“Nigga” ain’t going nowhere
A term of oppression or endearment?
The term “nigga” may be used casually among young Black adults to signify friendship, but is the word more harmful than helpful in bringing people together? Derived from a negative root word early Americans made up, nigger, has been historically used to degrade people of color. However, the Black community has changed the spelling of the N-Word and shifted the meaning to simply friend. Nigga is widely considered a bad word because most Blacks don’t like when other ethnic groups use it. Essentially, it’s a double standard when a group of Black people use nigga between one another and then take offense when a person of a different ethnicity uses the word in the same context. The public use of nigga must be lessened by all young adults who use it because it is still offensive to people who hear it and don’t use it. Dorothy Barry, an office assistant in the Center for Student Cultural Diversity at the University of Nevada, Reno, grew up in Birmingham, AL in the 60’s. She believes that there are no good connotations for nigga. Barry tries to place censorship on nigga when it’s used frequently in heated conversations in “the pit”, a place where many people of color visit in the Center and congregate between classes. “How I feel about that word?” Barry said. “It bites me every time I hear it. On the other hand, I understand that several years ago, especially after the civil rights movement, that taking ownership of the word is kind of symbolic power, but I still see it as a derogatory term,” Barry said. “I understand there is a difference, but for me personally I don’t see any difference. I understand that when it’s between those two individuals it’s an affectionate term, it’s a ‘you are in my camp’ term, but I’m still pretty uncomfortable with it. I think too that there is a place and time for everything.”
Professor in Ethics and Writing at the School of Journalism, Caesar Andrews, is one who is OK with the present and past connotations of nigga. He believes it’s all in how the person hearing the word feels. “It’s a word that sits there. The word it self does nothing. It’s how people feel about the word, that makes a difference,” Andrews said. When nigga is used in public spaces it makes people who don’t use the word uncomfortable. The root word nigger didn’t start out as a negative word; it was just an indication of complexion. Nigger is a variation of the Latin word for Black, “niger.” During the 19th century nigger was established as a word to describe a person of color, along with negro. So this word nigger has evolved over the years and is continuing to do so. Blacks shifted the spelling of nigger to nigga to mean something good amongst people who shared the history of the word.
Niggas & Bitches
In the Center, nigga is used freely between young adults, and one particular Mexican American individual uses the term of endearment among Black young adults in the Center rather often. Lisa Benavides, 22, a first year graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno, has her reasons for why she is cool with using nigga. She describes how she was taught about nigger. “I was raised in a white family, and we were taught that that word (nigger) is a hateful word, and that word was used to put down an entire race of people, and it was never OK to use it,” Benavides said. “I was always raised to never use it (nigger), and then coming to college, I started hanging out with more African American people, and nigga is used all the time as a term of endearment. So I have mixed feelings about the N-word, I don’t like the word but I use the word.” Benavides is a woman of color who is OK with using nigga and yet still knows the history of the word nigger. Nigga has rubbed off on her because she spends a lot of time in the Center conversing with her Black peers. “The only time I ever use it (nigga) is in reference to my guy friends. It’s like the...
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