A couple of months ago, there was a forum regarding the topic of who should be allowed to use the “N” word, if anyone, and who shouldn”t. It was definitely a worthy topic of conversation, but the majority of the attendees of said forum were certainly people of color, and I also believe that it is a topic not to be limited to a specific demographic (never mind the fact that I long ago planned to write on it), so let my perspective be read by the majority as well as the minority

Paul Wong
The Manifesto<br><br>Dustin J. Seibert

I imagine that the Civil Rights movement allowed the word “nigger” the power that it has today a word that was historically used so commonplace to address or describe blacks that it was once considered an insignificant piece of vocabulary. When black folks decided that they were no longer accepting the use of the word from their oppressors, it developed a sort of energy evolving into the strength that the word currently possesses. Sure, it didn”t mean much when black folks used it on each other while whites were using it in their faces, but now that the latter have ceased doing this for the most part, people still question the political correctness of blacks using the word towards each other.

Today, the word “nigger” bears numerous connotations, depending on whom you talk to it can refer to a black person, an ignorant black person, an ignorant person period, or it can simply be used as a cavalier form of reference or endearment toward someone. Many would ask how a word with such negative beginnings could ever be used in a positive manner an issue that may be quite unclear to many people. I think that it speaks on the ingenuity of many black people to use the word in the context of humor or something else that it was not originally intended for a slap in the face of the people that have and continue to use it negatively. Think about it won”t the word lose some of its negative “luster” seeing as it is so widely used in the black community? Certainly not every black person is a proponent of any use of this word, and many may argue that I am misguided in my history to think that use of the word is OK, but much like any offensive word, the context in which it is used is essential regarding the use of the word itself.

Black folks typically truncate the “er” and add an “a” as a start this is how they said it many years ago, and for some reason, it sounds much better than enunciating the entire word. Use of “nigga” has become so cavalier that it is almost unconsciously used in many social circles. A general consensus with black folks, however, is that non-blacks (particularly caucasians) are, by no means, allowed to use the word in any context. All things considered, this is quite understandable, but I will not necessarily persecute a white person if he/she uses the word with no disrespect intended. I had a white friend in high school who was born and raised in the predominantly black Cass Corridor area of Detroit (if you don”t know about the Corridor, ask a native Detroiter), and he used “nigga” just as casually as all of his black peers would. When it was brought to his attention by fellow students as a problem, he explained that his language, his music, his dress, etc. was simply a product of his environment a cultural matter, if you will. White people who have embraced the hip-hop culture often find themselves spouting the word here and there, as the word is so littered in the music. If music is a universal language, and “nigga” is every other word in many rap songs, then can anyone be truly upset when non-blacks adopt it? In effect, it is not entirely different than the use of any expletive those who swear adopt it from somewhere. The jokers that picked on poor Jennifer Lopez for using “niggas” in her song need to pick their battles a bit more carefully.

Continuing in my role as devil”s advocate, blacks have a very unfair double standard in terms of what they are socially allowed to say, versus what the “man” can say. Isn”t it rather hypocritical for blacks to laugh at the demeaning things Martin Lawrence has to say about white folks, knowing that Drew Carey”s ass would be handed to him if he did the same thing with blacks? History, coupled with a lingering guilt on many whites” part, is the reason for this double standard, but I think that it is ludicrous, which is why I don”t get caught up in it. I enjoy using the friendly, humorous phrase “punk-ass white boy” to those that I am comfortable with, which means that I have no right to get upset if they were to say something of similar effect in return. Again, it is all in context if some skinhead were to walk up to me and call me a “dirty nigger,” then Houston, we have a problem. Otherwise, to get riled up at a white person who uses it haplessly, or with innocent intentions is basically a waste of energy. Unfortunately, the intentions of the person from whom the word is spoken is not always certain, so I usually advise my white friends who have gotten too comfortable with “nigga” to watch themselves so they don”t wind up in a situation like Jackie Chan in “Rush Hour”.

Knowledge.

Dustin J. Seibert can be reached via e-mail at dseibert@umich.edu.

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