Straight Talk about the N-Word

The n-word is unique in the English language. On one hand, it is the ultimate insult- a word that has tormented generations of African Americans. Yet over time, it has become a popular term of endearment by the descendents of the very people who once had to endure it. Among many young people today—black and white—the n-word can mean friend.

Neal A. Lester, dean of humanities and former chair of the English department at Arizona State University, recognized that the complexity of the n-word’s evolution demanded greater critical attention. In 2008, he taught the first ever college-level class designed to explore the word “nigger” (which will be referred to as the n-word). Lester said the subject fascinated him precisely because he didn’t understand its layered complexities.


©Jason Millstein

“When I first started talking about the idea of the course,” Lester recalled, “I had people saying, ‘This is really exciting, but what would you do in the course? How can you have a course about a word?’ It was clear to me that the course, both in its conception and in how it unfolded, was much bigger than a word. It starts with a word, but it becomes about other ideas and realities that go beyond words.”

Lester took a few minutes to talk to Teaching Tolerance managing editor Sean Price about what he’s learned and how that can help other educators.

How did the n-word become such a scathing insult?
We know, at least in the history I’ve looked at, that the word started off as just a descriptor, “negro,” with no value attached to it. … We know that as early as the 17th century, “negro” evolved to “nigger” as intentionally derogatory, and it has never been able to shed that baggage since then—even when black people talk about appropriating and reappropriating it. The poison is still there. The word is inextricably linked with violence and brutality on black psyches and derogatory aspersions cast on black bodies. No degree of appropriating can rid it of that bloodsoaked history.

Why is the n-word so popular with many young black kids today?
If you could keep the word within the context of the intimate environment [among friends], then I can see that you could potentially own the word and control it. But you can’t because the word takes on a life of its own if it’s not in that environment. People like to talk about it in terms of public and private uses. Jesse Jackson was one of those who called for a moratorium on using the word, but then was caught using the word with a live mic during a “private” whispered conversation.

There’s no way to know all of its nuances because it’s such a complicated word, a word with a particular racialized American history. But one way of getting at it is to have some critical and historical discussions about it and not pretend that it doesn’t exist. We also cannot pretend that there is not a double standard—that blacks can say it without much social consequence but whites cannot. There’s a double standard about a lot of stuff. There are certain things that I would never say. In my relationship with my wife, who is not African American, I would never imagine her using that word, no matter how angry she was with me. …

That’s what I’m asking people to do—to self-reflect critically on how we all use language and the extent to which language is a reflection of our innermost thoughts. Most people don’t bother to go to that level of self-reflection and self-critique. Ultimately, that’s what the class is about. It’s about selfeducation and self-critique, not trying to control others by telling them what to say or how to think, but rather trying to figure out how we think and how the words we use mirror our thinking. The class sessions often become confessionals because white students often admit details about their intimate social circles I would never be privy to otherwise.

What types of things do they confess?
In their circles of white friends, some are so comfortable with the n-word because they’ve grown up on and been nourished by hip-hop. Much of the commercial hip-hop culture by black males uses the n-word as a staple. White youths, statistically the largest consumers of hip-hop, then feel that they can use the word among themselves with black and white peers. … But then I hear in that same discussion that many of the black youths are indeed offended by [whites using the n-word]. And if blacks and whites are together and a white person uses the word, many blacks are ready to fight. So this word comes laden with these complicated and contradictory emotional responses to it. It’s very confusing to folks on the “outside,” particularly when nobody has really talked about the history of the word in terms of American history, language, performance and identity.

Most public school teachers are white women. How might they hold class discussions about this word? Do you think it would help them to lay some groundwork?
You might want to get somebody from the outside who is African American to be a central part of any discussion— an administrator, a parent, a pastor or other professional with some credibility and authority. Every white teacher out there needs to know some black people. Black people can rarely say they know no white people; it’s a near social impossibility. The NAACP would be a good place to start, but I do not suggest running to the NAACP as a single “authority.” Surely there are black parents of school children or black neighbors a few streets over or black people at neighboring churches. The teacher might begin by admitting, “This is what I want to do, how would you approach this? Or, how do we approach it as a team? How can we build a team of collaboration so that we all accept the responsibility of educating ourselves and our youths about the power of words to heal or to harm?” This effort then becomes something shared as opposed to something that one person allegedly owns.

How might a K-12 teacher go about teaching the n-word?
At the elementary level, I can imagine bringing in children’s picture books to use in conjunction with a segment on the civil rights movement, because students talk about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Look at some of the placards [held by white people at 1960s civil rights] protests and see if some of them have been airbrushed or the messages sanitized. Talk about language, about words and emotion, about words and pain. Consider the role of words in the brutal attacks on black people during slavery, during Jim Crow, during the civil rights movement. Consider how words were part of the attacks on black people.

Depending on how old the students are, a teacher might talk about the violence that involved lynching and castration, and how the n-word was part of the everyday discourse around race relations at the time. Then bring in some hip-hop, depending again on the age. If these are middle school students or high school students, a teacher can talk specifically about hip-hop and how often the n-word is used and in a specific context. … There are many ways that a teacher can talk about the n-word without necessarily focusing on just one aspect—like whether or not Huck should have used the n-word when he references Jim [in Huckleberry Finn]. Any conversation about the n-word has to be about language and thinking more broadly.

What should teachers keep in mind as they teach about the n-word?
Remember the case of the white teacher who told the black student to sit down and said, “Sit down, nigga.” And then the teacher is chastised by the administration and of course there is social disruption. He said, “I didn’t say ‘Sit down, nigger,’ I said ‘Sit down, nigga,’ and that’s what I hear the students saying.” I’m thinking, first, you are an adult, white teacher. Secondly, do you imitate everything that you see and hear others doing or saying? At some level, there has to be some self-critique and critical awareness and sensitivity to difference. Just because someone else is doing it doesn’t mean that I do it even if and when I surely can.

In my courses, I’m more interested in raising questions than in finding answers to them. I think the questions lead to potential self-discovery. It’s not about whether or not a person uses the n-word. I try to move the class beyond easy binaries—“Well, blacks can use it, but whites can’t.” That line of thinking doesn’t take us very far at all. What we are trying to do, at least the way I have conceptualized and practiced this discovery, is so much more. The class strives to teach us all manner of ways to talk about, think about and to understand ourselves, and each other, and why and how we fit in the rest of the world.

Comments

The N-word

Submitted by Samantha Kim on 22 August 2015 - 3:08am.

The author does prove a point that many youths use the n-word and ignoring the historical background on it. The n-word has always been demeaning, but people use it on a daily basis. When races other than black uses the n-word, it's considered offsensive, but when blacks use it, it's accpeted. People in society shouldn't be using the word at all. It's very demeaning and inferior. As generations keep using the n-word, it will never truely go away.

Is it Good?

Submitted by vish on 12 August 2015 - 9:42pm.

I agree with this. I have seen certain people use the word and other cannot even say it. My personal experience would be in sixth grade. I beileve I saw it on a social media (Facebook) or I heard it in a music video. Before I have heard the word but only in songs and I did not know the meaning of it. I, personally, do not use the word because I beileve it makes certain people uncomfortable around me. I have learned more about it throughout the years but people just say it without thinking and that makes me judge them.

Respect

Submitted by jasminenatividad on 11 August 2015 - 9:01pm.

 

I could not agree more with this article. Respect others, respect must go both ways, treat others the way you want to be treated. My reaction to when I first heard or saw the word, I was a bit confused for the reason of how the n-word was being used. The n-word was being used to express a person as "friend." Though I knew the history behind the n-word, I did not understand, however, as to why it was allowed for the people to use the word to express one as "friend." I still believe it is disrespectful for one to use the n-word under any circumstance.


 

A New Perspective

Submitted by Kevin A. on 11 August 2015 - 4:13pm.

After reading this article, I now understand this word in a different way. I first heard this word in the 6th grade. There were kids on the playground, and I heard a boy say it to another. Imediately, a fight broke out between them. At the time, I thought it was a bad word and I put it out of my mind. 2 years later, I heard it again but this time, it was between two friends and they were joking and laughing. After reading this article, I understand that over time, this word has evolved from an insult to a word of endearment. It has now come to mean, "friend."

I never really knew of the

Submitted by anon on 11 August 2015 - 2:18pm.

I never really knew of the existence of the n-word until I was in 6th grade, when my teacher told us to look through our copies of a book to see if the n-word was in a specific paragraph, so we could cross it out. It seems like all of our copies were newer editions that had replaced the word with 'negro', so there ended up being no issues. Since that was my first encounter with the n-word, I didn't really understand why the teacher wanted us to cross out the word, and I ended up not knowing what the word really meant until I started reading older literary works in junior high school. I feel like having a class about the word would bring a better sense of understanding regarding what it really means to those who only vaguely understand it. Considering how often it's used in pop culture, this class could be very useful.

Respect

Submitted by jasminenatividad on 11 August 2015 - 1:13pm.

I could not agree more with what has been said in this article. Respect must go both ways, respect others, treat others the way you want to be treated. My reaction as to when I first saw or heard the word was a bit confused. I thought then, the n-word had a terrible meaning and history behind it. However, the way I heard it, people meant it as another way to call each other "friend." Generations now are using the word often to express one another as "friend." Though one might use the n-word that way, I still believe that it is still disrespectful to be using the n-word under any circumstance. 

If you are not black, don't say it

Submitted by nophil on 11 August 2015 - 12:38am.

 

The n-word although looked upon as derogatory by non-black races, serves to unite the African American community in its struggles be it in the past or present. Although perceived as a double standard, I do think only people of African descent can use the word without it intending any harm. If a non-black person were to say it, it tends to carry a negative quality with it, in that we are degrading the African race. Similar to the n- word, there are race-related words that belong non-black races that are considered derogatory to many. For example, if a non-South Asian person were to call a South Asian person a ‘slumdog’, it would be considered offensive, simply because they are not South Asian. This is because the non-South Asian has never experienced the humiliation associated with the word “slumdog”. South Asians can relate to each other about the use of “slumdog” because they know and understand the origins of the word. We can relate race-related words to a common personal experience. When my younger sister was teased by another person that was not me or belonged to my family, I stepped in, even though I tease her most of the time as well. However, my teasing has no effect on my sister because I do not mean it, whereas her “bully” intended the teasing as a way to hurt my sister. In conclusion, race related words tend to only be offensive when those who do not belong to the race use it because they do not understand the origins of the word nor the emotional response of those who were oppressed by the words.

 

 

Moving on from the Past

Submitted by JulieT on 9 August 2015 - 4:41pm.

Throughout my childhood years, the n-word only ever appeared in books I read that were set in the past. From those novels, I concluded that it was a horrible word, a racial slur that was extremely offensive. Therefore, my child mindset labelled it as a ¨bad word¨, and so it was put into the very furthest reaches of my mind where I need not dwell on it. However, as I grew older, I started to notice a varriation of the n-word in modern television shows, movies, and even music. I could not understand. Why would a word with such a negative connotation be used by anyone, particularly the people it meant to oppress? In history class, I learned more about the background of the word and its relation to slavery. This double standard that allows some to say it and others not to makes sense, somewhat, but is it not just furthering the rift between the two? I feel that it is great that a word with such a dark background could come to mean something almost synonymous with friend, but would it not be better to erase the world altogether, in order to move forward as society from the terrors of the past?

Disrespect Either Way

Submitted by mbuena on 8 August 2015 - 12:01pm.


In my opinion, using the ¨n-word¨ seems to be a word that is being currently used in a not-so positive way. I was introduced to the word during my time in eighth grade where kids would think that they are superior or cool by just calling a black person the ¨n-word¨ even though they were the same race. According to the article, it reads that ,¨...it has become a popular term of endearment by the descendents of the very people who once had to endure it. Among many young people today—black and white—the n-word can mean friend.” On the other hand, when one of my caucasian classmates called this person the ¨n-word,¨ everyone called my caucasian classmate ¨racist.¨ Well either way, I find it disrespectful to call anyone the ¨n-word” since the word has been gradually used as a negative way of calling someone.


 

Different Meanings

Submitted by sbrar on 5 August 2015 - 4:31pm.

In my opinion, the n-word has two different meanings. One that is used offensively and to look down upon someone, and another is to refer to someone has your friend. Growing up, I heard the latter more often then the other, but it still hasn't dissappointed in causing great controversey. When is the right time to use it? Who is ¨allowed¨ to use it? I believe that in using the word, you must also know the history and meaning behind it, and maybe after that you won't be so casual about using it anymore.

Using the N Word

Submitted by manraj on 5 August 2015 - 2:36pm.

My reaction to this acrticle is people today use it way to often for no good reasons. Some people take it offensive today but can't do to much because it is being used like a regular word. Black people in the old days used to be called has a name, which is rude, and people are using it today has a word has being friends. Not making any sense to why so. We have Black History Month and if people still don't understand why it makes a big difference not to say the word because some grandparents would understand that it isn't a good way to call your friends that word. A lot people today in this school still tend to use the word and not remember the real meanings of it.  

"The N-word"

Submitted by Adam Quillen on 4 August 2015 - 6:35pm.

I think the N word has a huge significance in America and I think that the double standards are confusing for some people at times. However, as the author said in the article, there should be a point where self critiqueing and critical thinking becomes imparitive to maintaining social relations with students, parents, and peers. The first time I heard the n word I actually said it. This was a complete acident as I was experimenting with words that sound like Tigger, the character in Winnie the Pooh. When I said it I was with my father in the kitchen and he told me to not let my mother hear, and to not sy that again. I am white as well and even though I grew up in the south, historically a more racist area of the country, my immediate family was very opposed to using the word.

The N-Word

Submitted by manguyman on 29 July 2015 - 1:00pm.

I believe that the N-Word is something considered less offensive, and even sometimes a replacement for the word "bro". In modern day music, specfifically hiphop the N-Word is used a great amount of times, which may have slowly evolved the word and made people who often listen to hiphop think,"If the word is used in abundance in my favortite music, what's wrong with it?" From my experience, I  hear this word quite a bit, whether when I am walking down the street, or even in school. No one thinks twice when they use the word as a greeting, but I believe the word is still very offensive when used as an insult.

I Can Relate

Submitted by Nirav Patel on 27 July 2015 - 2:00pm.

I can relate to a lot of youths being influenced by hip-hop to use the n-word. According to the article above, youths are the largest consumers of hip hop which is a reason why they use the n-word so frequently. Even some of my friends say the n-word and I think the primary reason is because of the music they consume, which is hip hop. Back when I was in middle school, I would hear the n-word occasionally but now that I am in high school, I hear it very often. I think another reason why youths are using the n-word is because of the need to be "cool" or accepted into the community. These days, the youth community has started using the n-word more than it was ever used before and the reasons are being influenced by hip hop, and the need to be "cool" and accepted into the community.

Using the N-Word

Submitted by bryannanana on 26 July 2015 - 4:41pm.

In today’s society, the n-word is of popular terminology as it has two different meanings to it. This term can either be an insult to African Americans, or simply a way a friend calls another friend. When looking at one point of view, the n-word is considered as an insult, serving as a reminder of the brutal history it originates from.  However, when looking at the perspective of many young people, the n-word is not taken to offense, though is almost a compliment for a friend to call another this term. The first time I heard of the n-word was when I was young, growing up with older siblings and cousins. However, I did not think much of it as it seemed like another way to call a friend. Later on,I learned of its origin through school, yet people would still throw the term around with no big deal. Though, people should be clear of the manner and situation in which this word is used. For instance, when reading through this article, the case of the white teacher using the n-word towards a black student was surprising. I was surprised that a teacher would use such language towards a students, and I strongly disagree with the explanation they added to “support” their case. If a teacher would want to be respected by their students, they should reciprocate this action as well.

the 'n-word'

Submitted by christinaxu on 18 July 2015 - 8:06pm.

From this article, it taught me that the 'n-word' can be used as two separate meanings. The first meaning would be as an insult just like how it was used in the past. However, the second meaning of the 'n-word' can be used as the meaning for friend. Lester states, "the word is inextricably linked with violence and brutality on black psyches." Lester writes this on how the 'n-word' is used as an insult towards black people in the past and how the word is bad. I heard this word used a lot throughout today and when I first heard it in middle school, I have always thought of it as a bad word. However, as I grew up and heard more people say it and from this article, it taught me that it is sometimes used as the meaning of 'friend.' Overall, I don't think people should be using the 'n-word' because it can offend others even if they don't tell you. I agree with the article that we should respect everyone and 'self-reflect' how we use language. In school, I agree that teachers shouldn't just teach the 'n-word' as an insult to black people rather for the other meanings of how the word was brought up and other subjects. The 'n-word' shouldn't be used on a daily basis and people should think of what others may think when used. 

Wonder...

Submitted by JustForNow on 11 July 2015 - 9:01pm.

 

I have always been raised in a family, where we learn to respect each and every thing on this planet.  I wonder why there are those that do not follow that.  As we have experienced in the past, using this n- word transferred from the Dutch language.  Most of our language has changed over time, and so has this word.  According to this article, the n- word has been used with violence, judgement, and simply hatred.  I do agree that this word has changed over time, but how did it evolve into different meanings?  This word has been used to classify many, either as a friend or a foe. I just wonder.


 

 

Self Respect

Submitted by LastNameVarma on 5 July 2015 - 10:06pm.

The use of "the n word" is commonly used by many youth without knowing its full context. This is largely due to the excessive use in hip hop culture. Many people don't realize that it has roots in the dark times when slavery was everywhere, and equality was basically defined as, "Some people are more equal than others." I agree with the author's idea that it can be used to express something about the word, such as how it's used or something similar. However, using "the n word" to call someone or address them, should not be tolerated. 

Verbalization

Submitted by Kage Ich on 5 July 2015 - 5:13pm.

I have never understood the aversion anyone felt to anything voiced aloud by another. The only opinion about which you should care is your own, and you have no obligation to listen to anything voiced by another human being. As such, while I understand the considerable pain that the word discussed in this article brings to many African-Americans, I am unable to understand why it merits such a concentrated effort towards achieving a thorough conception of the word. Unless the person hurling abuse at you is in some way having a tangible effect on your prospects through other means, ignoring them completely is the sweetest revenge, followed shortly by out-achieving and surpassing them in every possible way.

Respect Yourself & Others

Submitted by Anonymous on 26 June 2015 - 6:07pm.

The first time I heard the n-word, I was in elementary school. When the older kids would say it, it wasn't used in an offensive manor, it was more like a friendly title like "homie" or "man". Where I grew up, the n-word wasn't made into a huge deal, it was just another piece of slang, nothing more nothing less. It was during Black History Month, in elementary, that I finally understood the background and meaning of the n-word. Even then, people didn't give much thought when they used the word. We differentiated it by the pronounciation. It should end with an "a" rather than "er". The way we used the word depended on how and where you were raised, regardless of your race. I can see how the double standard can and has caused numerous problems. I feel that everyone should take Mr. Lester's advice and "go to that level of self-reflection and self-critique". We should stop using the word altogether because it's roots comes from a dark and horrible time.

All my life, I grew up around

Submitted by Rachelle Nonan on 21 June 2015 - 7:41pm.

All my life, I grew up around the n-word. Ever since, the word has become part of everyday conversations with my generation. I agree that the language we use reflects our inner most thoughts and the use of the n-word is controversial. I think it all depends on the context that you use is it but I wouldn't want to use it around African Americans out of respect. Also that in order to say it, you should know what it means along with the history. 

Depends on the Context

Submitted by nophil on 11 August 2015 - 12:57am.

 

I agree with you in that many high school teenagers use the n-word rather loosely without regard to its emotional background. It is rude to use the word especially towards someone who is African. It goes the same way when non- South Asians call South Asians, “slumdogs”, or non-East Asians refer to East Asians as “chinky” or “yellow”, and when we refer to white people as "rednecks", "Nazis", etc. This double standard derives from the fact that we are unaware of the emotional effect or negative connotation/association it provides the race.


 

Re: All my life, I grew up around

Submitted by JulieT on 9 August 2015 - 4:47pm.

I agree that this word is very controversial. Also, it is very important to be aware of the original meaning and history behind the word. Unfortunately, I can't help but feel like most kids of this generation would disregard that and use it in whatever way that they wished, even if it was to put down another person. Therefore, is it right that this word is such a big part of our culture today?

Does it make sense?

Submitted by Obvious on 21 June 2015 - 2:24pm.

My reaction was that I was a little confused about the word. However, I thought about how it's okay for some people to say it but not others. It actually makes sense. I thought about it like me and a group of friends. MY close friends can call me mean names and it okay but if someone I didn't know said that to me, I would be offended. I actually learned about the word in 7th grade when my sister said she learned a new bad word and she whispered it to me and said it was illegal to say it. After that, I didn't really give it much thought until I learned about how it was used during slavery in 8th grade. 

Re: Does it make sense?

Submitted by Anonymous on 26 June 2015 - 6:47pm.

I understand your conection between the two situations. It does make sense for there to be a double standard. Something said between friends can be taken lightly, but if were said to a stranger then it could most definitely be seen as an insult. 

Respecting Others

Submitted by Alyssa Tellez on 18 June 2015 - 10:34pm.

The first time I have heard the "n-word" was when I was in 5th grade. Back then, I did not know what it exactly meant and especially what a cruel word it is. I did not learn the "n-word" in school but at home, where my parents taught me what it meant and how I should never call anyone that. Once I entered highschool, a lot of the students were saying that word. Of course not in a offensive way towards others because "among many young people today-black and white-the n-word can mean friend", as the introduction paragraph mentions. I agree that students can use the 'n-word' as 'friend'. When I read the last paragraph about the white teacher who called a black student the "n-word', I just thought it was very cruel and immature. We should all have respect for one another.   

Respect goes to everyone.

Submitted by Cher Lin on 12 June 2015 - 2:46pm.

This article appealed to me in many different ways and now I understand a point of view from both sides. I first learned about the n-word in the third grade. Before then, I have never understood what it was or what it meant. But it was in the third grade, when my teacher read off posters off the cover of a book about Black History Month. Of course she didn't say the actual word, but she referred to it by saying "n-word". From then on, I always knew of that word as derogatory and in a sense, rude to use. However, after reaching high school, I noticed that lots of people actually use that word. People of all races. And to be honest, it confused me. I always thought that the n-word was a horrible word to use. However, after reading this article, I realized that although it may be a derogatory word, people in different communities may use that word for it has spurred a new definition: "friend". I feel that everybody should just build respect for one another. Like what the article said, we should all "think about and to understand ourselves, and each other, and why and how we fit in the rest of the world". 

I agree

Submitted by Obvious on 21 June 2015 - 3:09pm.

I agree with what you said about we just need to respect eachother. We all think a little differently, so we should just cooperate and keep the other's feelings in mind. 

Agreed

Submitted by Alyssa Tellez on 18 June 2015 - 10:39pm.

It also cofused me when a lot of people were using the 'n-word' in high school. But now we both know it can also mean "friend". I agree that everyone should have respect for one another and your ending quote was perfect. 

Respect should go both ways.

Submitted by Anonymous on 27 January 2015 - 7:40am.

Good point. However the respect is needed on both sides. For example, I was the only white person in my middleschool class. On a daily basis i was called everything from Caspar, Q-tip, Whitey, Slave holder (when in actuality my ancestors are Italian and were never slave holders), and their utmost favorite name to call me was White Devil.
That does not instill trust. But as a white person who grew up in homeless Shelters, and public housing projects, i just got used to the names. I got to the point that i just automatically assumed every African American person i met would hate me because i just happen to be white. It took a while for me to believe my new classmate in High school (who was black) actually liked me and wasnt just playing a joke on me by pretending. Over time he became my best friend, then later my boyfriend.
My point is, that the respect needs to go both ways, or one side will feel jilted, and it will become hard for them to respect the other.

it is all about respect...

Submitted by Anonymous on 25 January 2015 - 4:45pm.

I believe that if a white (Caucasian) person has self respect as well as respect for all human beings that this word and the use or understanding of it is never an issue.
I grew up in public housing, a child of a white couple. We were a minority among our neighbors and yet that did not phase me. Of course at 4 years old I asked my mom questions about my friends and why their skin or hair were different than mine. She always explained things to me in a way that never encouraged hate or intolerance. I probably heard the n-word for the first time at around 6 years of age, the use of it immediately caused the angry exchange of words among several adults who were standing nearby. Later that evening I asked my mom what it meant and why it made so many people angry, She told me "it was a very hateful word used against black people for a very long time and that it was a word I was not to use."
That was all it took for me to understand.
Today, I have a few close friends who are African American and I also work with several co-workers of the race. I am respectful to each one as I am to people of any other race or ethnicity. There have been times when I have heard the n-word exchanged between my African American friends and can tell you that the feeling between them when they use it is different from when a person of another race uses it. There is no hate or disrespect, it is almost used the same as the terms "buddy" or " bro", "pal" or "homey".
I can honestly say that due to what my mother instilled in me at an early age I feel connected to everyone that I interact with and I do consciously think about what I say when I speak to everyone. I wish everyone would be so conscious and just understand, without question ,that this particular word is " not to be used".

TMZ - Gulfport, FL

Students of all races using the N-word

Submitted by Anonymous on 16 January 2015 - 10:39pm.

I hear this in the halls of the predominately White high school that I teach in. Today, I had a student walk by my classroom with the door open and shout into the room, "Ms. W, What's up my N***a!" You know what happened? Nothing. The Administrator tried to have a nice calm talk with the student and tell him to apologize, then proceed to blame the use of the word on "pop culture" and then proceed to conduct an MLK assembly encouraging students to promote justice, equality, and tolerance.

Not a term of endearment

Submitted by Anonymous on 14 January 2015 - 10:29pm.

I've heard that "term of endearment" nonsense before from people such as Whoopi Goldberg and others. I absolutely disagree with the notion that this can in any way be a harmless word, and I believe that it is MOST harmful coming from the mouths of our black youth. I'm basing my opinions from insights gleaned from reading works by Dr. Shad Helmstedder (What To Say When You Talk To Yourself) and Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics). When a white middle-aged man such as myself calls a black person a nigger, it's easy to dismiss the comment as coming from an ignorant, hateful bigot. But when a black person (particularly a young, impressionable black person) uses that word, knowing full well all the negative societal cannotations of it, it becomes part of their self-talk. Its meaning gets internalized and creates a lens through which they see themselves. It hurts me most to hear people such as Cat Williams and even people I see at the grocery store and such addressing their children, toddlers and all, using that word. When those kids learn the hate behind that word and hear it in that context, how can they be expected to differentiate between a father or older brothers off-hand comment and a strangers disdain and negative expectation?
The easiest way to keep a people down is to control how they see themselves, and the easiest way to do that is to control the words they use. Is that what we're seeing?

Interested Reader

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 November 2014 - 12:33pm.

The word in America simply raises too much controversy regardless of what context or who is saying it. In a crowd one should be very concerned about using any form of the N-word. Most black people have at some point in their lives been confronted with this word in its most negative context, Racism, hatred, and as an inferior. It is my opinion that an intellectual person of any color in America would simply not risk stirring up hurt, even if it were just one person in a thousand.

Teaching Youth about this word

Submitted by Anonymous on 27 July 2014 - 8:18pm.

This is a timely find! I work at a summer program coordinating activities for children ages 5-14. With such a range of ages, there is a lot to consider in regard to language. In particular, there are two boys, they are around 12 or 13 and they use the n-word almost like a period! I have expressed my frustration to them and asked them to watch their language while at the program. Coming from a young white female, my opinions of their usage with this word are not taken seriously.

After reading this, I feel more confident that I can handle this. I will talk with them privately stating that I can't stop them from using that word outside the program, and I know that they aren't using the word maliciously. However, I'll tell them that for centuries, that word has been used to communicate hate, and it stirs up visions of bloodshed and vicious cruelties. I will ask them to be mindful of the young children at the center who don't understand the word and should not be saying it. If I put it on them to show maturity, maybe they'll want to live up to that.

Otherwise I'll just send them home.

Hopefully I'm on the right track, and if anyone has any advice, I'm all ears. Thanks for the article.

Helping my 13yo white son understand the gravity of this word.

Submitted by Anonymous on 19 July 2014 - 10:21am.

I am searching for resources to help me in explaining the n-word to my son. He has recently started using the word in his private videos and talking to himself. He understands that "nigger" can be offensive but he hears "nigga" in the videos and music he seems to be having trouble understanding the difference and how inappropriate it is for him to say this. We are a very accepting family and a many of our friends and family are black and mixed race. Does anyone have ideas of you tube videos that portray a positive message explaining this topic? I ask for you tube because that is a source he would relate to. Thanks in advance for any ideas!

The N Word Ringing in My Ears

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 April 2014 - 1:40pm.

When I taught in primarily Black schools this was a constant topic of discussion, one of the most humorous a discussion with a group of boys with language disabilities. I tried to start with the logic that they wouldn't want me (a white woman) using this term - to which they all shouted encouragingly, nah, man! You can use it too! Finally after more discussion I said it was a street word, like so many other words we discussed that year, and it should remain on the street. But there were years I taught when I heard it so much it was never absent from the inner voice I heard when reflecting on my teaching. Is that really a good thing, regardless of who is appropriating the term and for what purposes? Folk walking around with the n-word in their heads?

The word "gay" as a generalized insult was even more of a problem. Kids would get shocked and angry when I would respond that I didn't want to hear about anyone's sexual orientation. They had lost all context for the meaning of the word they were using. Same with "retarded." I found it hard to think it was an improvement though when they started using "LD" as the insult of choice. Trying to police language became a constant and exhausting task - and seemingly futile.

I've read many scientific

Submitted by Anonymous on 19 April 2014 - 6:47am.

I've read many scientific definitions of where this word came from and how popular it has become to use it now days. They say it became from "n-g-r" in ancient Egypt, or that it maybe derives from the word "Negro" in Spanish.

Personally I believe that, because of the history o hate, disrespect, discrimination loaded behind that single word and any other variation.... that word(s) SHOULD NOT BE USED.

It does not matter if the original meaning (in ancient times) was candy or angel or whatever; Nigger (Nigga or any variation) became a pejorative, derogatory epithet.

In the same way that Mother-Fucker, idiot, faggot, ugly, stupid, retarded are ALL insulting words; Nigger IS an insulting word. No matter how often we heard them on the streets, or in songs o in the movies.

If we consider ourselves decent people, WE SHOULD NOT USE insulting words against other person. And if we are to do our job well as parents, teachers, authorities, etc... we should TRY to teach our kids NOT TO USE THEM EITHER. Not even call names to other people or use any kind of negative epithet against them.

too British????

its the fear of using the

Submitted by Anonymous on 7 August 2014 - 5:25am.

its the fear of using the N-word!!! people are berated (to the point of a witch hunt) for simply using the N-word. aiming the word at some as an insult is wrong but aiming any word at someone as an insult is wrong.

No not too British. Makes

Submitted by Anonymous on 28 May 2014 - 5:45pm.

No not too British. Makes perfect sense.

Straight

Submitted by Anonymous on 31 March 2014 - 1:56pm.

You want to talk straight about a word you ain't even writing. Let's start with not assuming is offensive to use the word "nigger" when making a reference to the word or arguing about it or quoting. That's just ridiculous.

meaning of the "n" word

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 March 2014 - 2:07pm.

I had read somewhere that there were 2 different definitions to the "n" word. One based on skin color but the other having nothing to do with skin color, but rather the type of person one was. Like a low integrity, bad character, crude or cruel with no standards or morals, having nothing to do with ones race or color of skin. In other words, any ethnic group could be applicable to the "n" word. But this must be incorrect, because I cannot find that definition in any of the dictionaries

re second definition

Submitted by Anonymous on 23 October 2014 - 10:30pm.

The reason why the second definition defines the n word as a person of low quality is because back in the day (and to an extent today) being black meant that you were automatically associated with those negative qualities. Therefore to use the n word as the second definition is still racist because that definition was created from a racist structure where if you were black you were considered to be inherently bad.

The N-word

Submitted by Anonymous on 19 March 2014 - 9:19pm.

People should be happy nigger turned into nigga to mean something more positive like a brother I agree you shouldn't use it in public, but with your friend privately(if they don't care) what's wrong about it ?

the n word

Submitted by Anonymous on 8 October 2014 - 4:59pm.

If they should be happy about it, then why should they only say it in private? Shouldn't even black people be ok with white people saying it in public since it is a word of endearment? The plain truth of it is no one under any circumstance should use that word whether it be blacks, whites, Mexicans or Asian, etc. Nigger/Nigga, it is the same thing. It isn't any different from someone using the word fellas instead of fellows; gangsta instead of gangster. Whatever value or lack there of was put into a word at the time of creation, that's what it will always be. IT IS AN INSULT!! It always has been and it always will be.

The N-word

Submitted by Anonymous on 26 September 2014 - 11:40pm.

In the history of time, African Americans have died from the word, so either way it still counts as offensive but your right in many ways If they don't care you still can't say it cause your making a seen to other people around you making it, ok for them to use it and it will get over hand.

amen

Submitted by Anonymous on 15 April 2014 - 10:18am.

amen

The word can't be positive

Submitted by Anonymous on 20 March 2014 - 5:19pm.

The word can't be positive anymore. That's the thing, it just can't. most people use the argument that it is another way to say friend or brother, but the truth of the matter is that if you yell friend or brother at someone angrily it doesn't turn it into an insult. The word is held down by ignorance and just because some people decide to use it because "Words don't hurt" or "I can say it cause I am black" isn't going to suddenly make the word take on some special meaning. There is so much hate pushing that word that letting it come from your mouth is poison to society in secret or public. If you say something often enough,you begin to believe it, whether it is true or not. That's why we as African-Americans don't have the right to be angry because someone of some race said the N word. You should be angry that ANYONE can still say it and it be "okay"

it can positive depending on usage & pronunciation

Submitted by Anonymous on 28 August 2014 - 10:59pm.

Words are constantly in flux. Fags still are cigarettes in Briton & 60 odd years ago gay just meant you were happy. Nigger may not be able to become a positive but "nigga" can & has. When I call my homie "my nigga" im not insulting him nor do I intend to. Nigga is pronounced differently, spelled differntly & used with a different connotation & definition thus technically its a different word with a common root as nigger. Im against using it outside Black cultural circles & using it with friends from other groups & calling them nigga thus opening the door for them to use it in turn but "nigga" has become a nuetural or positive term.

A word of such positive

Submitted by Anonymous on 4 January 2015 - 2:37pm.

A word of such positive regard that you are against its use outside of "Black" cultural circles and using it with friends? Critical thinking doesn't seem to be as...critical... as it us to be.