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In the land of all that is melanated and holy there is one conversation that we all have had. Who gets to say the n-word? There has not been a community wide consensus of exactly who that is, but we all know who can’t say it. Nobody other than me, rather the we, that belong to this illustrious commonality.
And we all know at least one person that shucks and jives all over the boundary because its 2017 and the n-word is just that, a word. If you don’t know that one person, I’ll tell you about one, for the sake of being in the loop.
One sunny afternoon, on a lunch break that felt like a swift snack, a community member and myself were riding along with a “visitor.” Said “visitor” decided to tell us a story, casually dropping the n-word like she was inducted into the Hip Hop hall of fame! Because we work together, I wanted to approach this situation the best I could. I came to a complete stop before looking into my rear view mirror. Of course my fellow community member looked at me as though I was a spokesperson of all that was flagrant. Who gave this girl the permission to use our word? What am I doing wrong that gave her the impression that this was appropriate? Should I make her walk back to work or…? After a split second of careless consideration I decided to be a teacher.
Months have gone by and luckily that was an isolated incident. But once again the conversation has arisen in the community. The dialogue has metamorphosed itself into “if black people can say it so casually then why are we so offended when others use it?”
So who get’s to use “the word?”
There are many ways you can attack this premise. One being the word was originally used as a derogatory term to address a race. The word not only became rooted in American culture, but has found its way into the mental Rolodex of the entire world. Today from the lips of an outsider, it could be used as an insult, a justification for negative stereotypes of an entire population. Look at how I have to mention it, as “the word” because saying nigga out right isn’t socially acceptable. Or at least it wasn’t until being black or rather the culture was cool and mass produced with no shout out to the originators.
But of course in a debate there are two sides. On the other hand, someone could easily say that we’ve taken the word back, as it’s a term of endearment. It comes with a plethora of emotion in just one phrase; my nigga. Do you know how many ways someone could take that!? It could easily mean you haven’t seen someone in years, or maybe somebody just told you something that doesn’t sound realistic at all. But that doesn’t matter because it’s ours now and all that turning the other cheek stuff is history, literally. Only recently did it start to taste weird rolling off my tongue in casual conversation. Ironically it still rolls off all the same. But the uneasiness has settled in and I know if someone were to refer to me as the n-word a loud, one-sided conversation would ensue.
Still no consensus huh?
The drawn out back and forth between what is acceptable and what’s not is like watching a tennis match. Of course the game doesn’t hold my attention. I wish Serena would just take the W so we can all move on. So I beg the question who’s a nigga? And who are you?