Social Question

GloriaEstefan's avatar

(NFSW) Why have black people popularized the N-Word?

Asked by GloriaEstefan (261 points ) January 11th, 2013

Did it really just start as a bad joke by Richard Pryor or is there more to it?

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19 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

To remove its power as a slur.

elbanditoroso's avatar

They are embracing the slur and negativity and redefining it for their own purposes.

It is perhaps an excellent example of the Christian doctrine of “turning the other cheek” – responding effectively to an ugly aggressor.

GloriaEstefan's avatar

I know plenty of black people who still hate that word.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I’d think the same reason many gay men took back the word “fag”.

wundayatta's avatar

Yes, @GloriaEstefan. People often try to “reclaim” a negative word about them and turn it into a positive. That takes away from the negative power of the word, except that only people who are in the group can use it that way. Anyone from outside the group who uses it is still saying a pejorative thing.

I would like to reclaim the word “crazy” because I think there is more that is good about it—creativity, interesting ideas, new ways of seeing things—but a lot of people think it is just a pejorative thing; a way of dismissing people with mental illness and saying we don’t have to pay attention to them. It’s a fine line between positive and negative sometimes.

marinelife's avatar

To take the negative connotations away from its use. But it doesn’t work. No one should ever use that word.

tom_g's avatar

@marinelife: “No one should ever use that word.”

Really? Do you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable telling people who have been on the receiving end of this word, and the hate that accompanies it, what they should and shouldn’t do with this word?

What about slurs that have been used against homosexuals? Should they also not decide the fate of the words that have been used as weapons against them?

I might cringe at “nigger”, but I am lacking perspective here (due to being a caucasian). I tend to think that the populations who have been the recipients of slurs are best to decide how to repurpose slurs (or if they will at all).

elbanditoroso's avatar

it seems that there are parallels on this issue with the word “slut” (and the series of SlutWalks around the country about 2 years ago. (The whole thing started in Canada, by the way, by a policeman who said that women shouldn’t “dress like sluts”.)

The movement took a word that was clearly designed to insult and degrade, and turned it into a badge of pride and solidarity.

AshLeigh's avatar

To make light of the insult, so it no longer has any power.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

My educated, professional African American friends don’t use that word. They find it repugnant and beneath their dignity. They don’t buy into the whole “remove the negativity” argument; they believe that the word is still as degrading as it’s ever been.

I’ve also never heard any of my gay friends say “fag,” “queer,” or “dyke.” I’ve been told that such terms are used, with humor and affection, within the gay community, but the wrods remain forbidden beyond that.

ucme's avatar

So as to rip the piss out of dumb white folks.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I agree with ragnioli on this one. When someone told me that I was officially called a ‘bastard” when I was young, I started joking about it to remove the hurt associated with it.

Some friends will occasionally joke like “What up Nigga” or even “How’s it hanging, Negro-damus” to each other but only in private of course. We all grew up on rap music, so to us it lost it’s power a long time ago, but you call one of our black friends a Nigger with a tone in your voice and you’d probably not leave the room laughing, know what I mean?

Even our gay friends will giggle if someone says “What up Sis?” to a gay man that’s our buddy. If no one means any harm it’s all good, no need to be super-sensitive with your own peeps, strangers maybe, but not your buddies.

diavolobella's avatar

I know some have adopted that term for the reasons already stated, but I wouldn’t use it. My kids and their friends call each other “gay” sometimes (including their gay friends), but it still bothers me because in the connotation in which they are using it, gay = dumb and I don’t like it being turned into a negative, since it’s not. I figure since you never know which members of those groups are okay with it and which aren’t, it’s better to just not go there. There are plenty of other words available.

It’s interesting this came up today. This morning I posted a Facebook status and my son posted a link to a video on YouTube as his response. When I followed it, it was basically a short song saying “that’s gay.” I made him take it down. Whether his friends care or not, mine might and I do too. I hope he learned something from that.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

In much the same way, the term “Obama-care” referring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), was originally used by opponents as a derogatory name. The proponents of the act adopted it and now it is used by the media with neutrality.

SABOTEUR's avatar

That “taking the negative connotations” theory is quite interesting. The theory may have validity, but I still don’t want some white man calling me a nigger for any reason.

Shippy's avatar

Because they took the word back, and kicked some ass.

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