Blacks search for self-definition beyond words

Centuries ago, black people were labeled the following: nigger, colored, coon, monkey, tarbaby and darkie.

Now many blacks opt to be called African American.

But who decided to label individuals by their race?

Blacks tackle the issue of one of the more commonly used words, nigger, and its sensitivity level. According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, the word nigger is “used as a disparaging term for a black person.

Used as a disparaging term for any dark-skinned people.

Used as a disparaging term for a member of any socially, economically or politically deprived group of people.”

During slavery, white slave owners and settlers referred to black people as niggers. However, this title can be placed on any person or race that allows it.

The way blacks describe themselves

Over a course of education, development, technology and time, the Census Bureau has changed its information sheets to reflect the new classification of black people. Blacks can now consider themselves whatever is appropriate to them.

Although the official classification of blacks has changed, the “N” word now seems to be a “social thing” inside of the Black community. Blacks now refer to themselves as “niggas.”

The spelling has changed, and the meaning also.

“I’m not from Africa. I just define myself as a black male,” said Torey Nichols, a student at Tallahassee Community College studying emergency eedical services.

The 26-year-old student said he does not have a problem with other blacks who refer to themselves as African-Americans, colored and so on.

“I am African. I was born in Nigeria,” Muideen Adigun said. Adigun, 24, is a graduating pharmacy student who was raised in Miami after his parents immigrated to Florida.

He said African-American is more appropriate than being called colored or the “N” word.

“It’s just another way of saying we are not white Americans or the majority,” Adigun said.

The Beta Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. recently sponsored an event that focused on the history of the “N” word and how as a race, blacks should discard its usage.

The seminar was entitled “The ‘N’ Word Mentality” and was held on Nov. 10.

“I just told a white friend she could say ‘nigger’ to me, but after the seminar, now I realize the negativity of the word,” said sophomore Michelle Martin, 18, a psychology student.

How do you feel about the “N” word?

The “N” word can be considered positive depending upon the style used. This is prevalent in the black community, but other blacks feel that it should not be used at all.

“I feel the ‘N’ word is a word we have turned into a term of endearment in our culture. That doesn’t change the meaning of the word. We will destroy ourselves and give away our culture to assimilate. We give up so much in an attempt to assimilate,” said Saasha Wheeler a 22-year-old fifth year MBA student from Fort Lauderdale and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.

“The root of the word is derogatory, and it strips us of the essence of who we are,” said Talitha Coverson a 24-year-old language arts teacher at Sakkara Youth Institution, located at 1209 Paul Russell Rd.

Contact Anthony S. Ray Jr. at