I was on the train listening to Nothing by N.O.R.E (yes, I listen to such classy music) and as you can see from the lyrics, the song is pretty saturated with the word “nigger” (or if I’m cool like Tim Westwood, “nigga”). Now I don’t usually listen to music cranked up to piss-off-my-fellow-passengers level but the song before it (Stand By Me by Ben E. King) was really quiet so I turned it up.
Murphy’s Law will dictate that as I am listening to this song I will be surrounded by people and of course, because I am Kia, Murphy’s Law is pretty much a constant truth in my life. I was pretty sure that even if the other passengers could hear the song, it wasn’t really a big deal because it wasn’t like I was calling anyone anything offensive, it was just Pharrell Williams doing his thing but I did feel uncomfortable so I turned down the volume as subtlety as possible.
This of course led me to the age-old debate about who is ok to use certain words and who isn’t and when it’s ok to use them and to whom. I personally call some of my Pakistani friends “Pakis” but only because they’re my friends. I would never dream of saying those words to a stranger. My instinct is to say that this is ok because they’re my friends and yet I would never feel comfortable using the word “nigga” to a stranger or a friend, simply because there is such an intense level of negativity attached to it. I even debated whether or not to blank out the “igga” in “nigga” here but decided that we’re all adults so that it’s ok.
I remember how Jennifer Lopez was lambasted for saying “niggas” in a song (I’m Real) because she wasn’t black. P Diddy leapt to her defence and said that it was ok for her to use the word because she was Latino. Would it have been ok for her to use it if she had been white? Some will argue that it’s not ok to use (potentially) racist words against anyone any of the time but I think it’s to do with personal relationships. It’s up to the individual to glean who it’s ok to say certain words to and just practise a decent level of sensitivity. Having said that, Tim Westwood should never use the word “nigga”. But then again, I don’t think Tim Westwood should speak at all.