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Caribbean Nationals & The “N” Word

Paula Deen’s admitted “N” word slips have cost her several lucrative contracts. (NBC Today image)

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. July 5, 2014: The “N” word! It’s a word derived from the Latin expression for the color black which evolved into a derogatory noun and common ethnic slur directed at dark-skinned people or blacks of Sub-Saharan African descent.

The term “nigger” was used to denigrate, psychologically subjugate, and to mentally scar the individual identities of black people. But today, usage of the “nigga” or “niggah” version of the term has become widespread in the black and among the younger Hip Hop loving generation of all races, because of rappers and some comedians, making it more acceptable in some quarters even though it comes down to whose using it.

The most common use of the word “nigga” is the “term of endearment” a shout out, a greeting to a friend. Rappers almost always used the word “nigga” in a casual way and its adopted by all races of hip hop fans.

On a street corner in Forest Hills, high schoolers – black, White and Latinos, use it to refer to each other. “Whatz Up my niggah,” said a white youth recently to his Latino friend of black heritage.

“Yo nigga, Whatz up?,” was the retort.

Given the furor over Paula Deen’s use of the “N” word, this week News Americas decided to ask Caribbean nationals and Caribbean Americans from across different generations on social media for their reaction to the word.

Many in the Caribbean of the younger Hip Hop generation like Jeremy Stephen of Damoola Inc., said the word is used in the region mainly with the “ah” instead of the “er” as used by American rappers, for those “trying to be American.”

Comedian Richard Pryor used it in a 1974 performance of “That Nigga’s Crazy.” In the late 1980s, rap group “Niggas With Attitude (NWA)” hit the rap scene. In 1993 Tupac Shakur released his second album entitled, “Strictly for my N.I.G.G.A.z,” an anthem about the ghetto.

50 Cents recorded “To All My Niggas” with an intro that stated: “I love niggas! I love niggas!
Cause niggas are me!
And I should only love that ‘presents me
I love to see niggas go through changes (Whoooo!!)
I love to see niggas shoot through shit (Did it again)
And to all niggas that do it I love.”

But the older Caribbean nationals, from 30 plus up, the more they agreed that both versions were just plain wrong and many blamed the rap industry for promulgating the term.

Elder Menes De Griot of Guyana said any form of the word “is very disturbing” given the historical context in which the word was used to disrespect the “ancestors.”

He blamed the widespread use of the “ah” ending by the younger generation, including rappers, on a lack of knowledge of their history.

Mark Jacobs, author of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” was more direct. He called usage of the word plain “ignorance.”
“I think its ignorance on the part of black people to be using and justifying the use of it. I don’t use it under any circumstances,” Jacobs said. “I think the youth and others using it are just lost and do not have a full understanding of their history coupled with some self-hate.”

Ron Bobb, host on the Uhuru Radio Network, said he never uses any form of the word casually and called it “unfortunate” that many youth, including Caribbean nationals use the word so freely.
This is blamed on the lack of knowledge of the “pain that it caused many in the 1960′s and prior.”
Chris Williams of Whatz Up Magazine also insisted he does not use any form of the word.
“I think that word still carries a great deal of pain and it’s not acceptable to me that our people, particularly the hip-hop and dancehall world, think that the word is okay to use,” Williams said. “While I agree that there is a difference in meaning when a person of color, particularly a black person, uses it, the word still packs a punch if that person applies it in a certain context.”
He, like all others, blamed the usage of the term of “self hatred and ignorance.”

“Our young people are not being educated regarding the history of the word and how we as a people were affected by it and occasionally some supposedly educated folks try to imply that by us using it we are lessening the word’s power,” said Williams. “That to me is a cop out and an avoidance of responsibility. If we continue this widespread use all we are really saying is that we accept and embrace the word and we are giving others: Latinos, whites, etc., permission to use the word.”

Allison Skeete, of Guyana, too lamented the widespread usage of the word in the black community today, blaming it on education of the history of the term and lack of respect for knowledge of the past.
Shaun Walsh, producer of Whatz Up TV, admitted he once used it to “describe a black person who was behaving in a manner that was so disgusting that he only could use that word to describe the behavior.”
“I know the meaning of the word and it’s not a term of endearment,” said Walsh. “Like curse words I can excuse someone if its slips when they are upset but some people curse all the time, same way some people use the word all the time, as far as its wide spread use, I believe a lot of black folks don’t love themselves, that why we commit so many murders, … over 90% of the murders in NYC are committed by men of color between 18-25 years old, that’s probably the same age group that uses the word more than any other.”
Tisla Wright, the Jamaica-born author of “Star Boy,” also admitted she’s used the word in the past “when upset and in a heated argument.”
But she admitted that there is no excuse for using it even though “lack of education, lack of respect for our past, present and future” still ensures widespread usage.
Still all did agree that the “ah” ending to the word is the more acceptable version than the “er”… with younger Caribbean Americans saying the “ah” version takes away the power from the word, a rap argument.

But the caveat still came down to who was using it. If it is someone of the Caucasian race, all agreed that neither version is acceptable.

However, many in the teenage hip hop generation crowd said if it was one of their white peers using the “ah” ending as a greeting that was prefaced by “Whatz up…” then it was fine.

Usage by older Americans like Deen, however, in any form, got the thumbs down!