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Nicca What, Nicca Who? Is the N-Word obsolete?

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So I don’t listen to much rap music. Most of it seems to revolve around shit talking and putting women down. As a child growing up, I could never understand exactly why the females in my life were so insistent on listening to it. Really, why would we want to embrace a musical genre that regularly called us bitches and hoes? Over time I’ve grown to like a few choice songs but I don’t think I could call myself a true connoisseur of rap and hip-hop music. Besides the blatant misogyny, lots of rap music insists on using the N-word. You know which one I’m talking about. The use of the N word has become so prevalent in black culture that it’s begun to seep into mainstream culture as well.

I remember one of the first times I heard, or took note of a non-white person using the N word in everyday speech, in a non derogatory way. I was driving in the car with some friends in Cleveland late one night. There was a guy in the next car who was trying to get the attention of one of us in the car, I don’t remember what he looked like but I do remember that was the situation. I didn’t see him but apparently he wasn’t very good looking. Without skipping a beat, the girl in the drivers seas says, “Ugh, that nigga was ugly!” I have to admit, I laughed as well before silently asking myself did this white chick really just use the N word?

I let it go in part because no one else seemed to have noticed or taken offense and in part because I didn’t actually know if it had offended me or not. She wasn’t trying to be offensive, I knew that much from the context of the word’s use. Nevertheless, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the N word shouldn’t be a substitute for everyday words.

This past week there was some online hoopla about the use of the N Word by an up and coming female rapper by the name of Kreayshawn. Representing East Oakland California, I have to say her flow is one of the best I’ve seen on a white female rapper in quite some time, or a female rapper for that matter. She has an eclectic style that comes across as authentic and doesn’t seem to be using her sexuality as a selling point. While reading Clutch, one of my favorite online African-American women magazine’s I learned that Kreasyshawn had recently dropped the N bomb in an online tweet.

Perhaps signaling a signs of the times, besides this lone article on Clutch, there didn’t seem to be much uproar surrounding the event. Now that could be because she is currently a new artist that not many know or care about or does the lack of uproar speak to a larger picture?

Personally, I don’t think anyone should be using the N word, much less African-American’s. Literally the word means ignorant and for hundreds of years it was used to oppress and keep African-American’s down. Somehow though we as a people have not only embraced it but we have allowed it to become a mainstay in our culture and American pop culture as well. Just like the girl I rode with in the car, the use of the word by Kreayshwawn wasn’t mean spirited. It was just being used as a stand in for a word like: dude, man, partner, brother, or person.

I’m not even mad at her for the use of the word because I know it doesn’t represent me or who I am. But it seems like most of my brothers and sisters would think otherwise. In my opinion, the lack of uproar surrounding the tweet has more to do with the fact that we’ve come to accept the N word as a suitable replacement for other words. As a people if we want to advance, and stop the rampant use of hate speech in everyday vernacular then we have to collectively decide to ostracize the word from our speech and culture. Because really, it’s a part of our history that should remain behind us. As I stated, the word literally means ignorant but we continue to claim it as, “ours.” Words are more powerful than most of us can comprehend and by using hate speech like the N word to describe ourselves, we are internalizing it regardless of if we want to acknowledge it.


About Niesha Davis

Niesha Davis is an internationally based writer and editor. She has written for: Sixth Tone, Women's Health, Everyday Health, Bust, Bitch, Narratively, The Awl, and other publications. Follow her travels on youtube at brown and abroad.

4 responses »

  1. I think the biggest problem is that “we” black people think it’s okay to own the word. I’m not sure why we feel we have the “right’ to say it, but if we continue to use it, then it makes it okay for anyone else not black to use it. If we dont show ourselves the respect we deserve then neither will anyone else.

    • Hey Alex,
      Thanks for stopping by. When it comes to that word, I really feel it’s because we as African-Americans lack culture and a distinct history that is not rooted in hate. Sure, we’ve made strides since then but racism and slavery mentality are really all we know.It’s sad indeed.

  2. Beautiful observation. Keep writing.

  3. Pingback: The N Word revisited « Lovely Lady Thoughts

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