Kyus Agu-Lionel 

Sub Editor of Naked Politics 

The furore about ‘rapper’ and ‘singer’ Dappy using the N Word in a new song shows no sign of dying down. He has since said: “If the word N*gga means black to you then your racist.. We took that word and made it our own to piss off the racists”. Poor grammar notwithstanding, which ‘we’ he’s talking about is not clear, as he is Greek Cypriot and not black.

Although most people were outraged, it was interesting to see a few grime artists and New Blacks on Twitter rushing to Dappy’s defence. This is not really surprising, as Uncle Toms have been a feature of the black race since slavery, but that doesn’t make it any less galling.

If black people use the N Word, does this give other races a pass to do so too? The answer is very simple:


I’m going to get people screaming about ‘reverse racism’ (not a thing), ‘cultural Marxists’ (also not a thing) and probably also ‘white genocide’ (where does this rubbish come from?) and indeed I had people in my @ replies on Twitter all afternoon.

I am actually of the opinion that nobody should use that word, including black people. However that is not relevant to this discussion. Whether black people should use it is a debate that we need to have (and are having) amongst ourselves. Nobody else’s opinion even matters, as the topic is nothing to do with them. It’s like if I pushed my way into your house and told you what I thought of your sofa. My opinion is not relevant because it’s not my house, not my sofa, and you have not asked me for my opinion. Whether we use it or not does not allow anyone else to do so too.

Imagine the outcry if white people started using a word and told black people they aren’t allowed to use it” was one response I got on Twitter. There isn’t a word that white people can use and other races can’t, so I’m not sure what the point of inventing this mythical situation is. In any case this person evidently missed the history class on slavery, as it’s not just for no reason that it’s not socially acceptable for white people to use it. Black people are often told to ‘get over’ slavery and to stop ‘going on’ about it. This makes no sense, as slavery wasn’t actually that long ago – my great- great-grandmother was a slave, and in the history of the world that’s a heartbeat away. The lingering effects of slavery and the white supremacist mind-set that facilitated it are still all around us, as although great strides have been made toward racial parity, we are still not there yet. Jewish people are (quite rightly) not told to ‘get over’ the Holocaust, so why the hypocrisy? It must also be noted that the white race created that word in the first place and gave it the connotations that it has today. You can’t create something awful and then get mad when it gets confiscated.

You’d be right to say ‘but that wasn’t me. I didn’t personally invent that word and I’ve never owned slaves.’ But that word isn’t just about the person saying it. It wasn’t a word that the person saying it made up off the top of their head; it goes back hundreds of years and has many awful connotations. It was born of blood and death and violence, and symbolises a trade and a mentality that murdered and displaced millions. Therefore when a person uses it, it comes with all of this history, all of those connotations. More to the point: why would a non-black person even want to use it? Why are you so eager to say this word? That raises questions in and of itself.

If it’s so bad, then how come black people can use it?’ You could say. It’s not racist for a black person to say it to another black person, because – guess what – they’re both black. South Asian people use the P Word to each other and gay people use the F Word, both slurs. Rightly or wrongly, many minorities attempt to reclaim negative epithets to empower themselves, but black people are the only ones who are expected to ‘share’.

I also got told today “want racism to stop? Stop promoting it by using a deeply offensive term to greet each other” and I’m just really quite confused about the logic of that statement. Black people don’t have to do ANYTHING to stop racism. That’s like telling a woman ‘if you want to stop rape, stop wearing skirts, or high heels, or walking alone at night’. The logic doesn’t compute at all. The responsibility to stop racism comes from the people who are being racist, and the people who blithely let it happen, nobody else.

The idea that if black people stop using the N Word, racism will somehow disappear in a puff of smoke is a ridiculous one. We all know what the word is and what it means, let’s not play dumb here. Will me saying or not saying the N Word stop an employer from seeing my foreign name and throwing my CV in the bin? Will it stop police officers from assuming that I’m a ‘thug’ and a threat, shooting my unarmed self down in the street like a dog, and then sailing off into the sunset with no punishment? Will it stop the fact that if I graduate with the same grade as a white male, he’s still statistically far more likely to end up earning more than me? Will it persuade the big British corporations who got their wealth from slavery to give back their stolen profits? Statistically, if I am taken ill in a crowd, as a black male I am less likely to have an ambulance called for me by a nearby stranger than my white counterpart – will whether I use the N Word or not affect this?

No it won’t, and so the argument collapses.

The use of the N Word has been under constant debate within the black community for decades. But one thing is for sure: Dappy is not black and is therefore wrong for using the N Word. There are certain rules in society – this is one of them – and if you don’t like it then I’m afraid that it’s just too bad.


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Last Update: April 29, 2018