1. benfromcanada
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    benfromcanada Member

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    White people, rappers and the N Word

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by benfromcanada, Jul 10, 2011.

    [I wanted to actually discuss this, but I would need to use links for context. Google basically everything I say here to learn more about the controversy that prompted this]

    There's a bit of controversy in the hip-hop community right now. Backstory: A white female rapper named Kreayshawn released a music video about a month or so ago called "Gucci Gucci". It landed her a deal with Sony. Recently, video of her sister who looks a LOT like her, who's part of her White Girl Mob crew and who appears in then Gucci Gucci video (V-Nasty) using the N-Word caused a stir because, well, she's white. In addition to this, Kreayshawn herself has apparently tweeted some casual uses of the N-word. A lot of people have condemned them both, but at least one black rapper notable enough for a Wikipedia page (Mistah FAB) has supported them, saying the word had no harmful meaning anymore.

    That's not the first time some white rapper has used the word either in a song or outside it. An old mixtape of Eminem using that word to refer to his black ex-girlfriend bit him in the ass not long ago. LMFAO, a white duo that's had a couple of hits, raised surprisingly little controversy over the use of the word in their hit song "Miami" (also known as "I'm in Miami, bitch!") The radio edit of the song says the line "like I really don't care" but the album cut goes "like a nigga don't care". I'm serious, I have the album the song's on (Party Music). And then there's Immortal Technique, a Peruvian rapper of mixed ethnicity that includes a little African-American, and Drake, a mixed black-and-white Canadian dude who you wouldn't know was part black without him telling you, both of whom use the word liberally.

    Now, I know plenty of black entertainers have tried to make use of the word more acceptable in order to "take the word back" (like NWA, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, etc) and others who simply use it because, apparently, African-Americans use the word on each other all the time (Aaron McGruder defended his use of the word in his comic strip and tv series "the Boondocks" using that line of reasoning, and it's only ever displayed as a negative word when used by a white character, self-loathing black character Uncle Ruckus, or Martin Luther King Jr). While some black folk who use the word have drawn a clear line as to who can use the word (Chris Rock comes to mind) others think it's ok for anyone as long as it isn't a put down.

    What do you think? Personally, I think it's wrong for anyone who isn't black to use that word at all unless used as a quote or in discussion about the word (I hate the euphemism "N-Word" but I don't want another infraction, which is why I'm using it here.) On the other hand, hip-hop culture is full of uses of that word, and a lot of other minorities are using it for each other (I've seen fellow native Americans using it on each other, Chinese folks using it towards south Asians, pacific islanders using it on brown Hispanic folks, as a term of endearment each time). And hell, in the video that started the controversy, there are a few black dudes around V-Nasty who have no issue with her use of the word.

    So what do you think? Is the n-word "depowered" enough that it's ok for white people, or anyone who isn't black, to use casually? Is it ok for black people to use? If so, why? If not, why not?
     
  2. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's like the swastika and pentagram. People hate both of them because of nazis and satanists, respectivily. What too many people don't realizae is that the swastika is far older than the nazis and is a symbol for good fortunte, good luck and so on. Even today it's used in many places over the world with it's original meaning. Here in Norway, there's an old, iron door on a public building with several swastikas. Some people like it and say it represent nazis, but the door is far older than that. And as for the pentagram, it doesn't necessarily refer to satanism. If you flip it upside down, so you have one point up and two down, it's called a pentacle and represent the five elements. (earth, water, fire, earth, spirit).

    I think the n-word is much of the same. The word itself isn't harmful. It's what it means that's harmful, and the meaning can change. If a black person calls another black person the n-word, it's usually not bad. Why then should it be bad if a white person calls a black person the n-word if they are friends? So if enough people call people the n-word and obviously mean it in a good way, I don't see a problem with it.

    And btw, as for bands using it, ever heard of a band called Clawfinger? They have a song called.... well, the n-word. The fun thing is several modern nazis loved the song and used it as their 'theme song' or something like that. Then someone asccidentally paid attention to the lyrics... :D Is it racist? Judge for yourself.

    Goddamn my man you see I can't understand
    Why you wanna say n*gger to your brother man
    Taking black pride then you call yourself a n*gger
    Don't bring yourself down cos it just don't figure
    Take a look at yourself and your history
    You don't look like a goddamn n*gger to me
    It's a negative word and the white man made it
    Gave you a name to dominate and trade it
    Making blood money of his very own race man
    And all of this because the colour of your face man
     
  3. Mortified Penguin
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    Mortified Penguin New Member

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    I think it would be for the best if the word was "Depowered". No reason to keep around a word solely for the purpose of being able to be offended by it.
     
  4. ValianceInEnd
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    ValianceInEnd Active Member

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    The topic of racism is a particularly sticky one obviously, and that word in particular is surrounded by much controversey. The way I see it, if the black culture wants to use it for music and saying what's up then that's their businees. I can't even count on my hands how many times a day I hear black people and other non-blacks say that word a day. Its a common thing, and if people are going to use it then you can't just stop it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    FAIR WARNING - Racism and bigotry are explosive material

    As with every thread dealing with controversial subjects, this one will be closely watched. As long as everyone remains respectful toward everyone else's beliefs, the thread may continue.

    FAIR WARNING! In the past, we have simply closed the thread when it gets too heated. This time, whoever takes it to the point that requires it to be closed will also be subject to an infraction.

    We have had a very poor track record with contraversial threads in the past, and this is why we will follow a zero-tolerance policy on this one.

    So please keep the tone respectful at all times.
     
  6. benfromcanada
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    benfromcanada Member

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    WD: I don't think the swastika or pentagram are directly comparable to the N word. The pentagram is generally only offensive to really hardcore Christians, and it's easier to list things those people aren't offended by than list what does offend them. The rest of us think the symbol itself is a symbol of rebellious teens, one which is mocked hard when worn by anyone over 19. It might be different where you are, but that's how it is here. As for the swastika, it has positive connotations not just in Norway, but in most of Asia (the parts that are Hindu or Buddhist majority) and in southwestern USA, where the Hopi have used it for generations. In fact, the Red Cross, known as the Red Crescent in Muslim majority areas, is the Red Swastika in South Asia and East Asia.
    However, the N word is a derogatory corruption of the Spanish negre, or "black". It's had negative connotations essentially from the start, and only recently has anyone tried to make it benign. I get the indirect comparison (that word and those symbols are offensive to some and not to others) but the symbols weren't originally meant to demean anyone until they were co-opted by racists or satanists.

    I don't know much about clawfinger, in fact, aside from what you posted I know nothing about them. What you describe reminded me of Dead Kennedys, an anarchist punk band whose first album had 2 songs in particular (California Uber Alles and Kill The Poor) which were satirical in nature that neo nazis identified with. They began trying to recruit to their twisted cause at DK concerts, despite the fact the band had a Jewish bassist and a black drummer at the time. They had to write a less subtle song, "Nazis Punks, Fuck Off!" to get them to stop. Glorious. Anyway, no, I don't think clawfinger's use of the word is racist in that song.

    Another musician I forgot to mention that used the N word in a few songs is Marilyn Manson. In both cases it wasn't him speaking, and it was meant to be a non-race-specific term to denote being subservient or devalued. One song was a cover of the Patti Smith song "Rock n Roll Nigger" which Smith said refers not to a race of people but for the plague...or art...or something. Her liner notes are bizarre for that album but it isn't about race. The other Manson song with the N word is "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" from Antichrist Superstar, which has the lyrics "Everybody's someone else's nigger/I know you are, so am I." It was spoken by the character whose life is chronicled in that album, Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood. I think, in a way, that second usage of the word can be considered racist, though Manson has no respect for racism or racists. Either way, it makes for interesting discussion.

    MP: what's the best way to depower the word? Does allowing artists like Kreayshawn, V-Nasty, LMFAO and Marilyn Manson to use it in non-racial ways benefit this cause, at this point?
     
  7. Azhigher
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    Azhigher Senior Member

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    I'm all for N*gga, as it's a term of endearment. Hell, I use it in my own conversations.
    When I hear N*gger I still think it sounds like something a redneck hick would say as an insult. So I'm not too terribly fond of N*gger.

    So thats how I split it, I think N*gga is open to everyone and N*gger is still taken as an insult, so use with caution.

    -Edit-
    Responding to the post above, I think N*gger used in the way Manson did in the second song is ok. Using it to depict the idea of a lowly looked down upon person I think is legit.
     
  8. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    So...honestly, I have big issues with "swear words" being considered bad things to say, and it kind of weirds me out that some words are arbitrarily considered naughty to say, while other words with the same meaning are fine. In this case, though, it's not like there's an arbitrary reason for it to be considered offensive, so it makes sense that people avoid using it. I wouldn't judge someone for using it, but I would never use it myself.

    That being said, the hardest thing for me to wrap my brain around from that initial post is what I've quoted above. If people think it should be ok for everyone to say because it doesn't mean what it used to mean, fine. If people think no one should use it because of its original usage, fine. But it seems really wonky to say "oh, only x group of people can use this word, anyone else using it is just inappropriate."
     
  9. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    And that's my point right there. The pentagram is mocked hard when worn by anyone over 19. But why? It's been used for thousands of years by cultures all over the world. As I said, a pentagram with one point upwards means good fortune, good luck and so on. But a pentagram with two points up (or a 'satanic' pentagram) has been a common symbol used as protection against evil spirits.

    I could go into great detail about it, but you get the idea. I'm 33, so if I were to wear a pentagram openly, people would mock me. But the symbol itself has nothing to do about rebellion, or anything evil. It's not worse than, say, a Christian wearing a cross.

    And that's what I mean about the N-word. The word itself is just a word and doesn't mean anything. It's people who make it a bad word. If we stop using it in a bad way, it simply is a neutral term for black people, just like whitie or white boy/girl means caucasians. It's not negative at all unless we want it to be.
     
  10. benfromcanada
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    benfromcanada Member

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    I don't really see a difference between "nigga" and "nigger". To me it's the same as making a differentiation between "tuh-may-toh" and "tuh-mah-toh". Different accents pronouncing the same word differently. I'd like to know why you see a difference between these words.


    The thing is, I only think it's ok for black folk because several of them think it's ok for black folk. They're the ones that are targeted by that word, they should set the rules for when it's hurtful and when it isn't. I'd personally like all words people don't like to magically become acceptable and have the only offensive words refer to actually negative traits, such as "lazy" or "mean" or "unethical". But since that won't happen, I kind of have to make a compromise position in my head, and that's it.

    I think of it like an inside joke or insider term of endearment. If my brother calls me a bum who looks like he washed his face in shit (which is how he describes me with a goatee) I allow it. If a stranger said that, then I'm displeased, to say the least. Not that any race is a "club" or something, but you know they aren't attacking your skin colour, and probably aren't attacking you.

    Actually, I change my answer. It's because black folks know when other black folks use that word, it's either a term of endearment or they use it to refer to a generally good-for-nothing type, when someone who isn't black uses it, there's a likelihood they mean it as a racial slur.
     
  11. benfromcanada
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    benfromcanada Member

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    WD: I see your point, however, mockery of the pentagram is usually directed at those who haven't grown up, not those who use it for religious reasons (unless you speak of hardcore christians). It's rarely ever outright shocking, unlike the n word or swastika.

    But you are right that we give these things meaning. Hell, "gay" meant "happy" until homosexuals deliberately changed it to mean "gay", so "nigger" could end up meaning "soapdish" one day. Who knows?
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would be delighted if the day comes when the word nigger or any of its variations are no more charged than the word brunette.
     
  13. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    The bad thing about the swastika is that either tao-ism or buddism has a symbol that is a mirror image of it and is a symbol meaning peace. Naturally, when people see that symbol, they instantly freak out and think it is the Nazi swastika.

    As for the n-word, I always preferred the army's policy towards it. Regardless of the intended meaning behind the word or your race, you do not use the n-word. Ever.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think it would be irresponsible of society to let the word nigger become divorced from its original meaning. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be used by society at large--I don't really see any problem with that, and while I don't really use the word, I don't feel like I couldn't or shouldn't use it if I needed to--but to allow it to become as banal and innocuous as something like 'brunette' or 'soapdish' and therefore deny the racist use of the word historically would be disastrous. 'Black' or 'African-American' and 'nigger' are not synonymous, and if we allow them to become that way, we're doing a disservice to all those wronged by the word.
     
  15. ValianceInEnd
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    ValianceInEnd Active Member

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    Well said.
     
  16. Azhigher
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    Azhigher Senior Member

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    Just as people have made nigger a bad word, people have made nigga a term of endearment. I think it also comes down to context, but thats another story.

    Basically, I watch the Boondocks and see whats acceptable and whats not. Rule of thumb: If Riley says it, then it's probably ok.
     
  17. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    But there are black people who use the word as a slur...those who take a lot of pride in black culture and look down on African Americans who appear to have assimilated into white culture use terms like "house nigger" as a derogatory term, to cite one example. It seems a little mind-boggling to try to use such a sweeping generalization like "if white people say it, it's offensive, but if black people say it, then it's not" to decide whether it's ok to use a word or not.
     
  18. benfromcanada
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    benfromcanada Member

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    Because I'm not allowed to link, I will tell you to search for "cracked 8 racist words you've used today" on your search engine of choice. Some of the words are surprising (hooligan, vandal, bugger, cannibal, barbarian) and were rather derogatory and had real histories, and hurt a lot of real people. One of them is still counted as offensive (gyp) and one is actually a debunking of a popular theory (picnic isn't short for "pick a nigger"). Hell, one phrase is a German phrase meaning, essentially, "it's time to hunt some Jews, awesome!" (that's "hip hip hooray") which should be doubly offensive what with the 1930s and 40s and all that happened then, but I doubt you knew it was offensive at all to say that. The point is, if we're able to change those words to not mean anything racial anymore, we could probably do it with "nigger".

    Az: you realize Aaron McGruder uses Riley to illustrate what's wrong with black youth today, right? Huey's the one he wants you to emulate. Yeah, he says it too, but far less often. But still, how do you call them different words?

    HN: sure, in some contexts, but it comes down to context. If they say "you're a house nigger" that's pretty clearly negative, but "you're in the house, nigger!" is a generally positive use that is similar.
     
  19. KingEnthusiasm
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    KingEnthusiasm New Member

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    Stephen Pinker named a phenomenon in word usage: The Euphemism Treadmill.
    Some words have too much charge for polite use which forces the polite to find alternative words to carry the message neutrally. Then that euphemism becomes familiar and it becomes the new dysphemism.

    For example, Pussy was once a cute and innocuous euphemism but through use has become obscene. Autotune enthusiast T-Pain released a song where he expressed excitement about a tentative plan to become interactive with the genitals of a woman.

    The lyrics go-
    Girl, I been shaking and acting a donkey tryna to get you and dat monkey
    Tryna to get you and dat monkey
    Tryna to get you and dat monkey

    Perhaps you've heard this song on the Radio and wondered what he was trying to get because 'monkey' was censored. Perhaps we'll start calling them 'simians".

    Gimmie dat simian. I been swimmin' in simian. I am up to the brim in glimmerin' simmerin' simian.

    As for the N word, I've called my black friend my *igga.
    -My- Ni*ger. Clearly, I intend it in the sense used by NWA, (Niggers With Attitude) Me and my Nig*ers are tight.
    (Does it matter which letter I star out?)
    It's racism that's offensive. Words are symbols which belong to those who use them.
    There are wrong words but I don't believe in evil words.
     
  20. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    He was joking about the Boondocks.

    If it's all down to context and you can discern between a slur and a positive use of the world when African Americans say it, then why can't you do the same when people of other races say it? That's kind of my whole point...if the world can be used in both positive and negative ways, then it can be used in those ways by people of any race. Therefore, it makes no sense to say that it's only acceptable if one race uses it...
     
  21. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I'm familiar with that 'hip hip hooray' theory, and there's no contemporary evidence for it (it's supposed to be an acronym for something like Jerusalem is fallen or something, and was supposedly used in the 19th century, but evidence is flaky at best and it's far more likely it was simply adopted from the Mongol war cry of the khans). But even if we can defuse offensive words, it doesn't necessarily follow that we should. We're not talking about a 19th century chant, we're talking about a word that still has contemporary relevance and still offends a lot of people. The idea that only certain groups in certain contexts should be able to use it is pretty ridiculous, but that doesn't mean that the meaning and history of the word should be neglected.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The origins of a term may be linguistically and culturally interesting, but what matters is the meaning in current usage.

    For example, "That's so gay" in 1965 would mean the referent is festive or joyful. Today it is a derogatory expression of disdain that most gays find offensive. On the other hand, the aformentioned "hip hip hooray" has no derogatory connotations in current usage, regardless of its origins.

    In truth, harkening back to past usages is often a strategy to justify the use of bigoted language.
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The appropriateness or inappropriateness of the word "nigger" also seems to hinge in part on a generation gap. I think people who grew up in the civil rights era are understandably going to take a more dim view of it. I have black friends who don't like to hear it no matter what, whether from other blacks or from whites, and would never use it themselves.

    On the other hand, two of my daughters friends use it all the time. One is black, the other is mixed (black/white). All three of them call each other nigga and nigs etc to the point that I had to have a discussion about it with my daughter, who is white, so she understood that people were going to take offense if she used it.
     
  24. benfromcanada
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    King: I've already sort of started a discussion on this with arron89
    It may be helpful to give my full position. See, I'm not 100% sure whether or not the word should be depowered, but I'm leaning towards that. Regardless, it's up to the black community to decide. Right now, they're saying that it's OK for black folk to use the word, or at least most of them are. So, that's my vote.
    Nnnnnnnnooooo..."hep hep" was an old German phrase that was used by shepherds to herd sheep together, "hooray" was a sort of generic battlecry, which might have Hunnic origins and thus fit into your theory. Between them, it turned into a phrase shouted out to gather Germans to hunt Jews, a sort of lynch mob thing. You might have saw that if you looked up the thing I suggested you look up. Now, you really should do that.
    What you're missing here is that each of the words mentioned were contemporary and did offend people. And now they don't and racists have a smaller arsenal to use to demean these people.
    The meaning and history of words are neglected all the time. I'd bet my bottom dollar that most of us don't know the etymological history of most of the words we use. So why is this particular one more special, so special that we have to know the history and meaning of it? I mean, we ignored other ones like "coon", which was actually the more offensive "nigger" for a long while, and now most people think it's short for "raccoon". Don't you think that's progress?
     
  25. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    No. I think it's an unfortunate accident of time. The word nigger has a historical, social and cultural relevance to anyone living today. Forgetting all of those connotations isn't progress any more than the shift from 'coon' to 'nigger' is progress. The easier we make it to forget what a word means, and more importantly, what a word does, the easier it is for racism to stop being something that happened and become something that's still happening. Which is why I think popular usage of the word is acceptable, even important, but so is remembering its offensive history.
     

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