Why Do Blacks / African Americans Use the N Word?

Why Do Blacks / African Americans Use the N Word?

If blacks do not like the “N” word so much, why do they use that word in their music, movies and speech, but they get upset if a white person uses it?  This question generates varied responses.  There is no question that some blacks use this racial slur when addressing each other or describing other blacks.  There are also many blacks who do not use the word, however the focus is on the ones who do.  What could be their motivation or rationale?

The usage may be one that minimizes the word because it is only a word.   If this is the reason for usage, the user may be attempting to “claim” or “reclaim” the word in an attempt to neutralize its original malicious intent as a weapon for denigration.  The assertion is that the familiar usage may cause it to lose its sting, however those who adhere to this philosophy are often irritated, offended and outraged when a non-black utters the same word.  These people may follow the old adage that sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.  Unfortunately, names can be very painful.

Another explanation for the use of this word is similar to a “family” thing.  In the nuclear family, you can criticize or call each other the cruelest of names (fat, ugly, stupid), but no one outside your family can make the same comment or there will be serious consequences.  It’s the familial protectiveness that emerges and defends because you know your comments are not truly meant to harm or degrade your family, however anyone else’s comments are automatically suspect.

This “family” thing is similar to some blacks’ usage of the “N” word because no true harm is meant.

Would a black person really intend to harm someone in his race by using a word that has been used to demean and humiliate their shared race?  In this situation the intent is not questioned, however a white person is not given the benefit of the doubt when our nation’s history is considered.

Singer John Mayer recently found this out.  His usage of the “N” word in a recent interview was met with disappointment and anger in the black community.  He had attempted to prove his acceptance within the black community, and the word fell flat.  Consequently, Mayer discovered a black person’s usage of the “N” word is not received in the same vile way than an “outside” race would be perceived as using it.

This phenomenon is not confined to blacks, as other races use racially derogatory terms that pertain to their group.

As mentioned earlier, some blacks contend the “N” word should not be used by any race, including their own, because it is offensive and counterproductive.   Further, they state it is lunacy to expect others to refrain from using the word when the people it is intended to humiliate and subjugate commonly use the word. 

Obviously, this is not held by all blacks because there are many who use the “N” word, and of those, virtually 100% would be offended if a white person were to refer to them as such.

Whoopi Goldberg and Elisabeth Hasselbeck sparred on The View over this very issue on July 17, 2008.

So is it an acceptable word?  What are your thoughts?  Let’s engage with straight talk!

Leave a Comment