Pop Culture, Race & Politics

When It’s Okay For White People To Say “Nigger,” “Nigga,” Or Any Other “Nigger” Derivatives

"Desean, I said you're looking much "bigger" this season, not...you know what. Nevermind."

“Desean! Relax, man. I said you’re looking much “bigger” this season, not…you know what. Nevermind.”

Between Paula Deen thinking she’s Scarlett O’Hara, Accidental Racist, Georgef*ckingZimmerman (“GFZ” for short for now on), the fact that the most talked about movie in the country has made Black people who’ve seen it so angry that they’ve started hating cauliflower just because it’s white, and Riley Cooper’s ass forgetting he has to line up every week against irrationally angry and unbelievably coordinated descendants of slaves who happen to look like this and this, I imagine this summer has been quite difficult for our lighter-skinned brethren.

Because of this, I’m here today to lend the White people of America a helping hand with one of my favorite subjects: the word “nigger.” While most understand the historical context of this word and stay the hell away from it—or don’t understand it at all but still stay the hell away from itsome still seem to be confused about why they’re not “allowed” to use it, and whether there is ever a situation where the rules regarding nigger use are relaxed.

To aid with this issue, I invited a random internet White person (“RIWP” for short) who’s still unsure about nigger use and usage to a quite an enlightening back and forth. Our conversation is below. (His statements are in italics)

RIWP: Thanks for inviting me. You definitely are a very smart Black person.

Me: Yeah, this already isn’t getting off to a great start.

RIWP: I’m sorry.

Me: I know. So, you had some questions…?

RIWP: So yeah. When is it okay for White people to say nigger?

Me: Never.

RIWP: Never?

Me: Ever.

RIWP: Not even…

Me: Nope

RIWP: How about if…

Me: Nah.

RIWP: What if…

Me: Hell no

RIWP: You’re not even letting me…

Me: F*ck you. 

RIWP: You’re not even letting me finish my ques…

Me: Re-F*ck you. 

RIWP: How can we have a conversation if you won’t even let me speak?

Me: I’m letting you speak. Just not letting you finish.

RIWP: You know what I mean!

Me: I guess you make a good point. Speak away.

RIWP: Thank you. So, like I was trying to say, what if…

Me: Did I say f*ck you already? LOL. Just playin. Go ahead.

RIWP: So, what if you’re dating a Black woman, and you’re at her house for Thanksgiving, and her drunk uncle calls you his “nigga,” actually asks “Are you my nigga?” and pauses to wait for a response? 

Me: It’s a trap. The only Black people who do stuff like this at family gatherings are fresh out, so he’s likely waiting for justification to rape you. 

RIWP: That doesn’t make any sense.

Me: It doesn’t have to. 

RIWP: Ok. So, what if I’m at a club and my favorite Mobb Deep song comes on. Am I allowed to repeat the lyrics?

Me: Look. It’s not uncommon for Black-owned nightclubs and bars to be in debt. And, if it’s 2013 and Mobb Deep is playing, it’s usually a sign the owner said “F*ck it. I’m going to lose this place in a month anyway, so I might as well play shit I like.”

Anyway, since he’s probably losing the place, he probably stopped paying the bills months ago. Why does this matter? Well, when the music abruptly stops because of electric bill nonpayment, you don’t want to be the White guy who happened to be screaming “Kill dat nigga!!!” when everything gets silent. 

So, no. But, it’s for your own good. 

RIWP: So, let me get this right. Only Black people can say “nigga” and no one can ever say “nigger?” There are no other circumstances where it’s okay for a non-Black person to do it.

Me: Well, there was a window from 1999 to 2004 when Puerto Ricans from the Bronx and Dominicans from Harlem were “allowed” to say it. But, we only let them do that because we still felt bad about Big Pun. Plus, they’re Black anyway, even if they don’t want to admit it. The only difference between them and us is that the guys steering their slave ships were drunk.

Aside from that though, no. Well, lemme rephrase that. You can say it. Shit, you can say anything. But, if you do, don’t be surprised if someone with the last name “Vick” puts a bounty on you. And, by “someone with the last name Vick puts a bounty on you” I mean “Michael Vick’s little brother randomly shows up outside of your home.”

RIWP: Wait, he’s broke isn’t he. How will I know he’s there to beat me up? What if he just needs me to co-sign on a couch set?

Me: Good question.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • I Am Your People

    Wooo, I just can’t with this. I just got back from “Fruitvale Station.” My nerves are bad for anything racism related

    • The Champ

      Yes you can!!!

      • Yah

        No, you really shouldn’t, unless Black woman mean nothing to you, which is probably the case on this blog.

    • Sageyk3

      Geez. That movie sounds intense. Headed out to see it this weekend.

      • miss t-lee

        It is.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      As I live in the Bay Area and went through hearing about Oscar’s murder from day one, I’m not sure if I can handle seeing that film just yet. It still seems like it happened just yesterday.

      • Yah

        Don’t waste your time. It’s a movie all about insulting Black women while masquerading as sympathy for Black men. It’s also an insult to Black men’s intelligence, since the movie makes sure to show Grant in partnership and graphic sexual relations with white and hispanics, while making the Black women mammys and harassed lesbians (you know, since of course Black women are undeserving of normal relationships).

        Funny that Black men would accept this movie as some “gamechanger” for them even though every single person on the Trayvon Martin jury was a white woman, or white-hispanic (just like George Zimmerman) but Black men are still paying their money to see themselves cavort with them. That is truly hatred for black women to do this so soon after the Zimmerman trial.

        America feels the need to openly denigrate Black women (why some black women support this stuff beats me), and openly insult Black men’s intelligence by not only killing them like farm cattle simply because they are Black, but also by showing Black men as being idiots for their lack of love for their own.

        Y’all are all crying fake tears over Oscar Grant because he was killed by a white person – how about crying tears for all the BLACK MEN, BLACK WOMEN, and BLACK CHILDREN killed EVERYDAY by the thousands in America by OTHER BLACK MEN?? If you can’t even muster up some fake tears for the pure, 100% Black kids being killed everyday by Blacks, then you are worthless to me and everybody else in the Black community.

        • Yah

          rather, i should say “but Black men are still paying their money to see themselves cavort with them. – AND GET SHOT, to boot”. And people are supporting this movie why???

  • Tia_Sunny

    It seem like racism made a huge public come back in 2013.

    • SoSncere

      Unfortunately I don’t think it ever really left, the thing is, I think we are seeing & hearing of a lot more discrimination then we may have before.
      I believe the difference is that discrimination is an act that can be seen & heard whereas prejudice or racism is related to a person’s inner thoughts, emotions, & feelings therefore it can’t be as easily regulated.
      A person might feel a negative way towards someone but unless they say or do something to show it, the recipient may not even realize that the other person felt that way.
      As a result of this, I think racism has always been and currently is alive & kicking.
      Ya know, honestly I think God is the only one who can really correct it imo.

      • Sahel

        Kinda like New England

        • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

          chill

          • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

            Lol. Are you from Boston, Tristan?

      • Tia_Sunny

        Agreed, racism has never went away I am saying because of media and social sites we hear a lot more about it out in public.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      We just have more media now than ever before. That includes people with cell phones that have video. Which means there are thousands and thousands of ways for people to get busted saying racist ish. And, once they do the incident travels at the speed of light.

      • HRH Prince Farouk I

        Yep people have always being racist. In 2013 with social media and so on people are just getting caught more often.

      • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

        ~ When it has just become easier to see.

        yep. it stays going on, in many many circles. there are just so many shades of ignorance goinn onn.

      • britico chick

        Real talk – which is why I’m always amazed that some people are shocked that it has all “come out”… Social media simply publicizes what people were doing on the downlow. Simples: if you know you wouldn’t say you wouldn’t say it in a crowd of people, don’t be so dumb as to say it in private moment and then pop it on Facebook!

    • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

      I think it’s because Obama got re-elected

      • Tia_Sunny

        I think its because of the media is exploiting it because without the media we would have never heard these stories.

    • miss t-lee

      It never left, though.

      • Tia_Sunny

        Oh I know it never left I am just saying its been shown a lot more in the media.

    • MPM

      Is every white person who uses the n-word a racist? I guess my first impression would be that they were racist, but I would want to know the reason they use/used the word.

      • Tia_Sunny

        I believe so because they are attacking that person on what race they are as if that person decides on what race they are born to.

  • browngem

    It’s never okay! Everybody wanna be a ni99a but don’t nobody wanna be a ni99a!

    • Agatha Guilluame

      This can never be said enough.

    • Justin_Igger

      Nobody wants to be a ni66er, especially ni66ers. They are fully aware of their subhumanity.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    I say to any famous White person who wants to use the word they can use it. I have lots of popcorn and it’s kind of turned into a hobby watching famous White people flame out. Btw, has anyone seen Kramer lately?

  • http://www.about.me/chrisgholston Ickey Shufflin’

    Wow! I JUST started streaming “The Infamous” on Spotify no more than 5 seconds before I started reading this post. NO LIE! CRAZY! And I haven’t played it in months. CRAAAAZY I SAY! But yeah, I pretty much agree with all the rest. Riley Cooper is in for a helluva season. I wonder how much the bounty will be on him. #GIANTS #BIGBLUE

  • iamnotakata

    2013 is the year of the bigot…I wonder if that’s on the chinese calendar…but yeah I’m just waiting on his redneck as? to get released…I do wish all these racist would have a coming out party already so we can know who they all are…

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      No, I don’t want him to be released. I’m hoping the Eagles first regular season game will be on Sunday Night Football so I can see him (Cooper) run a route across the middle of the field and him getting seriously jacked by a 280 pound (African American) linebacker.

      • Kozy

        it’s on monday night football against my Redskins. the game just got that much more interesting for me.

        • Soula Powa

          I hear DeAngelo Hall has that date circled on his calendar. HTTR!

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          I don’t have cable so I’ll have to wait for the highlights. Sigh.

          • Kozy

            you can stream it from a few popular sites online.

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              Okay, I’ll try to see it that way. Thanks.

    • AnonyChick

      I doubt he’ll be released.

    • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

      ~ 2013 is the year of the bigot…I wonder if that’s on the chinese calendar…

      it is. this is the year of the snake ~*~

  • Maris

    Listen, anytime a 2520 decides they’d like to debate their right to say it I simply ask them why they would want to-THREE times. Why three?
    Well, the 1st answer will be a whine (it’s not faiiiirrrr!), the second will be projection (but yooooooo say it!!) and then I usually go,
    “I’m not asking you why you think you SHOULD BE ABLE to say it. I’m asking why you personally would WANT to.”
    Its always a fun convo.

    • Nic_Mac

      That’s great. I will adopt this practice very soon.

    • Dignan 2

      Ok, devil’s advocate here. The answer to your question, “why would I want to use it,” is easy.

      Let’s say I’m part of a casual conversation with three black folks, and they’re calling each other ninja, and maybe they’re even calling ME ninja. In that situation, yes, I would like to be able to also, *with respect*, call them ninja.

      Disclaimer: I don’t actually have any real desire to say ninja.

      • Maris

        Besides the fact that you gave me answer #2, I’ll indulge.
        Its for the same reason the Jersey shore kids have made an entire show out of calling each other ‘guido’ and yet fighting every one else that says it. It’s for the same reason you’d never walk up to a plus-sized woman and say “whaddup fat b*ch!!” even though they JUST got done jokingly greeting each other that way. It’s for the same reason no matter how many comedians and country singers use it, it is out of bounds for me to greet you with “what’s cooking, my redneck!” Same reason you would never say f*g to a group of lgbt’s you don’t know, even after you heard them say it.
        DAMN NEAR EVERY MINORITY GROUP HAS SOME TERMS THAT STAY”WITHIN THE CIRCLE”, but everybody wanna debate n*gga.

        • LMNOP

          ” everybody wanna debate n*gga.”

          I think those people just can’t stand the idea of black people having something they don’t. White privilege vs. the ability to say n*gga… its just like, wow. Your life is SO hard since you can’t say this one word. How will you survive?

          • Justin_Igger

            The best part about calling a ni66er a ni66er is, it is perfectly and completely legal. If a ni66er chimps out about it, however, then it becomes completely legal to use self defense and shoot a ni66er.
            It is a very useful tool to be able to get away scott free with killing a few ni66ers. I’m at 17 myself so far, and I’m only 27.

          • William Cassaday

            We really dont give a fuck. Its the blacks that be talking about that shit. How many times have i turned on a talk show featuring prominent black members of society having a debate about wether or not their people should be saying nigga.

            LOL seriously, we dont give a shit about that.

        • Rachmo

          “everybody wanna debate n*gga.” Excellent point. I’ve never seen spirited debates over whether it’s ok to say “sp*c” or “ch*nk”. I’ve been given passes by certain individuals to say these words but I’m still not comfortable so I don’t see why n*gga must be shared with all.

          • Dr Guetto

            Yeah but you DONT HEAR WHITE PEOPLE CALLING EACH OTHER ” REDNECKS” AND THEN CRYING OUT LOUD THE TERM “REDNECK” SHOULDNT BE USED BECAUSE ITS “OFFENSIVE”.That is HYPOCRESY.

            • Rachmo

              ssssshhh…too many CAPS

              • Dr Guetto

                is that a “shut up”? and Why not?..it should actually be HIGHLIGHTED

                • Rachmo

                  Yeah it was the nicest way I could say it. Have a blessed day.

                  • Dr Guetto

                    Hahaha…well…Try to make your words sound better then silence itself…thats my way of a polite say. Have a blessed day too.

          • William Cassaday

            i’ve never heard anybody actually debate, but then again I dont hang out with idiots who actually care about such petty conversation.

        • Justin_Igger

          You ni66ers are completely missing the point.
          It’s not only about disrespecting you and dehumanizing ni66ers, that’s just the proper term for your subhuman ape species.
          It’s not going anywhere, so don’t hold your breath, ni66ers.

        • Oliver

          I respect your point, and I don’t really care about saying “ninja” other than when referencing stuff like NWA. Which isn’t in reference to anything but their name. But this argument literally doesnt make sense. None of these other words are used as regularly as ninja is, and do you really hear people of these various groups saying them that regularly? Because I sure as hell dont. All of these words are thrown around loosely in conversation without more than perhaps a judgmental look from some oversensitive onlooker- except when it comes to ninja. Fag. Fat bitch. Redneck. These are all words used more by people not of this group than those that are. Also isnt it fucking ridiculous that I feel compelled to type out ninja WHEN WE ALL KNOW WHAT I FUCKING MEAN. Jesus. Not saying it for any other reason than that that’s what this talk is about. I don’t really think it has a place to be said, and racists are going to use it in racist contexts regardless, but there are situations when not saying isnt accomplishing anything.

    • The Champ

      i think you should stretch that out to 6 times

    • HM

      where are u from and how do u know about 2520?

    • MPM

      + one million. I don’t understand why some white people have this obsession with using the word simply because they “can”. They have no good reason, and the only justification they can give is exactly what you said. smh…

    • Justin_Igger

      What else are we supposed to call ni66ers? So confusing.

    • Mark

      I know that this is freaking old listen. So when white people say n*gga it racist as f*ck but when black people call white people words like cracker, whitebread, honky and all that shit it’s not racist… like… wtf!?

    • Mark

      I know that this is freaking old listen. So when white people say n*gga it racist as f*ck but when black people call white people words like cracker, whitebread, honky and all that shit it’s not racist… like… wtf!?

      • http://www.BlackLatinaFabulous.com/ Maris

        I’m not talking about”people” I’m asking about YOU. When have you been called a honkey, luv? When has someone called you by that term as they threw things at you, denied you an apartment, or wrongly called the cops on you for walking in your own neighborhood? Because I can specifically tell you when that was done to me. Racism includes action, action that people in a minority cannot accomplish. But keep believing it’s”the same”.
        PS- If you feel you need to say it SO BAD, say it. See what happens. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence. Good luck.

  • AnonyChick

    Can anyone explain why DJ Khaled gets a ‘pass’ on the n-word (n__a)? I see Puerto Ricans (except J Lo?) get a pass as well. From my understanding, Khaled’s of Middle Eastern descent.

    • nillalatte

      See, you hittin on my issue with all racial slurs… some people get passes. Dare I say they are privileged? I dare. :D

      • Sahel

        Nila,wassup baby girl.

        • nillalatte

          Muwah Sahel… tell me where does your name originate. It sounds Arabic. In fact, I believe it to be Arabic.

          • Sahel

            Your the first to notice that. How curious.

            • nillalatte

              Not curious. Educated in the Arabic names and culture dear. Assalam al elikum.

              • Sahel

                But its not a name. Its a place. And the correct arabic term is Sahil. And no am not arab

                • nillalatte

                  I see it is a place and there are variations of English spelling. Good. I don’t like Arabs. ;) LOL

                  • Sahel

                    Esa says love everyone

                    • nillalatte

                      Ha! Esa ain’t never met my ex-husband! :P

                    • Sahel

                      Oh,its a when love turns to hate situation. How unfortunate.

                    • nillalatte

                      I have no feelings for him at.all. Whether he lives or dies is of no concern to me. Not unfortunate in my opinion. Very fortunate to have moved on to better situations. It’s all good.

                • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

                  I thought the Sahel was a region in Africa…

                  • To’Mas Que Fuego

                    I think you were thinking about The Sahara. I make those kinds of mistakes a lot myself. Where your screenname comes from would be a much more intriguing fact to know though…

                    • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

                      My screen name is my first initial and my middle name, which used to be my first name. lol. Tafakari is Swahili for “meditate.” Allegedly. :)

                      And as a rebuttal…we’re both right.
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahel “The Sahel[p] is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone oftransition, in Africa, between the Sahara desert to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south.”

            • Kema

              I looked it up awhile ago. ;-)

      • Sahel

        Ricans are Hispanic. Is hispanic a race or ethnic designation

        • nillalatte

          According to a Spanish teacher I had in college, the correct term is Hispanic for the Hispanic people. However, others prefer Latino/Latina. I’m good with whatever anyone wants to claim as their race, religion, ethnicity. It’s ‘the other white’ folks that don’t really have a clue about their heritage who get confused. :)

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          Hispanic is a political term. In the early 70s just after African Americans got the right to vote en mass, Richard Nixon added the term to the census with the belief that one day so-called Hispanics would outnumber African Americans. Then he felt the Republican Party could get the majority of the Hispanic vote which would offset the Black vote which was going to the Democrats.

          He was right about Hispanics outnumbering African Americans but, wrong about Republicans getting the majority of the Hispanic vote.

          • Sahel

            Viva La Chupacabra

            • http://www.NextStepEducation.org/ Bunni

              viva la raza, pa que tu sepasssssss (and all that good ish)

          • Nic_Mac

            I never knew that political history about hispanic. Thanks for the insight. I’ll have to do more research.

        • ChaoticDiva

          Um, “Hispanic” and “Latino” are descriptors for nationalities and ethnicities. You can be Latino/Hispanic and still be black/white/asian.

          • Yonnie

            I don’t know why this is such a difficult concept for people. They can accept that there are Black and White Americans, but can’t accept that there are Black and White Cubans, or Puerto Ricans. Boggles my mind.

    • Abu Husain

      Not sure why DJ Khaled gets a pass… Maybe because folks call Arabs sand ni99as? I never understood how certain groups got a pass.

      • Rachmo

        Heh I just referenced that above. I’m not sure how it works either but I somehow I feel like I just know who gets an automatic pass.

    • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

      DJ Khaled is of African descent. Ricans are of African descent. They might deny it but we see the facial features, hear the drums, notice the African words (mambo), yeah……. you’re one of us

      • Rachmo

        I’m pretty sure DJ Khaled is Palestinian.

        • Sahel

          Yes,he is

        • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

          Hmm. There goes my theory. Lol

          • Rachmo

            Haha you’re funny. Related my Middle Eastern friends call each other sand ninjas. In my presence. I was prob supposed to check them I guess? But I decided not to bc I didn’t care. Actually let me stop lying I was drunk so I was busy.

            • 321mena123

              It’s because he is racial ambiguous and cool with black people. That is why he gets a pass. He honestly looks Hispanic to me but i figured that he wasn’t. I remember a college roommate got upset when J Lo said it in the song with JaRule but when Big Pun or Fat Joe said it, she had no problem. I didn’t see the problem.

        • miss t-lee

          He is.

        • nillalatte

          Filistins have a HUGE mixed history of peoples & religion. Khaled could have some black African in him. see this is why ‘race’ is silly. we all mixed…& this is where some white ppl fail at history.

      • Sahel

        They deny it? Who knew

    • h.h.h.

      Fat Joe gets a pass because he weighs 300+ (used to) and aint no one fightin’ him over that

    • Shamira

      It’s mostly a New York/Northeast thing…a lot of people get passes on it here. But let them venture too far south, people ain’t having that at all.

      not to say that I agree with it, just explaining that the “hood passes” differ regionally. JLO got in trouble because she was a national star doing something only New Yorkers would give her a pass for her. She was/is? dumb. (But hey, for someone whos amazingly mediocre at each of her three “threats” shes managed to fashion quite a nice life for herself.)

      • Kema

        I like JLO’s dancing

    • Yonnie

      One time they were discussing who can use the n-word on The Breakfast Club and Angela Yee (Black & Chinese) told DJ Envy (who is Black) that he’s too light-skinned to use the n-word. I cackled.

  • Sahel

    Aha,the vestiges of slavery. Do we want a reminder of that time no we do not. Of course there is the counter that slavery happened centuries ago and these days people swirl like a dance set from west side story. But still blacks are a disenfranchised group of people. Still seen as a lower form of humanity. Reparations will never happen. 2520s should never use the word that there forefathers used when conducting the biggest injustice of all time.

  • nillalatte

    I confess… I sing the lyrics as is on the songs…. and I get strange looks. When that happens, I just smile and say “dat lil wayne, he so silly.” Yo’ he put it out there and I don’t buy the radio edit versions. Okay, well, most of the time I do, but that one song was free. Shawty say! *shrugs

    • Sahel

      So you sing Khias my neck my back out loud in public ey

      • nillalatte

        hold up, do you know what else she sayin in that song? N*gga! Actually, that’s a cool song for in the house with a dude who I might want to get a clue, but nawl, I wouldn’t sing THAT song in public unless my job was holding a corner somewhere. And, btw, I was TRYING to be a little silly. It’s Friday mon. — good night.

        • Nic_Mac

          Hm. Point made.

      • Nic_Mac

        Or Akinyele’s “Put it in my mouth”

      • Kema

        *cries* That was my goto karaoke song. Banned from the playlist it was. :-(

        • Shamira

          Why am I not surprised? lmao

          • Kema

            And I took extra joy in saying p*ssy although they had the clean version.

            • Sahel

              So vulgar but i just cant find anything wrong with this. I just cant

              • Kema

                Closed mouth dont get fed so I dont mind asking… ;-)

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          Speaking of Karaoke; It seems you have to be really careful how you play karaoke in some parts of the world. Yesterday I read a new story about an American who was in Thailand at a nightclub. He was singing karaoke and got killed because he refused to stop singing.

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/american-tourist-stabbed-to-death-after-refusing-to-stop-singing-with-band-in-thailand-bar-8742041.html

          • Sahel

            Wow.you actually read international newspapers. Am shocked

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              Well, if you can consider British papers real newspapers, yeah.

            • h.h.h.

              my favorite news source is the Economist

          • Kema

            Looking at that story it just seems he was being an a$$ (probably drunk) and paid for it with his life.

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              Oh yeah, he was definitely being an azz. But, still, they killed him. Wow.