The N-word (part 1)
Apr 25th, 2011 by Unamused
Today Unamusement Park begins an exploration of one of the most interesting words in the English language: “nigger.” As I mentioned in my open letter to race conscious black people,
[“nigger”] does seem to be a uniquely hurtful word. You [black people] should probably just get over it. I mean, you go around saying: “Here is a word you must not say, because it is so upsetting to us. If you said it, we would really be mad! So don’t say it unless you want to hurt our feelings.” You’re not just giving the (largely mythical) racists ammunition, you’re putting a loaded gun in their hands and showing them the best place to shoot you.
You shouldn’t worry about black people. They’ll be okay. White racists generally pose no threat to them, by virtue of being imaginary — a paranoid racial delusion. (Big Lie #2: Racism is everywhere.) The vanishingly small minority of real racists is the most reviled group of people in America, and the least influential in politics, culture and the media.
Even my benevolent brand of “racism” in the second sense — properly, white racial consciousness (WRC) — is “the one topic more outrageous than any other… so controversial that even a site replete with obscenities, graphic descriptions of sex, anti-feminism, game, and general anti-establishment ranting can’t handle it” (Dennis Mangan). (The site in question is In Mala Fide, to which I have contributed one post, which may have started all these WRC shenanigans.)
What makes “nigger” so interesting is that, decades after the extinction of the widespread white racism that weaponized it, the word — like a Cold War-era hydrogen bomb buried under the New Mexico desert — is just as lethally radioactive as ever.
So let’s dig it up and play with it!
Language is defined by usage
Consider an albatross.
A-L-B-A-T-R-O-S-S. The letters themselves and their arrangement tell us nothing about the referent. The word “albatross” is not, in any way, albatross-like.
It could be. It could be that the first A tells us the albatross is an animal; the L, that it is living, not extinct; the B, that it is a bird; and so on. Very logical — but that is not how English works. The only reason why “albatross” means albatross is that we (normal English-speaking people) agree that it does. If we all agreed that, beginning at midnight tonight, we would replace it by “zob” or some other random string of characters, that new word would serve just as well. It is not as if the albatrosses themselves would change.
In short, language is defined by usage.
“Nigger” as defined by usage
Today, among blacks, the word “nigger,” often rendered “nigga,” is almost exclusively used to mean a person (often a black person), in a neutral sense (as in: “where y’all niggas goin’?”) or a person (often a black person), in a positive sense (as in: “my nigga”).
Black people, and their non-black enforcers, do not allow non-black people to use “nigger” in this way, because many decades ago (around the time “computer” stopped meaning “person who computes”) the word was mostly used by non-black people to mean a black person, in a negative sense (as in: “I hate all the niggers and I wish they would just go back to Africa sometime very soon”).
In fact, blacks generally do not allow non-blacks to even mention the word “nigger,” for the same reason. For example, according to black blogger abagond*,
blacks do not like whites using the n-word. That alone should be reason enough for whites not to say the word. End of story.
But not the end of our story. “The N-Word” continues tomorrow.
* Yes, the same abagond who obliviously (I hope…) kicked off a pathetic attempt to discredit race realist science (by plagiarizing, selectively editing, and misquoting me) with a picture of four convicted black torture-rape-murderers.