Use of "Nigger" in "Meanings of a Word"

Only available on StudyMode
  • Topic: Black people, Race, White people
  • Pages : 3 (1018 words )
  • Download(s) : 640
  • Published : September 28, 2006
Open Document
Text Preview
Meanings of a Word Essay
Although many African Americans support the use of the word "nigger" in certain circumstances, the mass majority of African Americans who lived in the times where whites used the word in order to degrade African Americans would passionately believe that the word "nigger" should be eliminated from all forms of language. Gloria Naylor clearly states her stance on the issue in "The Meanings of a Word" when she writes, "The people in my grandmother's living room took a word that whites used to signify worthlessness or degradation and rendered it impotent" (68). Consequently, people should never use the word "nigger" because not only does it represent shamefulness, but also the word can serve as a double standard when non-blacks say it.

Before the post-Civil Rights era, whites would frequently use the word "nigger" to social degrade and humiliate blacks. During this time, southern whites would commonly use the word "nigger" instead of "Negro" in order to represent superiority over the blacks. This was especially common for slave owners to refer to their slaves as "niggers" in order to both debase the slaves below human beings and to show ownership over their lives. Even though racist slave owners and other whites called blacks "niggers" during slave times, southern whites also referred to blacks as "niggers" throughout more than half of 20th Century. For instance, it would not be uncommon if a black boy wanted to join a neighborhood game of tag with a group of white boys, and one of the white boys told the rest of the group, "We don't need to be associating ourselves with any niggers, lets go over the white schoolyard because that nigger is not allowed to bother us there." In this hypothetical example, clearly the word "nigger" emphasizes inferiority of the black boy. In addition, it also seems as if the white boys fear that being near this black boy may expose them to some sort of contamination such as leprosy. Hence, the word...
tracking img