The Term Nigga: My Thoughts

Cj Smith, IUP

 When I was a boy around the age of 5, I used to say the word nigga a lot and continue to do so to this day. I guess it's because I watched too much T.V. or because I would hear adults around me saying it. I stopped saying it for a while but no one ever told me why I shouldn't use that word until I got older and by that time, I was already saying it everyday. However when I did learn where the word came from I couldn't believe it. I looked at my teacher and thought to myself, “this nigga crazy.”

The word nigga is a word that is used a lot in today’s pop-culture. When we (black people) say nigga, we either use it as a general term like how other people say dude, or we might use it as a term of endearment. Oftentimes, say things like, “Wassup nigga” or “you my nigga” without it being a thought. Some people think that this is a serious issue in the black community and some people don’t have a problem with using the word. Personally, I’m one of those people who don’t have an issue with the word.

Over the years we’ve given this word too much power. Both variations of the word are given way more power than they deserve. Its use has stretched far past a typical conversation between two black people. It is used in music, movies, and in television shows. Of course most of us are familiar with the show The Boondocks and how one of the main characters, Riley, used the word at least 8-10 times in each episode he was featured. The show’s creators, known for their controversial episodes, even took it a step further and did a parody of an actual news report of a teacher saying ‘’nigga’’ to one of his students. However, in the actual news report the teacher tried to justify himself using ‘nigga’ by saying that it isn’t racist because he used the slang term nigga as opposed to using its harsh counterpart, nigger.

With that being said, let’s move to the problem we have with white people saying it. Ever since our ancestors were slaves, nigger was the term was used to degrade and demean them. The problem people have with the word nigga is the matter of where it comes from. Since nigga comes from nigger, it’s easy to understand why some people don’t feel strong about the word. But where does the word nigger come from? It was originally used to degrade black people but in essence it comes from the Spanish word, Negro, which translates to black. Another way to look at it is like this- nigga is the slang term of nigger and nigger is a word that is offensive to black people and nigger comes from negro which means black, but a lot of people will speculate that nigger originally came from the ethiopian word negus, which means “king” or “emperor.” With that being said, who’s to say that they’re wrong?

But at the end of the day there's still the argument on whether or not white people can say the word nigga. I mean we all know people are saying it in a comfortable environment, but why can't they say it in a public setting? I mean if we're walking around saying “wassup my nigga” and we're using it as a term of endearment, what exactly is the problem with other people saying it and meaning the same thing? Personally I don't have a problem with it, but I do believe that people of other races should be very careful if they decide to go down that road. The problem I have is when people decide to add the -er. It's not easy to ignore when you know where this word comes from and know how and why it was used. But think about this for a moment. We as black people have taken a word that was used to demean and degrade us as human beings and twisted it into a word we can use to be inviting in everyday conversation.

On one hand it's a positive thing because it's truly “our word” and as we've seen in the past anyone else caught using it usually gets in trouble. On the other hand is this something that we truly want? Should we embrace a word that comes from a word that brought upon disgrace followed by pain, anger, and shame? Why are we proud to say nigga? Like I said before, no word should have this much power, but at the end of the day it has this power because it comes from hate. So in order to diminish the hate that comes with this word, we shouldn't give it any power.