Why White People Should Never Say (or Sing) The N-Word

Why White People Should Never Say (or Sing) The N-Word
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Michelle O' Connor
Michelle O' Connor
I’m Michelle O’Connor, or as I like to be called, Specky Scribbler.

Being an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement means listening to and supporting black artists. You can do this by buying albums, books, merchandise. If you listen to rap and hip hop, then you’ll find yourself wondering: “Can I sing along with the n-word?” In short, the answer is no, not if you’re white

Here are some reasons why white people should never say (or sing) the N-word…

It's Easy To Bleep

Drake, Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky and Doja Cat are all great. You love listening to them, enjoy singing along and you love showing your support. But no matter what you should not sing the n-word. Think of it like when you were young, and you’d skip over the swear words in a song. In 2018, Kendrick Lamar asked a white fan on stage to sing M.A.A.D City with him, but when she did, she got really badly booed by the rest of the fans. That’s because she sang along completely to the song, including the N-word. He told her that she shouldn’t have done it. That says a lot.

It's Not Our Word

Within the black community, the N-word is being used to reclaim a term that was originally used to insult. Similar happened with the word ‘queer’, which used to be used as a slur but the queer community now embrace the term as a definition. The N-word is used by black people as a sign of affection and friendship. They’re essentially taking back a word that was spat at them, and they’re changing its meaning. They’re trying to take that power back. 

White People Used It As An Insult

Historically, white people have used the word to put down, bully and insult black people. That means that we can never say it again. No matter what the context is, whether we’re anti-racist or not, we cannot use it. In America, it was widely and commonly used as a slur and an insult. It still is, and in Ireland, it has also been used by white people as a horrible insult, whether we want to believe it or not. Sean Gallen wrote about being called the n-word when he was just six years old, on a playground in Dublin.

Pretend It's A Swear Word (it kind of is)

It can be confusing to try and understand why it’s okay to listen to songs that have the word, see it used in films and TV programmes, and hear black people call their black friends it. Your brain might think ‘I’m just quoting a line from X’ but unless you’re black, it’s better to just censor it. Pretend it’s a swear word and you’re talking to your parents or teachers. There is too much negativity surrounding the history of the word for white people to have any reason whatsoever to use it. No matter what you might hear.

Think Of It Like This

For me, I think of it like this: I might say something like ‘you’re such a boss bitch’ to a female friend of mine. I’ll mean it as a compliment after they’ve achieved something great. But should a guy say it? No. Should he say it in the context of a compliment? No. Why? Because historically, men called women bitches as insults. This is why, as white people, we cannot and should not, say the n-word. No matter the circumstances.

Words have different meanings based on the context in which they’re used. Black people have reclaimed the n-word as a way to take power back. Women have leaned into the description of boss bitch. The LGBTI+ community have adopted the term queer from previous insults. But there is one common thread: these words are used within the safety of the community. Outside of these communities, it’s safer to avoid these terms.

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