If you’re not black and you sing the N-word in the club, you need to stop

‘A racial slur backed by a melody does not make it any less of a racial slur’


When I’m downstairs in Smack, and the clean version of ‘Gold Digger’ comes on and I see white and Asian faces around me shouting ‘nigga’ – when Kanye isn’t even saying it – I am truly shocked. The audacity is beyond me. I don’t understand how people throw this term around like history means nothing.

As a history student and a black person, I feel I have learnt an awful lot in the last couple of years which have led me to write an article like this. Let me teach you something I have learnt. Africans were not enslaved because they were black, but rather because they were the most profitable option for white European slaveowners. However, the transatlantic slave trade, and the system of white supremacy that continues to this day, was maintained by the belief that God made everyone equal except black people.

According to Edward Long’s ‘The History of Jamaica’, black people were nothing more than niggers: stupid, uncivilised and good for nothing in this world besides growing sugar or picking cotton, He argued that based on their physical and cultural differences from whites, we could conclude that black people were a different species from humans, closer to Orangutans than white men. It’s horrifying that racists try to use this argument in this day and age.

Today, we have forgotten history and pretend moral superiority over those awful dead white people of the past. Now, we put a fun spin on ‘nigger’, give it a slightly different pronunciation and spelling and open up the word to every race! Behind the guise of hip hop songs in the club and the now-defunct popularity of black stereotypes on Vine, we observe a culture of normalised racism justified by twisted reasoning.

Apparently non-black people say the N-word because black rappers say the N-word. But not all black people say the N-word. Because you are my friend and you are feeling a little confident one day, you might think we have finally gotten to a point where you can release your pent-up racism to tell me that I’m your nigga. I am not your nigga. Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar’s decision to describe themselves as ‘niggas’ is based on flawed reasoning that I wholly reject.

I have a major issue with black people limiting themselves to that kind of mindset, but that is not what this article is about. I am talking to the white and brown people I have observed time and time again using the N-word because now they think it’s okay. You do not understand the privilege you have to be able to disassociate ‘nigga’ from race.

To the boy who called his Asian friend a ‘nigga’ and then told me to chill when I called him out on it, you have never felt the sting of that word when it is intended to dehumanise a person. To the white flatmate who said to me ‘what’s up, my nigga?’ and tried to argue that ‘it is racist that only black people get to say it’, you have no idea how much your words hurt me that day.

I have every right to be offended by the N-word. It was conceived as and remains to be a racial slur. There is no difference between ‘nigga’ and ‘nigger’. Attempts to excuse one’s racism with an argument based on pronunciation is probably the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Nigga is a racist word which we have normalised. But consider this crazy idea: a racial slur is not ‘just a word’. It is not okay for you to say it just because you heard Migos say it. It is not okay for you to only say it when you are alone. You are choosing insensitivity if, after reading all this, you still choose to say it.

It has been such a struggle to say this. If you think I am hypersensitive, please consider the likelier possibility: that you are dangerously desensitised to everyday racism and actively participate in it. Just because a racial slur is backed by a melody does not make it any less of a racial slur.

Let’s challenge the logic of black rappers, please, whom you have accepted as authority on your moral decisions. ‘Nigga’ is not a joke and it does not mean ‘friend’. Stop thinking that slavery was so far in the past that “we have moved past that now.” Antiblackness is real. Next time you’re spitting the full chorus of ‘Bad and Boujee’, or greeting your friend as ‘my nigga’, think twice. You have no justification for using the N-word.