I’m not big on censorship. I use the word instead of “the N word” because linguistic cowardice gets no play here. So, get your grown panties on and come on in.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to the Russ Parr Morning Show during a discussion about gentrification. As always, the topic got reduced to a black and white issue — the former being “the problem,” and white being “what’s right.” You see, gentrification is defined broadly as a socio-cultural, and economic reconfiguration of sorts. In DC, it means the streets that were once off limits to the casual pedestrian
due to the high likelihood that one might get fucked up in some meaningful way are now inhabited by suburban imports who’s culture is supposed to be markedly different from that which preceded it. At its most basic level, gentrification in DC is characterized by an increasingly vanilla “chocolate city.”
To that end, the blackness displaced as a result of the influx of
white people with superior economic prospects is often too closely associated with “the element”, or the niggas — that woulda got you fucked up in the first place. Thus, to many, gentrification reads positively as an absorption of yuppie mobility — yoga and condos, dog-walking parks and shit, and exile of niggas and nigga happenings.
Pump your brakes though, kids. For Lesson1 : nigga-ness is NOT synonymous with Blackness, or Black people, or Black interests. And for Lesson 2, lest I leave you confused: Yes. Black people use the term indiscriminately in referring to themselves and others. This is probably because, at the end of every day, “nigga” is merely a word — a word which, like many others, can have multiple meanings. Cats can safely refer to a nigga as both friend and foe. Do use context clues to figure out where you stand. However, if guns and scowls and “mutha fuckas” are used in conjunction with the term, you might betta run, my nigga.
See what I did there?
On Russ’s show that day, one of his callers opined that “Black people don’t even like living next to Black people.” That woman meant well; she was so proud of her lil comment. But she was wrong in a couple different ways. Most notably in asserting that even Black people don’t like living among their kind. Without knowing it, Ms. Ma’am had indirectly indicted other folks f0r not wanting to live next to “us” either. I suspect what she meant though, was that nobody likes living next to niggas — obviously, in this case, we (she and I) are considering the unsavory nigga. The nigga that’s definitely not your friend. Black, blind, rich or poor. Nobody likes intermingling with cats long bereft of good sense.
And these folks can and are anybody. They are everybody. The nigga exists in multiracial neighborhoods, in every income bracket, and in every region of every state. And although nigganess shows up in different concentrations in different people, the nigga usually is responsible for the shit your elitist ass considers improper, crass, and classless. They leave their trash in the trash room as opposed to throwing it down the trash chute. They smoke cigarettes in elevators, they fit like 12 people into Corollas and drive recklessly as fuck both to and fro. Their obnoxious vehicle appendage of choice may be a subwoofer, knockin ‘Big Meech’ down your boulevard, or a Flowmaster muffler attached to a Jeep Wrangler, attached to 50 inch wheels, adorned with the muddiest mud flaps money can buy. Casting done-with Marlborough Lights and Bud Lite cans on dirt roads and shit.
Yes, the nigga most certainly lives among us. You may move where streets are scenic and tree-lined instead of trash-strewn, but soon enough they’ll find you. They are a resourceful bunch. Niggas lurk about, looking for shit to get into, to fuck up. They have accepted that shit don’t mean shit outside of their purview. The nigga will fight you because you looked at her when she wasn’t expecting you to. Additionally, the nigga is usually proud of his ridiculous exploits. He will steal the rims off your ride with you in it. Trust that the nigga doesn’t give much of a fuck about much. He will rob you for six bucks and some tic-tacs that fell out of the container, got warm in your pocket, and got lint all on ’em. They are also a trifling bunch. Be careful around niggas.
And be careful in assigning blanket identities to the nigga because no place is immune. He is everywhere, Wall Street too. The nigga on the “rough” side of the tracks may jack you for your Jordans, but the niggas that run Goldman Sachs, the niggas like Bernie Madoff and them, will jack you for your future — without so much as a stocking cap and a water pistol.