Definition Of A ‘Nigga’

History Of Nigga 

Nigga is a modern day twist of the word ‘nigger’, which holds its origins in the African slave trade from the late 1600’s. Nigger is a contemptuous term used to refer to any member of dark skinned people, usually of African descent. It originates from the Spanish & Portuguese words ‘Niger’ & ‘Negro’ meaning black. It can also be spelled ‘niggah’ or ‘nigguh’ but the root and origins of the word remain the same.

It is considered the ultimate insult, so much so it has been applied to other races by compounding it with a different color. Yellow niggers for Asian and sand niggers for people of Arabic descent are common descriptions used today.

Historically, nigger has been used for hundreds of years to segregate black people from others. It was used in an attempt to dehumanize black people & try to keep them in a different social, economic and political class.

Examples would be white people reprimanding their children for poor behavior, oftentimes describing them as being ‘’worse than niggers’’. In extreme cases children would often be punished by making “sit with the niggers’’. It is worth noting that nigger has been an acceptable insult for a much greater time than it has been a taboo word. Although some people may forget, we are only 140 years removed from slavery and two generations from the horrid Jim Crow laws.

Reclaiming Nigga

It is thought that somewhere around the 1970’s people of African American ascendancy decided to reclaim the word and the birth of ‘nigga’ occurred. Originally it was used as a term of endearment “Yo nigga, what’s up?’’ strictly between black people. But it was quickly propelled into popular culture by the early comedy ramblings of both Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney with their ‘nigga please’ punctuation sketches.

Soon after, with the explosion of the rap and hip hop movements, artists such as N.W.A, Biggie and 2pac catapulted the use of ‘nigga’ to the masses. All races, all creeds, globally.

Although widely acknowledge only black people should use the term between themselves, the prevalence of the phrase in music, films and modern culture has stirred up quite a debate with many claiming it is now part of the everyday lexicon.

Among the black community the use of the term ‘nigga’ is divided. Many are aligned to the beliefs of the above artist, stating that black people using the word removes the venom. It takes the sting out of the word and honors our history and the people who died at its hands. It makes the word black. It makes it ours!

Others despise the use of the word. They argue it portrays racial double standards by saying only certain people are allowed say it and that it shows a lack of respect to our ancestors who died fighting to be addressed as equals. The sentiment of ‘’if you want to use the word nigga be ready to be treated like one’’ rings clear among this segment.

So while I’m reluctant to attempt and define exactly what a ‘nigga’ is, we can clearly see the roots of the word and its historical importance throughout the years of slavery, civil rights and into the modern day. Either way, whatever your view point is, whatever your annunciation. The word nigger is a living monument to atrocities that occurred and one we should never want to see eroded. .

As Lupe Fiasco cites in the chorus from the song ‘Audubon Ballroom’.

“Now White people, you can’t say nigga

Sorry gotta take it back

Now Black people, we’re not niggas

Cuz God made us better than that.”

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