Is Nigga Socially Constructed as a Positive Meaningful Word?


Words are culturally constructed based on the meaning people give them. How does one define a word that was once negative into a new meaning? Nigga is now a word that is mentioned in popular media and among peers that are of the African American community.  Actor, Terrance Howard even advocated for the word to be used in the high rating, prime time Fox show, Empire. Although the word is dishonorable to use in a political or even professional setting, should the word be shunned upon when in a safe place around friends? Is the word ok for members outside of the black community to use?

In a post on facebook and instagram, the question was asked! Responses such as “It depends on how its being used”, “Nigga is a good word, not Nigger”, “It’s just a word”, and “If a white person can’t call you that, then it shouldn’t be said” were mentioned in the comment section.

Remember the  song “Realist Niggaz” by NWA and the latter version by  Notorious B.I.G with 50 Cent and Eminem that was featured on the classic hit movie “White Girls”? Well in case you didn’t know,there was huge controversy around the usage of the word,  in which  rapper 50 Cent was even questioned on if it was appropriate for Eminem to use the word “Nigga”. Rapper 50 cent proposed that “Nigger” and “Nigga” were two different words and it depends on the context of how the word is used.

The word Nigger was and still is a word used to make blacks feel inferior, less than, and oppressed. Nigger is associated with lynchings, racism, segregation, harassment, and hate.

In  a paper,   African American Language Use:Ideology and So Called Obscenity Likewise, Arthur K. Spears, mentions how the word nigga has many meanings and cannot be judged based on its dishonorable past

” ‘the use of nigga in an utterance does not necessarily mean that it is racist or reflective of self-hate. Terms such as these are used sometimes simply to refer individuals without any evaluative implications. Sometimes they are even used in positive evaluative contexts”

Spears also states ” It is also important to remember that racism, sexism, and other oppressive views can be communicated in utterances with no uncensored expressions”. In Spear’s explanation of how the word nigga is used not only among blacks but other cultures and sub cultures, he reveals how words are culturally constructed , “Language norms and interpretation are the subject matter of the broad sociocultural study of language referred to as the ethnography of communication.” It’s all about how someone interprets a word that may deem it as offensive or inappropriate.

In the article,” Nigga 21st Century Theoretical  Superhero,Mark Anthony Neal notes that there is a difference between the words “nigger” and “nigga.” He acknowledges the generational shifts in the usage of these two words  and how they are represented from the means of oppression in the usage of nigger  to  ‘a generational divide in blackness and a general crisis of black identity’ ” (Neal, 2013).

We are leaving the  answer  up for you to decide the appropriateness of the “N” WORD. Should we ban the N word or can we move forward to make it into a positive? Is the N word culturally constructed , what does the word mean to you and are you offended when other races use the language?


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