Should We Just Let Non-Black People have The Word, “N*gger,” Once and For All?

Bridgette L. Hylton
8 min readFeb 10, 2022

Here’s the thing about the word “n*gger” as ugly as it is, when used by a non-Black person, it says far more about the person using it than it does about the human being against whom it is lobbed.

I have never once in all my years met a n*gger and neither have you. Just like other mythological creatures, the n*gger does not exist in the way non-Black people, and occasionally Black people who have internalized anti-Blackness to this degree, mean it when they try to use it to offend.

text added to photo by: Donovan Reeves on Unsplash

The word itself really has no pejorative definitive definition beyond the contempt with which it is used which causes it to embody the inhumane and disgraceful stereotypes regarding Black human beings that non-Black human beings have developed to perpetuate power structures and justify inequality and their own inhumanity.

There are few if any Black people who associate in any way with this mythological creature anymore than there are people who associate in meaningful ways with being centaurs, Santa Clause, yetis, or the tooth fairy.

The entire use of the word n*gger is premised on the power we have given it and the impact it creates — the same way that rape is a type of sex, yes, but one that is premised exclusively on power and impact. To the extent non-Black people desire to use it, it is because they either consciously or unconsciously wish to tap in to the racist feelings of power and superiority and/or impact it creates, or because they feel personally offended by the fact that they are not allowed to use it, failing willfully or unwillingly to fully understand why the prohibition exists.

To be clear, this does not suggest that anyone use or not use the word. It must be left to the discretion of individual Black people to determine their own comfort with its use. The prohibition against its use by non-Black people carries with it the understanding that many ancestral Blacks and many many living Black people have suffered under its contemptuous and hateful intent and that is enough reason to discourage its use. That should be enough for any reasonable person not personally impacted…

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