How Special is the “Special Word”?
Welcome BXTCHES to another episode of “I’m not sure what the hell she is talking about, but I’m gonna with it anyway”. Trust a BXTCH when she says that she’s not even sure if she was able to hit anything on the head here and make a lot of sense. Just read it, unfortunately this topic doesn’t allow me a lot of room to be my witty, hilarious self. It’s okay, even the best ones need to take a break every so often.
FULL DISCLOSURE FROM THIS BXTCH: I think it’s best if I’m 100% honest, straight from the word go here. I was raised in a racist home, one where the “special word” (you know the one) was used and was used often, in fact, as a young girl, I thought that was what black people were called. We played the “eeny meeny miney moe, catch a ____ by his toe” game, we called Brazil nuts by their other name. I even have an older sister whose nickname had the “special word”, simply because her ass and nose was bigger than ours, which isn’t saying much, we’re not a family of asses, our assets lie on our chests. Now, thankfully, I’m one stubborn BXTCH and it didn’t take long for me to realize that the “special word” was not appropriate and even more thankful for the fact that I wasn’t one who took what my parents said as the gospel and learned things on my own.
Now with that out of the way, you should also know that I am married to a black man and I have three children with that man. My oldest is who actually spurred this post. Scrolling through Twitter one day, she came across a post by her cousin, who is as white as the new fallen snow, that said:
“When a nigga your ex cheated on you with at the Walmart subway and he gives you free cookies hes chill af”
Now, I apologize for the “special word” and for the lack of proper grammar, but I was quoting him. Now, my daughter was super offended by this tweet, which actually surprised me, but we formulated a pretty witty response. Fast forward a couple of days and her other cousin, also white, used the term in our car. To say I was shocked was an understatement. When I told her that she cannot use that word around me or my kids, she proceeds to tell me that they use that word all the time. Again, jaw on the floor.
So, this gets me thinking about this word, whether it’s ending in “a” or “er”. When I discussed this with my 16 year old and how she feels about the word, her response is: “offended”. She went on to explain that it doesn’t matter to her how the word is used, whether it’s used in greeting or in a racist tone, she is offended. Even more surprising to me, is she doesn’t care who is using the word, it’s still offensive. To her it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, she’s offended. This is not a word that she has grown up around (we do not use it in our home) and she’s more of a One Direction music person, so she’s not really listening to it in her music selections. That’s not to say that she hasn’t heard it in her music, she just hasn’t heard it enough to become desensitized by the word. And I hope to keep that way for as long as I can.
I’m not really around my brother and his family enough to get my nephew’s opinion on his decision in using the word (see above tweet), but I was able to talk to my niece and my sister about my niece’s use of the word. What I gathered is this. It’s just a word. Has it been used in her household as a derogatory name towards black people: Yes, which I respect her for admitting. But they also feel as if using it ending in “a” causes it to take on a different tone and meaning.
Before I go any further into this post, I did a bit of research on the history of the word. Don’t get too excited, I didn’t go into great detail with my research. But here is what I learned:
The “special word” derives from the French/Portuguese/Spanish/Latin words for black. The word didn’t start out as one that was offensive, it was really an identifier way, way back when, In slave days, the “special word” or the word black was inserted in front of a common name as a way to distinguish a slave from a non-slave with the same name. By the mid-twentieth century is when the word began to take on a more derogatory meaning.
I also wanted to get a black woman’s take on the “special word”, so I asked a friend what her feelings were. It is certainly a word that offends her and a word that has been used to identify her (not in a “what up my. . .” way). When I asked her how she reacts when she has been called the “special word” and her response was perfect. She told me that she gives them a chance to correct themselves and make sure that they have chosen the right word and it’s only then that there is a problem.
I was actually most surprised by the one I have promised my forever to. When I asked my husband how he feels about the word, his response was simple. . .“It doesn’t bother me.” He did go on to say that if someone were to use that word in a negative manner towards him, that him being offended and getting pissed off about it, “isn’t going to change how the other person uses the word”. Racist people are going to continue to be racist, regardless. Interestingly enough, he also feels that when African-Americans use the “special word” around white people on a consistent basis, it’s just a test, a test to see if the word is used enough, will that white person become comfortable enough to begin to use the “special word”, I’m not too sure how I feel about that theory, but it is a theory nonetheless. His family (according to him) uses the word as if it’s any other word when they are around one another. But, insert a white person into that setting and the word becomes non-existent.
Now it’s time to discuss what this BXTCH thinks. I am someone who thinks that the word is offensive, regardless of the manner in which it is used. While the word may piss me off, it also brings me a little satisfaction when someone makes it so easy to identify their racism and there is no better time than right now in our country for that to happen. And the great thing is it not only identifies the racists, but the ignorant ones as well. Although, racism and ignorance go hand in hand.
Growing up in a family that used that word with frequency, I wonder how many non-black families use the word in the privacy of their own homes today? My wish is this, if you are going to use the word in your home as a way to identify black people, then make sure you have the balls to use them outside your home. It makes it easier to identify hate and racism, not to mention, who the hell I can use as a learning tool for my kids.