The Dreaded “N-word”By Luis Prada
It’s going to come up quite a bit in the proceedings, so we might as well get the first one out of the way right now. Just know that I am only using the word within a scientific and sociological context. There is no ill will, harm, malintent, animosity, bitterness, aversion, dislike, hate, malevolence, objection, rancor, resentment, spite, detestation, disgust, or disfavor in my usage of this dreaded word.
Here it goes…
There. Knocking that out now is like rubbing one out before a hot date. It cleans the pipes, relaxes, and cuts through the bullshit right down in to the heart of the matter.
Nigger is a word used to cut an entire race down to size for no real reason other than racial dominance and some skewed interpretation of the power and superiority God has bestowed upon a…fairer skinned race.
Nigger has its roots in the Spanish language, so you can send your hate mail to me and I will make sure it ends up in the proper Hispanic hands. It is derived from the word “negro” or “Neg-row” for my phonetic, non-Spanish speaking friends. It quite simply means “black.” Yet, this word that only describes a color has been contorted and raped to mean something much more devious and, frankly, sick. In its early years, the word was just a way to call people what they were, “blanco” was white and “Negro” was black. Then came exploration, soon followed by slavery. After a while the word became a curse. What was once harmless became painful. Like all language, the word evolved, but where most words evolve to mean something that maybe isn’t better, just something along the same lines, “negro” became “nigger” and that was that. Racism was born.
But then something strange happened…the 1970s. Black comedians began to grab hold of this word that was once used to hold them down. They took it upon themselves to reshape it yet again, this time in to something good. With light modification, the once horrible word was softened. That harsh on-the-tongue “er” was dropped, and replaced with a much more airy “a.” “A few decades pasted and Nigga found its way in to pop culture in the form of hip-hop. Once hip-hop left the Bronx, it entered the mainstream, dragging Nigga along for the ride to the top of the proverbial charts. Nigga became the new it word.
Nigga can now be found in the mouths of your average overly privileged suburban white kids who see it as nothing more than a word that their favorite musical artists use. Whether this was the intention of those that created it is not for sure. But one thing that is for sure is that it’s alive and well. Of course, there have been many that have tried to stop it from spreading. Some have even staged a mock funeral for the word.
Where many feel this new iteration of an old curse word is just as bad, if not worse, than the original, I feel quite the opposite.
Hi. My name is Luis Prada, and I’m a Nigga…or so I’ve been told.
Am I offended? Fuck no. Should you be offended? You can, but it is no longer logical. Not with Nigga, at least. Nigger can go fuck itself for all I care.
The word Nigga is, in my opinion, the greatest invention of our lifetimes. The brilliance of it is astounding. Here we have this awful, terrible word that meant hatred, and denouncement, and ignorance that was somehow, as if through some kind of alchemy, transformed in to something great.
Do you want to be someone’s Nigger?
Do you want to be someone’s Nigga?
See the difference? Being someone’s Nigger means you are their property, or should be their property, in their eyes. But, being someone’s Nigga is being their friend, their companion. You are accepted in to an elite group of Niggas when you’re a Nigga. It’s loving, it’s kind, it’s where you want to be.
Nigga is acceptance, Nigger is dissent.
Having lived nearly my entire life in sunny Miami, Florida, I grew up around the word Nigga. Where some people may actually remember the first time they ever heard the word, for me it’s like asking when I first heard the word “The.” It’s ubiquitous down here, particularly among the young, which is no surprise. Every school I have ever attended had the word Nigga wafting around the halls as if it were a speck of dust kept afloat by the bustling student body. Everyone, Black, White, Asian, whomever, had, and still has, a common understanding that Nigga is great and Nigger is something that you shouldn’t say unless you were a fan of removing shoes from your rectum.
Sadly, there are some misconceptions about the word — specifically, misconceptions about its usage, and who can use it. For example, Wolf Blizter cannot announce from the Situation Room that “The Niggas are broke and unhappy.” That’s just uncool. There is a certain amount of inherent coolness one needs to posses in order to wield the power of the Nigga. Sadly, even I, the man that grew up around the word, am not cool enough to use it in the colloquial sense.
But that’s what Nigga is, a colloquialism bounced around from one young person to another. Nigga is just another form of man, bro, dude, ese, holmes, brother, brotha, homeboy, vato, dawg, cuzz, homey, jack, and blood. Each one expresses a form of verbal solidarity that subconsciously relaxes its subject and reassures them that they are among friends. We all pick and choose which ones best fit our personality because we all subconsciously know which ones would make us sound like retards if we said them. Me, I’m a Dude/Man kind of guy. Most of my friends (who are made of mostly Hispanics and Blacks) are Nigga/Bro kind of guys that dabble in the world of the Dude/Man.
Of course, the common misconception with a lot of these words is that just any one can use them. This is not so. Just as I have stated, you need a certain degree of inherent cool to use some of these. Dude/man is pretty much universal; nearly anyone can toss them around all willy-nilly without worrying about being ostracized. Yet, if a middle-aged Caucasian father tires to toss out a few Dudes and Bros around his 14 year old son, he’s going to come off like an asshat that has lost all connection with youthful exuberance.
Nigga is, by far, the trickiest of the bunch. Again, if the middle-aged Caucasian father tries to use Nigga around his son’s sole African-American friend, he’s going to get his ass handed to him on a silver platter with the words “Fuck You, cracka!” bedazzled across it. The word Nigga, and its usage, bring to mind the idea of “The Ghetto Pass.” The Ghetto Pass, as defined by the always trusty Urban Dictionary, is “when a person defines themselves or proves that they have a history of overcoming adversity, proving their knowledge of the street and has the ability to hold themselves and their image as a person of the ghetto whether [they're] of color or not.” A white high school teacher that jokingly calls a black student a Nigga is in strict violation of the Ghetto Pass bylaws.
A Ghetto Pass is absolutely necessary when considering adding Nigga in to your vocabulary. Think of it like a job evaluation at an office. Someone of higher authority watches you, interviews you, and determines whether you are responsible enough to use this word. This means that the usage of Nigga must be earned; it is not an outright privilege guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Of course, there is no such thing as a physical Ghetto Pass. A real Ghetto Pass is more akin to what we humans call “Trust” than it is to a card next to your expired drivers license in your wallet. I have been given a Ghetto Pass from the African-American members of my inner circle. I never use it because I personally do not think I am cool enough to use Nigga. Maybe it’s just low self-esteem. I have attempted to use the word in a social context, much in the same way we take a car for a spin before we slap down a credit card to buy it. But after my few Nigga test drives I realized that it’s just not for me. Not because of its potentially racist connotations, but because it just doesn’t roll off my tongue well. There’s no heart and soul behind my Niggas, but I can dish out Dudes and Mans better than any other jive-ass turkey.
When it comes down to it, all words only have the meaning that you place on them. As George Carlin once said, it’s not the words that cause harm, it is their context. And that, my friends, is the beauty of Nigga. With just a simple letter swap its entire context was radically altered. There are still many people that want this new version of the word — Nigger 2.0 — to go the way of the Dinosaur and Hammer Pants. But I think trying to strike Nigga from our modern vernacular will be doing a grave injustice to us all. Nigger had, for hundreds of years, been used to dehumanize. Now, in just 30 years or so, the word has evolved so drastically that you feel a little shitty if you’re not someone’s Nigga. Putting Nigga on the shit-list of no-no, bad, dirty, foul-mouthed, curse words will be putting the negative connotation back on to the word that has for so long tried to redefine itself. I really can’t think of any other word in the English language that has done that.
And I can guaran-fucking -tee you that Hitler and Nazi will never undergo such a re-appropriation…unless, of course, my Nazi brand sex jelly becomes a hit. Sex sells anything.