Updated: Jun 5, 2020
PSA: It’s never okay for you to say n***a.
I don’t care how “down with the people” you are or how many rap lyrics you know. Hell, I don’t care if you, a white person, know the African American culture better than me! No matter how tight you think you are with black folks and our culture, the "N" word should never be said!
For whatever reason, I thought all decent WHITE people would agree with my statement above. Apparently, I thought wrong. Thanks to a karaoke party, I learned that some white people “don’t care” if they say n***a in a room full of black people.
Let me explain what happened:
In July 2016, I attended a karaoke birthday party in Dallas. In attendance, there were twenty black people and two white people. The two white people, one male and one female, are very close friends of mine. In fact, the female friend was my best friend for 23 years or so.
Just so we are clear, I attended a birthday party in which the majority was BLACK with my WHITE best friends.
At this karaoke party, my female white friend really wanted to perform the rap song “Panda” by Desiigner. Now, I knew the girl memorized all the lyrics. I just didn’t know why she desperately wanted to perform THAT song in a room full of black people.
If you are not familiar with the lyrics there is a part in the chorus that says:
The choppa go Oscar for Grammy
Bitch N**ga pull up ya panty
Hope you killas understand me
When she named her song choice to me, she proceeded to get up on stage and “rap” the song. Once she rapped her way to the chorus, I thought to myself, “I KNOW she is not going to say n***a, right? Like… she shouldn’t. It’s socially unacceptable.” But lo and behold, she rapped “bitch n***a pull up your panty.”
My friend did not bleep it out, hum it through, skip over it nor act like she was embarrassed to say that verse. In fact, she was PROUD! She shook her hips and bobbed her head like it was cool. To make matters worse, that verse is repeated “multiple” times throughout the song. This means that my friend boldly said n***a numerous times.
I was disturbed to be associated with someone who so freely allowed n***a to pass through their lips like it’s nothing. After the song was over, I tried to shake off the incident and remind myself that is just karaoke. It’s all fun and games. Right???
After the party was over, however, I quickly learn that it was not all fun and games.
While my two white friends and I were riding back home, my male friend said, “I was nervous about you rapping that song because you know*...”
*He was alluding to the fact that she rapped the word n***a.
My female friend said, “Yeah, but I don’t care.”
Now, I am in the back seat listening to this conversation play out. I was just sitting there thinking to myself, “What?! You don’t care?! Are you serious? How could you not be concern about saying the word n***a in front of me, your best friend, and with an audience of twenty other African Americans?”
I wanted to say something right then and there! I wanted to address the problem in my friend’s thought process but I froze. As mad as I was at that moment, I failed to confront my white friend. I failed to tell her that she “should” care. I failed to tell her while the rap song “Panda” gave n***a mainstream credibility, the word is not a term of endearment but a word deeply rooted in racism. I failed to tell her that she should never say that word in any context. I failed to tell her that I was offended and wanted more respect for myself, her BLACK friend, and for black people everywhere.
I think about this party and my friend’s words weekly. The incident haunts me because of my silence and my failure to speak up. I believe that it is my responsibility to reject any history of America that perpetuates the values and beliefs of racism. Part of that rejection includes rejecting a derogatory term that is meant to demean my people.
In my entire 23 years of living, I may have said the word five times while singing a song or quoting a comedian. Every day, however, I make a conscious effort of not letting n***a slip from my lips because I am black. How can I expect others to not say it if I say it myself?
Whether you are singing a song or talking to others, n***a is a word that should be omitted from your vocabulary. Similar to how we have come to omit words like faggot and wetback from our vernacular. These words are not slang…they are not acceptable. They are hurtful words that reflect hatred towards minorities. They imply a lower level of humanness that is sub-par to whiteness.
I don’t believe my white friend to be racist. She is actually really sweet and loyal. I just think that she is socially and politically ignorant of the context that surrounds the word n***a. I wish I can go back in time and tell her why she should stop saying n***a (even when singing). I wish I could tell her that she is subconsciously feeding a narrative that suppresses Black people.
Question: What are your thoughts? Do you get upset when you hear people, of any race, use prejudicial terms?
If you found this post interesting please comment. I want to hear your thoughts.
I wrote this post in 2016 and was trying to hold on to a friendship that I thought was real. When I said, “I don’t believe my white friend to be racist. She is actually really sweet and loyal. I just think that she is socially and politically ignorant of the context that surrounds the word n***a.” That was a lie. I was full of sh*t, to be honest.
At the time, I was still friends with her so my wording reflects that..... I was trying to hold on to the person I thought I knew. I wanted to think highly of her and ignore her dumb comment. I tried to be okay with her not caring and I could not do it. As of 2019, I ended the relationship with this "friend" and that is okay. Sad but okay.
A different friend helped me see that you can have heartfelt intentions with racist consequences. Ignorance is not a pass on or an excuse for someone being racist or "not caring."
The more I think about it the more messed up our friendship really was back then. Friendship allows you to sweep situations under the rug. I made excuses for my friend when she made fun of me for being an overweight teen (I especially remember this because I wrote it down in my pubescent diary). I told her my health goals and in response, she pinched my arm fat and said, "Oh please, you will never be a size 10." I made excuses for my friend when she talked about me behind my back. I made excuses for my friend when she treated me like I was beneath her. In hindsight, she was not a friend at all. I can't believe it took me so long to realize the prejudice layered within our "friendship."
After I cut ties with my friend, I never told her about my feelings about her using the N-word. I’m sure the social dynamics affected me and my perception of her. Think about it. I’m black and she is white. Me trying to tell her what is not okay to do probably paralyzed me on a mental level. I was never afraid of her, per se. However, social and political perceptions shape the way you think. So I started to wonder, "am I being “aggressive” or “sensitive?”
In the wake of George Floyd's death, I will not tolerate friends who don't act like friends. If you refuse to see my pain and treat me as an equal...then I will remove you from my life. Period.
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Until Next Time.