However, as the dictionary says, and as many of us know,the N-word’s use “among blacks is not always intended or taken as offensive…” In the context of some segments of the African-American community, including the worlds of rap, hip-hop, and entertainment, the use of the word can be affectionite, familiar. However, it can be derisive, but acceptable to use. Example: In the HBO show The Wire, one Baltimore drug dealer would use the epithet when speaking with annoyance about another drug dealer who wasn’t pulling his weight or is screwing him out of profits. The rapper Nas (pictured here at the Grammys) ignited a controversy when he announced that the name of his new 2008 album would be “Nigger.” Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Fox News were not pleased, but many of Nas’ entertainment colleagues came to his defense. Bottom line, the cultural acceptance for using the N-word exists–though it is controversial–and there are rules, though loosely defined, about when, how, and who can use this word.
I don’t think this cultural acceptance would extend to a white Walnut Creek middle school student, although the kid was acting like it did. Offending someone was not his intention. Trying to look and sound cool, hip, street–that seemed to his the aim of him and his friends, at least one of whom was carrying a skateboard.
Part of me was amused at the boy’s misguided attempt to sound cool. Out of the mouths of 12-year-old white suburban boys.
But, another part of me thought, I hope some adult in his life has heard this word slip out of his mouth and given him a serious talk about why it’s so massively uncool for him to use it.
I mentioned this incident to a co-worker, who, like me, grew up in Walnut Creek and attended local schools. Back when he was in middle school, he said, the massively uncool word that he and his buddies threw around at each other was “fag.”
I’d say times have changed, but I think this f-word is still in play in 2010 amongst pre-adolescent and adolescent males.