I personally never use the “N-word.” Not “nigger,” not “nigga,” not even “negro.” But I know plenty of Black people who use “nigga” casually and in a familial sense. Growing up in a progressive, middle class family, we just didn’t talk that way. That word was considered degrading. Even my Black, middle-class friends refrained from using that word. In my mind, the loose use of the term “nigga” by Blacks was ghetto and derogatory.
Now, in comes my husband. He is very educated and intelligent, and grew up in a military household, but uses “nigga” more than “Jesus.” Having to listen to it fall of his tongue so often, I’ve become immune to it. It doesn’t offend me the way it used to.
Proponents of the word “nigga” claim it’s perpetual use by Black folks actually takes away its negative impact. But I’ve yet to meet a Black person that would not be offended if a white person called them “nigger.” So you “pro-nigga” folks, you’re a lie!
Today I hear everyone using that word. Mexican kids calling other Mexican kids, “nigga.” Even white kids refer to other white kids using that term. Now, at least for other folks, it’s just a word, like “brotha” or “homie.” So why don’t I want my own son to use it?
I still hold onto its original meaning. That ugly word used to shame our people. But more importantly, I think my biggest issue with the word is I still see it as being “ghetto,” and I don’t want my son to embrace that.
I am from the hood, but my mother removed me from that life very early on. And since then we’ve remained comfortably middle-class. This “class” that I sit in may have made me bourgeois, but I think certain behaviors are classless and saying “nigga” constantly is one of those behaviors.
Growing up in this house, with a Dad that uses the word constantly, I don’t know how I will keep him from using that word. Plus I’m not one to trump Freedom of Speech. But I have developed a four-step approach that will hopefully stem the nigga-tide.
How to Keep Your Child From Using the N-Word
Step 1: Education
I will help him understand “nigga’s” true ancestor – “nigger.” And how this word was used to degrade us.
Step 2: Literacy
Not to imply that those who use “nigga” can’t read, but having a large vocabulary may allow my son to expand his speech past “hood vernacular.”
Step 3: Respect
If my son respects himself, he will treat others with that same respect. Refraining from calling other’s degrading names will assist that respect-giving.
Step 4: Pride
My son will understand how beautiful Black is. With this sense of pride, hopefully he will make a decision to treat his Black brothers and sisters with more respect than the word “nigga” will allow.