If it is a black talking to another black, it could either be a playful word, an admiring word, a neutral word, or a sign of disgust. Hip-hop and rap artists use the term freely, and, mostly, do not mean the word to be derogatory or hateful. White comedians, such as Michael Richards, use the word, and their career is literally over. The word is acceptable in the black community, although many black activists see a danger in this acceptance, as it means that the oppressed are using the hateful terms of the oppressor. The word is never acceptable in the white community. The fact is that whites can never use the words except to mean denigration and hatred, and blacks may always use the word because it has a completely different meaning for them, and this is how it should be. This essay will go into a short history of the word, the various meanings of the word, and how the word has evolved over time.
According to Ferguson, the word did not begin derogatory. It evolved from the word “negro” which is simply Spanish for black. The word “negro” itself evolved from the Greek word “necro” which means dead. Ferguson argues that this connotation, the word death, gives the word negro, and its derivative nigger, is problematic (Ferguson). Still, the word negro is a more neutral word than its derivative, nigger, especially if one considers that the term negro simply means black. Kennedy (1999/2000) argues that the word was derived from the word “neger,” which was a Northern English word which was derived from the word “negro.” Kennedy also argues that how the word came to have a pejorative meaning is not known. There is speculation that the term became a pejorative because the users of the term became aware that the word “nigger” is a mispronunciation of the word “neger,” and, so, decided to use it as a slur – much like somebody might deliberately mispronounce one’s name when that individual wants to disrespect that person.