“The N-Word… Again”

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I received this question quite some time ago (6/12/2014 to be exact). At the time Paula Dean was on her way back from the beyond with a tour to rebuild her brand after being outed as a racist. Since then there have been many instances blasted across the World Wide Web and media about the blatant use of this horrific word by other races. Words such as “Thug” have become code/buzz words for N-word. So let me be clear in that while I hate this word with a passion my answer to this question isn’t as straight forward as one might think.

“Dear Pam,

Do you think it’s possible for African Americans to stop using the word “NIGGER”? The word is now the “IT” word for young people of other background, especially in the Entertainment business without a thought about why this word is offensive. Do we as African Americans realize the damage we have done by being ignorant to the history of the word “NIGGER”?


Icon_Pams_Answer_90x90Dear “HeartLuv,”

Short answer to your question….No, I don’t think African Americans will stop using the word NIGGER. Should we, yes. I think it is a conversation that has been had over and over. I think that the question is not whether we as African Americans realize the damage we have done by being ignorant to the history of the word “NIGGER,” but whether all other races, specifically the Caucasian race realize the damage that THEY have done? Do they realize that this word should not be appropriated, period?

I won’t dare argue the use of the word from anyone to be right, including my people, but I will argue the fact that any White person using the word is UNACCEPTABLE and I don’t care what context it is used in. I agree with you in the fact that it has become the “IT” word to use for young people of all backgrounds. These kids are emulating popular culture. Is it right, again NO, but it should not rest on shoulders of Black folk to police this word

The word NIGGER wasn’t born of us; it was born of slavery, oppression and hate.  In a society where many Whites want to claim this as a post-racial society, the conversation should be one that they are having. The question most Whites should be asking themselves is why are we using this word? Do we know where it comes from? Hell, do we care? I would wager that a great many do care, but those are the big questions.

Many of my people have died at the hands of the very people who invented this word. So again the word is not ours to police. The ones who should take it back and eradicate it from their vocabulary are not African Americans, but every other race.

In a way I understand where the word NIGGA is derived from. I get it. It was dissected from the foulest word in the English language to somehow (although I do not agree the usage of this version either) make it a term of endearment. While I will never see it as such, there are many of us who do. It’s like what the Gay community did with the word gay. I know you will say that, “but millions of their people didn’t die because of the word gay.” True, but the Homosexual community has had to wage their own battle in the fight for equality and justice.

My argument against the word rests at the feet of the White community (as well as other non-Black communities). Know that the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Oklahoma University didn’t just learn the word NIGGER. Those silver spoon bred and fed fraternity boys didn’t just learn that chant a month ago. That is some old hate. That is old oppression that was born hundreds of years ago. For those good ole educated White boys and girls to sing that chant so carelessly means that they have been taught to hate people of color in their homes.


Mommy, daddy, granddaddy and great granddaddy taught that kind of hate. That is something that goes back to the times of white sheets, hoods and burning crosses in Black folk’s yards. That is some hate that reaches back to the times when African slaves were transported, stacked on top of each other in the hulls of cargo ships.

So the quest to abolish the word NIGGER is not ours to seek, but of the people that will say our First Lady looks like an ape and then apologize to save their job or with the Fort Lauderdale Police Officers that are supposed to serve and protect, but send racist texts and say that it was a joke. The quest to abolish the word should be with the people who seek to kill our Black boys and men (and girls) because of the color of their skin. The quest to abolish this word and its connotation should be with the many that still seek to oppress African Americans in jobs, housing, in education and in the judicial system.

I ask you, do you think that if the collective of African Americans ceased the use of this word, that racist White folk would stop using it as well? I think you know the answer.

If you differ with my opinion, get at me in the comments. I’d like to hear your thoughts. 


  1. Beth

    March 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I think one (of many) frustrating thing is that some racism (especially from the younger generation) seems less blinding hatred and more entitlement coupled with callous indifference. When you see someone spewing absolute hatred at someone (think Selma and the like), it is more likely that you are able to get the middle majority on board with eradicating that behavior. Good people can’t abide by other good people being beaten in the streets.

    However, I have found that when I argue about today’s more passive forms of racism it is harder to attract that middle majority audience. For instance, I can get my coworkers to agree to be against targeting beatings or absolute denial of someone’s rights. But getting them to see that the smaller stuff is damaging as well. Like asking a black woman IF she has graduated from college when you asked the white woman WHERE she went to college. That MATTERS. And it is even harder when people don’t even realize they are doing it.

    Thank you for writing posts like this to get me thinking about difficult things.

    • Pam Williams

      March 25, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      You have hit the nail on the head, Beth. People want to put racism in categories, like your example with asking each woman if vs. where she went to college. Racism IS. There is no categories to put them in. The problem I find with the SAE frat is that when singing the lyrics to that chant they didn’t just say the N-Word, they also said in the chant “you can HANG ’em from a tree…” Again that is old hate. That is the scary. These are the kids that will get drunk on a night and drag a Black man from the bumper of their pick up truck to his death or will go hunting for a Black person to kill because to them it is fun

      It is scary as hell that racism in this form takes me back to the times before Selma when people wore hoods. Now they wear ascots and bow ties and hide behind degrees.

      I thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Maybe if you keep educating your co-workers they will see that their little biases are still racism no matter how subtle or ambiguous.

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