Lagos, Nigeria. Where I learned a different perspective on racism.

Why can only black people say the word ‘nigger’?

This is the question of the century that seems to be pooling over into the millennial pot of distress. Arguments are raised right and left as people search for reasons to bring up the sensitive topic, and everybody has something to say. If the ’n’ word could speak, I’m sure it would have an opinion of it’s own to match.

Perhaps the ’n’ word would introduce itself as it’s roots, traced back to Irish settlers who were deemed as ‘off-white’ in a pristine porcelain society. Or maybe it would walk in with bloody feet and open wounds, chained to white man’s laziness. Regardless of where it “came from originally,” the word nigger now lives in our neighbourhoods, holds a seat in our classrooms, and befriends our children.

The word ‘nigger’ doesn’t have a place to sleep, instead it keeps warm under a blanket of anger. It is for this reason that every time we try to talk about it, we end up suffocating. So while we have a few breaths left, I want to state the following:

  1. ‘Nigga’ is not slang for nigger, it is appropriation. It is taking something that does not belong to you and finding a way to use it for yourself.
  2. Asserting qualities that you associate with black culture, as learned from the media, to yourself as a method of validating the use of the word ‘nigger’ is, in fact, racism.
  3. Capitalizing the word nigger in textbooks, novels, papers, or other written text is also racism. ‘Nigger’ is not a proper noun, it is not a person, a place, or a thing. The word ‘nigger’ is debris.

Topics that are uncomfortable are difficult to talk about. While it may seem like it, I am not petitioning to have the word ‘nigger’ removed from everyone’s mouths. Instead, I want people to understand how it should be used.

It wasn’t until having a conversation with my brother, that I learned this perspective myself. He was telling me about a reddit post that he had come across previously, to which a comment in the threads explained the ’n’ word and rape as being similar. The exception being that rape effects everyone and therefore, everyone understands the argument.

Consider this, psychological research has shown that rape victims suffer long after being attacked. This is because of the power they have lost as a victim. Remnants of rape are usually increased vulnerability, excessive distrust, poor self-esteem, and lingering depression or anger. For the victim to regain what is lost after sexual assault, it has been known that reenacting the initial rape with a trusted, loving partner can be effective in healing. This happens only through having the original rape victim retake control and determine the new outcome of their rape story. The rape victim now has control of the power that was once taken from them.

When people who have historically suffered under the word ‘nigger’ take it back and say it themselves, in whatever manner they choose, they are essentially doing the exact same thing.

Slavery is a rapist, black people are the survivors, the word ‘nigger’ is power. This story does not belong to everyone, nor does this power.

Editor-in-Chief | Journalist | Creative Director. Everything here is inspired by conversations with friends.