The Term “Nigga”

Quoy Brown, IUP 

As I write this I must remind myself to not be emotional.  The term nigga comes from a long history, to understand it, does not exist.  As we have with so much else, we’ve lost our way with this word.  It has its ups and downs, and that I think is the worst part, we let it get good to us.  As I try and take you on this journey of the term nigga, my goal is that you will delete it from your vocabulary.

Let me start with the good, if any it will be harder for me, so let’s get this out the way.  I have heard many reasons for why the term is okay. “I’m talkin’ to my nigga, he knows who he is.’ ‘We can say it because we changed it.’ ‘Nigga ain’t the same as nigger.”

 How, Sway, how?  Let me ask you this, if you gathered a group of niggas, and somebody down the street were to yell, “Yo, my nigga,” would all the niggas not turn their heads’?  So just kill that whole “he knows who I’m talking to” nonsense.  The word is derived from the word nigger, so not only do I refuse to believe that we “reclaimed it,” I do not think you can ever stop a white man from saying it from a place of dominance.

The term comes from not only another language, but taken out of the context, that is to describe a person of color.  As slaves were picked up, so were the words and languages of those enslaved.  So yes it is nice to think that nigger is derived from such a word as Negus, a word to describe royalty in the Ethiopian Semitic languages.  But my thing is, your mindset is not changed. You don’t live like a Negus, you stay content with your life as a nigga.  With it being known that nigger was used to disrespect us, how can you then say that because you replace the  -er with an -a it is now seen as a sign of respect amongst each other. 

I grew up under a father who told me that the word was disrespectful.  It was foolish of a man to remind another man of the past with such a word.  He didn’t tolerate anyone saying it around his kids, nor in his house.  As I got older and began to play in the streets, I made sure to watch my mouth around my father.  I find the term “bro/bruh” to be a little more comforting.  For when nigga comes out my mouth, you are not the one who wants to be on the receiving end of it.

I know how disrespectful the term can be.  It is a fighting word, in which when I am discussing you as a nigga, I want to fight you.  To think that a slave was once beaten to have his name changed, then subjected to answering to just nigger.  It’s pretty ironic because the word boy was used to demean the slave as well, but not many people are offended by it.  You have some older men who know all too well the seriousness of the word boy and will catch offense when someone, such as a boss, calls his employee ‘‘boy.” I digress.

Even if nigga was a neutral term for blacks, you could never stop a white person from saying it. I have had my skin boil because a white person insisted on saying the word nigga.  Check this out, she (white girl) was with her nigga, mind you, he is a 6 foot, 250 pound black man.  She said the word once, my neck snapped and I said,  “Ayo chill.”  Homeboy stops me like, ‘Nah she’s cool she say it all the time.” My jaw dropped, “Not in here she won’t”.  And then it became a big deal cause she calls him that all the time. Well y’all both gotta get out.

The word can be used as a reminder for black people, a subconscious nugget to ensure those who use it to not forget where they come from. No. I promise and wish I could prove that Adam, the first man, was a black man.  Eve was a black woman and the first populace was black.  In fact, some science for you right here, as a black person you can procreate other shades of people.  As a white person you cannot produce color.  Nigga is not a reminder of where I come from, Adam is.  In other words, I will settle for being called Adam(n) fool, before you call me your nigga.  I am not, nor have I ever been somebody’s nigga.  That ain’t what my daddy call me, nor my momma.  So you, just as well, cannot call me nigga.