Ain't Got No Color
Yes, it is as soaked in identity politics as you may imagine.
The Dictionary’s definitions of “Nigger.”Fine, nigger is a dispregiative word, we knew that already. But why this discrimination, members of the "Black race"* can use nigger at their pleasure? Because they are blacks too?
•1. a. black person b. member of any dark-skinned people
•2. person of any race or origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc.
•3. victim of prejudice similar to that suffered by blacks; person who is economically, politically, or socially disenfranchised
Ya’ll ready? Okay, let’s do this…
According to these definitions, numbers 1a, 1b and 3 would be reasons to NEVER use this word if you are not of the Black race (ed.), correct? Would you agree with that? Don’t worry, I already know that some of you won’t.
My favorite part of this is number 2. At this time, 1640, this word had a very specific use. It’s purpose was very specific and it’s vile was very apparent.
See, I am confused especially because below the author also writes:
I would like to take a second to point out that last bold portion. QUOTE “The Irish are the niggers of Europe” and remember, this was proceeded by QUOTE “Not normally considered disparaging.” Even in the Dictionary’s Usage notes, the fact that the the bold sentence above was stating that the Irish were being treated as less than human in Europe, the comparison is meant to NOT BE DISPARAGING. As in, the worst anyone could be treated is LIKE A NIGGER but that comparision ISN’T a problem.Which seems to imply that the word nigger is offensive and disparaging by itself and should never ever be used by anyone.
Even the Dictionary doesn’t see why putting down an entire race and using that SICK put down to compare what other’s have been through could be “Disparaging” specifically to the Black race. It’s okay, as long as YOUR point is being made, right?
But you can't have it both ways: either nigger is offensive and disparaging on its own and it should never be used by anyone; or its actual meaning in the context is defined by the author's intention and so anybody can use nigger in the proper context without being disparaging.
And in The Commitments there is plenty of context for the "The Irish are the niggers of Europe” quote; the author of the piece above could have spent a little time to verify this.
Condensed form: the Irish have been often regarded as scum and treated as shit; whether their plight is analoguos or not to the plight of African slaves is not a matter of concern for the utterer of the quote, a working-class, lowly educated Dubliner.
In other words, are you a textualist or intentionalist?
*At best, there may be a Negroid race, and even so this is best used a shortand for "certain morphological and skeletal traits that are generally associated with Black African ancestry".