I was taught by my parents at a very young age that the “N” word was an offensive thing and not to be used under any circumstances. It is one of the lessons I’ve kept with me, even through the part of my life in the deep south. Even so, my childhood (and my years as an adult) has been very integrated with folks of a great variety of color and culture. As a result, language with intent to offend racially has never been of much use to me, and I’ve always found the “N” word to be particularly nasty. Yet many rappers use the word in their craft and claim that their use of it is not a negative influence. The idea (as I understand it) is that if they claim possession of it, they reduce its power, it becomes just a word, and it loses its bigoted punch. Now, I know I’m just an old white southern guy, and popular opinion would be that I don’t know much about such things, but I must disagree about the “N” word losing its power when a rapper uses it himself. My perception is that they’ve missed the whole purpose of that wretched word in the first place. Some would say that the purpose of the “N” word is to degrade and demean, but those are only by products of its deeper purpose. The main purpose of that diabolic expression is to separate black people from white people. It was originally used to refer to slaves in a manner to make them seem less than human and make it more acceptable to own them as domestic animals. Even after the civil war, it was used as a means to promote segregation, thereby separating black people from white people, and emphasize the illusion that there were great differences between the two. Therefore, it is my opinion that the main purpose of the “N” word is to separate white people from black people, and it is my perception that it achieves this purpose no matter who uses it. Let’s examine what happens when a rapper uses the word to refer to himself or his peers. What white people does he hurt by doing this? The racists who regularly use the “N” word? Not at all. The racists don’t care. Even if they hear the rapper use the expression, it actually vindicates the racists’ use of it. Their perception is that the rapper is using it to refer to himself ‘cause that’s what he is. It won’t stop any bigot from using it at all. If anything, it will promote it. The white folks it hurts are the ones who don’t like hearing the “N” word, and who just want to be friends no matter what a person’s color is. Hey, if a young naive white person hears their black peers use the “N” word, and tries to use it as well, they find out real fast that the idea is that a black person can use it but not a white person. It actually becomes a tool to alienate the white people who would accept someone of a different color. Once again, it separates black people from white people.
In my opinion, no matter who uses it, it demeans us all. It is the nastiest, most diabolical, and most hateful word ever conceived in human language. Why would anyone want to own such a word?!