If you’re not black don’t say it

Sha'Diya Tomlin, Opinions

*Disclaimer: TKC understands the potentially offensive nature of the word choice in this article. After staff discussions and legal advice from the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), we decided to support the writer’s decision. Please email us at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.


Attention. If you’re not black you cannot say “nigga.” No matter how many black friends you have, you still cannot say it.


Yes, that means when you hear it in songs, skip it. Kind of like how you skip the curse words when you’re singing a song in the car with your parents. It’s not that hard.


“But, black people use it all the time with each other. I don’t use the hard ‘r.’ It’s just a word.”


Yes, it’s a word, a word that black people have taken and made their own. The word “nigger” comes from the Spanish word “Negro” and “Niger” which means black. The word “nigger” was used to describe black people during the Atlantic slave trade. The word “nigga” is a slang word that stems from the word. Black people have used it in their community to diminish the older meaning of the word and make it less derogatory. So when someone who is not black uses it, it’s degrading because of its historical context. Even though we have changed the word for us, the word still has its past of oppression behind it when someone who isn’t black says it. When an entire race of people have been taken from your country, dragged to a whole new world and given a name that degrades them for over 200 years, I feel it is needless to say that white people have lost their privilege of using that word or any variation of it.


When I, a black girl, am talking to my black counterpart, and call them “nigga,” they do not feel as if I’m disrespecting them. For us, it’s more a term of endearment. Like when someone greets a family member by a nickname if someone outside of the family tries to call them that its weird and can make that person feel upset. It’s the same way when a white person who tries to say “nigga.” All the black people around the world stop dead in their tracks, the jazz music stops and our ancestors turn in their graves.


“But rappers use the word all the time.”


Rappers who are, in fact, black. Show me one time Eminem used the “n” word. Right. We all know the song “Caroline” by Aminé. And like most other black rappers, he uses “nigga” in his songs. But recently in his NPR Tiny Desk concert, he replaced his lyrics, “Killa, Westside Nigga.” With “Killa, if you’re not black don’t say it.”


When I heard him say that, I want to ask him to say it louder for the people in the back. Even our artists are addressing this issue and changing lyrics to point out non-black fans for not only using a song to say the word.


I’m not speaking for all black people because not all black people believe the word should even be used. Because we fought so hard to not be called that, and here we go calling ourselves that. Older generations look at the word as if it is still the same way it was used during slavery and Jim Crow times no matter the ending of the word. That is their choice as black people to choose whether they want to use the word or not.


Some black people don’t care who says it. Giving non-black people the “nigga pass” so that they can say it around them. But how can you give a pass to someone who has never lived as a ‘nigga’? They don’t even know what it’s like to be called a ‘nigger’ because of the color of their skin, and how it actually hurt them. They don’t see the message behind most rappers using the “n” word in their songs and don’t know the history behind the word. But if we are giving out passes, I would like a white privilege pass. I mean since we are handing out passes like they actually exist. And though they might work with one black person, just like freedom papers for a slave meant nothing to other white people, “nigga passes” don’t mean anything to other black people.


I know, I’m just another black person who is stuck in the past. Times are changing, right?




When kids still get uncomfortable in class when we bring up slavery or any topic about race in general. When black people still get called the “n” word as an insult and to be put down. When black people still are marching, speaking, fighting to be treated equally. Times haven’t changed much. As far as I’m concerned, and I’ll say it louder for the people in the back.


If you’re not black, don’t say it.