N-Word as a Term of Endearment?
by Mychal Massie (bio)
Would a proud father call his daughter the b-word or a "ho"? Would a loving husband call his wife a sloppy, dirty slut to show his affection?
Why? Because people who respect themselves and honestly respect others don't show affection and respect with such loathsome and baneful language. Sadly, there is a growing cacophony of black voices who think calling one another by the n-word, for instance, is acceptable for showing affection, respect and endearment for one another.
Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy - the man who literally wrote the book on the word - notes that etymologists say nigger "was derived from an [old] English word 'neger' that was itself derived from 'Negro,' the Spanish word for black." But, he adds, "the term 'nigger' is in most contexts a cultural obscenity."
In his 1837 work, The Condition of the Colored People of the United States; and the Prejudice Exercised Toward Them, Hosea Easton similarly said the n-word, "is an opprobrious term, employed to impose contempt upon [blacks] as an inferior race... The term itself would be perfectly harmless were it used only to distinguish one class from another; but it is not used with that intent... it flows from the fountain of purpose to injure."
No matter how or when one tries to define the word, the n-word is always going to be a vile pejorative with connotations intended to demean and insult. Any attempt to make it something else is just plain wrong. This applies to both "nigger" and the allegedly non-offensive "nigga." It also applies to the notion that it's alright for black - and blacks only - to use the word. It's nonsensical and perverse reasoning.
Someone who teaches in a primarily black school district recently told me he had "heard many black students call each other the n-word nearly every period of every day." His attempts to "educate" students about the word was met with disregard. He was given "various reasons as to why it was acceptable for blacks to call each other the word," but it was clear that - when a student turned the word on him - it was then not intended as a term of affection.
The question begging and answer is how some in our community came to find it acceptable to so demean themselves? It's not like there is a history of its use. Martin Luther King never, to my knowledge, greeted someone with "My nigger, come give me a hug." Can you imagine Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hanging up from a call with the President and telling her staff, "That was just my nigger on the phone"? Does Al Sharpton's secretary tell him, "Your niggers out in the lobby to see you"? Obviously, the answer is no.
I would argue the use and acceptance of the n-word as a measure of endearment is accepted only by those entombed alive at the bottom rungs of our communities. It's easy to blame hip-hop culture for glamorizing the word, but I believe it is the overall destabilization of the black family that has led to this unsettling devolvement.
So many of us have dealt with issues such as poverty, poor education and disfranchisement. Until recently, we have still maintained our decency and self-respect. Today, however, we are supposed to believe that the basest verbal commonality is acceptable because it is now "our culture."
This is a lie from the pit of hell. Behavior that does not inspire and encourage things that are productive and positive serves only to hold people down. As evidenced by the pandemic levels of black abortion, out of wedlock births, a debilitating dependence on government and fractured and dysfunctional households, that is exactly what is happening.
Married, two-parent households, an emphasis on education and an emulation of that which is proven to be positive have no socio-economic strata. It is also about self-worth and self-respect. Only blacks seem to be encouraged to accept base commonalities as a lifestyle. The question that must be answered is why.
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Mychal Massie is the chairman of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
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