Nigga, Please

No content warning here, because, come on, look at the damn title.

So, the Correspondence Dinner has come and gone, Obama dropped the mic, and Larry Wilmore of The Nightly Show lost a room full of white people (and Don Lemon) with a routine that had me rolling when I saw the video after.

And then he signed off by calling Obama his nigga.

A black woman, the author, eyes slightly rolled, sips from a small tea cup. The caption says "Pinkies Up When Drinking White Tears"
I may need a bigger cup

And white people lost their entire shit. Many tears were shed. Tweets were tossed around. Piers Morgan must have gotten a chubby that could break a  steel door down.

All over this term, this word, that they can’t say, but we can. While digging up the same shit as before “You can say it but we can’t whyfor we really want to say it why why wah wah!”

White people, we need to talk. Have a seat. And entire stadium, if you will.

  1. No, you don’t get to use that word. Ever.
  2. We are not a monolith, so don’t take this as Declaration from All of Blackness. Some are cool with it among each other, some are not. I was once of the latter, now I’m kinda in the middle.
  3. THAT CONVERSATION IS OURS TO HAVE, NOT YOURS. EVER.
  4. If your black friends are okay with you using it, okay. But don’t you fucking DARE try using it, or that excuse to say it to any other black person. Ever.
  5. You know that we can’t actually force you to not say that, but you put the integrity of your access to certain spaces,  your ears, your feelings, and/or perhaps even your face if you do.
EVER EVER! h/t to Pia Glenn for that joke.
EVER EVER!
h/t to Pia Glenn for that joke.

Still seated? Good.  Pay close attention to what I’m about to say.

There are two different types of terms in play here:

  1. “Nigger” – the bullshit term y’all gave us to denigrate us. And don’t be cute by trying to be all “But niggardly means a selfish person” bullshit. You know good and goddamn well what we’re talking about here. Example: “No VietCong ain’t ever call me ‘nigger’.” as said by one Mohammed Ali.
  2. “Nigga” – our reclaiming of said word as a sign of closeness/friendship with each other.  And only with each other. See the title of this very post for an example.

See the difference? Guess which one Larry said to Obama?

See why all the fake tears are fake?  I know, white thinkpiece writers, you’re probably just mad that Larry said one term, when who know how many motherfuckers have been calling the Obamas the other term in private since Barack won the election the first damn time.

Get it now?

Okay, class. You’re dismissed.

Photo by antonella.beccaria

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Nigga, Please
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21 thoughts on “Nigga, Please

  1. 3

    OP:

    All over this term, this word, that they can’t say, but we can.

    Interesting if somewhat “flawed” argument. But, in light of your comment policy, I’ll only briefly refer to a linguistics paper on the semantics of slurs (1) which quotes extensively from Chris Rock’s YouTube video, “Black People vs N***as” (2). And of particular note is this passage quoting Rock:

    In their commentary on this highly controversial yet influential performance, Farley (2004) pointed out how “Rock contrasted the values of middle class blacks with lower-income blacks who had succumbed to a kind of gangsta despair” (my emphasis) while Hoggard (2006) also pointed out how “Rock claimed it was socially acceptable for black people to refer to segments of the black population that degraded the black community through laziness and stupidity as “Niggas” [rather than “Black People”]” (my emphasis; see also Jeshion, 2013b, p. 309, 314–315).

    And, not to put too fine a point on it, one might suggest that if Rock can use “that! word!” (the horrors! Cover the childrens’ ears!) in that way then it is kind of racist to insist that those “odious” whites can’t do likewise.

    1) “_http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2215039015000041 ”;
    2) “_https://youtu.be/51vFbsZkhXU”;

    1. 3.1

      Wow, you even sourced your work. I’m almost impressed.

      Well, I’m mostly impressed, because you’ve seemed to have forgotten the part where I said, and I quote:

      2.We are not a monolith, so don’t take this as Declaration from All of Blackness.

      At this point, I should just end this exchange, but hey, I’ll play ball.

      Chris Rock’s “Niggas vs Black People” is a routine from 1996. He stopped using that bit because it seemed to give permission for people to go around saying nigger (you can Google the wiki for the bit if you wish to check my sources. I don’t give enough of a shit to cite them). I’m not quite sure why you brought him up, because again, black people aren’t a monolith, our opinions do vary and change.

      So, seriously, what’s your point?

      1. Well, I’m mostly impressed, because you’ve seemed to have forgotten … “We are not a monolith, so don’t take this as Declaration from All of Blackness.”

        Not really. Intent wasn’t to disprove the “monolith theory” but merely to put on the table some evidence that some black people had an opinion and viewpoint that had some merit and relevance. You object to that?

        I’m not quite sure why you brought [Rock] up, because again, black people aren’t a monolith, our opinions do vary and change. So, seriously, what’s your point?

        Because, again, I think his viewpoint has some merit worth considering in some detail, and one that is entirely consistent with the observations of various credible linguists. And with the use of several other similar slurs as that paper, which I’m sure you’ve read, shows in quite exhaustive detail. While I don’t think that verbal insults are necessarily always a good thing, or particularly justified, sometimes they are precisely what the doctor ordered to express the displeasure and opprobrium of the group towards recalcitrant or obtuse or antisocial members of it. Rock’s video being a remarkable and commendable expression of precisely that.

        But, for instance, while I’m certainly not an etymologist [IANAE], I think the term “Uncle Tom”, probably like the analogous “house nigger”, probably expressed the “displeasure” of the larger black community at those members of it who had sold out – to “whitey” – for their own personal gain at the expense of the community itself. In passing, I recollect a gay guy using the analogous and derivative “Uncle Mary” in the exact same sense.

        Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the terms are necessarily justified or accurate. Case in point being the Black, Democrat student called ‘Uncle Tom’ for defending free speech (1). Seems the “black community” is seriously fucked up if it thinks that “defending free speech” is cause for calling another member that. And then while this – Uncle Tom Sheriff Blames Black Lives Matter for Cop Shooting (2) – comes from a “whitey”, it seems to be expressing the same degree of highly questionable opprobrium.

        In any case, while I’ll concede your point that Rock “stopped using that bit” because it “enabled” some people to use the term in a clearly racist way, I don’t see that that refutes or nullifies his original argument in favour of it. My point then, amplified and underwritten by that linguistics paper, is that whether “that!!11!” word is racist or not depends heavily on the context. And that if some black people can manage to do so in a non-racist way then it seems rather egregiously racist on the part of black people to insist that white, brown, or pink people are intrinsically incapable of doing likewise.

        —-
        1) “_http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/26316/
        ”;
        2) “_http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2015/09/02/uncle-tom-sheriff-blames-black-lives-matter-for-cop-shooting/”;

        1. Intent wasn’t to disprove the “monolith theory” but merely to put on the table some evidence that some black people had an opinion and viewpoint that had some merit and relevance. You object to that?

          Geez, I feel like I’m talking to a robot “Intent wasn’t”. Relax, this is a comment section, not a college course. Chris Rock did a bit, not a dissertation, so quit using his opinion to justify…whatever the fuck you’re trying to justify that involves telling me shit I already know (“Uncle Tom” is analogous to “house nigger”? You don’t fucking say). I don’t care to dissect his opinion of nigger, because he’s one dude with one opinion.

          Look, allow me to make this simple for you: are you black?

          If yes, then you do you, Chris Rock does Chris Rock, and I’ll do me, and we can call this conversation done, because I prefer to have that conversation with people I know whose opinions I respect, and I don’t know you.

          If no, this conversation is most certainly over, because AGAIN, this isn’t your conversation to have (also “Uncle Tom” is also a conversation that never needs your input) AND you’ve wasted my time by going completely out of your lane. All you need to do is take the words “nigga” and/or “nigger” out of your vocabulary if they ever were.

          Can’t get simpler than that.

          1. Geez, I feel like I’m talking to a robot ….

            Yea, I get that a lot for some reason …

            All you need to do is take the words “nigga” and/or “nigger” out of your vocabulary if they ever were.

            Well, that’s your opinion, and you’re welcome to it. But given your reluctance if not aversion to actually addressing Rock’s arguments, supported by credible linguistics, I would say it is a rather narrow-minded and dogmatic one. Hardly holding up your end of “Team Black”, so to speak.

          2. *sigh*
            I. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck. About. Chris. Rock’s. Opinion.
            I also don’t give an entire bucket of fucks about what “credible linguistics” say. And that you do doesn’t make you smarter, it just makes you sound like a nitpicky prick who can’t take “No you can’t” for an answer.

            If you’re not black, that word isn’t yours to use. And it sure as fuck not up to you to determine how I’m holding up “Team Black”. I rather think “We get to use that word, we get to decide if we’re okay with using that word, we’re not a fucking monolith” IS holding up Team Black.

          3. … just makes you sound like a nitpicky prick who can’t take “No you can’t” for an answer.

            Who the fuck are you to tell me that I can’t use a word?

            If you’re not black, that word isn’t yours to use.

            I ain’t black but I’ll still use the word whenever and wherever I think it is appropriate. Looks rather fascistic – and racist – of you to tell me I can’t. And kind of foolish to boot since, as you pointed out, you “can’t actually force” anyone to not say it. And making an implied threat – “perhaps even your face” – just adds “thuggish” to the bill of particulars.

            And it sure as fuck not up to you to determine how I’m holding up “Team Black”.

            You expressed your opinion; I’m expressing mine.

          4. Ah, finally, you sound like a fucking human. Let’s go, then!

            Who the fuck are you to tell me that I can’t use a word?

            I’m black, you’re not. That’s who the fuck I am.

            And you’re right, I can’t stop you, feel free to say nigger or nigga all you fucking want. Just don’t act surprised at the consequences.

            Oh, and btw, THERE ARE NO APPROPRIATE TIMES FOR YOU TO SAY IT. At all. Why would you even fucking want to? That’s what I don’t get: tell people they can’t say this slur or appropriate that thing, and they have a fucking fit. Not everything is for your use. Jeez, if you’re straight and a gay person told you not to say “faggot”, would you be this fucking eager?

            Looks rather fascistic – and racist – of you to tell me I can’t. And kind of foolish to boot since, as you pointed out, you “can’t actually force” anyone to not say it. And making an implied threat – “perhaps even your face” – just adds “thuggish” to the bill of particulars.

            First of all, fuck you for accusing me of racism. I can’t be racist towards you because my people never had power or privilege over white people. Why don’t you hit the books and look up the difference between ‘racism’ and ‘prejudice’?
            Second of all “Thuggish”? Double fuck you. White people have been throwing that term around for decades. Some of the last words my lynched ancestors heard before they died was that word. Some of my slave ancestors probably heard it while they were being whipped. We took that word back from you. And the fact that you’re throwing a tanty because some rando on the internet is telling you that you can’t use it is FUCKING HILARIOUS. Why don’t you do some research on the history of the word nigger – past whatever fucking hang up you have about Chris Rock? Also, “cultural appropriation”, “code switching”, and also “How not to be a racist jackass who throws around dog whistle terms like ‘thuggish’ around”.
            And third of all, as I’ve stated in this post here I am perfect alright with people getting smacked for calling a black person a nigger to their faces. And I quote:

            “But, but Niki!” I can already hear you tickity-tacking on your keyboard. “What about turning the other cheek and not answering violence with violence? Doesn’t this reaffirm the stereotype of black people being violent? No one should be hit for saying something froggy!”

            And to you I say: Fuck. Off.

            No, really. There is some nuance in this case. See, people bold enough to use a slur to a person’s face is assuming that nothing will happen to them.

            So go right ahead. Say it. Call every black person you see “nigger”. I hope you get a black eye for your petulant “why can’t I say this” nonsense.

            Oh and it is my opinion: you’re a tired whiny asshole who hides his desire to use a slur behind academic bullshit who needs to get the entire fuck out of my comments section.
            And don’t be a smartass – I may not be able to stop you from saying nigger; but I can damn sure keep you from replying here. You’re in MY house.

          5. Oh, and btw, THERE ARE NO APPROPRIATE TIMES FOR YOU TO SAY IT. At all.

            In your opinion. Which we’re trying to determine is anything more than you just blowing smoke out of your arse.

            Why would you even fucking want to? That’s what I don’t get ….

            And I’ve been trying to explain that to you several times, but you’re either wearing blinders or are incapable of reading more than “See Spot run” or have your head someplace where the sun don’t shine. But to answer your question with another one, why do you criticize people and their behaviors? To exercise your lungs? To hear the sound of your own voice? Or to maybe get them to change? And that’s the way Rock was using the word (1):

            There’s like a civil war going on with black people, and there’s two sides: there’s black people, and there’s niggas. The niggas have got to go. Every time black people want to have a good time, ignorant ass niggas fuck it up […] Can’t go to a movie the first week it comes out. Why? Cause niggas are shooting at the screen! What kind of ignorant shit is that? […] Hey I love black people, but I hate niggas boy, boy I hate niggas.

            He’s clearly using the word as an insult, as a pointed criticism, as a wake-up call to “to refer to segments of the black population that [have] degraded the black community through laziness and stupidity”. (1)

            Jeez, if you’re straight and a gay person told you not to say “faggot”, would you be this fucking eager?

            You seem to be unclear on the concept of insults – and much else. I don’t know about you but I don’t think many people ask for permission before insulting someone. They’re intended to get people’s attention, to express a serious degree of displeasure with their behaviours – they’re generally not part of a mating dance.

            I can’t be racist towards you because my people never had power or privilege over white people.

            What unmitigated horse crap. I hope you didn’t pay much for your education because it clearly sucks. For one thing, that is not a particularly well-regarded position in academia – at least according to a conversation with someone who seemed to know their stuff – and is generally only found in moribund backwaters of post-modernism and social-justice-warriorism like AtheismPlus (2).

            For another thing, you’re talking about aggregations, about large collections of people. That whites, in general, were in the driver’s seat doesn’t justify concluding that each and every white was in a position of “power or privilege” relative to every black. You’re baldly asserting that no black has ever had power over a white and has been incapable thereby of abusing that power. Which is basically kind of racist in asserting that all blacks are superior to all whites. In addition, there is no shortage of cases of blacks being obnoxious dickheads – and worse, maybe even “the N-word!!!!” – towards whites simply because the targets were white and they were black – manifest racism. Like this recent case at Oxford (3):

            -Ashleigh Schultz, 24, reduced to tears when Ntokozo Qwabe refused to tip;
            – The student wrote on cafe bill: ‘We will give tip when you return the land’
            – He then bragged online that they had made her cry ‘typical white tears’

            Real classy fellow, a credit to his race.

            White people have been throwing that term around for decades.

            No doubt SOME white people have been doing so. But it looks like you’re arguing that ALL white people have been doing so, and are therefore to blame. Which looks kind of racist. But while I’m sympathetic to the idea of collective responsibility, it also has its limits.

            I am perfect alright with people getting smacked for calling a black person a nigger to their faces.

            I’m not in the habit of making “gratuitous insults” – people generally have to earn them first by being obnoxious dickheads, by using their class membership to lord it over supposed “lesser” beings. Like Ntokozo Qwabe and Michael Brown, both of whom well deserve the epithet, the latter being honoured posthumously.

            … whiny asshole who hides his desire to use a slur behind academic bullshit …

            Tsk, tsk. Why ever would you want to insult me? Shouldn’t you have asked permission first? But not at all a case of “hiding my desire to use a slur”, as much as it probably flatters you to think so. Just think that far too many are getting their panties in a twist over “the N-word!!!!” which doesn’t help at all in solving some very real problems.

            You’re in MY house.

            Yes, and you invited me in. And thereby have some obligation to not boot me out without just cause.

            —–
            1) “_http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2215039015000041”;
            2) “_http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2632”;
            3) “_http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3568590/Hundreds-wishers-help-donate-2-000-white-waitress-refused-tip-racist-Oxford-student-bragged-online.html”;

          6. What part of “get the entire fuck out of my comments” did you not understand, you rude fuck?

            I already told you that I don’t care what a comedian said in a joke bit from 1996. It’s 2016, so update your information, or are you even remotely aware that meanings or definitions change, especially in marginalized groups? I done already told you what it means to a lot of black people now if you bothered to listen instead of quoting a bit that I myself can quote from memory or throwing sources that frankly I don’t care about.

            Oxford, huh.

            I haven’t decided how I feel about what Qwabe did, and I’m sure as fuck not going to force a response just because you want one.

            …and did you just try to justify Michael Brown’s murder by calling him ANYTHING? If you don’t shut the fuck up about that shit on my blog, with your racist ignorant ass. I ought to kick you out just for that.

            Oh, and you don’t do insults unless someone’s being an “obnoxious dickhead”? So, by that logic, I’m more than justified to call you completely out of your name, because guess what you’re being by continuing to argue the same “Well Chris Rock said back in 1996 that nigga means blah blah blah” when I told you to get your ass out? You can take your ‘tsk tsk’ and shove it all the way up your ass.

            Yes, and you invited me in. And thereby have some obligation to not boot me out without just cause.

            HAHAHAHAHA, you ridiculous, entitled piece of shit.

            You seem quite ignorant about how blogs work. I didn’t ‘invite’ you in by writing a post. It was your choice to read it, and (unfortunately) your choice to comment. You didn’t have to do either. I didn’t invite your ass, you came in on your own, and you damn sure don’t have the right to keep posting here. Where the hell do you get the nerve to try to tell me how to moderate my own shit?

            And if you can’t respect the fact that I told you to get out, I will be more than happy to show you the door. That’s MY “just cause”.

            Try me, motherfucker. Try. Me.

  2. 4

    I don’t get the angst. I’m not a part of black culture, I’m white. That doesn’t mean I can’t respect it, without trying to imitate it. We can communicate just frickin’ fine with each other coming from our own cultures, as long as we try to damp down our hidden biases and really listen to one another. I would never DREAM of using any variation of the N-word. From my mouth it is discriminatory, period. Any white person who thinks otherwise has their head up an unlighted orifice.

    1. 4.1

      I think the angst is simple enough: a lot of white people are so used to being able to claim anything they want, ever, that having an overt, public example of something that non-white people can do but they can’t do without facing social disapproval makes them furious.

      1. You might be right… in which case, that’s really sad (and anger-making!) But respect for other people even if they’re not part of your own tribe is indeed something that a lot of people never learn. I was lucky; my formative years were spent taught by Social Justice Warrior nuns, who were going to instill respect in me for other people who were different to me. (I certainly wasn’t getting that lesson at home!) That was back in the Pleistocene almost (well, the 1960s and 1970s), but I haven’t noticed things getting particularly better.

  3. 5

    This is why I stick to person and human being, it makes getting along with others much easier. But I do keep and eye and ear open and say “Don’t do that” when needed.

    1. 5.1

      Okay, maybe I’m a terrible person (and I would agree), but twice I had the opportunity to introduce a group of white people to “Prejudice”. And it was delightful watching their discomfort, then relieved laughter at the twist.

      I’m horrid.

      1. I was first shown “Prejudice” by someone trying to shock me. But I watched with a raised eyebrow, not cringing, because I already knew Minchin’s work and wry humour (e.g. “The Pope Song”, “*Bleep* The Poor”, et al).

        As for Chris Rock (re: your comment 3.1 above), words fall in and out of fashion or acceptability, so I avoid them all (re: my slightly-frivolous comment above). For the last few months (year?) Buzzfeed has repeatedly referred to women as “bad assed *bleep*”. Dictating only to myself here, I don’t want a history of having said stuff that eventually fell out of favour. Or maybe I’m just too egotistical to apologize so I avoid having to. O_-

  4. 6

    I (rarely) use that word within the context of explaining why it’s not okay to use, and even then I feel all… icky… about using it, because it has so much baggage attached to it.

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