Social Question

Demosthenes's avatar

Should white people be able to quote rap lyrics in full?

Asked by Demosthenes (7304points) May 23rd, 2018

Yes, this is a referendum on the word “nigga”. I’m not black, so I can’t say what the black community should do or how they should feel about the word. But when it comes to white people quoting rap lyrics, should the fact that it is a quote excuse them for saying it? How do you feel (no matter your race) when you hear someone say the word (and I specifically mean the colloquial “nigga” with the schwa sound at the end).

This is in response to Kendrick Lamar inviting a white woman on stage then quickly kicking her off before she could say the word “nigga” in the midst of reciting Lamar’s own lyrics. (Update: I’m getting word from some little birdies that this whole thing may have been a stunt).

The Guardian has a clear answer:

Do you agree with The Guardian’s conclusions?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

34 Answers

SergeantQueen's avatar

I was at prom this past weekend.
They played “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B and of course, censored the N word but that didn’t stop people from singing it loudly. (They sung all the swears that were censored)
It’s lyrics to a song and isn’t used as a racial slur against someone (the song may use it that way but…it’s still different than going up to a black person and using that word without the song lyrics.)
But, question is, is it okay? I don’t know. Context may be different but people are very against white people using it. And I don’t know how I feel on this. I’ll think about it and come back.

notnotnotnot's avatar

If you share the complexion of a people who dragged humans to the US for slaves, has continually refused to deal with the multi-generational psychological and economic effects of slavery, continue to refuse to treat black Americans as people, enjoy a level a privilege without acknowledging it, and use the domestic police force to enforce your oppression, you can at least allow the oppressed community some say in the use of language.

The whole “should/should not be able to” framing misses the point. If your language (justifiably) triggers a punch to the throat, you may have learned too late. Being sensitive to language use is something we all do all the time. Apply some of the same principals to this issue, and it’s quite clear.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

We’re able to, it’s not a good thing to do. It makes you look like a punk trying too hard to be cool and hip.

Demosthenes's avatar

Good point. You can also answer this question with the be able to part omitted.

There are other shoulds to consider here: Should black artists be including the word in their music, knowing it could be heard and sung along to by people across the country of all races? Ultimately I think they should make the music they want, but they shouldn’t be surprised when it’s quoted in full.

Darth_Algar's avatar

When it comes to words there’s no should or shouldn’t, there is only context. Context is everything.

LostInParadise's avatar

How can it be okay for some people to use a word but not others? Is it okay for someone who is half black and half white to use the word? Does it depend on how they identify themselves? It just makes no sense.

notnotnotnot's avatar

@LostInParadise: “It just makes no sense.”


canidmajor's avatar

@notnotnotnot: @LostInParadise asks valid questions. Where is the line? Exactly what is the appropriate context? I agree with @Darth_Algar that “context is everything”, but determining context can sometimes be challenging.

notnotnotnot's avatar

@canidmajor – Does it really make no sense? Context is everything in every scenario dealing with interpersonal interaction.

What specifically confuses you and @LostInParadise about this issue?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Not calling people niggers is challenging?


SergeantQueen's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay But is singing lyrics to a rap song the same as calling someone that word in a derogatory way? Not stating my view just asking questions.

kritiper's avatar

Sure they should! If blacks don’t like certain words that whites may use after they use them, then they shouldn’t use them either. Set a good example, I say!

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@SergeantQueen No it’s not the same, you are right.

But I’d say in either case don’t use the word. My life is not diminished in any way by not using the n-word.

And regarding the common, “well, THEY say it so I can”, in-group usage is different.

Just like I can say, “my mother is being kind of an idiot” but I’d be offended about some stranger pulling me aside and saying, “your mother is an idiot. What a moron!”

KNOWITALL's avatar

As a 45 year old woman, I was around for Too Live Crew among others, and yes, we always sang the lyrics as written/ rapped/ sang.

Is it an excuse to say that particular word? Not in my opinion. And in public (back then) we sang it, but as time has proved to be create more racial tension, I wouldn’t sing it in public I suppose, so as not to offend anyone.

Seems similar to singing “She’s a crazy bitch but she looks so good….” I wouldn’t think anyone is calling me that name, just singing the song.

canidmajor's avatar

@notnotnotnot: I can’t, of course, speak for @LostInParadise, but your inference that I am confused about this issue is incorrect. You seem to have misunderstood my post.

chyna's avatar

I can’t understand the lyrics let alone sing them.

LostInParadise's avatar

@notnotnotnot , Words have meaning independent of who utters them. If, for example, you say someone is short or tall, it makes no difference what your height is.

How can you presume that a white person uttering the N word is necessarily using it in a disparaging way, and that a black person is not? Imagine a mixed racial group of friends having a conversation. Why should word choice depend on skin color?

notnotnotnot's avatar

@LostInParadise: “Words have meaning independent of who utters them.”

No, they do not. Words are tools for communication. Concocting some philosophical scenario in which the tool becomes something abstract is not useful. This isn’t a time for trees falling in forests contemplation.

@LostInParadise: “How can you presume that a white person uttering the N word is necessarily using it in a disparaging way,”

You can’t, which is precisely the point. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are. If you communicate in ways that are indifferent to how they are perceived, you are going to have to deal with the consequences.

Can you honestly tell me that you might walk up to a black woman and utter “nigger”? It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned you might be (although this raises the question of what possible intentions might be considered decent here).

Additionally, in-group use of language has utility. The use of “nigga” within a group can be used for bonding/cohesion, but can also be turned to a pejorative. Use of the term from outside the group communicates very different things.

@LostInParadise: “Imagine a mixed racial group of friends having a conversation. Why should word choice depend on skin color?”

It just does, due to the in-group vs out-group function of language.

But in all seriousness, you needn’t (or shouldn’t) make this some kind of philosophical dilemma. It’s very simple, and it involves intuitions and behaviors that you already employ. When you communicate with someone, you are likely not going to go out of your way to hurt their feelings or be insensitive, right?

Empathy. In any interaction with POC in this country, be sensitive to what they have gone through and what they are going through every day at the hands of people with pale complexions. If they are sensitive to hearing “nigger” come out of the mouth of someone who looks like you (or me), this is very easy to understand. Really.

flutherother's avatar

There are unfathomable depths of inhumanity contained in the single word “nigger” and we shouldn’t forget that.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@flutherother Correct BUT isn’t it time for rappers to stop using it, too? On a stage or in music, that’s for public consumption. If you don’t want people to use it, stop using it yourself. That’s one of those things that should die out, kinda like racism.

flutherother's avatar

Perhaps, but the inhumanity belonged to white people, not the black. Among black people the connotations of the word are entirely different. They were the oppressed we, or some white people at any rate, were the oppressors. I think the use of the word by black people is a reflection of present day racism in the US and just shows how divided the country still is.

chyna's avatar

Chris Rock says it dozens of times during his stand up comedy routines. He’s black but I still don’t find it okay or amusing.

filmfann's avatar

Bitch, please!

MrGrimm888's avatar

I think I should depend on your audience.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Jerry used the word often when referring to himself. One time he used the word “little nigger” when referring to his friend’s son. :/

SergeantQueen's avatar

Alright. I read into this more
He shouldn’t have invited a white teenage girl to go up and a song of his that pretty much has the N word in it every 10 seconds. She was invited up by her favorite artist, was probably freaking out, all excited and got caught up. Not thinking to censor it.
It wasn’t used in a derogatory way, (maybe in the song but not by her against others). The word shouldn’t be used at all but mainly in a derogatory way. It’s a freaking song. People need to get over it. Especially because the song has that word in there a lot. He knew that? And still invited a white person? Seems like a stunt.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Looked up the lyrics and this is repeated a few times

Man down
Where you from, nigga?“_
Fuck who you know, where you from, my nigga?”
Where your grandma stay, huh, my nigga?”
This m.A.A.d city I run, my nigga””

I Feel bad this girls now probably getting labeled a racist and probably getting harrased online all because of this. She was probably so excited to be on stage she wasn’t thinking “i have to censor the N word because that’s politically correct”.

Demosthenes's avatar

In general I think “do as I say, not as I do” is bogus. If you don’t want people to say it when quoting your lyrics, don’t put the word in there. Otherwise you cannot be surprised when the lyrics are quoted in full.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Demosthenes Exactly. It’s a stupid mindset when it comes to music TBH

Soubresaut's avatar

“The problem, therefore, is that we’re not listening. And by being deliberately obtuse over this issue, we are locking people of colour in a circular debate that we insist on repeating every few years, which allows us to avoid asking ourselves some of the harder questions about our own relationship to the N-word. [. . .]

”[. . .] come on, white people, enough. Let’s be brave enough to have a deeper conversation.”

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Why would you want to?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@MollyMcGuire Because it’s music, that’s generally what you do when you perform a song or karoake, or sing along.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

That’s highly debatable.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@MollyMcGuire Okay, so you skip words, so you’d lose. Whatever.

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