My Theory on the Power & Race Relations in Society of ‘My Nigga’


Historically, the Nigger has been prototyped as an ignorant and repulsive creature inferring sub-human qualities. This term used since the 16th century to refer to people of dark-skin was inherently neutral as the original meaning was only a variation of Niger, Negro and Negre, Latin, Spanish and French words for dark skinned, sub-Saharan African people.
Between the 19th and 20th century the term became used as a pejorative by southern white supremacist who wished to degrade “colored” or “black” people; because this term was considered more offensive than “colored”.  Currently the definition of Nigger by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary and by most of American society stands as a degrading term for black people, or any dark-skinned person.

Consistent with history most African-Americans have actively or inactively accepted the terms used to define them by white America and begin to reluctantly refer to one another by those terms; Slave, Free,  Negro, Colored. Now this pattern of reluctance changed during the 1960-1970’s with the emergence of the Black Power Movement. Not only was this movement centered on community empowerment, self-love, accurate historic education and interdependence, a small neglected piece of the equation centered on the possession and control of the definitions, more specifically the term Black.

Very loosely in history has black ever been used to define something in a positive light. Yet during this time Black Americans were taking control of the terms used to define them. We not only controlled black we controlled its definition. The sting of being called black was of no affect to that generation. Black was now our word, we were now proud to be black because black encompassed our skin color, history and culture.
Little emphasis needs to be paid to the actual term used or how it came about but the emphasis I care most about is the power and control of definitions. No longer were Blacks accepting the standard definitions force fed to us, no longer were we reluctant to define our own words and give our culture its own meaning. During this time and continuing to now there has been a constant power struggle between black America and the entire American society at large.

More apparent than ever the usage of the word ‘Nigga’ continues this modern day power struggle. However, this word is extremely negative in modern context and is a word that contains a lot of vitriol when used outside of a certain context. This time in the power struggle we have one upped our predecessors. We have adopted a once pejorative term and have erased any prior standard definition and controlled the definition, the usage and who can use the word in the sense that we use the word. Less important is the word/term used; more important is the amount of control, influence and power possessed.

The amount of power and control centered on something as simple as a word immensely frustrates white American society. They cannot stand the fact that black people can refer to one another, often times, peacefully with endearment and love and they aren’t able to do so. Any lack of control albeit definitions, economic or political is threatening to the status-quo. Openly many blacks have been asked either in classroom discussions by professors, friends or randomly by white persons, “why can only black people use nigga” “Why can’t white people use it in the way you guys use it” “How can you call each other a word that means, blah blah blah…” “How can you have a monopoly on a word, that’s just stupid?”

These questions used to upset me because I never understood why white people would want to use a word that has nothing to do with them. Why would they want entrance into this exclusive fraternity of niggadom. Times have changed now when the question is poised all I do is smile and there are several reasons why we all should.

I now understand the displacement of many everyday white American’s from the larger society. There’s an apparent disconnect by many citizens regardless of race to the larger society. However, this displacement is different for white Americans because they view; consciously or unconsciously, this society as theirs. This displacement lends to the begging of the said questions about usage of the word Nigga.

Not only is this double frustrating; for a portion of white America, that they don’t feel connected to the larger society but they also cannot join amongst the ranks of people who are considered by society to be the lowest on the totem pole. Thee exclusivity kills them.

Now I don’t believe it has anything to do with the usage of the actual word; like I said before the word doesn’t matter. It instead is the bond and brotherhood/sisterhood that is possessed by that word and the control by people that use it. There is an envious element involved; as in white America there is little ‘natural’ brotherhood/sisterhood bonding amongst everyday people outside of organizations and teams. If you juxtapose that with all other minority groups who have an “eye contact bond” in America many everyday whites feel left out.

I call this the Minority Envy Complex, (A whole other blog post). There is a desire to a have a natural bond with someone without any preconceivements (yes, a new word). I don’t believe white people care to use the word I simply believe they wish to tap into the love and kinship associated with the people and usage of the word. I have a hard time thinking of a list of words white people use for one another as a term of endearment with a complete stranger. I have never heard brother, cuz, fam, bro, sis, jo, frat or sor, or anything similar even though they have a desire for bonding.
Wrapping Up:

I find there to be a calm beauty in the endearment we possess. The affirmation of a new definition for the word Nigga is “freeing”. Freeing because it is a step forward in self-definition and self-empowerment; now the word itself can be substituted but the power and courage a people must have to literally take from the mouths/vocabulary of main-stream white America a word used primarily to degrade and mar the image and life of a black people and to turn it into a quasi-synonym for; man or brother is revolutionary. The essence of that ability to reject a definition that has for decades been set in stone and to use it openly is a clear middle finger to the establishment and powers that be. This essence MUST be captured and duplicated organically across areas more important to everyday lives of black Americans such as; economics, beauty, self-esteem, success and self-love. The unequivocal defiance of outside definitions, the courage to challenge the status quo and the audacity to REDEFINE is a necessary step forward, albeit a small step is a step nonetheless in the redefinition of what it means to be black in America.
(This blog was created for the purpose of dialogue and creating a starting point for conversation.) I do hold to what I said but it was said with purpose. There was one last dot I forgot to write and connect in this idea but I forgot it and if it comes to me I will add it later. Enjoy!!! @Be4Long aka Private Theory
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