Field Negro: The n-word conundrum


“Socially I’m not a name, black and white got game
If you came to the jam, well I’m glad you came
See, nigga first was used back in the Deep South
Fallin out between the dome of the white man’s mouth
It means that we will never grow, you know the word dummy
Other niggas in the community think it’s crummy
But I don’t, neither does the youth cause we
em-brace adversity it goes right with the race
And being that we use it as a term of endearment
Niggas start to bug to the dome is where the fear went
Now the little shorties say it all of the time
And a whole bunch of niggas throw the word in they rhyme”
~A Tribe Called Quest~
I just read the Washington Post article about the n-word that is getting a lot of buzz.
It centers around the fact that the n-word is used on social media over 500,000. times per day. (Mostly in the nigga form.) And the gist of the article seems to be that the word has become so ingrained in our culture—- and as a part of our modern day lexicon— that banning it would be almost impossible.
“This season, the National Football League is attempting the impossible, a reasoned but dubious mission that has already tripped up an institution as venerable as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, municipalities as large as New York City and countless parents of teenagers across the land. The goal: banning the n-word within the chalk-lined borders of its purview.   

As with the previous attempts, the NFL’s “zero tolerance” policy — which gives referees leeway to issue a 15-yard penalty for a first offense and ejection for a second — comes with good intentions: to establish a field of play free of the most racially charged word in American history.
the field negrobanner-2

ABOUT THE N-WORD PROJECT: Following several incidents involving players using the n-word, the National Football League this year instructed game officials to penalize players who used the word on the field of play. The policy, though, was widely criticized as being heavy-handed and out of touch. As the league wrestled with the issue, a team of Washington Post journalists examined the history of this singular American word, its spread through popular culture and its place in the vernacular today.  

But like the others, it is almost certainly doomed to fail; to be ignored, at best — or mocked and flouted, at worst.
If there is one thing certain about the modern n-word — a shifty organism that has managed to survive on these shores for hundreds of years by lurking in dark corners, altering its form, splitting off into a second specimen and constantly seeking out new hosts, all the while retaining its basic and vile DNA — it is that it defies black-and-white interpretations and hard-and-fast rules.
The word is too essential as an urban slang term to be placed in a casket and buried, as NAACP delegates attempted to do in a 2007 mock “funeral” for the word. It is too ingrained in youth culture to be eliminated from city streets, as the New York City Council attempted with a symbolic resolution banning the word the same year. And more than likely, it will prove too complex and nuanced to be policed by football referees wielding yellow flags and penalties. Never mind the troublesome optics of a group of mostly white NFL executives dictating the language rules of a majority-black player pool.

If anything, in 2014, it is the very notion of banning the n-word that appears dead and fit for burial. It was a long and noble fight, waged largely — but not exclusively — by an older generation for which the word is inseparable from the brutality into which it was born. If there is still a meaningful n-word debate left to have, it is over context, ownership and the degree to which it should be tethered to its awful history — or set free from it.

A word that is used 500,000 times a day on Twitter — as “nigga” is, according to search data on the social media analytics Web site — is almost by definition beyond banning. By comparison, “bro” and “dude” — two of the terms with which the n-word is synonymous to many people younger than 35 — are used 300,000 and 200,000 times, respectively. For many of this generation, the word is tossed around unthinkingly, no more impactful than a comma.

“It’s such a regular part of my vernacular. It’s a word I use every day,” said comedian/actor Tehran Von Ghasri, a 34-year-old D.C. native of African American and Iranian American heritage. “I’m a ‘nigga’ addict.”

Though the word has long been entrenched in American vernacular, by all accounts it is more prevalent than ever — expanding into new corners of the culture, showing up in places (college debate, Christian rap, video-game culture) where it would have been almost unimaginable a generation ago and no longer following any clear rules about who can say it and who can’t.
“People are integrating on a faster level today than ever before in history, [so] it’s unfathomable to me to think that with everything that we have crossing over, the language would not have crossed over as well,” Von Ghasri said. “I’m still uncomfortable with [a] white guy saying, ‘You’re a cool nigga.’ But in 25 years, I would hope that my kid’s not uncomfortable — because that white guy wouldn’t mean it in a demeaning, degrading way. He would mean it as a positive thing.”’
Wait a minute there big guy. It should never ever be cool for a white guy to use the word. EVER!
And that is my problem with this article. It attempts to mainstream  the word or to show that because it is so popular among some people it eventually will be popular with everybody. At least publicly. —I am pretty sure that it is already  popular with certain people, privately.
It’s great that you are a “nigga addict” Von, but please don’t wish that on anyone else. Especially a white person, because, as you yourself stated; you are  not comfortable with it. And you shouldn’t be, and a white person should not be comfortable saying it. Unless they are an actor playing out a role where it is required or repeating the word in an official capacity such as in a court of law.
I agree that the word can’t be banned, and attempting to do so would be silly. But, as is mentioned in the article, it can be policed.
I have never understood the need for some white folks to want to be able to use the word so much.
“You people say it to each other all the time, what’s the big deal if I use it”?
Ahhhm, you are not one of us; that’s the big deal.
As I have stated before, I don’t use the word in my conversation with my black friends, but unlike other folks of my generation, I am not as offended by it when young black men use it to each other or put it in their songs, etc.
I am not going to get hung up over a word.
I am more concerned with them getting an education; getting a  job; and raising a family as responsible citizens. As far as I am concerned they can do all of those things while dropping the n-word when they hang with their boys.
“There are some who would say that debating the merits of the n-word is missing the bigger picture. The problem isn’t the n-word. The problem is racism. But it’s easier to fight a word than a complex, institutionalized system of oppression.”
That is one portion of the article that I can 100% agree with.
*Pic from


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