What is a “nigga”? [Why was I never told this in my training for inner city schools? America needs to have some serious cross-cultural communications amongst each other]


Focusing on the distinction between metaphorical use of language and congruent usage of language terms may help all Americans understand and get along together in the 21st Century.–kas

by Kevin Stoda, lifelong educator

NOTE: First, I should note that I am a Caucasian, mostly of German and European descent with some dosage of native American peoples along the way.

Now, to the topic stated in the title. How do African American kids in schools use the N-word?

Over the years, several of my African American students have called me Nigga or My Nigga and they have done so many times.

One of these students was the late Terrell Bell (who fist-bumped me just an hour before he was assassinated getting off a school bus. ted). I could tell that for these students, like Terell, “Nigga” was spoken as a term of endearment.

However, over these same years, black adults whom I have worked with have refused to tell me that the word had any positive meaning. This cover-up has gone on for decades.

Why was I never told this in my training for inner city schools? America needs to have some serious cross-cultural communications.

For years, I have been upset at what my students call each other and their teachers in inner city schools here in KC.

One word of supposed endearment to me by several students over the past few years has been the “N-Word”, but it is apparently written by rappers and spoken by kids in a variety of manners and accents or intonations. Rap music is now into it’s 5th decade and urban America has been awash in these usages all of this time–and certainly before that genre came to dominate the language landscape of too much of America.

Look it up here; there are more than these 3 definitions, though, but educators and youth-trainers are not taught how to recognize any of these usages:

Last week, after a friend of mine had an issue at school with some students concerning the use and abuse of language, I finally looked up the “N-word” online and came across a Rappers’ dictionary, which finally explained some usage of the N-Word by blacks and other youth. I encourage you to go to the link below and thoughtfully read through the examples of the usage of the N-word.

Click on this link to Rapper’s Dictionary: https://rapdictionary.com/?s=nigga

Also, here, as a comparison, is the too somewhat incomplete definition that most educators are served up: It comes from Wikipedia under Nigga(Although Wikipedia also provides an incomplete, it does provide a balance to the Rapper’s Definitions you see in the link above.)

Click on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigga to read more.

“This article is about the colloquial slang. For the racial slur from which “nigga” derives, see Nigger. For the singer also known as’Nigga’, see Flex (singer). “Nigga, please” redirects here. For the album by Ol’ Dirty Bastard, see Nigga Please

Nigga (/ˈnɪɡə/) is a colloquial and vulgar term used in African-American Vernacular English that began as a dialect form of the word nigger, an ethnic slur against black people. The word is commonly associated with hip hop music and African-American gang culture. In dialects of English (including standard British English) that have non-rhotic speech, nigger and nigga are often[a] pronounced the same…..”

FINALLY

Finally, I have long ago found what many social linguists and language teachers around the world have found to be accurate about the usage of language. Like Li Li Zhangfang (2013:22) we observe that:

“[S]peakers use address terms metaphorically to express their emotions…speakers may express positive emotions by choosing negative address terms, or express negative emotions by using positive terms.”

Zhangfang (2002:301) extrapolates on this co-variation of emotion and meaning while using the following examples from his earlier research in the USA. “[N]egative words don’t necessarily indicate negative attitudes, for example, some feminists or young girls may call each other ‘bitch’ which is more of a marker of their solidarity, and similarly [some?] American Negroes address each other as nigger and gays call each other ‘proof’ or ‘fag’.”

NEED FOR MORE FEARLESS CONVERSATIONS

In short, fearless conversations are required before Americans and schools or students/teachers can move beyond the current level of misunderstanding each other.

It is not clear why some races, genders, or ethnic groups use and abuse certain words while prohibiting others from doing so. (Some urban communities have even been employing the force of law to back their efforts to kow-tow all others to their own rules of usage and their own prohibitions. )

While it is true that some of the prohibitions within any culture result from or come from historical facts and artifacts, language educators have also long known that basic concepts of phrasal ideas or words must be seen observed as functionally being addressed by the speaker on a continuum.

The one Zhangfang uses or advocates for more understanding is:

Pleasing – – Friendly – – Polite — Neutral — Impersonal – – Dissatisfied — Attacking .

Let’s talk about language in terms of in-sensitivities.

That is, language usages and abuses often have more to do with lack of individual appreciation of these verbal and cognitive distinctions than with concepts intending to abuse another or targeting someone with racist intent (or acting against basic human rights, i.e as legal experts too often have done in entertaining the meaning of language and use, e.g. in judging whether something is a hate crime or not).

Focusing on having open discussion over the distinctions between metaphorical use of language and congruent usage of language terms should help all Americans understand and get along together better in this 21st Century.

NOTES

Zhangfang, Li, POSITIVE or NEGATIVE EMOTIONS: The Speaker’s Choice, (International Conference on Applied Social Science Research (ICASSR 2013: 22-24.

Zhangfang, Li, INTERPERSONAL MEANING IN DISCOURSE, Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign language Education Press, 2002.

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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