The Power of Words


Go ahead! Say it! Try it out and see how it feels!


If you’re having trouble saying it, well, there’s an entire group of people out there who would applaud you. You see, an inability to say it means that you’re sensitive to the word and the effect it has on people. It demonstrates not only sensitivity and empathy, but the capacity for civilized and appropriate behavior. When you cringe at the sound of the word, when every syllable causes you angst, discomfort, and embarrassment, it’s a sign that you were raised right.

That’s what SOME would say.

Conversely, if it runs off the tongue a little too smoothly, or you clearly demonstrate that you have no issue with it at all…well…for all intents and purposes, you’re a racist. I mean, it’s just that simple right? For you to show total disregard for the thoughts and feelings of an entire race of people and others that feel the weight of that word…you have to be a cold, calculating, insensitive, racist son of a bitch.

As much as the word is used these days, the question seems to be, “when is it ok to use the n-word?”

I submit to you, that if we have to ask that question AND call it the ‘n-word’, well, it’s never going to be ok. We have hundreds of thousands of words in the English language and I doubt any are more polarizing than the word Nigger. We have activists of all nationalities calling for the extinction of the word. We have supporters of the word who say it, then qualify it by telling you it’s definition, which is almost always followed by, “well, there’s niggers in every race. I even have niggers in my family. All it means is ignorant”. My favorite people, are the ones who say, “I don’t say niggER, I say niggA. ‘Cuz if you say it with an ‘A’ at the end then you’re ok”.

I call it…The Snoop Dogg Defense!

All of the other excuses…errrr…sorry…arguments as to why people can use it are equally amusing. Yes, I know rappers use it in their lyrics. Mark Twain used it, as did Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee. Mel Brooks used the hell out of it. Whether you like it or not, rappers, poets, writers, and filmmakers are artists. Language is their tool and to ask them to not use a word is not unlike asking a painter to not use a certain color of paint. Dave Chappelle, contrary to what a drunk frat boy told me, did not make it ok to say nigger. Dave Chappelle is not the president of black people. He does not issue policy on our behalf, nor would he want to. Stop using the work of rappers, writers, and comedians to establish your alibi. Their use of the word nigger did nothing but give you a false platform upon which to build your ‘double standard’ and ‘reverse discrimination’ argument.

By the way, what the hell is reverse discrimination anyway? I mean, you either discriminate or you don’t. Do you do it with your back to someone? When you think about it, reverse discrimination would be the opposite of discrimination, which would be…acceptance. Right?

Anyway…I digress!

I am a 39 year old black American man (yes, black American, not African American…we’ll talk about that in another blog) and I have been called nigger by friend and foe alike. I’m an intelligent man (136 IQ if such things carry weight with you) and I am a writer. Words, in any language, bring me pleasure. They comfort me like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day. To date, I fear no word. Not even the word nigger. As the aforementioned intelligent man that I am, I understand its origins. I understand the pain it causes some. I am empathetic to the discomfort that develops from its use. But I would challenge you to no longer fear the word.

Fear the intent!

When it’s said…listen closely. When you read it…read closely. Understand the intent of the person using the word as opposed to allowing the word itself to strike a non fatal blow. Intent is something you can see and feel. You see it in the eyes and in the body language of the person slinging it your way. You can feel the intent wash over you like a shower of sludge and sewer water. The manner in which the word is used is more dangerous than the word itself. Measure a man not by the words he uses, but the way in which he uses them. Yes, words have power, but that power is derived from the intent.

I get that others do not, and will not feel the same way. Truly I do! I’ve heard all the arguments for AND against the use of the word nigger. I feel your pain, I understand your feelings and in the end, I support you and your thoughts. As a black American, and more importantly, as a human being, I will always support and defend your right to express yourself as you see fit. Provided of course your freedom of expression doesn’t manifest as an impediment to freedom in general. I’m not suggesting that you get over your sensitivity or throw your thoughts out the window. I’m not suggesting you “toughen up in this cruel world because they will always be things you will not like”. And I’m certainly not suggesting that we start and end every sentence with the word nigger (Katt Williams!).

I’m simply saying that globally, our first reaction toward something we fear, do not understand, or do not like is to stigmatize it, and anyone or anything associated with it. And then, we work to eliminate it from existence. We demonize the word nigger and all who use it. A hush falls over the crowd when it is said. We skip over the word when we’re singing along with a song. Or…we shout it out louder when it comes up in a misguided act of defiance to show that “we can say it…it’s in the lyrics”. If you do not want to use the word because you are just completely against it, so be it. If you want to use it because you feel it is the best way to attack others and keep them down, well, ok, you have that right. And if you want to use it because you are simply trying to thumb your nose at society and stir shit up, well, I’m not going to tell you to just shut up…but I will suggest it. Stirring the pot and not taking a stand, one way or another just makes it worse. Whatever your reasons for using it, do not presume that your thoughts and feelings should be shared by others.

Do not use or NOT use the word nigger to start battles, political or personal. Do not use or NOT use the word nigger to sell papers and air time. Do not fear the word nigger. Fear the intent of the person in the context in which it is used.


About My PoeticJustus

Look, I'll be honest. These "about me" sections drive me nuts. Basically because I'm awful at self promotion. Ok, not so much awful as, uncertain. I mean, what do I say? How much do I share? Do people really care? Here's what I'll do. I'll share some info and you can just decide what you like and what you don't. Deal? Cool!! So, I am Chicago born writer moonlighting as a mental health professional. Now, my paycheck and bank account would tell you that the opposite is true. But in my heart, I'm a writer. I have a few characters that I am very passionate about and some stories to tell and in between there, I have thoughts to share. Some are serious, some are funny...ok...most are funny. Nothing brings me more joy than stirring up the pot, pointing out hypocrisy, and getting people to think outside the box and challenge their long held beliefs. I don't want to change your mind or your habits...just think of me as the Devil's Advocate. So hey! Sit back, take a read, and feel free to let me know what you think. See ya around cyberspace!! Dennis
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