Use of the word

Essay by hwalaHigh School, 10th grade March 2014

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Hannah Owens


Period 3


Is It Morally Polite to Use the Word Nigger At Any Time?

Perspective 1: Yes, It's just a term from the past…..

Since people believe that nigger was only a term used during slavery, the word should no longer offend African Americans in today's time. Others feel that the word nigger shapes American history. Whoopi Goldberg states, "But I feel very strongly about the word. Do not eliminate it. It's part of our history. Every time people try to sort of make it sound better or more acceptable, let's call it what it is." Goldberg feels that the word defines the black race. It's more than a nickname, it's represents everything black people have overcome since slavery. In relation to Goldberg every time someone tries to beautify the word, it only makes the meaning more disrespectful. People should not be afraid to use the word.

However, those who are afraid do not understand the respect African-Americans have for their ancestors who dealt with racism. Whether people use the word or not, it doesn't change history. Truth is African Americans should not let the word affect them. Whenever someone uses nigger out of context, they act as if someone stabbed them in the heart. Truly, African-Americans should not get offended if they know within themselves that they are not niggers. It should not have such an impact on them. Instead, the black race should be celebrating the triumph and victories of their ancestors throughout history. African- Americans like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, led movements to gain rights for blacks. Some people may use the term in a derogative manner but it should not be taken personal. People can say nigger again and again, but the sting will never detach itself. Nigger will always be nigger. People can try to make the word sound polite but it serves the same purpose. The word nigger has been so embedded into American history that redefining the word would be pointless. Current uses of the word cannot erase or alter its original definition. According to David Pilgrim, the world nigger only describes blacks who have negative characteristics. However, if that were true, blacks would not make such a big deal of the name-calling. Many people have accepted the word. Nowadays, the variation of nigger, nigga, is almost spoken everywhere. Famous rappers like Kanye West and Jay-Z use nigga in numerous songs that they make. It's rappers like them who have influenced society to use nigga and nigger through their music. Also, radio talk shows and the media condone the use of the word. Today, the youth don't take as much of an offense. The word nig g er in the past was created to put blacks in their place, and now its adaptations have entered our culture, music, and media. This word is not going anywhere. Nevertheless, banning the word would not be the solution because people have the right to freedom of speech. Banning the use of nigger will not help anyone. Our society will still have poor, undereducated, and unemployed black people. African-Americans can refuse to acknowledge and accept the word, instead of making a big deal of it.

Perspective 2: Yes, because African Americans use the term…

The biggest hypocritical thing in the world is when African-Americans use the term nigger but disapprove when other nationalities use the term, specifically white people. Why are black people allowed to toss the term around and not expect others to follow suit. African-Americans use the term freely and most of the time it's used derogatively amongst each other. Many people agree that nigga has become common slang between the races. However, when a Caucasian is speaking to an African-American and changes the context of nigga to nigge r, it is not received so well. Arguing about which race can say nigger, Barbara Walter questions, "So what you're saying white people can't use it?" The present meaning of nigger and the past meaning of the word are completely different. Therefore, many white people avoid the term, but others use it because they believe they have the right to. The word nigger is used over and over again even by the people it has insulted. Black people have essentially become caretakers of the word and have created rules about when and where its use is appropriate. Due to the fact that it's becoming more common, how can other nationalities determine the fine line for when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate? They simply can't. Each person has a different interpretation of the word when the term is used among other people. Blacks have turned a racial slur into a nickname for their other black friends. People outside the black race are trying to mimic the word. In our society today, it's seems that if you're not black then that is not acceptable. Most importantly if you're white, you must back off from the term. The word nigger not only affects blacks but white people as well. While white people are scorned for using the word, black people tend to think all whites are the same. Chris Rock said in an interview, "the word is like the only thing white people can't do." He may have stated this jokingly, but it is true. White people can do almost anything except use the term nigger because it is considered to be outside their boundaries. One of the biggest questions in history still remains unanswered, "Why can African-Americans use the word nigger and not us?"

Perspective 3: No, because it's a hateful word…

Most people agree that no one should say the word nigger. The word is not dependent on race or context. People should know not to use the word. Whatever its origins, by the early 1800s it was firmly established as a racial slur to degrade blacks. Almost two centuries later, it remains a chief symbol of white racism. The term suggests black people are less humane or ignorant. The word completely stereotypes the black race to be the dropouts in society. They are the race who will always be less educated, less beautiful, and will have less opportunity for success. The biased opinion is all blacks act and behave in the same manner. The term nigger makes some blacks feel as though they are the gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. It's the sticky gum that keeps society lower than it ought to be. It is constantly pulling down or restraining America to progress or move forward. The use of the term by white people is so deeply rooted in our history. The word takes African-Americans back to a time of inequality and suffering. It carries hatred toward the black race. In the beginning, the term was established as an epithet to denigrate blacks. Remembering his childhood, Malcolm X describes, "A hundred times a day, they used the word 'nigger'… Thus they never did really see me." Malcolm X wanted to inform people that the term nigger had been deeply rooted in his childhood. As a result, his childhood was filled with hatred and racism. When people use the term nigger in a hateful manner, it usually signifies a black slave, a poor man, or someone who won't achieve anything. Due to its origins in the slave period, white people think they have gained such superiority to use against blacks. The term draws the line between black power and white power. Many blacks believe it's time to end the idea that blacks cannot make a difference in the world. Professor Robin Lakoff explains, "[Nigger] that conveys, 'I don't even care what your name is, you have so little power you matter to me so little." This is exactly how most blacks feel about the word. Something about the word nigger can belittle an African-American so much that they actually start to believe it. Perhaps, it is the past that has caused them to react this way. Nevertheless, the word nigger or any of its versions should not be used. It only takes one word to change a life and using this one could possibly end a significant one.

Perspective 4: My Perspective

We will never be able to forget the past and historical meaning behind nigger. Nigger is part of the African-American culture, and we either choose to accept it or forget about it. Personally, I understand the reasoning to why people either hate the word, or are nonchalant about it. Although, I am not offended by it, I do not wish to be called a nigger. I have chosen not to accept it as others have done the opposite. I do not consider myself a nigger after understanding the meaning of the word. Do I use the term nigger? No. I don't use it because I respect the people who fought against being called a nigger during slavery. I don't think of the term as white superiority over blacks because I believe we are all equal. As Americans, we all have the same rights and opportunities. As much as blacks like to say 'Black is beautiful,' I rather state that everyone is beautiful in their very own way. The reaction of the term comes from people's insecurities of who they are as a person. Once people understand and realize who they are, they will not let one word get the best of them.

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