The ‘N’ Word
A summary by Onyeka
The word ‘nigger’ is really a
slang word of negro, which has its own negative and pejorative
connotations. ‘Nigger’ is one of the most pernicious and destructive
words that we have ever been influenced to call ourselves.
This is because of its association
with the trans-Atlantic enslavement of Africans by Europeans. In
England, slave traders like Drake and Raleigh, used the word to describe
their cargo, and it is therefore linked with the dehumanisation process
of Africans, especially those from west Africa. (It replaced the term
moor and blackamoor.) It retained its stigma, throughout the Jim Crow
years and was spat at victims of lynchings, as they burned alive.
Through the spread of American
idioms during both world wars: in film, music and fashion, ‘nigger’
spread to some of the remotest places in the world. But it was always an
insult. At school, it was the one word uttered by a white person, to a
black, that would be guaranteed to start a fight.
The ‘acceptability’ of the word
came through gangsta rap, and the ushering in of the urban, ghetto
culture. Along with pimp, hoe, dawg, gangsta, and bitch, “nigger”
(or “nigga”) became an ‘acceptable’ word on street corners. But
words have power, since they conjure up images, meaning and thoughts.
stain and pain of this word is indelibly etched, whenever and wherever
anyone utters: even as some of us, through our own hatred of ourselves,
happily label ourselves with the crippling chains of enslavement.
by BTWSC August 2006