THE BLOG

Hip-Hop and the Globalization of 'Nigga'

07/09/2013 01:07 pm ET | Updated Sep 08, 2013

In February, popular comedian Lisa Lampanelli (a 51-year-old Italian-American stand-up comedian and Harvard alumna) tweeted a picture of herself with Girls creator Lena Dunham saying, "Me with my nigga @LenaDunham of @HBOGirls - I love this beyotch!!" Interestingly enough, it would take an even older (and I suppose more renowned) white woman admitting in a legal deposition that she has used the derogatory term "a long time ago" to resuscitate America's extremely redundant race issue discussions.

Paula Deen's usage of "nigga" and/or "nigger" (I refuse to use "n-word" in writing as I think that is a beyond asinine epithet to use with anyone above the age of 12) has caused a circus among American media along with uproar within the black community. Many white and black Americans have ridiculed Deen for "ever using such a term."

In addition to a steep decline in her public opinion, she has also taken a large financial hit. The celebrity chef has lost, according to New York Daily News, an estimated $12.5 million in earnings over this controversy, as companies such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Walgreens have rescinded ties with her cooking brand.

While I am in no way condoning Deen's usage of the term, I am a realist. She is an elderly white woman from the south of America, which means there is an extremely high probability that this term was used in abundance, negatively, by her and those closest to her for many years.

The larger (and much less redundant) issue within this controversy regards the current state of the terms. Like it or not, "nigga" is one of the most universal words on earth; and this is moreover why a recent Facebook post labeling its users stole my attention.

The post stated, "Paula Deen is a RACIST...point, blank, period! Any person who is not of African descent that lets 'Nigger,' or 'Nigga' come out of their mouth ever is a RACIST." And based on the number of comments and likes that the post received, this appeared to be a rather popular opinion. From that moment, I began to think about the past, present, and future of the terms.

Were the upper-class white boys I went to all-male catholic schools with for five years racists when they addressed each other occasionally as "nigga"? Are the natives of India I met on a night out in Manchester racist since the word occasionally left their mouths as they recited their favorite rapper Kendrick Lamar's lyrics? Will the rest of the club be racist the next time the unedited version of Kanye West's "Gold Digger" blasts from the speakers and the chorus is sung by the crowd just as loudly?

While these are questions and answers that some of the black (and white) community may not want to address, they should not be ignored. Instances similar to those mentioned above can sometimes be blamed upon pure ignorance, while others are an unfortunate product of our time and environment.

Yes, this word has incredibly derogatory roots and should never be used in that manner. I have never, nor do I expect to ever, have to respond to someone directly using the word in a negative way toward me. And in 2013, I would fear for the mental capacity of the offspring of someone who still used the terms in this nature.

However, the entire human race must recognize that this term is used, and in an even much larger abundance than it was decades ago to dehumanize black people in America.

Thanks to the power of the Internet, along with the apparent emotion-capturing blend of smooth rhyming lyrics and loud bass, hip-hop has become arguably the most widespread and influential music genre in the world. No matter which country I travel to, it is by far one of the most consistent attributes of each region. Jay-Z is played by underprivileged black children in the boroughs of Brooklyn at the same time it is played in the nightclubs of Khaosan Road in Bangkok.

As a result of this, hip-hop has globalized "nigga," morphing its role into much more than the casual conversational term that it served as for decades exclusively within black America. It is now a term known and used by nationalities all across the world, and ironically enough, some of whom have no idea of its adverse historical significance.

So should blacks in America be mad at this harsh reality? If so, who is to blame? Slave owners? Hip-hop artists? Music executives? Rush Limbaugh?

The fact of the matter is that black America must wake up. The time is now that those within this demographic must realize that hip-hop is far beyond what it was in the late 1970s, as it spawned on the streets of the Bronx borough of New York City.

It could be possible that the genre is too far detached from its even deeper roots, which rest in the continent of Africa, after surviving the shock of millions of Africans being transported as slaves to this aforementioned "Land of the Free."

If there ever was, there is certainly no longer an opportunity for black America to attempt to "regulate" the usage of "nigga"; because if there was a "rule book" for its usage, it was destroyed and traded for a few gold chains, expensive cars and an annual shortened month of "history awareness."

But maybe destroying the rule book was all a part of the plan. Kanye West has a song on his new album which makes reference to something about "'niggas' not being able to read," right?