The Word That Won’t Die

There has been a lot of talk about the “N” word lately. There was a discussion last week on The View concerning the use of the “N” word and why black people can use it and white people cannot. It was a passionate debate which included bleeped out “N” words from Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters and the million and a half dollar question, “Is it okay for Black comics primarily…and not okay for White people,” Joy Behar who is usually a motor mouth being almost mute, Sherri Shepherd telling BW, “I don’t want to hear it come out of your mouth” and ended with Elizabeth Hasselbeck frustrated and in tears.

The entire conversation was sparked by Jesse Jackson’s use of the word. Looks like youngsters, rappers, generation X, generation Y, and Jenny from the block are not the only ones who say things like “ni**a please.” Hypocritical civil rights activists and Whoopi Goldberg should also have a special place on the list.

Truth Be Told…It is hard to retire a word but it is an important discussion/debate to have in our community.

What is the status on the word?… Is it banished? Retired? Buried? Is it dead? A re people still using the “N” word? (Not Ni**er, but ni**a)

I am Generation X, mid 30’s and TRYING to show up as an adult. I am also imperfect. In high school I would rock my cross colors, listen to Jodeci, and say things like, “that’s my ni**a” and “look at this ni**a.” As I got older, I would hardly ever use it, but it would slip out every now and yes again. I decided not to use it anymore after Michael Richards had his ‘semi-psychotic break’ in that comedy club and all the discourse about the “N” word retirement slash burial. I’m always down for a good cause.

Honestly I’ve made a nice effort to stop using the word, but I have to admit I have let “that’s my ni**a” slip out a time or two. It HAS exited my lips, only in the privacy of my home and while I was alone, but it has. And I can not begin to count how many times it has popped into my head. I have not said it to anyone, since my commitment to the cause, nor have I used it in a negative or hurtful way. But it’s surprising how it is a bit of a challenge, for me, to eliminate a word from my vocabulary completely. I will continue to attempt to NOT use the word, but I am and it is a work in progress.

Is it hurtful or harmful to use the word? Does it still have the same negative connotation no matter which one is used? Have some Black people been successful at changing it up and into a “term of endearment”? Is it even possible to retire a word? Is it okay for white or other minorities to use it or does the use of the word by a non-Black person still warrant a royal a** kicking? Is it a double standard for us to use it and say others can’t? Does the context in which it is used really make a difference? Are we disrespecting the struggles and pain of the past by using it today?

Tell me what you think. Are we still using the “N” word? Are YOU?

Remember…It’s Always Love.

ReNina Minter is a former elementary school teacher who followed her passion and earned a Masters in Clinical Psychology. Minter is now a Certified Life Coach. Check out her website at www.CoachReNina.com. Her editorials are exclusive to Urban Thought Collective.

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July 25th, 2008 at 10:57 pm Lottie Markus says:

It leaves bad tastes in my mouth to even THINK it

July 25th, 2008 at 11:11 pm thelma says:


July 25th, 2008 at 11:16 pm buttabrown says:

dont yall wish we could just wave and wand and say ‘out damned word!!’
damn this is messin us up for real

July 25th, 2008 at 11:18 pm Philip Giddings says:


July 26th, 2008 at 6:22 am Destah Owens says:

Good topic. I was never one to really drop the word in every sentence like many I know, but like you, I’ve to be extra mindful of that in the last 5 or 6 years, using brotha or sista instead.I don’t believe that I’ve ever uttered it around my kids though, but others have. (Especially older folks, but I don’t expect to change them). It really incenses me when I hear other ethnicities using it, just like it does when they try to get their haircut, and dress like “us” (or what they see some of us as). I think it is a bit too mainstream and lost its enduring quality (if any) long ago. It no longer gives me the exclusivity that I probably thought it did when I was 14 or 15 years old.

July 26th, 2008 at 12:25 pm just2bee says:

somtimes it just flows

July 26th, 2008 at 5:01 pm MY ADIDAS says:

@Destah 100% agreed!!!

July 26th, 2008 at 5:20 pm Jenafa Duvall says:

I’m always surprised by the many opinions on this word. Its a tough one. It means so much to so many. Gotta be an personal choice cuz we cant just get rid of it its a few letters strung together like kike or wop or wetback…hateful letters put together

July 26th, 2008 at 5:34 pm ReNina Minter says:

@buttabrown- I do wish it was just that easy to just wave a wand and the word was gone
@Philip- I don’t think we are doomed, but I do think we have work to do as a community if we are really going to bury the word
@Jenafa- These few words strung together do have a legacy of pain attached to them
@ ALL Readers- Can we as a COMMUNITY stop using the word? Or is it impossible?

July 26th, 2008 at 6:23 pm UncleD says:

@ Jenafa - You took the words right outta my mouth,

July 26th, 2008 at 7:01 pm Chatty Cathy says:

Any talk about *retiring* the word is nonsense. Freedom of speech, and general rules of life & liberty that we propose to strive for allow anyone to say any thing they please. I’d prefer to discuss something *realistic* my friends. Let’s get out of *theorizing* and into *strategizing*

July 26th, 2008 at 8:38 pm Binta Rohan says:

Its worth a try Renina. I’m down.

July 26th, 2008 at 9:35 pm higherlove says:

I’m down too ya’ll,,, it is time to start DOING so the next generation has a chance!

July 27th, 2008 at 7:10 am chivalrouswon says:

Good day everyone. My take on the whole “N word” issue is that I do not use it. I have in the past pretty much because it was accepted in the group I was hanging with at that point in my life. Before then and since then I have abandoned use of it in my vocabulary. I find it frustrating the expalnation that Black peoples feel the need to “own and use it” on their terms to “take away the sting”. Funny thing is I live in Miami and I hear more Hispanics using it than I do Blacks. So if you ask me (and maybe you didn’t but I will speak my piece anyway) much like rock and roll, the identity of Blacks as a people, more recently hip hop and the worhip of *ass*ets and full lips and hips like all of the above the entitlement to use of the “N word” has been stolen. Best part of it all is that *WE* never OWNED IT!

July 27th, 2008 at 8:43 am heatmizer says:


July 27th, 2008 at 10:14 am ReNina Minter says:

@Chatty Cathy- are you using the word? Good point…Freedom of speech is important. It is an individual choice to stop using the word. Great idea, “strategizing”. Do you have some ideas for a strategy?
@chivalrouswon- Great points. I agree we never OWNED the “N” word. Part of the reason I do not use it anymore is because I do NOT like how I see it used. It is not useful, productive or necessary in my life. I understand why some people use it, but I challenge them to consider other words to get their point across.
@ Everyone- My strategy is to create dialogue so that more people will think about the context in which they use the word. Is it a necessary part of one’s vocabulary?

July 27th, 2008 at 2:34 pm Nicole Johnson says:

Speak your truth everyone…and if it includes using this word that doesn’t do anyone anygood, LEAVE IT OUT YOUR MOUTH

July 30th, 2008 at 10:49 pm BlackWomenBlowTheTrumpet.blogspot.com says:

Hi there!

This N-word dialogue never ends…

Blacks who CLAIM that they use the word as a term of endearment need to answer this question…why don’t you call your mother that since it’s a term of endearment? why isn’t it on your grandfather’s tombstone since it’s a term of endearment? why didn’t your husband or your wife call you that during the exchange of wedding vows since it’s a term of endearment?

The reason why is because it really is not a term of endearment or you would have used it during the ENDEARING moments…



Thought so!

July 31st, 2008 at 9:40 am ReNina Minter says:

Wow. Truth be Told! That is possibly the most direct challenge I have read to the belief that the “N” word is a term of endearment. Bravo!