The Only Time White People Can Say The N-Word

Leslie
Jun 17, 2018 · 5 min read

“I give you give an inch and you take a mile.” — Earon, my older brother

Last week, a white friend and former roommate of mine sent me this video saying, “I know you saw the Kendrick shit, but what you think about this?”

And after watching it, I was shocked. Is you deadass? I fucked with Oxymoron, but this is exactly the type of culturally regressive rhetoric — coming from a black man no less — that aides the ammunition of our oppressor in the war against black America.

He posed this question once before and I could sense he was still wrestling with my answer. So, I figure I’d answer in length here today.

Can white people say nigga?

No. Negro (black), a Portuguese variant of the Latin word niger (black), wasn’t an inclusive term to begin with. It found its home inside the hearts of slave transporters and owners who used it to deliberately isolate and subconsciously ingrain inferiority, hoping to further break us down psychologically while holding us in physical captivity.

A common misconception is that Africans were the first slaves, but rarely do we mention the catalyst for our very entrapment — Bartolomé de las Casas.

Bartolomé de las Casas, protector of the Indians and America’s first ordained minister, saw firsthand how European settlers raped, pillaged, and stripped the Indians of their lifestyle and decided to stop importing slaves himself and instead alleviate their suffering.

Strategizing on ways to accomplish this feat, he figured the Spanish could replace the natives, but he knew they would need a people foreign to the lay of the land and its native tongue to reduce friction. So he suggested they look towards Africa.

Now, unless you were just born or thought primary schooling was sufficient enough, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what followed.

Slaveships packed like cargo, mothers sold away from their children, babies out of rape, horses running in opposite directions ripping men apart to instill fear of whiteness into young black boys, community lynchings, families being forced to sleep on the floor, and the threat of death for anyone who dared receive an education, because after all, niggers are property, not humans.

The Harlem Renaissance birthed a movement of artists and though-leaders who provoked intellectualism and described the black experience throughout Jim Crow with eloquence. Even in the midst of Civil Rights, our prominent leaders put their bodies on the front line accepting the penalty of death to show the value of black skin.

Then came the destruction of Black Wall Street. Then Red Summer. Then redlining. Suburbanization. Then Reagan. And today we still fight.

“My bloodline is crazy/Kings and queens and Michael Jordan rings.” — Jay Z, We Made It

Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, Toni Morrison, Beyoncé, Oprah, Michael Eric Dyson, Spike Lee, LeBron James, Dave Chappelle. It seems all of our historic feats and collective contributions go rebuffed and stripped of valor, unable to shake adversity in the eyes of the oppressor.

With movements like Black Lives Matter sprouting in response to the national outcry of Trayvon Martin, our modern-day Emmit Till, to combat the countless numbers of our black bodies thereafter that lie lifeless in the street by the hands of police.

Even sports; a place we all go to escape and seek refuge from the burden of our realities harbors its own micro-aggressions.

LeBron’s home being defamed with racial slurs and being told to ‘shut up and dribble’ by Fox News pundits in attempts to dampen his social and political activism. And the NFL is worse; forcing players to debase their own values to uphold America’s or stay in the locker room.

Colin Kapernick sacrificed his career through peaceful protest, but since white dollars and capitalism holds more value than black livelihood, they had zero quells letting him fall by the wayside. A way of whipping the slave while everyone watches and saying that if ‘any of ya’s’ try to take a stand against racial injustice, it’s gone be hell to pay.

Simply reinforcing the fact that he’s just another easily disposable nigger.

Now do you see why the word is offensive? I hope so. And damn right it’s a double standard. I call some of my white friends nigga and and expect them not to say it back. And it feels good. The black privilege of being able to strip a white man of something in a world where he’s colonized and pretty much controlled everything else.

I ain’t naive though. Obviously everyone says it in the comfort of their own homes and in conversation with friends, but I respect white people more when their cool with blacks seemingly garner a pass to say it, but they never cash in.

And I respect a man who doesn’t change their tone, nor inflect their voice and vocabulary when talking to black folk. The disingenuous attempt to assimilate comes off as condescending, racist, and distasteful.

So I ask again,

Can a white person say nigga?

In the video, Schoolboy claims just as long as their paying me and coming to my shows, it’s okay. This exact coonery eerily reminded me of Richard Wright’s Black Boy where Richard’s co-worker, Shorty, is willing to devalue himself by allowing white men to kick him in the ass in exchange for a quarter. And every time a prideful Wright angrily confronts him on his lack of self-respect, he shrugs it off by saying at least he got paid.

Now a lot of white hip-hop fans may not be racist nor want to kick me in the ass. It could just be another white fetishization of black culture. But regardless of the motive, the word is off limits strictly by its history and the weight it carries.

The only time a white person can say nigga is if they’re ready to deal with the consequence that follows. Since our arrival, whites let us know we weren’t welcome. That we were other. So with that being said, nigga doesn’t pertain to you. It’s a matter of inclusion. And quite frankly, I don’t feel included.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade