I am glad we took a moment in class to talk about language. Before Hamilton, I was never fully aware how much power words had and how certain words can hold onto oppressive ideologies without even noticing it sometimes. While there were certain words growing up that I never used because they simply felt wrong to say, there were words and phrases I did use because I was oblivious to those negative implications. At that moment, I didn’t have the discourse to understand that words could be oppressive to a particular group or culture—and that’s the honest truth. Phases like, “that’s gay” “you’re retarded” “he’s such a pussy,” were some of the things I use to say, because I didn’t know any better and no one ever corrected me on it. When I think about it now, I am amazed that I literally did not SEE this—I didn’t think it was problematic. How can something so overt be so covert at the same time???
I grew up in a predominantly Latino community, where more than half of the population is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent (another significant portion is made up of other Latino groups). Although there aren’t very many Non-Hispanic/African Americans that live in my hometown the word “nigga” is used on a regular basis. Often the word is used synonymous to “my boy” or “homie” or “brotha”— a male friend. In that context, the word is used to represent something that is separate from ideologies racism and the history of slavery. It is also used in this form to “reclaim” the word—to say that it can or can’t be reclaimed is a whole other topic— But I personally can’t get over the oppressive history that is connected to the root of the word.
However, I think that the idea of who gets to say the word and who doesn’t get to say this word is also very interesting, especially since I come from a Latino community that uses the word all the time. I have heard of Latinos being criticized by the African American community for using the n-word. Although, Latinos are not African American, they still have African ancestry (whether it is recognized or not). During the transatlantic slave trade thousands of African slaves were shipped to the Americas—the majority were sent to the Caribbean and Latin America and only a small portion were sent to the U.S.. From my understanding, because Latinos are not tied to the specific history of U.S slavery, African Americans believe that Latinos shouldn’t use the word at all. However, in the context of how race operates in the U.S., a Latino with a darker skin complexion, will often be mistaken for African American. I am not sure why in my community why the word is used so freely—maybe it’s because of the musical influences, maybe it’s because they themselves have been called the n-word or maybe it’s something completely different.
While I personally don’t use that word myself, I think looking at words and analyzing them is important. From my own experience, I’ve noticed and have understood that the n-word: (1) has a historical component to it, (2) is used in a specific context as a form of reclaiming the word and (3) that there is an interesting relationship that exists between African Americans and Afro-Latinos.