Use Your Words

useyourwords Friend, foe, man, homie, ex, lover, and pronouns are all words that can just as easily be used to describe the person in question. There are a myriad of words that can be used to address or describe a person.  So why promulgate a word with such a negative history.  No matter how you try and skin the cat, it’s still a cat.

You often hear parents scold their youth when they whine or fail to accurately articulate their wants or needs, using the phrase “Use your words”.  That is what words are for, to help us communicate the thoughts in our minds. So we use our words to translate those thoughts into intelligible phrases that can be understood by others.

This post has been in my mind for years. If you know me personally, then you know how I loathe the “N” word.  Let’s be clear. I’m referring to the word “Nigga” or “Nigger” or any variant of the word.  I don’t even use the word when reciting lyrics that are littered with the word.


How can we continually expect others to refrain from using a word that is so heavily embedded in our own vocabularies.  I hear the “N” word far to regularly, from friends and family.  Incessantly I’ll ask the individual or individuals to refrain from using it.   It bothers me.

I’ve been ‘affectionately’ called the “N” word. But let’s be clear about something else. I am not now, nor have I ever been a nigga or anybody’s nigga.  So I will not allow you to call me or refer to me as such.

I have a friend who must have the “N” word as his most frequently used word. And I’ve questioned him on why he chooses to use that word so often.   Although I know he does not have any children, I’ve asked, “Would you call your daughter or mother a Nigga?”  His response was, “Yea, I call my nieces that”.  All I could do at that point was shake my head, as we have had several conversations about the “N-word” in length.

If you can’t comfortably use a word in the presence of your parents, your youthful children, the president of the United States, your boss, a mixed crowd, or any group of people for that matter, perhaps you shouldn’t use it.  It just shouldn’t be in your vocabulary, and especially not in heavy rotation.

Some argue that the word should just be removed altogether, and I agree with that to some degree. But you can’t completely remove a word from any language.  Just as you can’t remove the history of those who fought so hard for our freedoms and equality that were challenged each time that nefarious word was used. Especially not this word, with such a complex history. But just as you will seldom hear a gay man call another gay man a “faggot”, it’s just as absurd to me for a black person to call another black person a “nigga”.

It’s disrespectful!  By eliminating or reducing its use we begin moving towards the right direction, and hopefully those of African descent will be closer to being regarded equally in our global society.  We disrespect and harm our own kind at a disproportionate rate compared to any other group.  So how can we expect everyone else to respect us if we blatantly disrespect ourselves and our ancestors.

I promise you that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would never utter the word Nigga to greet a friend, or refer to anyone. And if he was alive today he would be disheartened by the prevalence of the word.

The word Nigger was used very negatively in the past to defame, devalue, and define a group of people simple based on the color of their skin.  Just because one has a certain level of natural melanin in their skin, they were angrily called a Nigger.  In the same token, they were beat, raped, killed, falsely accused, unjustly targeted and in many cases this is still continuing today.

So many people have become desensitized by the words’ usage. You can hear it on a daily basis if you listen to the radio, watch television or movies or have casual interactions with people.  Which in my opinion is also part of the problem.  As a black woman, I know the history of the word Nigga or Nigger, it’s affected my parents and grandparents and their parents in a negative way. So I know the history associated with it and it is very negative.  I know it because in a sense I’ve lived it.

Especially when I hear stories from my grandparents about using a “whites only” water fountain or movie theater section.  I can sense the pain emoted from this era and its biased societal norms.

If I was Jewish I’m sure the sensitivities associated with Germany during the Holocaust, or concentration camps or genocide of my people would be a sore subject.  Particularly if a word once used derogatorily to describe my people was rebranded and used matter-of-factly to address or describe those same people but more importantly used by those same people.  This concept as it is applied to another group of people, in this case those who follow Judaism, is so foreign to me that it is hard to compare and associate it in a fashion similar to blacks and the “N” word.

But you’d be hard pressed to find another group of people who have adapted a negative word into their daily vocabulary to describe themselves.

I’ve posed this question to two black men “How would you feel if you heard a white man use the N word?” One told me he wouldn’t like it, and the other said he wouldn’t really care. I would personally rather that nobody used it regardless of their skin color. If a white or non-black person sings along with the word in a song, although it may have no malicious intent, subconsciously it gives them permission and condones the use of the word. They become comfortable with the word and sometimes have no concept of what the word means to a lot of black Americans. To quote Piers Morgan, “Teach the youth of today the N-word is so heinous that even to repeat it ironically is to perpetuate its poison.”

If we want society/Americans/non-blacks to appreciate us, to recognize us as successful, contributing members of society and not nuisances, or terrorists, or animals, we must stop using a word that embodies those exact sentiments.

In the end, the mainstream use of the N-word is something that may be debated for years to come. But my hope is that it is replaced with something non-controversial or as previously stated a pronoun or specific word that denotes the intended meaning.

If you have to debate over whether or not to use a word in hopes of not offending someone or some group of people, err on the side of caution and refrain from using it at all or USE YOUR WORDS to describe or explain the message you are trying to convey.


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About justicelivingoutloud

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Posted on December 4, 2014, in Daily Prompt, Life Changers, Living Out Loud, Pop Culture, Race Relations and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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