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“Niggas” in Christianity

Published on February 4, 2011

Nigger (or Nigga if you’re hood) is defined by Websters as:
1) Usually offensive : A black person;
2) Usually offensive: Any member from a dark skinned race
3) Any member of a socially disadvantaged class of persons

For the origin of Nigger it states: alteration of earlier neger, from middle French negre from Spanish or Portuguese Negro, from Negro black from Latin Niger.

Nigger (Nigga) is a common word that one may hear tossed around carelessly by minorities to their friends and also by racist people toward blacks. My question today is this, is this an acceptable form of speech for the child of God? If so why? And if this isn’t acceptable why?

Ron Dellums the 45th mayor of Oakland stated, “If you define ‘niggers’ as someone whose lifestyle is defined by others, whose opportunities are defined by others, whose role in society are defined by others, then Good News! You don’t have to be black to be a ‘nigger’ in this society. Most of the people in America are ‘niggers’.”

Is this truth or is this just the opinion of Ron? Rapper Killer Mike said in an interview that when one says “nigga” in the hood it’s full of love and it’s a term that we use to express that. For me growing up in the ‘hood “or urban culture this was a part of my vocabulary as was everyone else’s. Back then I had the same views and opinions as Mike myself. It was cool to call anyone around me a nigger but let someone of a white race or culture refer to me with that word and it was a problem. Killer Mike goes on to say that even though nigger is used with such love it doesn’t justify the use it.

Now, I know that this is an accepted word amongst unbelievers and a very important word in the urban culture, but I have to question should it be so in Christianity? A few weeks ago I was talking on the phone with a brother in Christ, whom I don’t know very well but a close brother to me knows him and testifies of his walk. As I was conversing with this brother I noticed how in every other sentence he said the word “nigga” and he was tossing it around loosely. I was shocked to hear it come from him. I have done a couple of ministry events with him and never heard him say it before and certainly his music doesn’t have the word in it. So I was kind of shocked to hear it, although once I thought about it I wasn’t as surprised being as I heard another guy from his camp talking to another brother and referring to him as a nigga. That just made me wonder how many Christians are using this word “secretly” if you will. As I stated previously, before I became a Christian, I used this word frequently but when I received Christ this was one of the first things to go! I would even get convicted for using it in a “proper” context as other dictionaries define it as an ignorant or inferior person, let alone referring to my brother in Christ as that.

An associate of mine who is not a Christian was talking to me one day and he kept referring to me as “nigga”. In the conversation I asked him why he always uses that word and he didn’t have a response. I in return began calling him “Negro” and this really offended him and when I asked him why he stated that I was calling him a racist name. This was a sad but true story, I then took time to explain to him that “nigger” was a very disrespectful and racist term back then and “negro” was the common and accepted term for black people. It was like calling one “black” today. Although this term later was changed to “black” or “African American” it was the proper thing to call a black person a negro. This was foreign to this young man and I realized a sad truth that’s prevalent in our society. We take the “bad” stuff and make it good and the good stuff and make it bad(which is another story), but there is a lack of knowledge in the black community, which scripture declares that people perish for a lack of knowledge.

A little over a year ago rapper Bizzle dropped “You got some explaining to do” a song aimed at Jay-Z in which he repeatedly used “nigga” in referring to Jay. In response to this song he received a huge backlash from the Christian community in which he responded, “The world flipped when I said Nigga but when Jay said what’s my motherf’n name they just said Jigga.” He also explained in an interview that the reason he had used the word in the song was because it was a regular word in his vocabulary and for him not to use it would be fake.

Now, I’m not calling any believer who may use the word behind closed doors or in their inner circle fake for not using it so all can see. I will leave you to be the judge on that, my question as I stated at the beginning is this: Is it acceptable for those of the household of faith to use this word as part of their vocabulary? Another brother whom we won’t name said this,” Using nigga to me is like a minor cuss word. It’s like using ass and hell in the cursing context.” And we can also throw “damn” in that as well.

In interviewing numerous Christians on this topic I have come across many different vantage points and opinions. One person stated that “nigga” is a pop culture word that should not be used because we are told in Romans 12 not to conform to the ways of the world. Another suggested that after one comes to Christ you become a new creature and continuing to use the word “nigga” is identifying with your old man, this person also stated that this could be a serious hazard to causing one to stumble or ruining your own witness. Another stance was that it is okay to use in the hood context because it is like saying “my brother” and although it began as something bad it now has a different meaning. This stance was then challenged by another brother whose response was no matter the context it’s a degrading word and Christians should not be using words that are degrading regardless of the context. In talking to these individuals, I got word from one who was white that his young adult son and his friends refer to each other using this term. That shocked me as it was the first I ever heard of white individuals outside of the urban culture using it freely, but he still felt that it was degrading and wrong regardless of who used it.

After weighing these opinions and putting them next to my own views I have come to this conclusion. It is not an acceptable term for a Christian to use. I have reached this conclusion for a number of reasons which I will list. 1.) Let’s look at the word faggot or cracker or spic these are all words whose origins are demeaning, degrading and belittling. Yet I have not once saw a member of the gay community referring to each other as “faggot” or whites referring to each other as “crackers” on a “friendly term”, not even Hispanics as “spics”. Why is it that blacks adopt terms that were used as the ultimate word of disrespect to use as a word of “love”. 2.) With using this term there is always the possibility of causing offense to someone else. I have spoken to a few brothers in the faith who are white who feel that a Christian using this word casually is offensive towards them period regardless of the cultural context or anything else. This is a word that has deep rooted hatred in it and a past of pain and suffering tied to it whether white or black. 3.) Although we do retain certain aspects of our culture when we come to know who the Lord is we also lose a lot more and I believe that this is one of the things that should go. We are called to a higher standard as Christians and I don’t believe we walk in those standards when referring to our brothers and sisters and even unbelievers as “nigga”.

Although this is a word that has crossed over racial and cultural barriers and is a commonly accepted word to use in a lot of circles, I believe it is a word that should be displaced from the Christians vocabulary unless he is using it in a way to instruct someone in either the history of the word or the use of it in modern culture.

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