"Don't Call Me a Niggar!"

2 Comments » May 8th, 2008 posted by // Categories: General Articles

I must admit that the “N” word has been, and still is being, debated outside and inside of the African American culture.  And if you interviewed African Americans from various age groups, professions, and geographical locations, you will find that some African Americans use the “N” word loosely among family and friends—but they will not tolerate anyone outside of this circle calling them a “niggar”.  On the other hand, there are other African Americans that feel the “N” word degrades them no matter who is saying it.

When I first learned how to drive, I would sometimes pull up in a gas station, grab my pocketbook, jump out of the car to pay for the gas, and pump my gas only to realize that I had locked the keys in the car!  There I stood with a tank full of gas unable to drive away. In that moment, I would think, and sometimes say out loud– depending on my frustration level and the schedule I had to keep,–“How could I have done such a stupid thing!”   However, if someone watched what I had done and walked over to me and said the same words,  “You must be stupid to do such a thing!”,  the words would hurt me and demean my character in a way that I had not intended it to be—although I used the same terminology myself.  It is one thing to call yourself something, but it is an entirely different matter for someone else to call you that thing—especially when you do not have any cultural or intimate connection with that person.  If that happens, you will feel and think that person means what they are saying about you. 

Now let’s get back to the “N” word.  I wanted to use the above illustration to demonstrate how we (all humans) sometimes refer to ourselves in a certain way for a particular reason, but we will not allow anyone else to refer to us in that same way under no circumstances.  And with that being said, it is hard for some to understand, who are not African Americans or have not spent time within our communities, how we can sometimes allow the “N” word to loosely flow from our lips among ourselves at time–but, we will not tolerate anyone outside of our culture (if they are not close with us) calling us a  “niggar” or referring to someone within our ethnic group that way.    

There seems to be a comfort about this “N” word among some African Americans. As a teacher working on the middle school level, I hear the word being used daily by our young people.  And you know what, regardless of whether someone has handed down the official verdict that the “N” word  should be forever stricken from the African American’s vocabulary, and henceforth, never be spoken again (not even in private)—it is still being said among us.  Why are we always being told what we should call ourselves?  When I was a young girl growing up in Wildwood, New Jersey (I am 48 years old), we referred to African Americans, which I am of course, as “Colored”.  That terminology changed from Colored to “Black”, and it changed from Black to African American.  I guess we are now waiting around for the next label that someone thinks we should call ourselves, and turn around and call ourselves that too.  Why all these name changes when it comes to our culture?  Other cultures are not labeled and then relabeled over-and-over again.  Is this an indication that we are still nomads searching not for a land, but for an identity that will rightly describe who we are and what we want to be called?  Let me not get thrown off track here.  I just wanted to point that out as well.

Normally, I do not write about racial issues, but over the past two years I have experienced more prejudice remarks and racial slurs until it has made my head spin.  And the amazing thing about it is that these remarks and prejudices have not come from the White Man, as we African Americans have said from time to time, but they come from my own people (African Americans) towards Africans, and most recently they have come from Africans concerning African Americans.  

what word will you use to  refer to an African American when they do something right” (I never got an answer for that question).  The debates and arguments surrounding the “N” word went on for some time, and this was not the first time the word was used on this board.  In contemplating whether I should remain a member of a board where that was  happening, my membership was banned.  If it had not been for this experience on this particular discussion board, I would not have known that some diaspora Africans, after observing African Americans’ lifestyles and behaviors in America, now feel African Americans should rightly be called a “niggar” whenever some type of negativity occurs.

The year before, I had gone through a racial battle when I became engaged to and married a Nigerian man.  Some African Americans did not like that fact that I choose an African over an African American man, and some prejudice remarks and racial slurs were thrown around then too—until I put my foot down and let everyone know he was my choice, and no negative remarks would be tolerated in reference to him.

Even if I allow my African American brothers and sisters to call me a “niggar”  in my own environment and around my own people (which may not be understood by other African Americans or non-African Americans), that does not give anyone the right to just refer to me, or someone within my ethnic group as a “niggar”. 

If we are honest enough to admit it, there are negative behaviors that are acquainted with all ethnic groups (no ethnic group is an exception).  And we sometimes talk about those stereotypes within our ethnic group with mixed emotions.  Sometimes it is deemed funny when you cannot deny that is how we are as an ethnic group, and at other times it enrages us; for we feel we are being misjudged.  Yet with even admitting that our own ethnic group can stand to improve in certain areas and our ethnic group is misjudged in some areas, we will not tolerate someone calling us out of our name—even if we have adopted that name for ourselves.  All I know is that I did not, and do not, appreciate anyone ever referring to African Americans as “acting like a niggar” whenever they do anything wrong. 

Don’t Call Me a Niggar!”  If I am down with that coming from your lips, then I will let you know.


By Patricia Daboh

Opt In Image
Send Me Free Email Updates

(enter your email address below)

2 Responses to “"Don't Call Me a Niggar!"”

  1. 7th heaven says:

    There is an explanation for those African Americans who like using the n-word and it is as follows:


  2. pmdaboh says:

    I was reading a magazine article for my master’s class, and there was a quote in it from Eleanor Roosevelt that went like this, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I thought about the article I wrote, and I realized that I had allowed the “niggar throwing comments on that discussion board to make me feel inferior” due to a few people’s personal perception of who I am soely based on my ethnic group–never again will I allow that to happen to me. It is what I think (and God thinks) of myself that counts.

    Life is TOO SHORT to worry about other people’s thoughts.

Leave a Reply


Home | About | Contact | Login