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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Should Africans be offended by the word "Nigger?" And should African Americans be offended by the word "Nigga?"

I've been noticing a certain trend going around most of my Naija friends on facebook: They keep posting and sending this video on their walls (here's the link to the vid And after I watched it I thought to myself, "I understand the African American perspective of that word to an extent, but wetin concern these Nigerians?" The African American people in the video have a right to be offended by the word 'nigger,' because that was an insulting word used against their ancestors, but this isn't the case for these Nigerians. Keep in mind these are the same people who call their African American companions "akata." Isn't that hypocricy? They don't like black people using the "n" word but they're more than willing to insult their own race by calling them "akata." Fuckerey. But looking at this topic from a broader perspective, the "n" word most black people often communicate with today is different from that used in the slave days and the segregation era. First of all, the words are spelled differently: Nigger/Niggers and Nigga/Niggas (or sometimes Niggaz). Secondly, they have two entirely (almost antonymous) definitions: Nigger is a racial slur to demean and insult a black person while Nigga is a urban term used to regard someone in a non-derogatory manner like dude, or buddy. Yet regardless of contradictory definition and different spelling, people still confuse both to mean the same thing and get offended by the non-offensive of the two (nigga) which makes no sense. If they want to get offended because Nigga is close in spelling to Nigger, then why don't they get mad at the word Niger? And since Nigeria is actually formed by adding the two words "Niger" and "area," why don't they kuku get offended at the country sef. The funny thing is they ironically do the same bullshit they get mad at. The same people who don't say "Nigga" because it's offensive say words like "dawg" instead. Now if I used their own logic, I should also be offended by someone saying, "Whaddup dawg?" Afterall, "dawg" sounds like "dog" even though it's spelled differently and has a different definition. Using that same illogical logic some black people use, I'd be mad because by someone saying the "d" word, they're calling a human being a four-legged animal that is often domesticated in the house and used for labor or leisure purposes without getting paid (sorta describes a house slave doesn't it?) So if they want to get mad at people saying "nigga," then I think it's only right that they use the same dumb logic when people say "dawg."

A more specific example of this huge contradiction is the "brother/brotha" difference. We all know what "brother" means (Just in-case you don't, it means a masculine sibling), but "brotha" has a different definition to it. Brotha doesn't mean sibling, it doesn't even mean relative, it's a respectful regard to describe a black male. Brother is kind of a possessive noun (ie "my brother, your brother," "her brother" etc), while brotha is a generalized noun used for black males (ie "This is a brotha," "He sounds like a brotha"). As a matter of fact, I had an recent experience to prove the validity of my contrast of the two words. A couple of days back, I was playing online poker when a guy with a picture of a Wayne Rooney jersey joined the table. I complimented him on his picture and got into a football discussion with him. He asked me where I was from, and I said "Nigeria," he then replied, "ah a nigerian brotha lol." Now if I were to substitute brother for brotha in that response, I probably would have had to correct him saying something like, "um Nigerian isn't my brother, in fact it isn't a person, it's a nation." But no. He didn't mean the same thing as brother, he meant brotha (as in "black guy"). But do you see how stupid I'd have sounded if I confused both word. Yes, just as stupid as some people who make that same mistake with nigger/nigga. The same analogy could be used in the sister/sista terminology btw. There are many things that sound alike and have similar spellings that don't mean the same thing, hell, there are some words with the same spelling that have different meaning: Trick/trick- one definition is a cause an illusion to fool, another urban definition is one that like to spend money on women, bitch /bitch- one definition is a female dog, another is either a promiscuous woman or a female asshole (asshole as in heartless idiot not anus). There are so many things in the English language that have different meaning and are the same word, or have different spelling and mean the same thing ( ie blond/blonde). In fact, the English language is filled with paradoxes like for instance the pronunciations of rhyming words like "no, go, so, and yo," have similar endings with the "o" sound regardless of changing the the consonants in front, but yet in certain words like "do and to," the same logic was applied but yet the pronunciation changed from "o" to "u." That's the English language, it's insane and filled with paradoxes, and to make matter worse, slangs and ebonics confuse definitions even more. So I can understand if you don't get the nigger/nigga difference, just take an English class and maybe just maybe, you'd be fine.

Look, the truth is, these are just words. You shouldn't get offended by words, instead you should be offended by the motives behind them. For instance, if a rapper who says "nigger," says it primarily and knowingly to only insult his ancestors then it makes sense to be mad at that fact, but if the rapper says it to regard his compadres (ie "Shout out to my nigga 50") without any reference or implication to slavery then why get angry? So if I say "I have a bitch," to announce that I just purchased a female German Shepherd dog, should all the women get offended because I said the same word used to demean feminism or should they acknowledge the fact that my usage of "bitch" isn't to insult but to regard a female dog? I hope they choose the latter.

Let me simplify it for y'all, it's not the word that you should be offended by, it's the implication of it. It's what language is really all about; the communication of ideas and feelings, and words are just tools of language. And if you're still offended by the usage of "nigga," then I have two words for you my friend: Nigga, please.


EDJ said...


EDJ said...

As far as this argument. It is not "stupid" to say you don't want to use the word "nigga" or hear other people using it. All those other examples you gave how many of them come from a word that has such a negative past? "Brother", "Sister", "Trick", etc can any of these words claim a similar history to "Nigger"?

If you are okay with it, then fine but please don't insult those of us who say otherwise.

The Messiah said...

@ EDJ, Dawg.....a female dog is refered to as bitch which also has a negative alternative definition, yet "dawg" is said so often without any scrutiny.

El-Divine said...

some people actually object to being referred to as 'dawg'. even some dont like 'dude' so its perfectly normal to be offended by being called nigger/nigga. and the root of the word is inherently offensive so yea, african americans hv evry right to be offended by it. africans dont have a intrinsic reason to be offended by it tho since when we came here we met the n word as a general term for black ppl. but it is still considered derogatory and if anyone is offended by it who are we to decide he doesnt hv the right to.

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The Messiah said...

Yes African Americans have every right to be angry at "Nigger," but "nigga?" They're are two different words, even though they have the similar spelling and pronunciation. And it shouldn't be the word that offends, it should be the concept of the word. And nigga isn't meant to offend, rather to regard. Let's keep in perspective that the word nigger originated from niger (which simply means black). So every time they lynched a black person and said "niggers," all they were saying was "blacks." Why the fuck would I be offended at someones ignorance? I'd find it laughable instead. So instead of black ppl constantly becoming a victim of just a word, some turned it around into something positive: Nigga. In a sense they undid what the white folks did; They made Niger into Nigger (something insulting), and some black folks turned that 180 degrees around and made it regarding by creating "Nigga." Yet these black folks who undo the racial slur are seen as foolish for doing so. LMAO.

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Fragilelooks said...


EDJ said...

First of all "dawg" is from "dog" which is simply an animal's name. Also, "bitch" refers to the females of many animal species. Yes people turned it around and made it negative, but that is yet another word that does not have any history remotely similar to the n-word. So, your examples suck.

Second when you wrote:

"So instead of black ppl constantly becoming a victim of just a word, some turned it around into something positive: Nigga. In a sense they undid what the white folks did; They made Niger into Nigger (something insulting), and some black folks turned that 180 degrees around and made it regarding by creating "Nigga."

You are so right! I can't believe the rest of us didn't see all this before! It takes the negative away from the word as long as you pronounce it incorrectly and then spell it incorrectly. Its like when you put "lol" after an insult. It takes the sting away right?

So, if I say:

"You are an idiot. Only a stupid person would belittle the efforts of the people who came before them by trying to promote this sort of idiocy ESPECIALLY amongst a community that still has lots of catching up to do. Clearly you are dimwitted and naive because only that could explain this blog post. Are you that daft that you can't see there is no way to remove the history behind this word? Lol".

Don't get offended because I put the "lol" there.

Also, when you wrote:

"it shouldn't be the word that offends, it should be the concept of the word. "

Really? So, in your understanding of English language, words do not connect to the concepts behind them? If someone says a word they are not referring to its "concept"? What ARE they referring to?

The "concept" behind the n-word is not simply "black" and to try and argue that it is would mean ignoring over 150 years of human history. You would have to be an alien with no knowledge of world history and a basic understanding of latin to think that the n-word simply refers to the color "black." Since you are not, I can only assume you are trying to come up with lame excuses as to why it is okay to use this word. Instead of being a responsible member of black society and trying to dissuade people from its use you are making excuses for stupid behavior.

Everyone--regardless of ethnicity--should be offended by the use of the n-word and I don't care whether it ends with an "r" or an "a". Its the same word.

LucidLilith said...

I am not offended by the word at all because it holds little significance to me as an African. I cant connect with the pain associated with it. That said, the word needs to be abolished just as chinks, beaner, wetback, cracker, or other words should not be used among polite company.

Realist said...

First the term Brotha is actually similar to brother. Its a term of kinship among blacks, saying we are all brothers, we are all kin. Same way Nigerians will call cousins and second cousins or even close friends, brother and sister.

And from my understanding, Bitch doesnt mean promiscous female, that is what whore is for. I have never heard a promiscuous girl be described as a bitch. She might be a whore and a bitch too.

As per your point, i agree with it, words are our tool not the other way around. So we choose what to do with them.

The Messiah said...

Wow EDJ I don't even know where to begin with. Not only have you misunderstood my argument you also make false assumptions about it just like the "lol" comeback (seriously, wtf was that?). So at this point arguing with you won't get my point across, I feel it's recommended to educate you instead. First of all your claim that bitch is used to define females of "many" species seems vaguely wrong, especially since the "many" species includes those of the canine family; dogs and wolves (and I'll also like to get an estimated number of your "many" as compared to the total of 1.3 million sexual species on earth). And secondly, the word "bitch" DOES have a negative history; during the women's right movement in the 20's, the women who stood up for their equal rights were jailed, beaten, raped and sometimes killed and most of the time they were insulted with words like, "bitch" "cunt" "whore" etc. Yet you don't see animal rights activist demanding that the word "bitch" should be removed from defining a female dog simply because of it's negative history. You know why? Because unlike you and a handful of other black folks, they understand language. They know that sometimes when you look up a word in the dictionary, it could have more than a single meaning. So therefore, they don't get offended by the word "bitch" when used to describe female dogs, because they know it's not used in the same context as "bitch" was used against women during the women's right movement.

Another false argument that was a result of your misconception of my thesis is the word and concept ideology. Lemme use your exact quote:

'Really? So, in your understanding of English language, words do not connect to the concepts behind them? If someone says a word they are not referring to its "concept"? What ARE they referring to?'

Now please show me where in my post did I state that words don't have concepts behind them. Anyways, lemme spoon-feed you my point by given you an example of how the concept of the word is more important than the word itself. The word "gay" used to mean happy, nowadays if someone asks, "Are you gay?" It's usually not because you have a big smile on your face. The concept of the word "gay" evolved from a description of happiness to homosexual (something that is frown upon by society). And sometimes "gay" is used by adolescence to describe something they despise; ie "School is gay." Another example of my concept-over-word point is the word "fuck." By using that same word in a different context and environment I could bend it to mean a variety of things. If your gf/bf says "fuck you" you might think they're angry with you, but if they say "I wanna fuck you," you might think they are horny. So this is what I mean by the concept of the word, as in, how it's used.

The Messiah said...

And btw how the fuck do you get an excuse to use a word? It's a word, not a bathroom pass, you don't need permission to speak. And for your conclusion:

'Everyone--regardless of ethnicity--should be offended by the use of the n-word and I don't care whether it ends with an "r" or an "a". Its the same word.'

That would have made sense if nigga is used in the same context as nigger. Yes I am not angry at people who are offended by "nigger" especially when it's used primarily to disrespect, but nigga is as disrespectful as saying dude, how are they the same word? They are used differently and mean different things. But since you said 'I don't care whether it ends with an "r" or an "a"' then maybe we shouldn't care if Nigger has 2 g's or has only 1.

leggy said...

ive never been all nigger or none of that so i wouldnt tell you if i'd get offended or not.

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LucidLilith said...

Just wanted to say that "nigger" is a derivative of "negro" not niger.

lahlah said...

i don't think i should be defined by one ignorant white man's 1st description/observation of a darker skinned man. I do understand that most african americans are offended by the word because of its association with slave driver, but my ancestors were not slaves so i have no emotional ties to it

rayray said...

During my early childhood, the word nigger was used to describe blacks in a negative manner. I recall my mother explaining nigger was the name whites gave their black slaves. I learned in elementary school, from a clssmate, Webster's dictionary defined nigger as the color black then later changed it to ignorant. That made me very upset; I didn't know how to take that. The word nigger is offensive to most people regardless of color because of how it degrades blacks and how we have been called this throughout history. As a teenager the word nigga, was used in our communities when we communicated with each other. We would use words like homie, nigga, and partner. In my opinion referring to each other with the word nigga was a way of reversing the negative meaning of nigger and putting a positive a positive spin on it so to speak. Blacks should rethink referring to ourselves as niggas because it comes from the word nigger and it makes people question, if we call ourselves niggas, what's wrong with others calling us niggers. All people should make an effort to learn the origin of the word and stop using offensive word like nigger that have a negative connotation about any group of minority, ethnicity, or culture. If we don't we will continue to have division between all races. The word nigger has had several meanings in my life time, all negative and all that angers people and causes them to react violently.

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