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Debate: "Nigger", use of the word

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Is use of the word "nigger" acceptable or should it be condemned/banned?

Background and context

The use of the word "nigger" is a highly contentious issue in American society.
Its roots come from the word "negro", and was used by slave owners and, later, segregationists. Today, it is highly taboo for a white man to use the word "nigger" to describe or insult a black man. Yet, it also has become widely used within the black community in a diversity of ways, both endeering and insulting. Many within the black community, have subsequently called for quiting and even banning its use. In March of 2007, for example, the word "nigger" was banned by the New York City Council. While the ban carries no legal punishment, it was a symbolic move that represents a tide of opposition to the use of the word "nigger" in America. The debate remains very active within the black community, within localities and municipalities, in with the larger America political culture.

See Wikipedia: Nigger for more background.

Contents

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Empowerment: Is "nigger" a beneficial word of empowerment for blacks?

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Yes

  • Only intent, not the word "nigger", can be racist. The word nigger is not racist. A word can never be racist, the only way a word is racist if it is used with racist intent and explained that way. There are other words besides "nigger" that is just as offensive because of the connotation, like eggplant. The word by itself has no meaning, the history of the word and the situations in which the word is used brings the word to life. The term is both endearing and disrespectful depending on the situation in which it used. For example I can say "You're my nigga!" and it's reviewed as positive or I can say "You're a nigga," and it can be seen as negative. The common debate about this word doesn't exist so much with how to use it, but more so who uses it.
  • "Nigger" is acceptable depending on who uses it. A black person can say it and it can be endearing, but if an outside race uses it, it is automatically racist.
  • Blacks use "nigger" to defy the history of the word and evoke empowerment Randall Kennedy. "Nigger". 2002. pp 46 - "Self-hatred...is an implausible explanation for why many assertive, politically progressive African Americans continue to say 'nigger' openly and frequently in conversations with on another. These are Americans who, in their own minds at least, use nigger not in subjection to racial subordination, but in defiance of it...Many black also do with nigger what other members of marginalized groups have done with slurs aimed at shaming them. they have thrown the slur right back in their oppressor' faces."


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No


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Endearment: Is "nigger" a term of endearment between blacks?

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Yes

  • "Nigger" is a term of endearment between blacks. Black people frequently use the word "nigger" to identity with and bond with each other. For some, this relates to a common identification between blacks with the oppression represented by the word "nigger".
  • Blacks should use "nigger" how they want, expressing freedoms the word was designed to squash. Blacks should be allowed to refer to each other however they want seeing as the insult originated out of an aim to dehumanize them. Language is only effective in the way it is understood.


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No

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Racism: Does the use of the word "nigger" help or hurt racism?

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Yes

  • Meaning of words shifts over time; "nigger" has softened. There was a time when the word "black" was offensive when describing African-Americans. The word "black" was used to define everything in a negative way, African Americans preferred to be called "Negro" or "Colored" in the late 1800s and most of the 1900s. It wasn't until figures like Stokely Carmichael, Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, james Brown, Syl Johnson, Tommie Smith and John carlos began to endorse "Black Power" and "Black is Beautiful" did African Americans associate themselves with black as a signal of positivity. Prior to the Black panther era, black was just as negative as nigger. The fact that the word has been switcthed from negative to positive, shows that language can be manipulated and changes with the time.
By specifically banning a racial slur against one group, the city council fails to address the problems faced by various other groups.
Why should it be acceptable to use slurs against gays, lesbians, Chicanos, Hispanics, Asians and Jews, but not blacks? In a city comprised of many different racial groups, who all face problems with racism and stereotypes, it is highly inappropriate for the city council to specifically condemn the use of racist terms against only one."
  • Education is better than banning "nigger" at fighting racism. "'Nigger' Please!". This Week in Race. July 14th, 2007 - "While censorship is never an answer to countering offensive speech, and while proposals to ban the word are, for the most part, symbolic in nature and would not be legally binding, education is clearly the best tool for ensuring that people have an informed view about the word – one that would temper and moderate their use or abuse of the term."


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No

  • Use of the word "nigger" breeds reverse racism. This word breeds the same racism that whites held against blacks in the early 1900s, because it says that you are limited to certain freedoms due to skin color. Because this word is only acceptable amongst blacks, this word also reflects the racism that blacks hold with other races. A black person that uses this word will use it quicker for another black person instead of someone in an outside race, so the word has a limitation on how it can be used: SKIN COLOR BEING NUMBER 1. The only way this word can become effectively endearing is if black people acknowledge all races as niggers and not just their own. There is no such thing as "reverse racism" or "internalized racism" it's just racism. Giving racism a prefix insinuates that when someone else does it, it doesn't have the same effect, when it actually does.



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Use by whites? Should white people be able to use the word nigger?

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Yes

  • Whites can say "nigger" if blacks use it to describe whites. White people should be able to use it, but realistically they can't use it first. It has to start with the people who get offended by it. Black people have to use this word towards white people the same way they use towards their own. It is already believed that if a white person says it they're racist so it has to start from the interior. Black people have to start acknowledging white people as niggers for the word to lose its racial potency.


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No

  • Eminem does not even use the word "nigger": Eminem, a white rap artist considered by some to be a "brother", does not use the word nigger. In an interview with Rolling Stone in July, 2000, Eminem said, "That word is not even in my vocabulary".
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Violence: Are blacks unwarranted in responding violently to being called "a nigger"?

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Yes

Retaliation for free speech shows that free speech doesn't exist. Nigger is African-American kryptonite, if I wanted to get a black person mad, all I would have to is say nigger and watch Bruce Banner turn into the Hulk. This word solidifies the outlook of what a nigger is. If you wanted to get someone mad use what they hold dear to them. That word nigger sets off a chemical reaction that makes any calm person lose it. If I can attack someone for calling me nigger then I should be able to attack someone for saying something about my mother. When you're getting hit with a assault and battery charge, they're not going to throw the case out because someone said nigger.

  • No one should respond to words with violence This is unless the words directly threaten the lives or well-being of another individual or themselves.


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No

  • The word "nigger" can be used threateningly and warrant a self-defensive response. Although violence should not be a first or primary response, it is a natural response to the use of hateful language. Violence also send a clear message that the word is completely inappropriate in any context.


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Vocal advocates: Who are the main vocal advocates in this debate?

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Yes

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No

  • The New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie, sponsor of New York City ban of word in March, 2007.
  • Paul Mooney, famous black comedian.
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Pro/con resources

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Yes

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No

See also

External links

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