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By Rick Younger
After I'm done here, I'm afraid that I
may be in trouble. I know you've
heard about "the man." Yeah, the
same one that's holding a brother
down. I don't think I'm going to be in
trouble with him. I think I will be in
trouble with his black equivalent. That
all knowing power who dictates what's
black and what's not. I'll call him "Big
Bruvva." That's right bruvva, yes,
b-r-u-v-v-a. He's watching me just like
he's watching us all.
I think "Big Bruvva" might get angry at me because I'm telling secrets I shouldn't tell.
I'm telling things about black folks that black folks don't want told. Well, since I'm
probably already in trouble, I might as well keep talking. Just know that if you never
hear from me again, "Big Bruvva" is watching.
I want to talk about the N-word. I'd ask everyone who is reading this right now to say it
out loud, but I don't want to get any white folks hurt or killed (white folks, you can
thank me later). I try not to say the word in mixed company, but the word is nigger.
Boy that word comes with a lot of baggage and controversy. That word can cause
involuntary reactions. The times that I've heard it come from white people directed
towards me, it has given me a pain in my chest that made me feel powerless.
I was most recently called nigger in 2000 on Hollywood Boulevard by a crazy bum. He
bumped into me and with all the crazed anger he could muster he said, "fuck you
nigger." It froze me. Here he was roaming Hollywood Boulevard homeless, disenfran-
chised without a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, and he called me a nigger.
He felt even as low as he was on the totem pole of life, he was higher than me
because he was white, and in his eyes I was a nigger. He probably felt like he had to
throw away his stinky jacket because it had been touched by a nigger. And no matter
how much I rationalized that it didn't matter because he was a crazy bum, it still hurt
because that word always hurt.
That's why it's hard for me to totally embrace the word "nigga." Although it is a
variation on nigger that has been accepted as a term of endearment amongst friends,
it still has a history that's filled with pain. I never like to be referred to as a nigga by a
person I don't know, even if they are black.
I also see too many non-
blacks getting comfortable with
the word because of it's
frequent use. There are
suburban white kids getting
killed daily in Times Square
because they came to New
York on a bus trip and decided
to walk down the street quoting
their favorite rapper.
When others get comfortable
with the word "nigga" and want
to use it frivolously, it's our
fault as black people for
allowing people to think it's
acceptable to use the word.
I'm not totally nigga-free
I still use it amongst my closest friends and loved ones, and I know that many of us
who have close white friends slip up and say it to them or around them. I remember
famous quotes from my father growing up.
He'd say, "I promised the Lord and three white folks I'd never do that again. I
promised the three white folks cause a nigga will lie to the Lord but a nigga ain't gonna
lie to no white folks" (yeah it's a crazy quote but if you want an explanation, call my
The word "nigga" is a part of our inside culture, but because our culture has become a
part of American culture, nigga has hit the mainstream. The word has taken on a
masculine swagger with our youth. In our hip-hop culture, it's used by the toughest
people. You can't even say nigga unless you say it hard: "What's up nigga?" The late
rapper Notorious B.I.G. was known for using it to end sentences: "What's up nigga? I'm
hungry, nigga. Pass the gravy, nigga." Guys use the word so that they can express
their emotions but maintain their masculinity: "I love you, nigga. Give me a hug,
nigga. Give me a back massage, nigga."
Now I don't want to talk about this word without giving a possible solution to the N-word
controversy. I remember when I first went onstage to do stand-up comedy, I used the
N-word, the term of endearment version. I used it to represent guys in general, not
anyone of any specific color. After I got offstage, someone approached me. He said, "I
noticed you didn't curse in your act, but I did notice that you used the word "nigga."
You were funny and you didn't need it."
Thank God that I was open-minded. I analyzed it and I realized that everywhere I used
the word "nigga" that I could easily replace it with the word "brother." It fit and it was
such a loving word. Whenever I said it I was referring to men of all colors: "I love you,
brother. Give me a hug, brother. Give me a back massage, brother."
So I said all that to say this: "Y'all ain't my niggas. Y'all are my brothers and my
Do you have any feedback
for Rick? To add your
Rick Younger is a stand-up
comedian who has appeared on
Comic View, Last Comic Standing
and Showtime at the Apollo. He
performs regularly in NYC and is
the founding member of the
weekly show, Souled Out Comedy.
Terrific form of writing! On top of it all, you write. C'mon now, bruvva! So proud.
One of the most important reads I have had in a while and coming from a friend
makes it even more valued. When I lived in Miami, you had everyone walking around
saying, "What's up my nigga?" as if "Hello nigga" was not bad enough.
Thanks Rick it needed to be said!
That was an outstanding article, BROTHER! I agree with you, however I'm still trying to
decode your fathers quote.
You are still crazy. I took the time to read your article and loved it. So does that mean
you won't be use the N-word at our 20th reunion during your standup-slide show?
I really enjoyed the piece you wrote Rick. I particularly have noticed, since I moved to
New York how comfortable Latinos use the word, "nigga". I'm certain they probably feel
like "we're all in this together" and we are, but we don't call them "spic." Wait a minute,
maybe we should rebuttle with "spic" so they can end their use of that word.
Hey Bruvva, I truly enjoy your style of writing and think you are the funniest comedian
out there and it doesn't hurt that you're sexy as H-E-double hockey sticks! Keep up the
Rick, ahh suki suki now...You are not only funny but an enlightening BRUVA as well.
Your words made me think deeper. I am a different person now. Thanks.
-Steven Palmer- UMCP 1992
My Little Brother - oh, I mean Bruvva - has done it again. You are a breath of fresh air
in the comedy world: someone who speaks his mind and provokes thought. And your
funny too! And never a curse word to be said in your act. Now, you have solved the
"Nigga" word problem too. What a comedian? Thank you.