The n-word...controversial, ignorant, bombastic, deadly, hateful and double edged. I don't remember the first time I used the n-word, or even the first time I heard the word from a black person, nor how it was defined when I heard it for the first time.
The first time a non-Black person called me the n-word, as a fourteen year old, during a evening walk with my older brother in Freeport, a suburban Long Island, NY town, I remembered. Up until the year before, my family lived in predominantly-Black/Puerto-Rican Jamaica, Queens, with limited personal access to Euro-Americans (Italian grocers, teachers, my mother's job, going to a shopping mall). There wasn't an opportunity to walk in a predominantly Euro-American neighborhood at night. In Freeport, the opportunity presented itself.
The evening my brother and I walked down a dark Freeport, N.Y. street, a red, early 1970's Ford Mustang drove past and with windows rolled down, the Euro-American dudes inside screamed nigger!...my brother replied with his middle finger and I just stood there in shock, the Ford Mustang sped away. Up until that time, flagrant n-word usage around friends (my parents didn't tolerate its use around them) lit up my vocabulary. After that night, I reconsidered my n-word usage, and ceased using the n-word soon thereafter.
According to dictionary.com (n-word defined) , the n-word definition leads with "The term nigger is now probably the most offensive word in English." I disagree. While its usage seems egregious and frequent, the n-word has turned cliche'.
This week's news alone, featured twittered n-word Boston Bruin fan responses to Joel Ward's winning playoff hockey goal, a deep south bar owner's Obama gripe, as well as NY Post's Phil Mushnick Jay-Z/Nets critique. Hell, living in NYC, I heard many Dominicans (amongst other brown and black so-called minorities) take ownership of the n-word as if they endured picking antebellum South Carolina cotton fields.
When does it end? What is the n-word tipping point? Is Malcolm Gladwell interested in finding out? Well if he doesn't, I daresay the tipping point is here. Doesn't the recent flurry of n-word usage strike you as a haggard, tired, outdated expression? It is safe to assume most of the people using the n-word hatefully know little about Black History, so what makes them experts on African-American or Black (African diaspora) people?
There was a time the n-word meant something, when an African-American man or woman shook in anger, fear, or (unfortunately) subservience at the mere utterance of the word--responding to its use was a call to serious activism. Now while its use results in the rare job firing, the usual reaction is nothing more than smh's and empty apologies. If you are a racist seeking to hurt me, get creative, find a new slur, attack me personally, individually. All y'all n-word users went to the well one too many times!!! I'm over the n-word, and while my personal preference is to not use it in my vocabulary, it lost its power to denigrate (I used that word on purpose) me.