To begin with I can guarantee that some folk are going to get choked reading this. I make no apologies since that reaction is pretty much exactly what this essay is about. That being said, here goes.
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If you mean to say "nigger" don't use "the 'N' word", just say nigger. That's the gist of the thesis, which I'm about to argue. How's that for a punchy/provocative start eh?
The first thing that you have to accept is that words do not, in and of themselves, exist. They exist only because we utilize them and their meaning is independent of the sound. If the first caveman that came across a canine had grunted, "cat" rather than "dog" then cats would bark and God knows what dogs would do.
If you can accept that then it follows that no word can be inherently good or bad. A word is just an audible signal of intent. If your intention is bad then the word is bad, if your intention is good then the word is good. Stub your toe and say, "glass". You will know that you meant "shit" and so will everyone around you. Nothing will have changed in the message sent other than the sound. Different wrapping on the same box.
Hopefully you are with me so far and can see that the next truth is that words only have what power we give to them by mutual accord. The quickest way to confer added power to anything is to outlaw it or render it taboo. This is as true of words as it of anything else. This brings us around to nigger.
Taking this epithet and referring to it by its initial makes clear that this word has power, so much so that we dare not speak the whole word. There are only two words that are known by their first letter and you can see how effect abbreviation is by the example of the first - fuck.
Experience shows that "the 'F' word" failed in its attempt to eliminate the word from the lips of the people. This does not bode well for the elimination of nigger from our lexicon by substitution of "the 'N' word". I only threw this in to anticipate those people who were thinking, "but if we say 'N' word then people will stop saying nigger".
Now onto the big one - the racial factor. Saying nigger must mean that you are racist because it is a racist word. As I already pointed out, a word can't have a character. Only the speaker can be racist the word it itself - as a sound - can no more be racist than the ringing of a bell or the breaking of glass.
If you are a racist then what you say will be racist. If you are not so handicapped then what you say won't be either. I offer this example.
"It's those God-damned niggers"
"It's those God-damned African Americans"
"It's those God-damned 'N' words"
Is there any real difference between the three? All of them are certainly ugly regardless which term is used. Ugly sounds as ugly is and no vocal cosmetic can hide the deformity of thought.
"I've never had a problem with a nigger"
"I've never had a problem with an African American"
"I've never had a problem with an 'N' word".
The cynics out there are saying, "Each of those statements has a forthcoming, "but". This is an all too, sadly, true observation, but I want you to assume that the speaker is expressing a sincere indifference race. Are any of them worse than the others? Phrased another way, would you rather be rescued by a person who calls you nigger or lynched by a person who calls you African American? The "you" I just referred to is the collective and hypothetical "you" - it is NOT directed specifically to people of the more melanin profuse people. Just had to clear that up.
Now for the capitulation, I don't say the word nigger more than two or three times a year. I wasn't brought up with that term I was brought up with "black" and that is the word that I use.
I'm certain that some people are offended by that one too but that means no more to me than white does. People are people and no matter what colour you are most of you suck - skin tone is no more than house paint. Notice how I just defended my moral position on race? Pretty nifty huh?
The truth is that I don't like the word's aesthetic so I seldom employ it. If I found the word appealing I'd use it without apology. So nope, this isn't an attempt on my part to argue in favour of a word I want to be able to use. It is an argument against this surrender to the tyranny of our creations.
"The 'N' word" is so hideous genteel that it serves to lend power to the word and at the same time kind of suggests denial along the lines of "me thinks the lady protests too much". Furthermore, it sounds stupid.
So to wrap up on the side of the 'N' word we have ridding us of a blight and racial sensitivity. Pretty potent combination.
On the side of nigger we have the proven durability of repressed words and the assertion that it is the intent that is important and a "polite" term is often a perfumed dagger. These latter skillfully shown by yours truly.
IF this gets printed - though disappointed, I'd understand if it was rejected - I'm looking forward to all of your thoughts.
But would I be a good Messiah with my low self-esteem? / If I don't believe in myself would that be blasphemy? - The Bloodhound Gang Hell Yeah