatever they want, but there are consequences for words and actions. There is a clear awareness of that the word “nigger” is one of the most racist and degrading terms ever used. If you are not black you should not say “nigga” because if you do, at the most you are racist and at the least you are racially insensitive.

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