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Black People, J-Lo and "Nigger": Let's Be Real
(Written July 13, 2001)

Entertainer Jennifer Lopez is in the headlines again, but not for her choice of attire.

This time, the spotlight is on J-Lo for her use of "nigger" on her new single, "I'm Real."  Hot 97 program hosts Star and Buckwild have publicly criticezed Lopez for using the word, and there is a growing call for a boycott of all of her endeavors until she issues an apology.

Some people are expressing shock that a mainstream celebrity with Lopez's influence would use a hateful term so casually. These people must have been snoozing through thte last decade of pop culture.  Over that time, "nigger" has been thrown about with abandon by athletes, Quentin Tarrentino, rappers and the white kids who buy their records.  It is primarily because of its incessant use by rappers ranging from generic gangster MCs to so-called conscious artists like Mos Def that the term has become so acceptable.  By now, it's almost routine to use the word, something Lopez assumed everyone already knew.

I applaud efforts to pressure Lopez see the error of her ways, but these controversies spotlight the need for black people to cease using the word immediately.

Those who use "nigger," particularly artists, state that "nigger" is authentic street lingo, whatever that is, and therefore appropriate to use since they are, like J-Lo, trying to be real.  How foolish.  The fact that white-owned media conglomerates allow these epithets to be broadcast is no excuse, and in fact reveals a deeper motive.  You don't see such leeway given to terms like "fag," "chink" or "kike."  Truth is, they will gladly provide a platform for anti-black terminology and actions because it plays into many whites' secret fantasies of a world in which there are no blacks.

Worse yet are those deluded souls who continue to assert the aesthetic difference between niggers and niggas.  The former supposedly applies to ignorant black people while the latter represents the "new" definition, a reversal of its racist legacy into a term of endearment. 

Call me old-fashioned, but what was wrong with "brother/sister" or "homie"?

More than anything, using the n-word reveals a lack of self-esteem.   People with pride do not go around describing themselves with the most damaging term ever conceived for them, one uttered during slave whippings, lynching and incidents of police brutality.  Jews, gays and Latinos may use derogatory terms in private, but you won't catch them putting it out there for public consumption.  The nigger/nigga debate is simply an internalization of the slave master's "good/bad nigger" system used to divide blacks since the days of Willie Lynch.  Common, D'Angelo, Black Thought and other "intelligent" rappers need to think about that while writing their next set of lyrics.

While it's logical that black people will get mad at non-blacks for using "nigger," it's clear that only blacks can stop the word from being socially acceptable.  Until we make a definitive stand against the word, including boycotting artists who use it and the media outlets that allow it to be broadcast, people like Jennifer Lopez will continue to justify using it, not understanding the true meaning behind the term. 

Copyright 2001 Anthony Lamar Rucker.  All rights reserved.

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