The "N" Word, Why Are We Still Using It?

image  Michael Scott anchor at WAAY-31-ABC in Huntsville, has been suspended after a verbal altercation in which he called news producer Jabaree Pruitt a nigger.  He initially started out by referring to him as a Negro, but when Janbree protested he called him a nigger.  According to BET, the incident occurred during a commercial break in the 10 p.m. newscast.  Both men are black.

Some of you may be wondering why this is news.  After all blacks use the word nigger on a daily basis. What this incident shows us is that nigger continues to be a contentious word, despite the reclamation efforts of some.  It has often stood as a kind of limitus test within the black community.  Where you stand on its usage often relates to your class association, rather than position. It is deemed as language that is only fit for those identifying with “low class” and or ghetto roots.

While some use the word in a sense of “camaraderie”, there can be no denying its historical links to the exploitation, and oppression of blacks. When Scott decided to use this word he meant it in its traditional oppressional stance, thus illustrating that even amongst people of color, the word nigger still has the potential to harm, and incite anger, and hatred.

Knowing this, why do we continue to use it?  Why do some blacks feel it is okay to say nigger, and then scream racism if a white person uses it?  White people cannot even say the word, they may only reference it by saying the “N” word.  In the short three paragraphs that I have written I have used “the word” seven times.  If this post was authored by a white person, blacks would be enraged, even though the point I am arguing involves the cessation of its usage. Either the word is okay for all, or it simply isn’t ok.

Nigger constitutes the ultimate verbal assault weapon.  There are few other words in the English language that can arouse such immediate feelings of anger.  In fact the only other word I think of with similar power, is the word cunt. What do nigger, and cunt have in common?  They both are the result of one group expressing power, and privilege over another.  They are both meant to be reductionary in nature, through demeaning the person at whom it is aimed. They both turn the subject into an object of derision.  The only difference is that women do not go around calling each other cunts as terms of affection.  We recognize that a hate word, is a hate word, and cannot be used to initiate a sisterly bond.  We may all own vaginas, but we want to be recognized as more than our genitalia.

As long as we continue to justify its usage by claiming it is okay for us, and not for others, we reduce the true historical pain that the word nigger carries. Every time a POC says this hateful word, we are internalizing racial hatred.  We cannot reclaim that which we never owned.  Nigger was coined by whites specifically to be used against blacks.  It is meant to dehumanize and demarcate difference, not to be a cuddly, and or fuzzy salutation.  When we refer to each other as niggers we are agreeing that we are less than, and that we do not deserve to be endowed with basic human dignity.  Blacks constitute a colonized people globally, and this can only be reinforced by our continued identification with the tools of oppression. 

If you must refer to me by race, you may call me black.  If you must refer to my gender, you may call me a woman.  No one, regardless of gender, race, creed and or religion will ever have my permission to reduce my being by calling me a nigger, or a cunt. I know who, and what I am, and none of my essence  can be described through the usage of hate words.  Shame on you Michael Scott, the person you demeaned was not Janbaree Pruitt, it was your  hate internalizing self.

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