Rather than waste your time whispering sweet nothings and engaging in foreplay about this subject, I’ll just come right out and say it.

Only black people are allowed to say nigga. Only.

Why?

Well first and foremost, if you are not black and a black person tells you that they don’t feel comfortable with you using an anti-black slur that is still a very strong reminder and representation of the attitude used to enslave Africans for 245 years here in America and elsewhere, you need not ask why. That being said, for some humanity is a given, for others, humanity has to be explained. Take that for what you will.

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Nigga is a slang term variation of the word nigger. Arguably the difference between “nigga” and “nigger” is its usage. Nigga is often used by Black Americans as a familiar term of endearment. However, there is no real difference between “nigga” and “nigger” except for the spelling, especially out of the mouths of non-black people. Even within the black community there are instances where the term’s meaning is still largely derogatory. For example, I was scrolling through my tumblr page just the other day and happened upon a thread where a group of black bloggers on the site were discussing black men’s attitudes towards dark-skinned women.

Paying attention to @sicksynse’s comment: “I see a lot of mixing of niggas and women… Men belong with women, niggas belong with bitches…” you can see clearly that “nigga” is not a term of endearment or camaraderie in this case. It is paired with “bitches” which is a derogatory term for women, showing that this person believes that “nigga” is the similarly derogatory term for men, black men specifically. They are not alone in this belief. I hear nigga used as a derogatory term by black people just as much as it is used in the familiar sense. This further emphasizes the point that the word can never fully be stripped from its roots as it functioned in many derogatory phrases in the past as a tool to denigrate black people. Black Men vs. Niggas

So why do black people say it then?

The idea that using a derogatory term or slur within the community that it was originally directed towards is nowhere near a new concept. It is not uncommon to hear gay men call each other and themselves “fags” or “faggots”. Lesbians do the same with “dyke” and “butch”, women call each other and ourselves “sluts” and “bitches”, and African Americans have done the same with “nigga”. The process is called reappropriation. The idea is to take power away from that word, and ultimately your oppressors or an oppressive system, so that it can no longer be used to marginalize you. It sends a bold message to society that you choose to accept whatever it is that society hates about you and that you won’t let bigotry determine how you feel about yourself. Sometimes reappropriation works so well that that the once pejorative term becomes the preferred term. For example, “gay” began as derogatory but it is now often preferred over the term homosexual in colloquial usages. However, such a change can only be outlined by the group in question. The LGBTQ+ community is the one who outlined what terms are okay for members outside of the community to use, like gay in reference to a homosexual man (only in reference to such and not as an insult or a substitute for words like “bad” or “uncool”) but words like the aforementioned “fag” and “dyke” are still not okay for anyone who is not a gay man or lesbian woman to say respectively.

An important thing to note is that not all black people agree with the reappropriation or reclamation of the word “nigga”. In the first episode of Black-ish of the new season called “The Word”, we follow the debate within the family members on whether or not black people should use the n-word. At the end, Dre lets his son Jack know that when he gets older it will be fine for him to use it but ultimately it’s a an educated decision that only he can make. That is true for all of us as black people. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to get into debates amongst ourselves, but it is a matter that is subject to discussion and debate within and only within our community.

“But if black people can say it, why can’t I?”

“But my black friend calls me nigga!”

“But my black friends don’t care if I say it!”

“But it’s in all the music I listen to; it’s impossible to not say it!”

“It’s just a word!”

  • I hope surely by now we’ve covered the issue with the first one. If you’re not black, it’s not your term to reclaim, plain and simple.
  • Like I stated above, it is often used by black people as a term of endearment, but guess what, there are so many other words in the English language, and every language for that matter, that are terms of endearment by design – pick one and keep the word out of your mouth.
  • As for your black friends letting you say it, they are the minority, especially if you’re white. Most black people have very conservative attitudes towards the use of the n-word by white people, and rightfully so. Sometimes many non-black people of color get away with it in communities where black people live in close proximity to non-black PoC’s, especially Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Even though they’ve given you a pass, it’s still not your word. However, in some communities and friend groups that are close-knit, usage of the word may even be encouraged, and in that case, you’re still wrong, but if you’re friends have 100% signed off on your usage of it, use it behind closed doors and don’t take that with you anywhere else. But even then, you’re still wrong.
  • Just because you participate in what you feel is “black culture” i.e. listening to rap music, it doesn’t mean that you’re black. Period. Bleep it out, change the word to “nugget”, shut your mouth, I don’t care. Keep that word out your mouth.
  • Words are powerful. If you tell yourself anything else, you are lying to yourself. You sat here and read this whole thing right? Why? Because words mean something.