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Use of "nigger" in "meanings of a Word"

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Meanings of a Word Essay

Although many African Americans support the use of the word “nigger” in certain circumstances, the mass majority of African Americans who lived in the times where whites used the word in order to degrade African Americans would passionately believe that the word "nigger" should be eliminated from all forms of language. Gloria Naylor clearly states her stance on the issue in “The Meanings of a Word” when she writes, “The people in my grandmother’s living room took a word that whites used to signify worthlessness or degradation and rendered it impotent” (68). Consequently, people should never use the word "nigger" because not only does it represent shamefulness, but also the word can serve as a double standard when non-blacks say it.

Before the post-Civil Rights era, whites would frequently use the word “nigger” to social degrade and humiliate blacks. During this time, southern whites would commonly use the word “nigger” instead of “Negro” in order to represent superiority over the blacks. This was especially common for slave owners to refer to their slaves as “niggers” in order to both debase the slaves below human beings and to show ownership over their lives. Even though racist slave owners and other whites called blacks “niggers” during slave times, southern whites also referred to blacks as "niggers" throughout more than half of 20th Century. For instance, it would not be uncommon if a black boy wanted to join a neighborhood game of tag with a group of white boys, and one of the white boys told the rest of the group, “We don’t need to be associating ourselves with any niggers, lets go over the white schoolyard because that nigger is not allowed to bother us there.” In this hypothetical example, clearly the word “nigger” emphasizes inferiority of the black boy. In addition, it also seems as if the white boys fear that being near this black boy may expose them to some sort of contamination such as leprosy. Hence, the word “nigger” has a history of degrading blacks to a point of severe inferiority to whites which is completely immoral to ever believe that the color of one’s skin determines one’s status or even whether they are human being or worse than toe scum.

Even though the word “nigger” can represent a friendship between two blacks, there is definitely no need for the word ever to be used because if a white guy ever said what’s up “nigger” spontaneously to one of his black friends, then out of instinct the black guy would receive a derogatory connotation because it was a white guy using the word. Now, how is it not a double standard if a black person can say the word “nigger” to another black person and the situation is normal, however if a white person refers to a black person as “nigger” than all hell breaks loose? If black people argue that this double standard is ok, then for example if it was socially acceptable for white people to refer to other white people as “crackers” but socially unacceptable for black people to refer to white people as “crackers”, civil rights organizations like the N.A.A.C.P. would consider this racist of whites and file lawsuits for being discriminated against being allowed to refer to a white person as a “cracker.” The use of the word “nigger” is forbidden on television and almost all forms of public television because “nigger” is considered to be a racial slur, however, the word “cracker” which is racial slur against whites is completely acceptable on all forms of public entertainment.

Furthermore, the definition of the word “nigger” provides the best argument that the word’s

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