Can white people use the n-word?

I thought about blogging about this topic when theGrio pondered in its article about Kreayshawn, a young white female rapper from Oakland, whether white rappers can use the word nigger. Kreayshawn apparently thought she had enough street cred to drop the n-word in a Twitter posting last week:

From theGrio:

People are actin so funny omg lol—1 got 200K views…not 200K dollars…WTF YOU WANT FROM A N***A? DMX VOICE

I should note theGrio asked if white rappers should ever used it and Kreayshawn (Creation?), contradicting herself, said “Of course it’s not. That’s why I never use it.”

I typically don’t blog much about whether or not people other than African-Americans can use the n-word because the comment section usually devolves into anonymous racist individuals countering examples with statements like “well, why can’t we use it”  or “why is it offensive when I use that word, but it’s not when a black person uses the word?”

For those who were like me and had no idea who Kreayshawn was, this music video will give you a quick synopsis of her style:

As an aside, I couldn’t help but to notice the glaring absence of black women from the video, but an abundance of black men dancing and grooving along side white (or Hispanic) girls. In her nod to hip-hop’s culture, Kreayshawn’s inadvertently endorsed the industry’s practice of turning its nose up at casting darker-skinned women in music videos (unless, of course, they are background dancers).

I have never been able to understood white people’s fascination with wanting to use nigger as a term of endearment with their black friends. I’ve often run into discussions and people who believe using this word would somehow legitimize their friendship with black folks; that by getting the okay to refer to their black friends as “my niggas” would solidify how “down” they are with the black community–and proving to us they indeed aren’t racist!

But, I have some sad, breaking news to these individuals so desperate to prove their allegiance to the black community: it doesn’t work that way.

It will never be okay to refer to me as your nigger because I’m not your nigger. No matter how many black-owned restaurants, clubs, businesses or black women or men you date, calling me your nigger will never be okay.

What disturbs me more about white people wanting to use the word is how ambivalent these people seem to be towards the history of this destructive and oppressive (yes, I said it; WHAT?!) terminology. They seem to haven’t a clue on how nigger originated and how it was incorporated into Jim Crow, de facto and de jure segregation as methods of keeping black people as second-class citizens. They seem to be unaware of how common it was for white people to casually refer to black people–including the ones that cooked, cleaned and took care of their children–as niggers.

The audacity of a white person wanting to call me and other folks niggers is another example of how many whites use their position of power and privilege to delve into blackness without understanding the multi-faceted responsibility of being black in the Western world and the burden of defending blackness in a society that shuns it. Wanting to call me nigger does not demonstrate to me how “down” you are with me and my community’s struggles. It shows you want to have a superficial relationship and understanding of me and black folks in general.

A white person wanting to refer to me as their nigger allows him or her to flaunt their white privilege by dropping the term at their pleasure or whenever it suits them (mainly when they believe it will make them seem less threatening to the black community). It shows a white person’s inability to grasp how white privilege allows him or her to use black people and blackness as objects meant to entertain them and the masses.

It shows black folks that you have a one dimensional idea on what it means to be black and how the white privilege power structure uses words like nigger to label black people and blackness as inferior.

5 comments on “Can white people use the n-word?

  1. Very well said.
    White people have no business using the word, unless it is part of an essay describing precisely why it is not okay for white people to use it.

  2. As far as I’m concerned, nobody has any business using that word. And the hypocrisy we black spout (only we can use it) is the most sad and pathetic excuse I’ve heard, and by far the most damaging cognitive dissonance we deal with on a daily basis. Seriously, we need to own up and disown the whole legacy of the word.

    Females can enver own the word whore (or recently, slut) – it is idiotic. That just gives men another reason to snicker at you and actually call you that word since you are claiming it is positive now.

    Nice blog by the way, I lurk around.

  3. i’m white. and i honestly dont use the word. i probably said it when i was really young just cause i was around a lot of hip hop culture. but i saw another white kid get the shit slapped outta him for calling my buddy a n***a and since then i’ve kinda understood why not to use it. of course it’s a lot more deep then simply not wanting to get the shit slapped out of you. ALLOOTTTT deeper. but even when i’m enjoying some hip hop music, and my favorite rapper is droppin that word, i simply replace it with the word “brotha”. all of my good friends are my brothers. and to me it’s a more simple way of getting the same type of connection. maybe i’m wrong idk. anyways. good post.

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