So the “N” Word Does Have Power – To End a Career

Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood

by Reggie Fullwood

I am as guilty as any other Generation X black male – I grew using the word “Nigga” or the “N” word as a term of endearment of sorts. No big deal in my hood or amongst my boys. It was used on a fairly regular basis and still is in most African American communities around the country.

It’s a double standard that some don’t understand. Surprisingly though, it’s a double standard that is acceptedby most. What I mean is – blacks can use it, but whites and other non-blacks can’t without it having a negative connotation.

The N word as a derogatory, anti-black adjective is simply not acceptable for everyday use, especially not in public spaces.

However, the word is used so much in Hip Hop music that it’s hard not to repeat it when signing along to your favorite rap song. I often wonder how my white friends who love hard core rap deal with the word. Well, let’s keep it real – of course they use the word during rap alongs as they ride in their cars playing the new Kendrick Lamar album.

So what’s the point? The point is that the use of the “N” word is complicated. So when a Cuban Republican State Senator uses the word – especially in a public setting, it considered to be politically incorrect.

It also doesn’t help when the same Senator uses the word “bitch” to describe a female African American Senator – major no no! That is extremely disrespectful.

And since I am being Capt. Obvious right now, it also doesn’t help when all of this happens in a crowded room full of lobbyists. It’s one thing to do it in private when it’s my word against yours, but when there are witnesses and colleagues around to corroborate the use of two very offensive words – not good for the user.

Last week, South Florida Senator Frank Artiles did all of the above and essentially violated several written and unwritten rules of politics and life in general.

First, as a politician do not get drunk or as the young folks say, get wasted in public. Second, don’t get drunk in public. Third, words have meaning, and despite the fact that he didn’t call Senator Audrey Gibson from Jacksonville the N word, he still used it inappropriately in a public setting.

He basically said that some of his Republican colleagues were acting like “Niggas” with an “as” on the end, not to be confused with the much more scornful and depreciatory term, “Nigger.”

Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Is there a real difference?

Facing expulsion from the Florida Senate, Artiles decided to resign last week. See, Frank the Tank isn’t new to uncomfortable situations while being elected. The freshman Senator had been in the Florida House for six years and had been involved in several controversial incidents involving parties and bars.

But the Artiles situation does rehash an ongoing argument in the black community. Should anyone be using the N word? Some would argue that by using it in a casual manner, especially amongst African Americans, it removes any power the word may have had in the past.

The other side of the coin is quite obvious – many older African Americans, black professionals and intellectuals find the word offensive regardless of who is using it and feel that those who use it casually should stop.

Why the double standard? Like I keep saying – it’s kind of complicated.

Because of slavery, segregation and racism, the word was always used by whites to remind African Americans of their place as the lesser species. Even today, it is still an indicator that white and non-black people feel that black lives are inferior and worthless.

Some feel that blacks should be able to use the N word without any questions or challenge. Think about it this way – the women’s rights or feminist movement took the word bitch and used it in a positive way. It’s possible to take negative words and embrace them to make a point.

It is interesting what you find when you look up the N word in the dictionary. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines n***er as an offensive noun, a contemptuous term for a black or dark-skinned person.

Of course, the dictionary gives a some examples of how the word is used, and it goes on to explain that the word was used as an adjective denoting a black person as early as the 17th century and has long had strong offensive connotations.

Here is a question to ponder for those non-blacks who think that African Americans are too easily offended by the word. Is there a more racially offensive word in the English language? I think not!

And as African Americans should we not have the final say? If some decide to use it, so be it right?

Like I said earlier, the “N” word is a complicated issue. “Sometimes I feel like rap music is almost the key to stopping racism,” said Eminem. While I don’t totally agree, I do think that music helps – so does respecting other races and cultures and embracing the diversity that makes America great.

Signing off from Tallahassee,

Reggie Fullwood



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