Using the "N word" in discussions about the word. Racist?

I didn’t want to hijack this pit thread with this question, though the thread in question is simply reminiscent of a number of such instances where this has happened.

In the thread in question, the “N word” is discussed. Now, I’ve seen this dozens of times here, and almost inevitably, the word is hidden (i.e. “N*****”, “N word”, “N bomb”).

Is it really considered racist to use the word in discussions about the word? Surely, the reader would be able to, based on context, deduce that the writer is not racist simply because the word is written out? Doesn’t context matter? I’m not making the old argument that white people should be able to use the word too, merely that in this specific context, this surely couldn’t be considered racist. Right?

In short, can I use the “N word” in discussions of the “N word” without feeling guilty about it?

Yes. A lot of people feel uncomfortable using the word in any context, and so choose to censor themselves when they feel its necessary to mention it. No one is going to accusing you of being a racist if you say something like, “‘Nigger’ is a terrible word, and nobody should ever use it against another person.”

The word is “nigger.” If you are discussing its etymology, usage or history, use it. Don’t pussyfoot.

I think it’s irritating when people won’t use the word in conversations that call for it. The desire not to offend people is totally understandable, but it’s like the word nigger is becoming That Which Must Not Be Said. It’s great that you’re less likely to hear the word in casual conversation, but it seems to me that the word becomes even more powerful when people are afraid to use it in a situation where it’s understandable.

Saying the “n word” just sounds silly, like saying “doo doo” instead of shit.

No one is going to think you’re being racist if you type out n-i-g-g-e-r.

Nigger, nigger, nigger!


“Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, “I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet,” and if he’d just say “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” to every nigger he saw, “boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie,” “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” 'til nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.”

– Lenny Bruce

While that’s certainly extreme, I would love to see the word reduced to a quaint old perjorative no longer meaningful in modern context.

Go for it.

Words have power and anyone who tells you otherwise is deluding themselves. There are two words I feel extremely uncomfortable saying and they are nigger and cunt. That isn’t to say I’ve never said those words out loud, mind you, but they still make me a bit uncomfortable because I’ve been conditioned all my life into believing those are two of the worst things you can call someone. That’s not exactly rational I realize but there it is.

For the most part I’m only going to use the word when I’m quoting someone else and I won’t use it outside of that context. I’ll still feel uncomfortable saying it but I can’t let my discomfort get in the way of academic honesty. Some of you might be curious as to why I can type nigger but still claim to have trouble saying it. It’s true, maybe that makes me a hypocrite, but the internet isn’t the same as face to face communication.

To answer the OP, context is everything, and you have to examine the context to figure out the intent. For example, I’m pretty sure Monstro isn’t a self-loathing black woman just because of her post here, but then I’ve seen her post on the Straight Dope before so I know she’s a black woman. If I didn’t, I might think she was a troll. (Damn, I really hope Monstro is a black woman and I’m not getting her confused with someone else.)


I would say “yes,” because of the self-referential context of its usage; you aren’t using it to refer to a black person. Even then, still, I would feel very uncomfortable using it. It’s just an ugly word with an ugly history.

Sorry, monstro, we’re still not going to let you into our club.

More seriously, I do not think there is any reason to use euphemisms when discussing the word, itself.

On the other hand, the word has such a powerful emotional impact that I cannot condemn a person who substitutes a euphemism even when the word, itself, is under discussion.


I’m imagining this as the rhythmic routine that follows the phrase, “Okay, everybody, put your spuds in,” and I’m cracking up.

All my life, I had serious trouble saying the word.

Then I had a job where I had to hear and see it over and over and over again (and slap the people who were making me deal with it, hurrah) and I was able to finally say the words “Can I just ban NiggerCuntKikeKillah?”

It’s been a while, so the mental shudder is back.

That’s a pet peeve of mine with the SDMB generally. For a board which prides itself on being hard-nosed, worldly, and broad-minded, there’s an awful lot of cute euphemism.

“Question about Shit”


“Question about aah… Poop.”

Poop? What’s with this word? I see it everywhere on these boards, yet haven’t used it myself since I was about nine.

For a board that has goat felching as an in joke, this seems a bit weird.

Yes, of course you should be able to say “nigger”. You can use much, much milder words in the right context to deeply hurt a person with a racist remark if you provide the right intonations, etc. Why single out this word? What about other strong words like ‘rape’ or ‘murder’?

No, it’s not racist to discuss the word itself.

There definately are people who are upset by others using it, even if they’re just talking about it. A former classmate of mine took a course at UPenn. I forget the topic, but it involved race relations or something. He told me that some of the others in the class stated that they just couldn’t stand hearing white people say it, regardless of context, and that it was extremely upsetting to them. I think this resulted in it’s use being discouraged in class discussions. My classmate felt that this was rather silly. I am inclined to agree.

A nerd might point out that there is a distinction between using a word and mentioning it. I would never use the word “nigger”, including in print. I would, however, mention it, in an appropriate context (as, in fact, I just did).

Is this really a Great Debate? Seems more like a MPSIMS quibble.

Nothing is lost by not using the word itself. For some people, the sound and usage of the word being repeated over and over has emotional implications. You can laugh at those people if you’d like, but since using “n word” loses nothing, how can it hurt to simply soft it out? Why be a dick even to a person you might feel is making a stupid complaint? One of our John-Kerry-hating-beyond-the-bounds-of-reason posters once complained about my usage of the word “reta****” in reference to his behavior, claiming that it was offensive to the mentally disabled. I found his pit thread to be utterly self-serving and ridiculous. But I stopped using the word to describe him anyway. Why not, when there are so many other good words I could to use to describe him?