Eating the N-Word

24 Jan

“This n—-.”

“That n—-.”

 “My n—–.”

The notorious noun peppered the words of a group of Hispanic teens on the city bus. It’s a word I’ve heard countless times: from the rowdy kids on the corner, from my grandma as she dismissed a sketchy passerby, from a Black college president deriding the pettiness of naysayers. I’ve used the term myself from time to time, especially when referencing a certain ex.

In all honesty, Blacks in my generation have adopted the n-word like an ugly step-sister–someone we can tease, mock and deride all day long, but won’t dare let anyone else utter a word against. We dress her up, gave her a quick makeover by dropping the ‘er,’ adding an ‘a’ and supplanting the ‘g’s with ‘c’s’ and voila: She’s ours.

But never before had heard the term used so freely by someone who didn’t look like me to describe someone of another culture. It clearly didn’t hold the spite of yesteryear, when saying the word was like spitting bullets or jabbing fire-lit knives.
Could I truly get mad at the Latino teens for tossing the word about when so many others who look like me do the same?

My whole notion of term was placed under the microscope a couple of years ago, in China, of all places.

“We have a word in Mandarin that sounds like the n-word,” a Chinese-American friend abashedly warned me after we touched down in Beijing.

She explained that the word neige (neh-guh) in Mandarin was the equivalent of saying “ummm” in English. It was merely a filler word. A filler word that when said really quickly, as it often was, sounded a never-ending chorus of n——.

Some classmates gleefully seized the opportunity to finally utter the sound  in public.

The trip taught me a valuable lesson: A word and sound in and of itself has no value. We give them value through our associations, connotations and tones. N—- can refer to a friend or enemy, depending on the context.

Just don’t call me n—-.


8 Responses to “Eating the N-Word”

  1. Mao's Army January 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Hector Camacho, famous boxer using the n word, and trying to find when Jennifer Lopez got in trouble for saying the n word as well. Apparently it’s ok for inner city latinos to say it, why? not even the slightest clue.


    • lcooksmarketer1 January 24, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

      Great clip. Hadn’t heard about J-Lo or this guy dropping the n bomb but I’m not surprised. It’s such a staple in “inner city” language that most that come from such environments have the word in their vocabulary and are simply given a free pass.


  2. Jordan... January 25, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    So true…

    Sidenote: I was thinking the same thing in reference to how you ended it. 🙂


  3. Slava January 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Hey, LaShonda! The values of the words depend on the language, what people mean by saying that. There is a wikipedia article on N-word, in many languages N-word is not offensive, in some languages referring to people with African or Afro-American ancestry by saying “Black” or “Black people” is considered very offensive and racist.

    I have no idea why we are still worrying about races, skin color when we have much much bigger problems for the whole human society.


  4. RG.Love86 February 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    LOL @ ‘just dont call me a n—‘. Insightful!


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