Volume 80: Niggas and Chitlins…

Posted on 03/04/2014


What do these represent in Black History?

What do these represent in Black History?

Before reading this post I want to let you know that there is language contained that is atypical of my usual writing. Also, this post is intended for adults, or for teens capable of critical thought. My use of the word(s) are for the purpose of this post, and not a reflection of a shift in my musings. -Sillethoughts

With the NFL deciding to enforce a 15-yard penalty for use of the n-word, and a couple of days after 12 Years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture, I felt it was time for me to throw my three cents into the discussion that has ensued about the use of the n-word (aka, nigger or nigga). I will start by saying that I find it curious how “controversial” the word has become (and I contend the “controversy” is not for the reason most people believe). In my humble opinion, the use of the n-word is being debated because the previous owners are having a hard time letting go of their ability to use the word without repercussion. In layman’s terms, White America is saying to Black America, “If I can’t say it, you can’t either.” Take a minute if you want to let that sink into your spirit.

Ok. Are you ready? Good.

What I also found to be curious is the language we began using in the wake of President Obama being elected. Almost immediately the media suggested we entered a “post-racial” America, and his election was the ultimate representation of our triumph over ugly past transgressions. After all, the people elected an African-American president so that surely means we have moved beyond  race and began treating everyone as equals, right? In the words of Charlie Murphy, “Wrong! Wrong!” P-BO’s election made it convenient to attempt to look at America’s past through rose-colored lenses. Some parts of White America even pointed to his election as a way of saying, “You have a Black president, so now you have to let go of 400 years of slavery and racial oppression.” Really?

Breaking It Down…

My question is simply, “Why is there a push to eradicate the use of the n-word from Black vernacular by mainstream media?”

Think about it like this: Membership within a certain group (especially a minority group) allows for some intra-group norms that don’t necessarily translate to inter-group relations. Was that too academic? Let me put it this way. As a Black man, there’s some isht that I can say to another Black person without social repercussions, like….I don’t know, calling him “my nigga.” And yet, somehow the majority group feels some type of way about this (shout out to Rich Homie Quan).

I’ve seen homosexuals call each other “fag” and I didn’t feel the need to ask why I couldn’t use that term, or attempt to ban them from using it. I’ve seen women call each other “bitch” and knew that if that word came out of my mouth towards a woman, I’d better be ready to fight. Yes, there is a longer, more hateful and painful history with the word nigger; at the same time, it should be up to African-Americans to decide how, when, and why that word can be used. Ownership has officially been transferred to Black Americans, and I don’t think we are giving it back.

That brings me back to the question why? If I asked my mother, father, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., why becomes readily apparent. But, again, we are talking about intra-group relations. My question is why does White America seem overly concerned with our use of the word? I don’t see this same vitriol when the “redskin” debate comes up. It cannot be dismissed that, for the better part of five centuries, Whites have used the word nigger as a hammer to nail African Americans deeper into a second-class status. It was the representation of their fabricated superiority in just one word. We were niggers. And that meant we could only go so far, and achieve so much.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the playing field, while still tilted, has leveled significantly. The power once wielded by Whites with the n-word had been usurped. It has morphed from a epithet to a term of endearment. And, as previously mentioned, ownership has been irrevocably transferred. And yet, the power structure wants that particular word removed from everyone’s vocabulary, not just Whites. Again I ask, why?

Bringing It Home…

African-Americans have a rich history in this country. The richness comes from taking the scraps that were given to us and making something palatable out of it. Pork chitterlings, aka chitlins, are a classically grotesque example of this. Hog maws, chicken livers and gizzards, bread pudding, etc. are others. Hell, the term “nigger rigged” sprung from our ability to make something work without having all the parts and materials to get it done properly. What is so different about how we have transformed the n-word? Could it be psychologically healthy for us to take all the hate and racism loaded into that word and own it? I’ve never put a chitlin in my mouth but I know what they represent. They represent our ability to survive – even thrive – when the deck is stacked against us. Do I know the hurt associated with the n-word? Absolutely! I’ve even experienced the pain myself. Could our use be an expression of suppressed and internalized self-hatred? Possibly.  However, just like chitlins, I believe that I and my people, have earned the right to decide for ourselves whether or not that word will be used. And if we continue to use it, just make sure there’s plenty of hot sauce…

That’s just my three cents,


“Peep my ver-na-cular cuz I don’t know how to act…”