In the popular song “All Falls Down” by Kanye West, West says “Even if you in a Benz, you still a n*gga in a coupe.” This single lyric rings surprisingly true and relays a very real message in the black community. It doesn’t matter how much money, fame or success you have, if you’re black, people are still going to see you as a n*gga and treat you how they feel you should be treated based on that. It’s the same reason that Obama couldn’t get any respect from Congress. It wasn’t because he was too liberal, too progressive or what have you, but it was because he was too black. The President of the United States, a mixed race man, Barack Obama was and still is a n*gga. And those white folks in Congress were not okay with taking orders from no n*gga.
I’m not in the least bit ashamed to be a n*gga. I embrace that, I love that. My hair is nappy, my lips are full, and my nose is wide. I am who I am. Being proud of who I am, I use the word n*gga with pride. I joke about this a lot, but saying n*gga and being able to do so without fear of backlash is like being apart of an exclusive club. You can only be granted access if you’re black. It doesn’t matter if you’re Caribbean, African, or African American, if you have black skin, and you rightfully identify as black, you can say it. Other people want to be apart of this club and they can’t. That’s what makes the access to this club sweeter, knowing that even in your state of oppression, you’ve still got something that the people of higher status don’t. What makes it better though is knowing that they can’t have it. They will never be a n*gga, they’ll never go through the struggles that a n*gga will face.
“Saying n*gga and being able to do so without fear of backlash is like being apart of an exclusive club. You can only be granted access if you’re black.”
More than that is the reclaiming of the word. When it was first used, the word n*gga was spelled n-i-g-g-e-r meaning a person of any racial or ethnic origin that was seen as inferior and ignorant. Typically, an n-i-g-g-e-r was a person who was disenfranchised in many ways– economically, socially, and politically.
Fast forward to 2017, and the word is spelled differently. As far as I know, the new spelling came in the early 2000’s. The new spelling n-i-g-g-a now means friend or homie. It’s used more as a term of endearment amongst black people, thus evoked the reclaiming of the word. But what’s even more interesting about reclaiming the word is the reveal of the real definition behind the word n*gga. At some point, n-i-g-g-e-r meant divine epithet. Additionally, the ancient Egyptians used n-g-r to refer to God.
In my own life, I find the reclaiming of n*gga to be very impactful. It brings me back to the class I took last semester at NYU, Culture and Contexts: The African Diaspora. Before I took this class, I still thought of my use of the word n*gga as a reclaiming of the word, but I feel like this class gave me a little more knowledge on why this reclaiming feels justified.
“I really do feel like the word n*gga is under reconstruction. Black people have managed to create our own subculture that thrives so much so that we set the trends for other ethnic and racial groups.”
Before black people were slaves, we were Kings and Queens who were respected and regarded as such by the Graeco-Roman people. The Graeco-Romans very much loved “black” people. On their holidays, the Graeco-Roman people would always travel to Africa to celebrate with the “blameless Ethiopians.” The Graeco-Romans looked to the Africans for directions as they were innovators who made strides in language and astrology. In fact, in the Graeco-Roman world, traits that are believed to be black such as full lips, flat noses, and “wooly” hair were desirable. Additionally, “interracial” relations were celebrated. I find all of this information to be comforting, as it assures me that although my ancestors were put through hell, we came from greatness, we are greatness.
I wear the term n*gga with pride and confidence. I hope that all black people do, but I understand when black people choose to not say n*gga because of the negative connotation that it used to hold. However, I really do feel like the word n*gga is under reconstruction. Black people have managed to create our own subculture that thrives so much so that we set the trends for other ethnic and racial groups. I’m not saying that the success of black culture is attributed to the word nigga, but I am saying that the word nigga and the reclaiming of it as very exclusive has become an important part of the black subculture. Through the word ‘nigga’ and redefining it for ourselves, I feel like we have been able to redefine what it means to be black. Expanding the scope of blackness is everything to me, as it denounces the idea that there is “one type” of ‘nigga’. Blackness is Barack Obama, but blackness is also the Migos. Blackness is whatever a n*gga wants it to be, and that’s lit.