The N-Word: History’s Master of Illusion

“N*gger, please.”

Or is that…“N*gga, please”?

It depends on who’s saying it. It depends on the energy behind it. It depends on whether or not it ends with an ‘a’ or an ‘er.’ Blah, blah, blah.

Personally, I believe the debate over the N-word (originally Niger meaning Black in Portuguese) is too convoluted to even matter at this point. And yet, that little racially-charged, slang-infused, fear-mongering word, spelled from the same 26-letter alphabet as all other English words, has found its way back into the spotlight again.

Whether spewed with idiocy from a Seinfeld comedian’s mouth to a brown-faced heckler in the crowd, or now, from the jowl-framed lips of a butter-loving, biscuit-baking Southern belle, damn it, the word still has power.

Or does it?

Smoke-and-mirrors have always been the pervasive enemy of an uncomfortable truth. In a society caught up in the ravenous voyeurism of un-reality TV, swayed like blades of grass in the wind by the media’s spin on any given day, I say we (meaning all of us) have been hoodwinked again.

Case in point. Did you know that the racial complaints filed against Paula Deen and her brother came from a White female employee who managed their Georgia restaurants? She reportedly was so fed up with the maltreatment of her Black subordinates that she risked her own livelihood and reputation to stand up for them.

The casual way in which the media left out this major fact is as telling as a new school Paula Deen recipe – if you leave out the sugar, maybe they won’t notice the 10 sticks of butter. The truth is the N-word controversy just doesn’t sell as many papers if we all know a White, Southern woman made the stink.

The illusion of equality in America has actually led us (meaning Black folks) to believe that we can take a historically-hate filled word, claim it as our own in a fun “we have overcome” manner, and then tell others they better not even think about uttering it or we’ll cry foul.

N*ggas, please.

That would be like Trayvon Martin thinking the “creepy ass cracker” following him was a friendly, Boy Scout recruiter. Or, like the all-White female jury at his trial thinking Rachel Jeantel would make a good, door-to-door Mary Kay salesgirl. The illusion of equality isn’t illusion to many of us who live life on the inequality side of things.

Getting us all riled up over the N-word is a weakly-fashioned distraction from what’s readily apparent: that racism is at an all-time high, that our voting rights have been altered, that self-directed hatred continues to annihilate the Black male population within our cities, and that issues like gay rights have darted light years past Black progress via unity, legislation, and the mass media push.

Brothers and sisters, blow away the smoke and take a look in the mirror.

For nearly 25 years, the Queen of Mass Media, Oprah Winfrey, abhorred the thought of bringing a rapper onto her show because, more than anything, as a child of the Civil Rights era, she despised rap’s use of the N-word. And then, suddenly, she changed her tune.

Either Oprah has finally seen past the smoke-and-mirrors, or she’s simply vying to gain acceptance within our (meaning Hip-Hop’s) demographic for ratings and cool points. Either way, it was hella cool to see two, filthy rich N-words like Oprah and Jay-Z sipping quarter-waters in Marcy Projects.

Even CNN jumped into the fire this week with a special called “The N-Word.” While I knew it would be focused on things like slavery, syntax acceptability and Paula Deen, I was relieved to see it being covered by CNN, as they are generally more careful with Black issues. Levar Burton, who played the whip-lashed slave Toby from “Roots” in the ‘70s, conceded like most on the show that the N-word’s context is what matters most.

The thing is the illusion of equality has seemingly made some Black folks believe that we’ve already overcome. Just because they can’t unleash dogs and water-hoses on our kids anymore, or because we have a Black president, or Django was a swagged-out hero n*gga, or because advertisers are quick to yank endorsements away from misguided, mouthy millionaires like Paula Deen, doesn’t mean the race has been won.

What is true is that we (meaning Black folks) are in a world of sh*t far greater than a word that may or may not be acceptable – depending on your skin color, or your generation, or your ability to be perceived as ultra-cool by rappers (see also Gwyneth Paltrow).

We need unification. We need education. We need to restore our pride and dignity. And we need to face the truth and stop being hoodwinked so easily by the media meanderings of a power structure that finds us neither necessary nor capable of uplift.

Let’s face it, the truth stings – something like looking in a mirror and realizing that your ratchet, unenlightened ways might make you look like a bunch of n*ggers.

But change is a funny thing for us multi-layered and sometimes hypocritical Black folks. Take me, for instance. Even though the NAACP went so far as to funeralize it in 2007, I’ll likely keep using the N-word. To be honest, it has been and is still so much a part of my generation’s lexicon, that removing it might be as difficult as removing the kink from my hair or zapping these writing skills from my brain.

All smoke-and-mirrors cleared away, in the forward-thinking words of NWA, “I’ma be a n*gga for life.” (Chill. That’s N-word with an ‘a’.)

Guest contributor Seandra Sims is the former Editor of and a lifelong purveyor of all things Hip-Hop. Rant all you want to her on Twitter at @SeandraSims.

  • andone

    CNN is airing a special on this comin soon and thats probably why this thread is ft… deff gonna be tuning in to see wat their talkin about?

    • brotha_man

      hope its nothing like that “black in America” series.

      • andone

        havent seen that… but u cant bet ill be taking watever is presented on the program wit a grain of salt!

    • Steven Vann

      The realest discussions brought up on this CNN show were from LeVar Burton, who explained how he had to teach his kids how to keep their hands out of the car window when pulled over. And Tim Wise, who is a white man, but is a strong supporter of black rights and describer of White entitlement (read “White Like Me”) But in true CNN fashion, the black guy who proctored the show basically closed by discounting every argument made by learned people and said “the N word is bad, don’t say it”

      **Kanye Shrug**

  • DJ7

    They are testing the waters so to speak…they have been goosing us heavy since 00 b.u.t. no one’s taken the bait…be it the beltway boys… 911…Katrina…Haiti… total disrespect to the president of the United States during live telecast…terrorizing black & brown people in NYC with the stop & frisk quotas…passing the no sag law…Oscar Grant…Shawn Bell…Christopher Dorner being publically executed on LIVE TV during black history month (of all times)…Assati Shakur being placed on the FBI terrorist entertainers being shook down by the IRS…brotha Malcolm Shabazz execution….Paula Dean incident…all the way to the now infamous Travon Martin case…they see that we are dormant…conformists….passive..we let so much s*it go….how long before somebody with a real voice shake s*it up? Right now…they ain’t worried bout nuthin…they got us so consumed with bs that any real threat to their power structure will get discredited & neutralized without incident…beware…it’s only a matter of time before the sleeping giant awakens and all hell breaks loose…something as simple as a not guilty verdict could tip the scales…are you ready…what side are you gonna be on?

    *NOTE* their’s plenty that I didn’t mention b.u.t. I’m on a mobile device & cramped fingers tend to block my train of thought @ times b.u.t. you get the jist of what I’m saying…feel free to add on to whatever I may have missed

    • illynois95

      your stupid as hell. 9/11 and Katrina were carried out to embarrass the black community? Malcolm shabazz didn’t deserve execution?

      • DJ7

        Stupid? I went wayyyyyyyy over your head B….looking @ your post, you need to take several seats sir/ma’am!! Matter of fact, go stand in the corner & politely raise your hand when you’re ready to come out with some sense…….

      • illynois95

        actually you make good points about the community being passive, but its not just black people that are passive, and its not just black people who are being targeted negatively if that’s really what is going on, its the whole country. but the conspiracy theories are in poor taste and they create a victim playing card which is whats breeds the passive nature, as you call it, I call it an excuse.

      • DJ7

        Black folks ARE my only concern as of now sir….when WE get it together, maybe WE can talk about/to others b.u.t. I won’t put stock in it b/c HISTORY has already showed US what happens when WE do that

      • illynois95

        self accountability, my friend.

      • DJ7

        Take a long stare in the mirror and if you can live with the fact that YOUR savage ass ancestors brought us to this point due to jealously. ..envy….greed…not to mention the unthinkable atrocities & hardships you FORCED upon another human being… and the best you can do is offer advice….then you people haven’t changed & I’m not are who your ancestors are….let me give you some advice…stop trying to give black people advice…we were doing just fine for thousands of years creating what you never will be able to duplicate…I’m confident we will rise again without your help…as for the personal accountability cop out…it only applies when the playing field is even and we both know it never has been despite a few who slipped through the cracks…this conversation is need to continue son’n you

      • illynois95

        lmao need a tissue big guy? ok like I said let me know how that works for ya.

      • DJ7

        Same to you sir…good day now

      • illynois95

        but for the record, your saying that people don’t need to be accountable for themselves if they belong to a group that has more poor people than other groups? I guess theres no need to take your life into your own hands when your ancestors had a rough time. you can just use that as an excuse for why you don’t have it together right? yea, no you are the type of person that is holding your community back, with your “you’re white so you automatically love slavery” rhetoric, even when its irrelevant. I agree that the playing field is not even, i wish it were, and i think that adjusting government assistance laws to prevent people from getting comfortable on them would level it a little bit. but i guess the opinion is invalid because i look similar to people who weren’t very nice from over a century ago. i use the same language when dealing with white people i know who collect, and one told me it motivated them. you however just pull the slavery card and blame unfortunate events from past centuries for why your community hasn’t built itself.

      • DJ7

        I’m straight….save your speach for someone that hasn’t heard it before…if you are serious about what you say you’re out to do…good luck with all that…again…we are done here

      • What he means is, you need a level playing field, before applying level accountability. You can’t force ignorance on some one, then hold them accountable for not being better than the one you didn’t force ignorance on & actually provided the best education for.

      • This is true though, the country is a slave state, equal opportunity slaver.

        That is why you have to get permission to drive, like D’jango needed to ride a horse.

      • illynois95

        they don’t just need to know that your capable of operating the heavy machine that kills people if they get hit by it? well I guess I’ll take your word for it. also I saw the comment about Israel in my email but now I cant find it. that’s a whole nother issue but yea I agree we should cut them off, for several reasons. its coming out of our budget, which is in major deficit, and its contributing to war. im a pacifist, so I hate Israel.

      • I know dude’s who can drive their a$$e$ off, but their “PRIVILEGE” to drive has been suspended for child support, or as a penalty for a drug selling conviction.

        Still. there are many things that you can’t justify needing permission for, like to travel (Passport) , love ( Marriage ) , Eat (Hunt / Fish) and many others.

        Before the 14th amendment, only Blacks needed permission to do those type of basic things, now everyone, white, black, etc., needs PERMISSION.

        A free man doesn’t need permission.
        You are looking at the world upside down my friend, you have just simply adapted to it.

        Carry permit:
        Fill out paper, do a background check, pay a fee… does that make you safer handling a gat? What if they deny you the right to protect yourself & you get hurt as a crime victim….are you entitled to damages because they denied you the right to protect yourself and failed to protect you?

        The Pres said some funny ‘chet the other day, about how we are sending weapons to arm Al CIAda backed Syrian rebels to fight against a regime that doesn’t represent them, and that the American public doesn’t need weapons.


      • illynois95

        while I appreciate that you’ve put a lot of thought into this and think outside the box, I don’t agree with 90% of it. for instance its a major reach to say they are making you get permission to love someone by requiring you to jump thru a few hoops to get married status, as you can still do everything else you do when married before you’re married like live together, have kids, smash, etc. the reason people go the extra mile is because you get certain tax breaks when its on paper. I can break down most of your assertions like that but it would take a lot of time

      • >>Whistles while looking at watch and drawing line with shoe

        Feel free to when you have time, but think about the “Jumping The Broom” ceremony & compare it to post 14th amendment marriage permits.

        Study up first, or enter with an open mind.
        Either way, you will begin to accept the truth.

        Define a slave?
        One who works for free

        Now take the 25%? income tax rate & translate it into a year, and you will see that you are working 3months out of the year for free.

        Factor in the front end, debt laden, Federal Reserve’s interest, and you will see that your descendants will be working for free too.

        Debt = Slavery

        Especially when the debt is forced onto you.

      • DJ7


      • >>Faintly hears the “PEOUN” sound as @illynois95:disqus quickly leaves

        *Do you know how fast you have to be moving to make the “PEOUN” sound?

        Pretty darn fast!

    • Steven Vann

      While some of this has no bearing on the black community, one thing you stated does. Passivity. Its not by happenstance that the minority community, and quite honestly, Americans in general are passive. Controls and measures have always been in place to keep blacks and browns down, especially blacks. From slavery to Jim Crow to Crack. The powers that be just refine their game. Instead of pumping crack into the community (oh no, white people are gonna like that ish too), dumb them down. The family structure has already been broken down with millions of black men in prison, black women are stereotyped as angry, and now you’ll have a generation of feminized black men walking these United States. At the end of the day, the “N Word” is of little consequence to me. I laugh at white kids saying it to eachother, and a throat punch for anyone saying it to me as a way to inflict pain. Reality is, there are more pressing matters for us as a people. There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from.

      • DJ7

        All of it affects the Black community fam….all of it…I mentioned that I was on a mobile device when I was responding, thus the lack of fluidity in the post….go back & dissect what I actually said & let US know what part has no bearing on the black community…directly or indirectly….just b/c it didn’t happen to you or someone you know personally doesn’t necessarily mean you weren’t affected

      • Steven Vann

        Unless DARPA has finally perfected their weather control machines, I don’t think Katrina was an act of Government goosing us black folks. Most everything else I’m in line with sir. No knock on your post and no strife here. As far as what has and hasn’t affected me, you wouldn’t be in the position to define such. My only point is this, there is some real shit going on nowadays. I just wish our brothers and sisters would look past the bullshit of a word and focus on them. I’ve been to and live in foreign countries where open forums just like this are censored openly by the government. We aren’t too far away from that.
        But the BET awards were on so that takes precedent.

      • DJ7

        Fair enough…although I still stand by Katrina was no less than a big middle finger to blacks around the globe

      • Steven Vann

        In action, the hurricane itself was an act of God. The reaction to Katrina…I’m with you on that one.

      • DJ7

        Act of God….That’s debatable as well b.u.t. for the sake of argument…we’ll just agree to disagree

      • Steven Vann

        Once again, unless DARPA has that weather machine popping off, and by the looks of these tornadoes, forest fires and drought they just might, I don’t see man being responsible for a hurricane developing and taking down the gulf coast. As far as debating Act of God, there is no debate.

      • DJ7

        You need to check out my dude edogz818 school ’em saturdays archives…or put out the bat signal for him to appear to drop game…plenty of info about the H.A.A.R.P. along with other useful knowledge…. as for the act of god theory. must 1st subscribe to such a theory to debate it…fortunately I do not…good day to you sir

      • >>Sees the Bat Signal

        ( A PitBull) #IJS

      • Weaponized weather was used in Vietnam & to move the clouds so Paul McCartney could sing “Good Day Sunshine” to the Queen & seeded the clouds with dry ice in Russia to stave off the rain.

      • Nah, it was just another oil grab. By moving the shoreline in, so did the limit for off shore drilling. What was on shore & %97 La’s, is now offshore & only 3% La’s.

      • DJ7

        True dat b.u.t. in doing so they snubbed the F’ out of brothas & sistas….live… on national tel-a lie-vision & then played them for the land in the end…

      • True, but they been doing that since Day 1….literally.

      • Didn’t need Darpa or Haarp for Katrina if the levees were blown. Water travels the pth of least resistance, so how did the levee berak in 2 places?

        What were the results?

        New shoreline = New Offshore drilling rights / Royalties.

      • Meritorious Manumission*

  • illynois95

    you want black people to overcome, they should stop relying on welfare. I know that a vast majority of them do not, but if one should get political and speak out against dependency and endorse self accountability and responsibility, they get called an uncle tom. its this mindstate that is holding the black community back.
    also, the power of the n word is far too great at this point. I feel like if a black person killed a white persons family and the white person called them the n word, black people would be more angry with the white person.

    • brotha_man

      thats another topic and far too many elements involved to just say black people should get off welfare.
      2. stop generalizing !!!

      • illynois95

        the article calls for unity so the black community as a whole won’t be in turmoil and i’m making suggestions to accomplish that based on my observations.

      • DJ7

        step out your lil’ box…or return to your regularly scheduled white wing programming

      • illynois95

        what are you implying? that i’m a conservative?

      • DJ7

        Nope…just a white boy on the outside looking in with the same ol tired rhetoric

      • Count the white ones receiving the exact same benefits, or the politicians, or the WHITE countries like Israel.

        What’s your point? You want to cut all public assistance and use the money saved to provide Israel with 10 extra DAYS of financing, per year?

        Why not advocate ceasing aid to Israel & using it for Americans to eat instead?

        >>I’ll wait.

      • illynois95

        I advocate for white people to get off it too, and ending our bromance with Israel. my point is that black people can’t even say what im saying without being labeled a sellout, like people want their people to stay on welfare. I know there are more whites on it, but rarely in my experience have I seen them content to stay on it. im not racist, i think blacks have the same capabilities as any other race, but they’re selling themselves short

      • Blacks have been sold short.

        Advocate for REPARATIONS from the U.S. Corporation for it’s crimes against humanity committed during the creation of Blacks, so they can have their own & not cause any concern to American “Citizens” as a whole.

        Like the Pharaoh in Egypt, he’d rather see his former slaves dead than free.

      • illynois95

        not denying that they have been giving a shitty hand, but some have overcame, and I have faith that more of them could if they tried, and using the shitty hand excuse just gives them a reason not to put effort into their lives. my proof of this is the fact that the community is still in shambles, and it doesn’t have to be.

      • This is so true, it sounds like Gospel, the key is WHY & How it got to be that way, and after understanding that, then implementing the needed changes to improve the conditions.

        The U.S. Corporation owes a great deal to the Blacks, Britain too, but they doing them over there, but there are ongoing situations that need to be addressed.

        You can’t teach a dog to be a cat & then hold the dog accountable for not acting like the perfect cat. #IJS

        We are building over on the Trayvon / Smoking Gun thread, feel free to chime on in over there too.

        That ‘chet getting heated with the legal debate.

    • Steven Vann

      Most people on and abusing welfare are white or hispanic.

    • DJ7

      you sir / ma’am are an uncle tom or white faking to be other than…you make the choice

      • illynois95

        im very white. never pretended to be anything other than that. and happen to be liberal on most issues, with government assistance not being one of them, having seen many people exploit it and not move up in the world at all. the only reason I singled out the black community is because I feel strongly about it, and it angers me that if a black person should happen to side with anyone right wing, that they get called not real black people. I singled you out because you were spewing illuminati-esque nonsense. which I feel gets used as an excuse by poor people as to why they haven’t been able to get out of whatever situation they are in.

      • DJ7

        It was obvious. me at least…that you were white & your opinions hold very little weight, if any at all, when it comes to black problems…People like you or look like you are the cause of majority of our ills & now you wanna kick knowledge? Hmmm…illuminati esque nonsense? Is that what it’s called in your circle nowadays? You sir, need to take that same advice that you’re spewing on a predominantly black hip hop site to your white breathrens site and get your own people straight as we got this and could care less what you think we as a ppl need to do….the nerve…good day sir

      • illynois95

        lol ok let us know how your remedies work out for you and “your” people, and i’ll let you know how the ones im endorsing are working for mine. peace

      • DJ7

        good luck with that

      • Uncle Tom was a stand up dude, actually a HERO, the real Tom in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was actually Sambo.

  • Freezamon

    Black Folks have lost their true culture, by that I mean our Tribe or Village mentality. Each one teach one, guide the youth mentality. We are the most hated and for what? our in fact we are hated because we have a soul and we are most close to the creator than any other race on this planet…We can create something from nothing while others have stollen much from Us “niggers”.

    • TheAncientObserver

      I like the way you think bruh. Everything you said is real.

  • Reblogged this on City Press.

  • black people flip the word and made it so cool even non racist white people wanna participate and call themselves a nigga thats black power

    • brotha_man

      Naw homie, thats reverse psychology!!!

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  • dexter

    * no comment*

  • obamasuxass

    All i wanna know is how come white folk dont call each other honkeys? Somebody pro need to do an article on that cuz the N word always getting discussed and goes round in circles!

    • John Blaze

      Come Down South…..These “Good Ol’ Country Boys” Out Here Are Proud To Be Known As Honkeys Or Rednecks……When Referred As Such By Other Whites Of Course…..

    • brotha_man

      they threw the bait and we took it.

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  • RichFromBX

    yep, it’s articles like this that keep the people at each other’s throats while each and everyday the government passes more sh!t to take away rights and keeping them drones monitoring US citizens…

    funny how the supreme court’s bastardizing of the 5th amendment and in some regards the ‘right to remain silent’ gets no media attention whatsoever but the fact that a white women in her 60s from the south used the word n!gger when describing someone who robbed a bank during her shift when she was working there.

    answer me this…what do you think is going to be hurtful to black people in 5 years:
    1 – Paula Deen’s use of n!gger 30 years ago

    2 – how the police will use the supreme court’s ruling to lock up more black people.

    keep focused on the important topics…keep letting something as trivial as the distinction between “n!gger” and “n!gga”. this is one topic that has everyone arguing with everyone and well distracted…

  • grftswf

    were coming.

  • Draco Himself

    goes back Further than portugese.
    ‘Nga’ is the Original term that whites couldnt pronounce properly so they edited it to their dialect, Also the Meaning as well…

  • lonnie keys

    UMMM SO ELOQUENTLY PLACED …. the n word is so feared but yet embraced by blacks .. it can be used as a passionate word between two black men who love each other ever heard a black man say to another black man I LOVE YOU NI…GER .. OR YOUR MY NI…GER FOR REAL…. I MEAN the word to todays kids dont mean nothing…. cause they heard the new generatin and the old blacks say it with passion so the sting it out … but when a white person say it … WE REMEMBER EVERY HATEFUL THING THAT COME FROM IT WE HEAR THE MASTER ON THE PLANTATION WHIPPIN THE YOUNG MEN.. AND SEXING THE YOUNG WOMEN CALL THEM NI***ger while rapping them … i mean then we see the men hanging from trees in the south …. and that is proof we all know the disgrace of the word but uneducated generations have watered it down and mysteriously choose it to repeat today … and it just means trouble so why dont we all just drop it …. no we want … as long as OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT EDUCATED ABOUT THE WORD MORE GENERATIONS WILL USE IT ..AND PLAY WITH IT …AND EMBRACE IT AND FEAR IT … WHITES WILL ALWAYS FEAR IT …AND NOW THAT PAULA DEENS BEEN OUTTED …I GUARANTEE YOU SKIN HEADS AND JUST PLAN BLACK HATERS WILL NOT BE USING THAT WORD TO LOOSILY… people have been killed for calleing people the n word … so you figure it out………. i love to see whites afraid of the word not my fault they havent studied the word …and how it was used the way hitler used gas chambers ….. to kill massive …. ok white men bought us her and used all kinds of deploring crime and words to destroy us … nOW WE RISE ABOVE …SO LETS NOT LET THAT WORD MEAN NOTHING TO US ..IF WE JUST GOTTA US IT …

  • Sparky Flinstone

    Well written editorial Seandra I love this part the most “Smoke-and-mirrors have always been the pervasive enemy of an uncomfortable truth. In a society caught up in the ravenous voyeurism of un-reality TV, swayed like blades of grass in the wind by the media’s spin on any given day, I say we (meaning all of us) have been hoodwinked again.”

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