TMZ caught up with Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of the legendary civil rights leader Malcolm X and she said that she believes that White people should be allowed to use the N-word as long as Black recording artists keep using it in their music. Clearly Shabazz went to the Piers Morgan, Don Lemon, Stacey Dash school of being Black in that she said, “If you’re going to use it, everybody should use it.” While we all may roll our eyes to the white meat at Morgan, Lemon and Dash, their stance is similar to Shabazz’s. Everybody just stop saying it so that we can all live in a N-word free world! Too bad that won’t happen.
This is a conversation we’ve all heard before and frankly, it’s wearying. Here’s the ugly truth for the N-word abolitionists: Both n*gger and n*gga are here to stay. And if we’re going to use it, we have to take responsibility for the consequences, i.e. other folks thinking it’s ok to use and getting upset when they’re told they can’t.
N*gga is used prevalently in music, mostly in hip-hop and pretty much all over the entertainment industry–movies, TV and more. Transformed by Black people throughout history from a term of hate to dehumanize us to a term of endearment amongst friends and family members, or even used like an exclamation point or the seasoning on a colorful phrase, the N-word packs a little less painful punch these days, but that doesn’t take the history or the sting out of it.
Because we have taken out the hate (or at least we think we have) and made the N-word cool, White people and others who aren’t Black want to use it as fluid as we do. Legendary comedian Paul Mooney should always and forever be quoted for saying, “Everybody wants to be a n*gger, but nobody wasn’t to be a n*gger.” Cue: Iggy Azalea.
There’s really no time when White people or people who aren’t Black should even want to use the word n*gger. What does Kanye West’s designer friend Jean Touitou (and others like him who want to use it so badly) find so intriguing about the word that he claims his Fall 2015 collection is based on it? West even gave him permission to use the word because of his song “N*ggas In Paris.” Being inspired by our words and our culture–all of that is flattering, but for White people to grab on to the N-word like a toddler finally gripping their mom’s finger for the first time, it’s tiring. Let it go White people. But Black people should challenge themselves to let it go as well.
Yes, the N-word is in our music, movies, TV shows, journal entries and often on the tips of our tongues, but because it’s a part of our harsh history, we’ve earned the right to use it as we please. We’ll never take that away from Black people, but if we’re going to use it, we’re never going to stop complaining about the N-word being used by people who aren’t Black. We are the ones forcing it to be a part of mass (read: mainstream) consumption. This loaded word is our responsibility.
Here’s something that may help us put this conversation to rest once and for all. Everything in this world is empty and meaningless until we put meaning on it. Since we claim to have taken this word back, let’s follow through and empty it of the meaning that we’ve placed on it based on our horrific history. If we do that and everyone continues to use it, as they will, then we’re all out of f*cks to give about how it hurts us because it won’t hurt.
Are you down to take the challenge?