The Other “N” Word

Neftali /
Neftali /

Still embroiled in a high-profile standoff with the feds over taxes and land rights, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy dropped an “N” bomb on camera last Saturday.  The cattle-ropin’, cowboy-hat-wearin’, tax-protestin’ Mr. Bundy made reference to “the Negro” in the same way one mentions Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, or “the white man”—as if there were only one Negro rather than many:

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro….They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?

For reasons you will probably never understand, I find that entire quote funny. What’s even funnier is that much of the predictable Twit-rage and Face-palming focused on the mere fact that he dared to use the word “Negro.” Forget about the Alzheimer’s level of confusion in the rest of the quote.

During last Saturday’s soliloquy, Bundy also referred to “colored people”—we all know the preferred term is “people of color”—and “the Mexicans” in some meandering statements about slavery, the Watts Riots, and government dependency. Here’s the clip. Nevada looks so dry, I get thirsty just watching this:


OK, so when did “Negro” become a dirty word?

Granted, it’s not considered as unspeakably obscene as the other “N” word—you know, the one that rhymes with bigger, chigger, ditch-digger, jigger, Tigger, and wigger—but this polite-sounding word has been banned from polite company for reasons that elude me.

I realize you’re not supposed to say it; I don’t understand why. It’s the Spanish word for “black.” Why is that an outrage? We are currently encouraged to call American persons of African ancestry “black,” but it’s racist to call them the Spanish word for “black”? If anything, banning the word “Negro” is disrespectful to Spaniards. What about their rights? Hmm?

I think it’s a very happy-sounding word, and any negative connotations it has acquired over the years are due not only to hypersensitivity, but also possibly to hypertension as a result of the high fat and sodium content found in many fried foods. Say it out loud to yourself while standing in front of a mirror and try not to smile. It’s almost like when a photographer tells you to say “cheese”—it’s hard not to grin when saying “Negro.” Don’t be afraid of the word—it’s friendlier than you’d think. Nee-grow. Nee-grow. See? It has a lilting, lyrical quality all its own.

It was a commonly used and perfectly benign-sounding word back when I was going to grade school with your grandfather. I don’t ever remember it being used disrespectfully. Back then I pictured your average “Negro” as having very nice teeth, a proper set of eyeglasses, and perhaps even a collegiate sweater. I remember seeing Negroes on the TV. I remember liking them, too.

“Negro” is a good word that has been given an unfairly bad reputation by those with bad motivations, so I call for its complete and utter rehabilitation. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Stop worrying about good and bad…and start thinking about true and false.

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