There has been a call by Black leaders to have the word Nigger stricken from dictionaries and from everyday public use. They say it’s hate language used to promote the devaluation and degradation of Black people. I say their actions water down the dialogue on race and are tantamount to censorship.
Instead of calling for a ban on the word Nigger, Brothers and Sisters need to learn why we still call ourselves Niggers. If the older Black leaders would to teach the younger Black masses more about their history and culture everyone would learn the word has more than one definition and a strange set of grammatical rules that change from generation to generation. Today, it’s a racial slur when applied by Whites, Arabs, and Asians who use the word to speak about Blacks. However, the use of the word Nigger by Blacks when speaking to other Blacks isn’t a racial slur. Hispanics have also use the word casually without offending Blacks for decades.
Throughout history, Blacks have learned Nigger wasn’t a dirty word. It was actually one of the first words Slaves learned in the American English language. It was so casually used in the Old South slaves learned the word Nigger before they learned their own name. Politicians used it to describe slaves. Overseers used it to describe slaves. Slave masters used it to describe slaves. White neighbors used it to describe slaves. So most slaves used it to describe themselves.
Due to the lack of formal education for many field slaves and even some slave masters, the vocabulary of our early community was limited. Many slaves often used the word nigger along with other profanities to substitute for words they didn’t know. Over time this racial slur was incorporated into the language as a common word by poor blacks. Each generation of unconsciously taught it to another in their casual dialogue. Follow the dialogue of Blacks throughout history and you’ll see nigger is used as a multipurpose word. It’s a noun, a verb, a pronoun, an adjective and an adverb for those with poor language skills. Ironically, some educated and wealthy blacks used it to describe an uneducated or ignorant Black person.
To take Nigger out of the vocabulary of the racial dialogue is a case of see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil by Black leadership. It doesn’t explain why so many Blacks still use this racial slur so casually in their language. The root causes of the misuse of this racial slur have to do more with education and class within Black culture, not race. Those issues are a lot harder to address. A press conference about banning the word Nigger is a lot easier for Black leaders to soundbite in a speech than a serious discussion of more complex issues in the black community.
Think about it: A superficial ban of the word Nigger also doesn’t do anything to change the national forum on race. Just because Black people actively make an effort to not use a word doesn’t change the feelings of prejudice people of other races have learned regarding Blacks. Ban the word Nigger and the racists will just express their prejudice through another racial slur. Throughout history racists have used a variety of words to insult Blacks. Words like Buck, Spook, Coon, Lawn Jockey, Boy, Buffalo, Jigaboo, Negro, Buckwheat, Sambo, Monkey, Watermelon Boy, Ape, Beast, Bojangles, Darkie; these racist colloquialisms vary from region to region in the United States. Should we ban these words as well from the American vocabulary?
Any censorship of the word Nigger diverts away from any substantive dialogue about the legacy of racism and opens a can of worms regarding the First Amendment. Like it or not, the word is a part of the American language. Nigger isn’t a dirty word. It’s a part of a painful part of American history Black people are afraid to face.