It's all about intent. Intent is everything, to me.
Surely if I call a black person 'Nigger' they can tell the difference between me saying it as an insult or a casual, friendly nickname? I wouldn't use it except in the right context: with a black person I was on familiar terms with, where I'd experimented by using the word once and the person clearly didn't take it the wrong way. I don't think I'd use it at all in the USA, where tensions over this sort of thing run very high generally, higher than over here where, I'm reliably informed by the ethnic minorities I work amongst, there is much less racism and of a generally much milder kind than over there. That's just what they tell me, I can't vouch for the accuracy of that as of course I can't experience it either way, being white.
I get an impression that, used amongst black people, it's a word whose meaning is tantamount to "brother or sister", an expression of group belonging or solidarity, you could say. It was with that sort of feeling that I used to use it as a teenager to my best friend and his brother, black as the ace of spades Jamaicans.
And Rajah, I agree with what you say, and draw parallels between that and the reclamation of the words 'gay', 'dyke' and 'lesbian' by those communities.
Sorry if I've repeated anything already said, it's a lotta pages to go through...!
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Actually, the word 'gay' (at least in my experience) can be used a lot more freely around those who actually identify as gay or lesbian than any similar usage of the "N-word". I have a couple of friends who are gay and one that is lesbian and they don't mind it at all when I, or anyone else for that matter, use the word 'dyke' or 'gay' casually or in a funny way. Granted, I never use it to degrade, but then why would I ever want to do that to my friends? It's not expected that I'll ever use it in that context, so there is no risk in my using those words.
And it's been my experience (I grew up in the Detroit metro area, so it may not be the same everywhere) that in the U.S., like you said substitute, it's really not acceptable to use the N-word, even if it's in a playful or non-derogatory context with familiar people. It's assumed, as is probably obvious from the responses in this thread, that any use of the word by a non-black is derogatory, or you wouldn't be using it at all. Even between friends it's not really acceptable, though that may be different from person to person. Personally, I would never use the word with my black friends, nor do I think they'd be comfortable with me using it. Makes me think, IMO, that this sensitivity might actually be investing the word with more power than it ought to have.
As others here have said, it's all about intent. I have black friends who call me niggah, (I'm Asian). I have friends who introduce me to other black or even white friends, this is my niggah from around the way etc.
They wouldn't care if I used the word in front of them at all, though I don't. And most black people from my area (New York) wouldn't care if I used it, even if I didn't know them - if it was done properly. It's in the inflexion of your voice and the context. Many Hispanics btw, use the word nigga, ALL the time (just as much as blacks). Black people don't give a shit when they use it either.
The word is so common in some areas, it's interchangable with man, bro, dude etc. They don't like to use "bro" anymore (because white people started using that word heavily after they co-opted it from blacks). Now most black people think that word is corny, and if they say it all they say "brah" (to change the accent from the way white people say it). Also why they rarely use dude.
Not all blacks use the term obviously. But the overwhelming majority of the ones that grew up in urban areas, and tend to be of the younger generation do. They were influenced by rappers (who were influenced by Richard Pryor - who was the first to make it ok, to be used for black people to call each other). Ironically Richard Pryor stopped using the word later, but it was too late, the genie was let out of the bottle. Most kids who grew up in recent times (in certain areas) have used the word so much; it's ingrained in their lexicon and they'll never stop using it.
Black people can call each other whatever they want. If, however, you have to question whether you should or not, that means you shouldn't. If you're not from the culture, they can sense it. If you're from the midwest and even have a few black friends, do NOT use the word even if you're just tryin to be down. At the very worst they'll be offended, at the very least and more likely, they'll just think you're corny.
Last edited by meanlittlechimp; 07-24-2008 at 02:00 PM.
Keep this in perspective folks. Please name one other race that has come to America against their will? The Black experience has been and will be the biggest embarassment to the US merely because Blacks were kidnapped and relocated as slaves. Like women no one has ever been considered chattle keep in mind less than forty years ago, Blacks were still struggling to vote in this country. Yes the word takes on a highly negative connotation, not because of the word, but the plight of the race.
To our knowledge, it was used as a means to degrade the slaves even more.
Now, you take the -er off and add an -ah and you've got a positive connotation ?
and black people can't forbid people from using it
the whole " you can say it, why can't i ? " gamut
its a word : freedom of speech ?
isn't freedom what the slaves wanted ? - hypocrites is what they should be called
who ever supports that notion, that is
all in all, it is generally disrespectful to call someone out of their name
don't do it unless its a nickname
and even this warrants approval from the nicknamee
*shrugs* I don't care for it, either, but what they are doing is reclaiming the word. Similar to gay men reclaiming the word "fag". Or pagans reclaiming the word "witch". Or women reclaiming the word "bitch".
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