The “N” Word

Editors Note: This post contains language that may be sensitive to some readers. Please be advised.

On July 1, 2013, CNN aired a special hosted by Don Lemon called “The N Word”. In a very race conscious time, 13 days before controversial verdict of the Trayvon Martin case and after Paula Deen admitted to using the derogatory racial slur, the special came as no surprise. The special included opinions of notable panelists including Michael Eric Dyson, Marc Lamont Hill, Tim White, Levar Burton, and many others, and even those of viewers via Twitter. Unfortunately, I was unable find the special online but you can find the transcript here: Also, as a short precursor into the topic, check out this video:

The N word is a topic brought up regularly and in all truth, is one that always sparks a debate because there is no consensus about the usage of the term among generations, genders, or races. I’ve noticed many people in earlier generations, baby boomers and prior, feel that the N word should never be used and there is no difference between using an “a” ending or an “er” ending whereas generations like Gen X and Y have the word embedded in their vernacular, usually with an “a” ending. In addition, younger generations use the word interchangeably with other terms of endearment for their friends.  But let’s take it back for a second. I heard with my own ears people say that when they say “nigga” they aren’t not calling you a “nigger”, I’ve heard someone give the definition of a “nigga” as a loud ignorant person and “nigger” as a slave. Do people no longer even know the history of the word? Is it no longer a racial slur? Jay-Z has even stated that by using an “a” ending, black people are “taking the word back” and giving it a new meaning. Do you agree with this?

I don’t.

I don’t think that people should use the word because of its negative connotation and historical background. The fact that it was used to degrade and dehumanize us as a people is enough of a reason in and of itself to not use the word. I understand that in young black culture, the word is here to stay. It’s new use as a term of endearment has been made even more popular with the song “My Nigga” by YG.

Do I use the word? Sometimes. Do my friends use the word? Yes. To me, the word is like a curse word. Some people curse more than others, some use the n word more than others. People can say “this bitch” or “this nigga” when speaking about a person but not call someone a bitch or nigga to their face because apparently only then is it offensive. True, but does it make sense? No. 

Where it seems the black community has an issue with the use of the word is when people of non black descent use it. People will be ready to fight over hearing it used by Whites or Asians, but when someone calls another black person the word, we’re just supposed to let it roll off our back. 

How do you feel about the n word? Do you use it? Do you have an issue with others using the word, black or non black? Have we become desensitized to the word in the black community or does it not hold the same meaning as it did during slavery? Let’s hear your perspective. 


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