I bet you’re wondering where I’m going to go with this.
Well allow me to explain. I have a love of the English language and I am also quite proud of my command of it. I have a very good vocabulary and can use words to great effect.
However, in spite of my love of my mother tongue, there are a number of words that I despise and feel have reached their ‘sell by’ date. Words such as:
Wop, Dago, Spic, Coon, Kike, Cracker, Polack, Honkie, Abo, Paki, Redskin, Towel head, Nig nog, and the all-time number one emotive word of choice, Nigger.
Yeah! I said it!
All of these words are offensive to a greater or lesser degree and I feel that none of them (as well as other racial epithets) have any place in the modern vocabulary.
Lets be honest, language is fluid, it changes over time and many new words come into play just as others fall by the wayside. After all, when was the last time you called anyone a Jackanape or a Curmudgeon? I’m willing to bet at least 50p that it wasn’t recently!
Although the list above is far from exhaustive, I am going to concentrate on ‘Nigger’ for this post, simply because I was recently in a twitter discussion about it.
I stated my position that although the words originally simply referred to a particular shade of brown, it had over time been bastardised to denigrate an entire race of people. I’ll be honest, the debate did become quite heated and due to the emotive nature of the word, it was difficult to keep the discussion going without ruffling feathers on both sides.
At one point, I was told that my opinion that it should be allowed to die from the language was just another case of the White Man telling the Black Man how to behave. Which was never my intent. I merely stand by my assertion that my opinion is in no way negated due to the colour of my skin and all I was doing was stating my opinion.
The problem as I see it is that it is used by no-neck thugs and racists to refer to black people, which in the UK is illegal. However, some black people also use it in conversation with each other.
And therein lies the problem.
If black people continue to refer to each other as Nigger, it continues to legitimise the word, in fact it could be argued that black people who use it, want to identify with it and all the negative connotations that go with it.
Like I said earlier, the word Nigger originally just meant a particular shade of brown. But having investigated further I discovered that although this is true, it does actually originate during the slave trade and was purely to describe the skin tone of African slaves to differentiate them from other skin tones, such as Mulatto, which is the lighter skin tones of biracial slaves (usually the product of rape by white slave owners).
In slave trade terms, all niggers are black, not all blacks are niggers.
So, we’ve established it is an offensive term (no shit Sherlock!) and we’ve also established that it’s relevance is 300 years out of date, and we’ve established that most of the time, it is misused anyway!
Isn’t it time we consigned nigger and all the other racially pejorative terms to the dustbin?
Surely, we have grown beyond these words by now.
After all, Richard Pryor, a comedian renowned for his use of the word in his routines, who even used it in one of his album titles, once had this to say in an interview in 1980:
“Well, I took a trip to Africa – which, by the way, is where I plan to live some day. I went to Kenya, and while I was there something inside of me said, “Look around you, Richard. What do you see? I saw people. African people. I saw people from other countries, too, and they were all kinds of colours, but I didn’t see any niggers. I didn’t see any there because There are no niggers in Africa. Can you imagine going out into the bush and walking up to a Masai and saying, ‘Hey nigger. Come here!?’ You couldn’t do that because Masai are not niggers. There are no niggers in Africa, and there are no niggers here in America either. We Black people are not niggers, and I will forever refuse to be one. I’m free of that, it’s out of my head. My mother is not a nigger. Is yours one? So if your mama ain’t no nigger, how could you be one? See, when I went to Africa, to my Motherland, I realized that terms like nigger and the word bitch that so many Black men call our women are tricks, like genocide on the brain.”
I’m with Richard on this one.