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N Word


Submitted By pbedford
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The “N-Word”
The use of the “n-word” in hip-hop culture and among the Black community has continually caused turmoil between groups who believe that is a form of liberation and those who believe that it is continuing the oppression that the minority is already faced with. In history, there have been many groups of people who have been discriminated against, and labeled with a derogatory term by a higher power. Any group of individuals around the world has been represented by terms such as these. What many fail to recognize is that these terms are only words, and only carry weight and charge because as a society we allow them to. The appropriation of the “n-word” within the hip-hop and black community has lessened the charged of the word while allowing the community, whether an individual agrees to use it or not, to acknowledge the history of the word and still live outside of its shadow in the present.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word “nigger: is defined as “a black person,” and “members of any dark-skinned race” (Himma 512). Obviously, this definition seems oppressive as it is a racial slur toward a particular race, and has come under much controversy for not being changed. The NAACP has even suggested that it be redefined, but to no avail. The dictionary makes similar attacks toward gay men, defining them as “faggots” (Himma 512). The debate for that and other slurs that appear in this dictionary are all the same, and will bring up more controversy within other literary works when individuals believe that these words can be interchangeably used with other when they can’t or shouldn’t be. One of the easiest examples of this can be with other offensive terms such as “fuck” that has become a definition of “making love.” Although the terms both explain an act of sexual relation, one cannot be substituted for the other because of the explicit connotation of the first (Himma 516). Still, offensive and inappropriate, these racial and sexual slurs have been allowed in the dictionary without any background knowledge of the subject matter. When dealing with any of these terms it is important to fully understand the context in which it is being used, and where the word came from.
The history of the n-word encompasses so much more than the dictionary outlines in its short definition. The word nigger symbolizes an era of servitude by people plagued with hate on the basis of their skin color alone. It was originally derived from the Latin word for the color black, niger. It was also suggested that some European slave traders called the cargo niggers because they were shipped from Niger and Nigeria. Either way, the term held no hard connotation at the beginning of its use. Eventually, it was a widespread term used to acknowledge all slaves by their master and slave traders.

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