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James.D

Is it okay to use the word Nig*er?

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I often hear a lot of people from African and Caribbean ethnic groups referring to themselves as nig*ers. Is it ok for them to do this and should other people from different racial groups be allowed to refer to them in this manner or not?

James

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In general, it's bad etiquette to do something that you know someone else will find insulting.

Your question asks about being "allowed", so I wonder if you're asking if the government should stop people from saying the word "nigger". In general, the answer is: yes, the government should allow it.

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Do you mean should it be allowed legally or is it morally permissible?

It should certainly be allowed legally, but it is wrong for anyone, black or otherwise, to use that word due to its overt racism.

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I wrote a piece on this subject a few months ago:

(Note: the quote of Ayn Rand should not be taken as an appeal to authority nor as an indication that my position was hers, she was very much anti-racist, but I don't think she ever spoke about the use of racial slurs)

NIGGER

I want to start this by clarifying what words are. Words are the perceptual concrete (auditory symbols) attached arbitrarily through custom to concepts. For instance, the concept of a four legged piece of furniture that you sit on has many auditory symbols attached to it in many different languages. In French it is chaise, in Portuguese it is cadeira, in Italian: sedia, in English: chair. Now while these sounds differ rather fundamentally, the concept for them all remains exactly the same. These words ALL refer to the same objects that exist in the universe. When I point out a four-legged piece of furniture used for sitting to a Russian speaking person and say "Chair" they will still know that it supposed to be used for sitting and they will still refer to it themselves as Ã????. So what is it that is really important when it comes to words? The conceptual meaning, i.e. what the words actually refer to, what they actually point out in reality, what the speaker is actually bringing to the attention of a consciousness when using that sound.

Many people however do not use words this way, nor do they appreciate the hierarchy between concept and sound. For many people the roles are reversed and it is not the meaning of the words that is important but their sound, it is not the objects which the sounds point to (reality) that gains their attention, but the perceptual concrete sound they think has importance and power. Hence the many "taboo" words that must not ever be spoken, not because the concepts for them are obscene, but because the sound of the words are "offensive" or even evil. So on certain T.V. stations you cannot hear the word "shit" but you can catch "mierda," both of which refer to the same substance. You won't hear "fuck" but you may hear "frig," both of which refer to the exact same activity.

The "power" ascribed to words comes in a mostly religious form, where followers use prayer to invoke supernatural elements to do their bidding. Although in some religions the prayers might be in the speaker's native language and the concepts may have a personal meaning for them, the underlying principle is that if you say something, if you make the auditory sounds with your lips and tongue, something will happen. Ultimately the meaning behind the words is not important because you must recite prayer, you must speak it, you must make it heard to a god that supposedly knows your inner thoughts anyway and would not need to hear you. For those religions that make use of foreign and/or dead languages, the evidence is even clearer. You don't have to know the meaning of "amen" or "hallelujah" to be able to curry favor with God, and you don't have to be able to understand Aramaic to be Bar Mitzvah'ed. The power is in the sound because the believers can not look past the concrete, they can not see passed the immediate perceptual moment and abstract to the higher levels principles and concepts. As Ayn Rand puts it:

... to a tribalist, language is a mystic heritage, a string of sounds handed down from his ancestors and memorized, not understood [emphasis mine]. To him the importance lies in the perceptual concrete, the sound of a word, not its meaning.

These mentalities feel totally unable, totally incapable of dealing with anything other than the immediately given situations put before them. They can understand not principles, but rules, not contextual morality but commandments, and it is in the realm of taboo words that their hatred for and inability to understand morality is most revealed. And it is one special word in today's culture that reveals not only a hatred for morality and values and the need to judge, but also reveals a special type of double standard and hypocracy. The word is: NIGGER.

The history of the usage of the word "nigger"(its conceptual background) is a horrible and disgusting one. It has been used as a slur to denegrate an entire class of people for an extremely long time. It has been used in order to dehumanize(in the mind of the user) many people and has played a role, albeit a small one, in the violation of millions of people rights. This is an ugly history no doubt, but the word(the perceptual tag) does not bare the brunt of the blame.

Calling someone a nigger, in order to dehumanize them, does not actually do so. They retain all of the rights that are rightfully theirs and the act of calling them a nigger does not violate or infringe upon those rights. Calling someone a nigger does not make them so (if "nigger" actually can be given a proper referent in reality) anymore than calling someone "retarded" gives them cerebral palsy. Words in themselves, i.e. as sounds, have no power whatsoever, they can not ward off evil spirits, or cause rain, or make a roulette ball fall on red 34. The only power words have is the concepts that they are associated with, i.e. what their symbolic meaning is, what they refer to in reality. What is evil about the use of the word "nigger" is what it reveals about the user and his/her attitude toward (historically) "people of direct african descent". If all concepts are to have referents in reality, the concept of "nigger" is actually used in an attempt to create a referent, to create something in reality that does not exist in order to excuse one's previously held ideas, which are: blacks are inferior brutes and savages that have no right to the products of their labor and should be enslaved or kept under wraps or exterminated. They need to be given an alternative title in order for the user to evade the fact that they are human, that they are "rational animals." By calling them "nigger" the user can pretend (at least to himself) that in reality blacks are inferior and he can rationalize his other desires for the unearned wealth of other people. No one short of a maniac would be able to enslave another human being or commit genocide unless the victim can be seen as an animal, as something else other than human. Calling someone a "nigger" is an attempt to change reality with a sound, it is a prayer to change a human into a beast so one can feel justified, moral even, for enslaving or killing them.

This is why the use of that word, in that context is utterly evil. It is evil in as much as it is an attempt to convince oneself of the lack of rights in another individual. It is NOT evil as a sound (it may have a particularly ugly sound to it, but that is beside the point).

The perceptual tag (the word) has recently been attached to a whole new conceptual context; that of a pro-noun. It is used in phrases such as "Yo, my nigga!" or "That nigga think he Donald Trump and shit."(Note that the words "nigger" and "nigga" are near indistinguishable perceptually, i.e. aurally when spoken in the common vernacular)

In this context the word has no bite, no evil significance whatsoever, it is impotent and almost meaningless. It serves more of a grammatical function or just as a term of endearment. It is the hierarchy of importance between sound and concept that has been lost when some people complain about its usage today. They treat it as some sort of supernatural "curse" word that should never be uttered as if by ignoring the word, the past usage of that word will cease to exist. White people are virtually forbidden to use the word for fear of being misunderstood or even being accused of being racists. What has happened is a complete reversal (In these people's heads) of the hierarchy between sound and concept. It does not matter if the referent of the sound is no longer an attempt to dehumanize someone, the sound, the word is evil in-itself. It does not matter that when one says "You my nigga" one is saying "You are my closest friend and I trust you" the use of the word "nigga" makes you racist. They negate the context and focus on the word, ascribing an automatic evalutaion of character based on one's use of sounds. They wish not to have to judge based on their judgment, based on their rational thinking and proper method of evaluation. They instead crave a way of automatically, i.e. perceptually evaluate the character of another. The utter hypocricy is that this is the way in which the evil of the classical usage of the word "nigger" was manifested. Racism is one and the same with this type of evaluation, evaluation without thought, i.e. perceptual evaluation. The racist says: "I see you are black/white/asian/etc so that means you are bad/good." The racism-whistle-blower says: "I hear you say 'nigger' that means you are bad, regardless of what you actually mean." Adding even more to this is the double standard of a certain race not being able to use the derivative "nigga" BECAUSE OF THEIR RACE! So not only is it bad to form the sound of ni-gah with your voice, it's even more evil if you're white! What started off as a concern about racism has turned into a tool of racism. This illustrates perfectly the mindset that reverses the sound/concept hierarchy. They are able to condemn the use of a word because it is loosely attached to the evil of racism, while commiting that same evil within their condemnation! This is because to them the power is in the sound, in the percept, and the concept (referent in reality, i.e. reality) is powerless. This is the enabler of atrocity: the elevation of the unreal, and the dismissal of reality.

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I often hear a lot of people from African and Caribbean ethnic groups referring to themselves as nig*ers. Is it ok for them to do this and should other people from different racial groups be allowed to refer to them in this manner or not?
There are a passle of derogatory words that can be used against women and gays, and as a straight white male I can't get away with calling anybody a queer, biatch, or the dreaded c-word, but it's allowed for females and gays to use those terms against each other. It's a way of mocking the collectivist insult, but for it to work, it has to clearly apply to you (the principle being that nobody really assumes that you're insulting yourself so it is not offered as an insult, even though it is usually understood as one -- contradiction resolved by seeing that the term does not refer to something evil). The same would go for a bunch of bankers hanging out in the sauna, smoking expensive cigars and calling each other "capitalist pigs".

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Adding even more to this is the double standard of a certain race not being able to use the derivative "nigga" BECAUSE OF THEIR RACE! So not only is it bad to form the sound of ni-gah with your voice, it's even more evil if you're white!

Fantastic post! If you have not heard about this already, a caucasian Advanced Placement English Teacher was suspended for ten days for addressing a black student with "nigga" in response to the student's initial usage of the word.

The teacher should have foreseen this would happen, given the highly politicized nature of public education where everyone is on the edge of their seat looking for racism. Nevertheless, I am disturbed by how this story is being presented by the news team, who describe the situation as if this teacher is a Klansman when he seems to just be inept at detecting proverbial potholes of political incorrectness. The student's response, that is to call for the teacher's termination, is incredibly unwarranted.

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Fantastic post!
Great post indeed, thanks for posting this IamM.P.

If you have not heard about this already, a caucasian Advanced Placement English Teacher was suspended for ten days for addressing a black student with "nigga" in response to the student's initial usage of the word.
Just wow.

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Totally off-topic but funny little story:

A few days before Hurricane Rita, I was tasked with driving a bunch of Chinese police officers from Huntsville to Dallas to catch a plane, because the hurricane had screwed up schedules at the Houston airport. On the way there, we stopped at a gas station to use the restroom. This was one of those gas stations out in the middle of nowhere with the kinds of people in it that you wouldn't want to run into in a dark alley. There were a number of rather scary looking black men in there.

Some of the Chinese policemen were conversing in Chinese and one of them repeatedly said a word that sounded like "Nee-gah." Luckily, no one noticed because I was quick to tell him to shut up, but I just about had a heart-attack.

Edited by Moose

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Some of the Chinese policemen were conversing in Chinese and one of them repeatedly said a word that sounded like "Nee-gah." Luckily, no one noticed because I was quick to tell him to shut up, but I just about had a heart-attack.

My guess is nèige, pronounced like "nay-guh." It means "that one," and is also used as a hesitation sound like uh.

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Another amusing but simultaneously waning anectdote concerns a public official using the word niggardly. An aide to the Mayor of Washington D.C. named David Howard was fired for using the word niggardly (which unequivocally means miserly) in a private staff meeting. Despite sounding similar to a disparaging racial slur, the two words have no common etymological roots. Fortunately, the Mayor eventually realized his error and rehired the aide, but the distraught protests against the aide were alarming indeed. I remember many were calling for Mr. Howard to issue an apology (to those who are easily outraged and ignorant of SAT words).

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I was just sitting here ignoring the local news (Cleveland's 19 ACTION News!) and a short story came on about a local hoodlum arrested for "ethnic intimidation and criminal damaging." Apparently, the miscreant spraypainted the words "nigger," "fagot [sic]," and "white power," along with a swastika on a woman's garage door. The newscaster referred to the racial remark as "the 'N' word." "Nigger" was blurred out in such a way that it was completely unrecognizeable, but "fag[g]ot" was left clear as day.

I wonder what goes through the producers' heads. I wonder if they even realized this. I don't get it.

(There's a lot about local news I don't get. It's too biased to be considered journalism, and all the nudity is pixellated. It's like censored porn with a weather forecast thrown in. Completely unfathomable.)

-Q

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I certainly don't watch with enough regularity to say for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised. Besides, even without nudity, 80% of the stories are the journalistic equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show. Dramatically tawdry people's lives put on display for the tittilation of less dramatically tawdry viewers. Sociological pornography.

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I don't know of a single news channel that isn't that way. The two stations I watch with a certain degree of regularity (Fox and CNN) are becoming more and more like television tabloids. That's why I now get the majority of my news from the internet.

Edited by Moose

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Whether a person is Black or not, the word nigger or nigga should not be used, even in a friendly sense ("You my nigga!") Using that word shows a lack of class, irregardless of the context in how it is used. Some scholars could argue that nigga falls under the proper nomenclature of Ebonics, but I know that Ayn Rand would never resort to using words that some races would take offense to, and especially using those words in a loose, how's my nigga?, kind of way.

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Pornaments. Apparently they're a national 'problem.'

I consider it more of a problem when losers randomly insert hardcore pornographic images in unexpected places on Wikipedia. Pornaments just sound pretty stupid. I am more puzzled as to why anyone would want them.

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With regards to the use of the word 'Nigger' I find it really funny how a group of ethnic minorities (in this case African Americans and Afro-Caribbean British) consistently campaign for equal rights with other ethnic groups. Whilst doing this they go about creating double standards by saying that those who are not of the same racial group as them are not allowed to use the word nigger. A total parodox... as they are just defeating their own argument! I believe that in order to promote equality among all citizens people of all different racial groups should be able to use this word if they wish, if this is not acceptable to (American/British Afro-Caribbean people) then it should not be used by anyone at all including them! It does not make sense to campaign for equality yet deny others of their equal rights.

James

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