06.23.2015 07:04 AM

The N Word

The president said it. My gut tells me he shouldn’t have done so. 

An older essay by comedian Jehmu Greene best explains why, on Fox News, of all places:

The idea that “nigger” is powerless is a somewhat nonsensical sentiment oft repeated by those who make their living slinging it. If the N-word is truly powerless then why do rappers use it to refer to their adversaries or why can’t white people use it? 

When African-American usage of “nigga” saturates music, social media and everyday conversations, is it hard to imagine why it would so easily roll off the tongues of non-black folk?

8 Comments

  1. Ty says:

    In context, the use was just to describe the word, not as shorthand or slang. He was using it to describe how not using it wasn’t something to be commended for.

  2. Joe says:

    Growing up in the place I did the word had little meaning beyond its original Spanish ‘black’. The Brazil nuts we ate at Christmas were Black toes. The little licorice figurines were Black babies. My sister wanted a Black doll for her birthday. Racism never entered our minds. We had never met anyone with black skin. Then it became politically incorrect to use that word.

  3. Tiger says:

    I’m not a fan of the president. Voted against him twice, will vote against Hillary as his successor.

    I thought his use of it, in context, was totally fine. It’s kind of the point — that’s a big change that’s happened in the last half-century, but there’s still some distance to go.

    Just look at the line-up of South Carolinian political high-ups who flanked the governor when she came out for taking the flag down — it’s a line-up of people as diverse as the state, which fifty years ago would have been unthinkable. So that’s noteworthy. That they all had to get together to push what they all know is the right decision shows in some way the distance left to go. (They all remember Governor David Beasley, who called for taking the flag off the capitol dome, and lost his office as a result in 1998.)

  4. Priyesh says:

    That word rolled off peoples’ tongues long before hip hop ever existed, and it never stopped.

    I hope you’re moderating the comments, Warren. Most people have the good sense not to use that word. Racism still comes easily to people, especially on the internet.

  5. P Brennan says:

    no need to use it ..real message got lost

  6. smelter rat says:

    Saying it and using it are two very different things. Too bad the media don’t understand this.

  7. Simon Says says:

    If JayZ can use it, so can the POTUS (or the would be rapper sitting next to me on the TTC).

  8. sezme says:

    With respect, I do not understand the point of the paragraphs you cited by Jehmu Greene. No one ever said that that word coming from a white person’s mouth is powerless. It doesn’t take a history major to understand why. Obama was making the point that while it’s an improvement that that word is no longer acceptable in polite conversation among whites (and he used that as an example of things that have improved in the last 40 years), that alone is not the end of racism.

    Anyway I appreciate a man who doesn’t say “the N word” to refer to a certain word that begins with an N.

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