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Essay # 4
April 21, 2004
After reading "Mommy, what does nigger mean?" I started to think about my friend Jemale. He is a black male that is a friend of mine. We have been friends for over five years now. By being with him, I notice the differences in race and the use of the word nigger. The word nigger can be used as a demeaning remark or another word for a friend, depending upon the race of the person.
Jemale is a black kid that was well liked throughout my old high school. We played basketball, football, and track together. We both had many different friends of many races by playing many different sports. By being involved in these many different activities, I had many black friends.
When they would talk to each other, they would joke around and call each other, "stupid nigger." They would say that, but none of the guys would be offended. This was a new thing for me because I went to a small school that was mostly white. My old school went from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I was not used to blacks or especially the word nigger. High school was a major change for me.
After listening to my black friends talk to one another, I asked them why do they become offended when certain people use the word nigger? I learned that if a black person hears a white person say the word nigger, they tend to think that they are using the word in a demeaning manner. They said that they automatically think that even if the person is not meaning it in a bad way. However, they told me that if a black guy says the same thing, they are not offended because that person is of the same race as them.
Even though they thought this, not every black person thinks the same way. In the same way that blacks think of it as good or bad, whites also use this word with their own friends. My friends and I, who are white, use the word nigger, as a friendly nickname towards each other. Without thinking my white friends were joking around and were calling each other the word nigger, we did not realize that my friend Jemale was around. Once we said that word, we did not know how Jemale would interpret. He took it like we were all friends, which was the way we intended it to be, instead of it as a degrading manner. He told us that he knew that we did not say it in a way to offend him. So, he just laughed and carried on with us.
By talking to my black friends and listening to them explain why sometimes nigger is a good or bad thing, it helped me understand why sometimes they are offended or not. I learned that depending on how the word is used, and who it might be said to, is how the word is interpreted.
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English words, Profanity, Linguistics, Nigger, African diaspora, With Apologies to Jesse Jackson, The Legend of Nigger Charley
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