The social and political football known as the “N” word is like uranium in that by not having a stable and consistent definition or social regard, its instability gives endless social and political power to those who can direct its energy towards their cause. I seek to put an end to this by wrangling in the various ideas about the “N” word and its variants into a central regard. This work should serve as the starting point for a discussion amongst only Black people about the “N” word and the results of that discussion should serve as the core of the Black view on the word. The “N” word is one of the few things in America we wholly own and the rest of America is obligated to follow our lead on its place (if any) in our society. Once Black people establish a national definition, a national discussion between all Americans should take place on racism. DISCLAIMER: If the “N” word offends you, read no further.
Black people are a world phenomenon. Being the branch of humanity that has withstood the longest attack in history from a conscious human adversary, we have survived and thrived for over 400 years under Western rule. While other branches of humanity have had to contend with nature and occasionally other humans usually with economic intentions, we Black people have an adversary vested in our subservience. The White male self-image stands on the subjugation of Black people. This unique outlook causes White men to be consigned to keeping Black people from being great, which explains how America can view immoral actions towards Black people, such as police killings, as acceptable. One word encompasses this postured self-esteem valuation system, “nigger.” The “N” word grew to be the world phenomenon it is today because it encapsulates the two extreme ends of Western culture’s social hierarchy; the top, which is White and male, and, the bottom, which is Black. It enables White men to triangulate and reassure themselves of their own social superiority in their greatest creation to date, Western society.
Europe’s first Civilization, Greece, called Africans, “Athiops,” which meant “burnt face.” This wasn’t an insult, rather it was Europeans using the tools they had to organize the new and unusual human physical trait they encountered. The term Athiops remained the most common term for Black people until the Roman Empire’s Latin term “negro” took its place. While our actual skin color is generally more of a brown, the label, “Black,” or “negro,” relates human skin tones to the familiar color scale humans use to distinguish the various perceptible light wavelengths. With the rise of the Catholic Church and Latin becoming the language of power, African people became increasingly known to Europeans as “negros.”
Different versions of “Negro”
In the mid-18th century when White men at Göttingen University in Germany put the final touches on the notion of Race as we know it today, they called Africans the “Negroid” race. Racists today use this old scientific term when they want to sound technical. Racists use “nigger” to incorporate the Western racism value structure into their statements, which elevates them over all Black people and reminds anyone listening of the diminished social character assigned to us; it is a great tool for diminishing regard for accomplishments. For instance, an unaccomplished White man can say Barack Obama is “just a nigger,” and use the West’s social hierarchy system to elevate himself above the former Leader of the Free World. As many are aware, I enjoy having online debates with racists. The lynchpin of their stance tends to be that I’m responsible for my own lack of accomplishments. However, when I reveal that I’m doing quite well, traveling the World, speaking nearly four languages, having no debt, gainful employment and a 800+ credit score, they either try to recruit me to rally against unaccomplished Blacks or simply reply with, “you’re still just a nigger.” This is their self-esteem’s trump card and it demonstrates that the value of not being a nigger outplays any social value one’s efforts can create.
Southern men in the mid-21st century often used “Negra” to feminize Black people. When conjugating words in Spanish, ones ending in “o” are masculine and ones ending in “a” are feminine. Thus began the short lived trend of calling black people “Negras.” Many racists refer to Black women as “negresses” to incorporate notions of Black people being less than human and animal like. Since the days of slavery, Black people have often replaced the word ending, “er” with, “a.” This is why we often say “mutha” instead of “mother,” and “brotha” instead of Brother. Nigger is no different. Instead of saying “nigg-er,” we said “nigg-a.” This pronunciation influenced the South and became the dominant pronunciation. After emancipation and later, the Great Migration, Blacks brought this pronunciation into Northern states and the two pronunciations have lived side-by-side, one being the original and the other having a variable definition, ever since. After successful Civil Rights legislation, a period of empowerment began. Black people, using the mirror as a weapon to reflect White men’s past deeds, began to deny White people acceptable usage of the word in either form. From this point they had to say, “the ‘N’ word,” referring to the word instead in abstract instead of saying it directly. Today, “nigger” is a racist term and “nigga” can only be used by Black people and those they allow to use it. “Nigga” has variable meanings, negative and positive, when Black people use it. However, with very few exceptions, “nigga” is always negative when White people use it.
What does “nigger” mean and why?
As Europe emerged from its implosion known as the “Dark Ages,” it sought to reassemble itself in its previous form, which primarily was societies where a minority population take advantage of the majority using various themes. Barbarity underpinned these social structures until religion supplanted this method by stabilizing oppressed people’s understanding of their destitution. Religion made being oppressed a moral virtue causing them to forsake the pleasures of life in favor of eternal pleasure in an unproven afterlife. In reality this “absolute monarchy” social structure was Europe’s latest method of coping with its landscape’s overall scarcity. Rather than the masses competing for the fruits of a low-producing landscape, “God” determined that the masses would do without in favor of the chosen few. Like today, through custom, the elite channel most people’s pleasures and the fruits of their labors to themselves. This culture inevitably imploded and after recapturing the Spain from Black civilizers known as the Moors, the Catholic Church reimposed its failed social system with a twist. Being the end of the medieval period when the European psyche axiomatically regarded black as bad and white as good, Pope Nicolas V authorizing White men to enslave Black people was a natural feeling way to relieve Europe’s labor burden. Associating evil with the people they were enslaving also reduced the moral burden of the Catholic Church’s evil deed. European men kidnapped countless Africans to relieve the White masses in Europe. Enslaving African people not only appropriated new, uncompensated labor, it also enabled Europe’s less fortunate to better their stake in society by enslaving others. This aspect further institutionalized the White-over-Black system into European social orders. White people in Europe were socially fragmented but “Negros” occupied a monolithic underclass. The solidification of a White identity would take place in the Americas.
In the Americas, the cultural divisions continued between White men. Rather than identify as “White” they saw more religion and nationality as discerning factors. Initially, the way one worshiped Christianity mattered. The Puritans were first to come to America’s shores. But next came the Protestants, who, in typical European fashion, divided into several conflicting factions, like Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, etc. As the colonies prospered the majority of the inhabitants began to identify more with their mother country, England, but as England exploited the colonies more and more, an American nationalism developed. Fighting England eased religious tensions and united White men in a common cause. Underlying all these constantly shifting social transformations was a constant and consistent underpinning of Black slavery and social inferiority; it was the bedrock of America’s forming identity. In the Americas, the word “negro” as it refers to humans has always meant, “one who is socially inferior to White men.” When America’s forefathers codified Black inferiority into our founding documents, they signed off on an indefinite period of Black inferiority. Although historians characterize the Civil War as the altruistic Northern states fighting to free slaves from terror and abuse, in reality the North wanted a bigger cut of slavery profits, which eventually caused the South to secede in hopes of avoiding sharing those slavery proceeds with the rest of the nation. Abraham Lincoln was losing the war until he emancipated the slaves to help in the fight. He surely wasn’t the anti-slavery hero history books make him out to be; keeping the nation together was his goal whether it meant keeping slavery or abolishing it. Lincoln even said that he’d rather Black people be inferior to Whites. Post emancipation, Jim Crow laws regained most of the Black inferiority lost due to the emancipation and subsequent reconstruction. It left Black people with inferior access to the United States’ resources and society. The U.S. government gave Black people Inferior amounts of assistance and grants and often gave them nothing while consistently bolstering White people’s efforts to uplift themselves. For instance, Black people got just 3500 of the over 4,000,000 Homestead act claims granted; that’s not even 1% and I guarantee the average value of Black grants is significantly inferior to the White ones. Black inferiority is America’s theme so when similarly impoverished Irish Americans began to unite with Black people to demand higher wages from corporate America, the superiority badge was enough cause for them to jettison their Black labor-struggle counterparts. The “N” put the Irish at a fork in the road and they chose the prospects of being White in a White-over-Black system rather than an “All Labor Matter” approach. In other words, they chose to preserve a system where they stood a chance, no matter how slim, to exploit Black labor, over unifying to make all work and compensation fair.
Academia, Science and the Church helped solidify Black Inferiority
The scientific and academic community helped solidify notions of Black inferiority. “Race” is not real, rather it was White men’s method of organizing humanity based on their ideals and outlook. I credit Christoff Meiners and Fredriech Johann Blumbenbach of Göttingen University in Germany with inventing race. Although many scientists before, such as Karl Von Linne in Sweden, classified humanity before, Meiners and Blumenbach used their platform as professors to propagate their method of classifying humans. Studying in Germany was a rite of passage for American scholars and countless soon to be influential graduates brought back the ideas of Black genetic inferiority that confirmed the prevailing racist social structure. The Dunning school, an educational sect of Columbia University, advanced theories that re-characterized America’s post-Civil-War Reconstruction period as a period where Blacks attempted to rule over Whites but failed because they are less intelligent. This is still America’s general outlook on the Reconstruction Period. Churches also taught black inferiority, interpreting the Bible to characterize Black people as the “Beast of the field” mentioned in its verses. While these deeds are evil, we should view them more as the mechanics America employed to stratify its social ranks to push Blacks to the bottom and Whites to the top. The word, “nigger” encompassed the final result. It instantly elevated a White person saying it to their rightful position above America’s social floor where Black people belonged.
I’ve been called a “nigger” to my face within the last two years. I was in my car behind someone at an intersection when the light turned green. Through his rear tinted window I could see his smartphone screen and fingers scrolling. I beeped my horn and we both made a left only to end up side by side at the next light. He rolled his window down and asked why I beeped my horn at him. I knew he was trying to redeem himself so withheld the fact I knew he was on his phone and simply told him he needs to pay more attention. He then said he was making sure other cars wouldn’t run the light. I told him the cars were fully stopped in each lane. He said no they weren’t. I told him, “well, if you stop looking at your phone and pay attention, you’d see this. Yeah! I saw you scrolling away!” Being completely in the wrong with no recourse, rather than admit it, he pulled his social trump card and yelled “NIGGER!” just as he turned right and I continued straight without time to respond. In this situation the man, who was clearly in the wrong and was appropriately reprimanded, likely felt the person reprimanding him didn’t have the social grounds to do so. So first he attempted to make me wrong by lying but when I blindsided him with information, rather than lose, he pulled America’s social trump card, the word “nigger” and the social hierarchy it alludes to.
The blatant race hierarchy system continued until the Civil Rights era, when Black people made considerable gains and forced Whites to begin making efforts to conceal the inherent benefits of being White in America. The Civil Rights victories achieved voting protections and activated a moral paranoia, embarrassing them on the world stage. As Black people attempted to use their newfound freedom to stake a late claim on American prosperity, White men portrayed these efforts through media as threatening; the theme of their racial aversion changed from Blacks being pesky nuisances and burdensome to White society, to being predatory and dangerous. “Niggers” went from being regarded as genetically unfortunate, to being predatory threats to be forcefully controlled. With the government being increasingly limited in its ability to use blatant force to regulate Black people’s actions, the public stepped in.
Many don’t know that anywhere you find Black street gangs, you can find a history of White street gangs that predate them. Much like early Europe, White men in major cities divided amongst themselves and had territorial battles much like the street gangs of today. The Polish fought the Swedes. Italians fought Russians. Irish men fought Germans. When they finally united against corporate America behind a pay standard, businesses invited desperate ex slaves to their states to break the labor strikes. This unified White men against Blacks and caused countless deaths and lynchings. The summer of 1919 is called the “Red Summer” because White men killed so many Black people. By the 1950s and 60s a newly image-conscious White America was charged with anger and prepared to use extralegal measures to oppose Black people’s newfound freedoms. My Father told me stories about the “Spook Hunters,” “Coon Catchers” and the “Nigger Beaters” that terrorized him and his friends simply for leaving their neighborhoods. Black people eventually formed new, defensive groups in response to the White male terrorists. Eventually these groups turned inward and would fight each other occasionally. The size of these proto-gangs remained relatively small because there was no economic impetus to grow and sustain them. This all changed in the 1970s because of three events:
- America’s economic failure in the mid-to-late 1970s.
- The American government turning a blind eye to the importation of cocaine directly into Black communities, which created an economic incentive to participate in gang life.
- Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” which used drugs as a pretense for downgrading many Black people’s citizenship and ability to participate in America’s mainstream economy and political discourse.
Gang membership and subsequent violence skyrocketed. Being a “nigga” became a badge of honor, for niggas were the people prospering despite all the plethora of manmade odds, like police persecution and racism. It also meant you were of the raw caliber to deal with threats from other “niggas.” In short, “nigga” meant prospering despite the circumstances America causes Black people. Unlike pre-street-gang America, the ghetto now had, amongst its impoverished, luxurious homes with nice cars in front and no one could do anything about it; not the police or jealous neighbors and rivals. From this new Black gang culture came art and as Hip Hop’s core solidified in the East, talented gang members in the West began using it and the word “nigga” to seize high estimation in a society seemingly designed to diminish the outlook on Black people. Many say that Black people naturally gravitated towards gangster rap. This is a racist idea bred into the psyche of Americans. I’d advise them to listen to the final verse of “Beat Street,” which, came out long before gangster rap, was a hit amongst Black people and shows just one of many varieties of subjects rappers initially rapped about. Record companies had plenty of options of which rap to promote to the world. There was plenty of conscious rap, competitional rap, rap about food and friendship. Corporate America chose to amplify the voices of the Black people America made most dysfunctional, “niggas.” Gangster rappers, the rappers corporate America chose to promote to the World, used the word “nigga” and thus, with groups like N.W.A. (Niggaz wit Attitudes) embracing and heralding the once negative term, the word “nigga” became a world phenomenon and its value skyrocketed.
Black People turn White People’s Water into Wine
The unexpected mechanism called Hip Hop took something bad and turned it good. This is not the first time Black people converted language White men designed to be negative and made it positive. Perhaps Black people are just eternally virtuous. The Netflix documentary, “History of Swear Words,” points out that Black people have taken words White men invented to diminish other humans, and turned them into words of empowerment. White men first reduced the woman to the status of a dog by calling her a “bitch.” Black people neutralized this wholly negative creation, made it empowering then propagated its revision through the art of Hip Hop. Now, women can be “bad bitches” and feel strong. The same holds for the word “shit.” After a sojourn through the Black moral ecosystem one can be “the shit” instead of just “shit” or a “piece of shit.” The same holds true for the word “nigger.” Black people have built so much value into the word, many White people want to be niggas. I have a close White female friend who discusses her sex life with me. She told me her White boyfriend, during sex, asks her to call him a “nigger.” Many White women have told me similar stories.
Today, the word “nigga” has immense value solely because Black people took poisoned water and made it into wine. The word White men imposed on Black people as a badge of inferiority is now a sought-after commodity White men want back. They have trouble conceptualizing “nigga” being a good thing because to do so would throw off the White-over-Black value system encompassed in it, which has buttressed their personal outlook since birth. It’s obvious that Black people don’t willfully degrade one another as a custom, however White men can’t come to this realization without dismantling the foundation of the Western, White-over-Black, social value system. They subconsciously avoid this mentality update because, for the vast majority, the word, “nigga” is the only thing elevating them above anyone in this country. It would be detrimental to their outlook to internalize “nigga” being a positive term. Despite Black people redefining the word “nigga” in the early 1980s, today in 2022 most White men are still confused as to why Black people use nigga towards each. This is a willful ignorance.
African American vs. Black
America has had countless inconclusive debates over what to call Black people and the consensus seems to be that we are called “Black” casually and “African American” when one wishes to exercise caution. What happened to “nigga?” With the word, “nigga” achieving value, becoming a benefit for Black people and a liability for Whites, America naturally began to try to destroy it. It had negative worth when they first unleashed the term on us. We have since built its value several-million-fold. Now White America wants it back or wants its worth destroyed. To get rid of it the country instinctively did three things:
1. It elevated the term “African American” above “nigga.”
2. It replaced “nigga” with the translated Latin word, “Black.”
3. It then put “African American” and “Black” on center stage, causing Black people to fight in a postured debate over the terms Whites want them to fight over, which sidelined the word “nigga” and its resurrected value.
By exploiting divisions in Black culture stemming from slavery, namely the “Meritorious Manumission” system, which enabled Blacks to gain their freedom by compromising the freedom efforts of other Blacks, America caused us to leave money on the table, losing sight of the value we created in the word “nigga.” Neo-Meritorious Manumissionists, or, Blacks who seek to uplift Blacks through Whites, fight against Blacks who wish to do it on their own. America pitted Blacks who embraced the word “nigga” against those opposed. The term “African American” provided an escape path for those who have been called “nigger” or “Black” their whole life. Please know that the Nation of Islam did a great job educating Black people about the negative implications of naming people after the negative word, “black.” In further division, the side in favor of “African American” was also divided on if we should be “African American” or simply “American.” Thus began the debate that continues to this day between the terms Nigga, Black, African American or simply American. American media were and still are glad to help agitate the division by strategically covering the debate as to not let a consensus develop on any side. My White friends certainly have strong opinions and feel the authority to weigh in on Black affairs.
Those in favor of “African American.”
Those who have achieved relative comfort within the status quo tend to prefer “African American” or even “American.” They loathe the word “nigga” because it makes them look bad to their White counterparts in the office. However, when people aren’t around, well-to-do Black people do tend to use the word negatively towards Black people acting ignorantly, just like White people do. Similarly to Whites, Blacks can distinguish themselves from those acting badly, such as fighting in public or getting arrested, by calling them, “niggas.” The more popular the word “nigga” gets, the more Whites attempt to use it and occasionally use their professional power over Black people to subvert the social rule that they can’t say that word. I’ve had to choose several times between rocking the boat or setting boundaries with superiors. For instance, I worked as a promoter at one of Hollywood’s top night clubs. We would have daytime meetings once a week. One day as I walked into the meeting, the club‘s doorman was talking with upper management and said “a bunch of niggers…” They all looked up at me surprised that I had overheard it and the doorman simply said “sorry” and that was it. This door guy was a White South American with a Portuguese accent; he was hardly “white” by American standards and definitely not a descendent of the “Anglo Saxons.” Since I study racism, I know White people normally use “nigger” when we’re not present so I wasn’t surprised at all and honestly it wasn’t a big deal to me. I never mentioned it to anyone because I stood to lose a lot more than I would have gained. I knew they would all deny he said “nigger because the others would have been equally guilty for creating an environment where he felt safe enough to say it. I would have certainly not been able to work there anymore. However, if I had a recording of it, I could have leveraged it for more beneficial employment. However, by accepting a simply sorry I acknowledged and consented working in a White-over-Black structure.
Those in Favor of “Black”
As explained earlier, those marginalized by America’s status quo tend to embrace the word “nigga” and accept “Black” from non-Blacks if it’s not in a negative context. For them, a “nigga” is someone that commands extrasocietal respect. In other words, you might be able to say whatever you want to them with police present, but absent that state authority you’d be risking immediate consequences. Since police can’t be everywhere at all times, being a nigga commands a degree of general respect in American society because “niggas” might step outside of our social framework to resolve a social matter. It’s also something White people are scared to gentrify. “Nigga” is White America’s social third rail. As Corporate America gentrifies rap music, 0% of the White rappers imposed on hip hop, including Eminem, say the word “nigga” in their music. This will likely not be for long. A bold rapper willing to risk his career, media coverage and Black people willing to go on camera saying they’re fine with White rappers using the word, could cajole Black people into accepting general White usage of the word.
The Label Debate is a Ruse
The debate amongst Black people about the words, African American, Black, nigga or American exists simply to keep us fighting and confused. It’s a reflection of the Western value system, which places superficial labels over content. For instance, it’s happy calling 4-6% unemployment, “full employment.” It’s also perfectly content not counting unemployed people who have stopped looking for work in their calculation. And the biggest superficial label, “All men are created equal,” being written by a majority of slave holders shows Western contentment with mislabeled truths, so long as the label says what they want it to. But regardless of what label we put on the employment rate or our country’s theme, there are underlying truths that are steadfast. Similarly, there is a steadfast truth to who Black people are to America and regardless of what label we place on us, we still are America’s designated underclass. We are still 13.6% of the population, yet half of the murder offenders. We are 13.6% of the population yet own just 19 of America’s 4236 FDIC insured banks (That’s .4%). We are the part of America whose tax dollars are used to develop and implement measures to subvert our Fourth Amendment Constitutional right. Yes! America makes us pay to be less American. We are the part of America who got robbed for 240 years of hyper-labor yet live in subservience to the descendants of those robbers, many of which still live off the stolen fruits of their forefathers’ sin.
I can go on and on but the point is, no matter what you call us, we are still America’s lowest tier citizens and will always be unless we stop fighting over labels and fight for who we are to the West.
Rather than enforce what name people call us, I’d rather enforce my American rights. Full American rights would eliminate any underlying values that give the word “nigger” its power. I’d cash in the “N-word’s” value for full American rights any day. I’d be perfectly fine with White people using the “N” word if it were for statements like “You have a Fourth Amendment Right, nigger, so I can’t search your car. Or, although I don’t like you, nigger, I can’t arrest you because you really haven’t committed a crime. Or, “police killed a nigger filmmaker named Ron Polk, who surely was unarmed and doesn’t appear to have done anything threatening.” I would gladly exchange the valuable “N” word for American rights and regard equal to White men’s anytime.
Black people in America occupy a constant and specific role in idyllic Western culture. We are the outlet for Western dysfunction. Western society has an incessant and unsatisfiable appetite for resources and labor. Rather than tame this appetite, it cheats by using Black people to compensate. Even then there still isn’t enough because the problem isn’t the amount of resources Mother Nature can provide, it’s the Western outlook, which gives citizens the impression there never is enough. Western culture is uncharacteristically violent and murderous. Instead of fixing these tendencies, it uses state power to legitimize the torture and killing of Black people. Western society breeds bad people and rather than fix what’s causing it, it finds and publicizes Black bad people while turning a blind eye to most of the White ones. The result is an overall Western outlook that Black people are the bad ones and Whites are good. This outlook prevents much-needed adjustments necessary to uplift our society to a good moral standard. “Nigger” means, “the bad Black people society elevates White people over.” Black gang murders have yet to reach 100,000 deaths in its 50-year history, but it’s the murder we focus on instead of the nearly 300,000 civilians we killed in 18 years of waging war against Iraq alone. The word “nigga” also operates as a political-energy-charged resource. Anytime a non-Black person uses it or is found to have used it in the past, their adversaries exploit this information to take away their power. Fixing the word “nigger’s” underlying values would eliminate this foolish issue. Just as the word “sir” assures the person one is addressing that they are obliged to respect them, the word “nigger” establishes that one participates in a White-over-Black power system. It encompasses power but also alludes to the fact White men gained that power through robbery, rape, murder and cheating. It’s both empowering and embarrassing to America’s ruling class. As usual, my solution is to eliminate the word “nigger’s” power by being fair and acting in good faith. This begins with a robust, good-faith discussion on race in America. This discussion will take at least a decade and will be extremely painful for White people. However, once this has taken place, White America will be standing on their own solid ground instead of the backs of Black people. They will for the first time be able to know with absolute certainty, they their accomplishments are a reflection of their true efforts and ability. America will be a unified nation with citizens of all colors looking into each other’s eyes and, without saying a word, know that the strength we’re showing is the sum total of what we all can do. This type of bond can’t be broken during election times by Russian trolls and bots. It’s time to do the work necessary to eliminate the word, “nigger’s” value to truly socially fortify this nation and make it the shining city on the hill we pretend it is.