What’s Up, My Nigga?

What’s up, my nigga?

Have I already offended you?  Maybe it would have been less offensive if I had written “N*gga” or “N*gg*r” or the “N-word.”  Or, maybe it would have been less offensive were I of African-American descent.

When I was a small child growing up in an almost all-white North Dakotan community in the 1960s, I was clueless about racism.  My parents occasionally would mention that so-and-so was a Negro actor on television.  At Christmas my mother would serve “Nigger Toes” (brazil nuts).  I had no idea that “nigger” was a racial slur.

By the 1970s, the term “black” replaced “negro.”  I thought that made sense.  If I was going to be called “white” and I was more of a peachy tan color, it seemed oddly logical that people who were a darker brown would be called “black.” By the time I entered high school, I could count the number of blacks I had met personally on one hand.  They seemed just like me except for their skin color.  Although I certainly knew about the sad story of American Slavery and the lingering racial discrimination, I didn’t see it (or perhaps it would be better to say, didn’t recognize it) in my own community.

At 20, I moved to San Diego, a much more racially-diverse community.  It was there that I experienced outright racism for the first time.  Shortly after moving into an older neighborhood, I walked over to meet my elderly neighbor, who had lived in his home for a few decades.  He told me stories of the neighborhood back “in the good old days.”   I recall him saying, “But now it’s getting a little dark here.”  I stared at him for a moment, looked outside at the afternoon’s brilliant blue sky, and replied, “Dark?  It’s only 3:00!” He gave me a long look, drew up his upper lip in disgust and said, “Niggers.”

Niggers.  A disrespectful, demeaning and derogatory term.  A nigger is a sub-human.

So, why would African-Americans (or Black Americans or Americans of African descent, or whatever is the current most politically correct term) want to use the terms Nigger or Nigga to refer to themselves?  Do they think it is empowering?  A term of endearment?  A ghetto pride term?

If that were so, then wouldn’t it be acceptable for anyone to use the terms?  Shouldn’t I be able to walk up to a group of African-Americans and say, “Hi, Niggas!” and not worry about getting beat up?

Don’t worry.  I have no plans to use the term, “Nigga” conversationally.

When I hear African-Americans use “Nigga” or “Nigger” it grates on my ears.  To me it sounds ignorant of the historical usage, like a slap in the face to their ancestors, the original “Niggers.”

If you’ve gotten this far, you may be wondering why I’ve written about this topic on a “small talk” blog.  Fair question.

First of all, do you remember what you felt or thought when you read the words “What’s up, my nigga?”  At best, you were curious.  At worst, you may have been offended, possibly deeply offended.  You may have formed a negative opinion of me.  If I had brought up this topic in casual business conversation, like at a networking meeting, you likely would have found a way to escape as soon as possible.   Generally avoid controversial topics when making small talk!

Second, do you remember learning the nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”?  By the time you finished kindergarten, you figured out that one was wrong.  Our choice of words can be extremely hurtful.  The words we use can shape perceptions and can change a person’s or a people group’s reality.  The Nigger/Nigga word is but one example of how a word’s historical meaning and usage can hurt more than the sharpest rocks.  Choose your words carefully.

Advertisements

About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

2 Responses to What’s Up, My Nigga?

  1. “So, why would African-Americans (or Black Americans or Americans of African descent, or whatever is the current most politically correct term) want to use the terms Nigger or Nigga to refer to themselves? Do they think it is empowering? A term of endearment? A ghetto pride term?”

    Ghetto pride? Really? That is highly insensitive. Anyhow, what african americans choose to call each other, is not really a discussion to be had with white women wouldn’t you say? Its just not your place, you are not black, it doesn’t affect you.

    It will always be viewed as racist, for a white women (or any other non-black person) to use the n-word.

    You don’t see black Americans coming into synagogues telling jews what they should call themselves, or any other group. Come to think of it, I’ve never recalled any African American question why whites call each other white, instead of peach or pink or some other word. Do you know why? Because it doesn’t affect them, they aren’t white, and they don’t have the same complex and anxieties we white people have in trying to control other groups and what they define and call each other.

    I think you have a great deal of cultural naivety Diane. Such usage of words is not limited to African Americans. East Asians mock East Asians with the same type slurs (chink, fob, gook, nip, jap, slant, chinky eyes, ugly), South Asians (paki, sambo, coolie), gays (fag, faggot, queer, dyke), heck even women (slut, bitch, whore, cunt), Latinos (spick, wetbacks, illegals, in fact we even translate wetback into “The wets” or mojado, and the gangbanging thug mexican stereotype slur aka a vato into paisa), jews (kike, greedy, vermin, untermenschkins). I recall being in my roman catholic italian school, where the half irish, half italian teacher told all the italian descendent students to stand up, he said all you guinea wops stand up, I said stand up you no good dagos get out of your seats I want to see who you wops are.

    Diane, this happens the world over. You are likely just more aware of black americans doing it because that is the group whites are always watching.

    Come to think of it, whites call each other rednecks, hillbillies, white trash, trailer park trash, crackers and honkeys and all other kind of white insults. I recall the Italians kids mocking the poles and irish telling them their a** is white and they are white like a**, and you are so white you look like your dead.

    But white privilege permits you to ignore all these other examples, and focus in on America’s 600 year old boogie man. The blacks.

    Your question, is an inherently racist one. It may not have been your intent to be racist, but the question singled out the practice of a group that almost every group does! Why? Because they are black!

    As for why this occurs? Well oppressed groups often embrace and start to believe the ideology of their oppressors (its why in much of latin America white is viewed as better than brown, and we elect a bunch of people whiter than you to run our countries and star in our telenovas). Many minorities have had it pounded into their head under threat of death so start to believe it. Why would this be any surprise to you? On top of that there is the view this is how the mainstream views us anyhow, so what difference does it make (if you cannot beat them join them basically).

    Now you also have to understand, Black Americans are a MINORITY. They do not control their image as a people in this country. The fact you are even aware of this is most likely from American media. Which typically means a white person produced a film or music video, hand picked a cast and wrote scripts and told the actors of color what to say. You saw this, and attributed it to a practice of blacks in general. Do you not see why that is problematic?

    The real question you should be asking, is why is a (allegedly non-racist)– white movie producer, or white music production company broadcasting a film or music with this type of content? What is the agenda?

    “If that were so, then wouldn’t it be acceptable for anyone to use the terms? Shouldn’t I be able to walk up to a group of African-Americans and say, “Hi, Niggas!” and not worry about getting beat up?”

    Can an African American walk up to a group of white women and say “hi white trash cunt sluts” and not worry about getting beat up? After all women throw these terms at each other? You might reply but I don’t speak that way, and most white women I know don’t speak that way. True, but neither do most African Americans call each other N-word.

    What you see is not African American culture, it is a white myopic view of a tiny element of stereotypes of their culture (it does exist but most blacks do not speak that way) from whites in position of powers looking to exploit a minority culture for money.

    “Don’t worry. I have no plans to use the term, “Nigga” conversationally.
    When I hear African-Americans use “Nigga” or “Nigger” it grates on my ears. To me it sounds ignorant of the historical usage, like a slap in the face to their ancestors, the original “Niggers.”

    Again, your white privilege is prevents you from seeing the contradictions in your own views. Never did you stop and think about how an African American reading your commentary, from a white women using the n-word could be a slap in the face to the black Americans. You never thought how it would make them feel. In fact, you never even questioned why your white racist neighbour uses the n-word and who that is a slap in the face to. Its all about blacks to you, that 600 year old boogie man.

    You need to examine why you are thinking the way you are thinking, because it is racially biased against black people, and I don’t even think you are aware of it.

  2. joe Frazier says:

    All I can say is “Nigga Plz” !!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: