Can I say nigga, my nigga?

In Snotstories deur Watkykertjie bydrae3 Eiertjies

By Marc

Wam niggas, or is that wam niggers?  Can I say nigga?  I mean, there, I just said it a few times and also, the short answer is “yes” but I mean, as a white male South African, expropriating (or just succumbing to) the African-Americanism “nigga” and using it unapologetically upon black and white friends alike, will Aunty let me say it?  Aunty Society?

While for years I railed against the now retrospectively inevitable contamination of our society and the globe with American English generally and notably annexed ghetto cool from the States just like “nigga” and “yo” and “holla” and, every time I heard a local black teenager on the street approaching a local black teenage girl, saying “Yo bitch”, I just wanted to slap him – my toes curled – I concede.  I lost.  And I let go of that resistance and distaste because I guess I gravitated towards a black environment, a black life, so at home ekasi mina.  Make no mistake, whenever I hear a local black person either squeaking like a Yankee Barbie or a guy saying things like “ninee-nine” instead of “ninety nine” or “gone” instead of “going to” I still want to shit my pants. It’s just more distant now and I get over it quicker.  I guess if you hang with folk you take them as they are, pseudo twang and all.  Borrowed street cred and stolen cool and all.

my-niggaSilly, since we are way cooler than Americans – black or white (I mean us, but them too) – and our country’s population is such a hip melting pot that has given rise to so much talent and skill on the world stage.  Zulu could easily become, even without the dubious and Kafkaesque benefit of the Zulu nation colonising a few foreign countries, the lingua franca of the world.  Why can’t it?  It already bridges so many in this country and beyond, has an easy to learn construct and is exploratory in demands it makes on your mouth and expressive in the contemplation it insists on in application.  Do you know that awesome super bike, the Ducati 916?  That red phallic locomotor symbol you just want to be naked with, it’s so sexy?  A Mr. Terblanche designed it.  Sowaar!  Troosgod.  He’s the big kahuna at Ducati design, Italy, on that stuff.  From P.E, I believe.  Hy het daardie ding geskep.  And Lucas Radebe, captaining Leeds United that time ago?  (If I must)… Charlize Theron (the glitz), Ernie Els (more sport), other famous astronauts, scientists, whatnot…

This is silly.  I am getting off topic and into a list of SA greats when even a dim historical or current global consciousness tells one that South Africa rocks and should hang its head nowhere.  There the Aussies, the Kiwis, even the Chinese and Gabonese are way ahead of us – they just run on a “Well yes of course, we totally rock” understated demeanour that we lack here in SA, which is even sillier, because we really do have phenomenal people, facilities, events, thinking.  We’re the shit, man…  Our government is bloated, retarded and well, it’s a government and how great can that be? And a huge swathe of humanity has yet to be dragged through the brutal process of becoming middle class while still maintaining dignity and sanity. Not to mention developing taste, manners and a world view – and our lives play out against the backdrop of that fat kid tuck shop and the pathetic uniformed forces we glimpse, the political and geographical chicanery and tomfoolery I guess any state in the world may be subject too, but we have the spark man!  If the world was a small cottage garden, we are like year-round tulips, always shooting from the bulb, from the soil, always colourful, beautiful, never unremarkable.

My niggaz, I have a text record – one that can never be erased – and a daily habit of greeting all friends I bump into regardless of their colour, “wam nigga” and a growing interest in finding out, honestly, beyond me not giving a particular shit anyway, if I’m being politically correct saying it. The thing is, political correctness is sort of scoffed at on the street, in friendship, where pushing things and tweaking language and just generally swinging in the next dope terminology is almost mandatory and totally cool. I guess there are two issues I have begun pondering of late:
One – the fact that I have been assimilated – both by the spell checker as well as by American domination of certain aspects of life no matter where you are – into utilising Americanisations as much as any of the Afrikaans goed and old English and French expropriations and whatever else litters language in this country and beyond.
Two – “nigga” is so fiercely owned and currently charged by black folk in the USA or, rather, it’s a charged atmosphere there now so, am I always going to be a dick using the term simply because I’m white?  I mean, regardless of America’s internal politics or even consciousness of how it seeps into the world at large – let’s even leave that out for a moment – will nigga forever be black and ill suited to my white mouth?

No, I don’t think so.

Jou ma se white mouth.

There was a debate about whether whiteys can say nigga some time back, in the States.  I caught a bit of it at the time.  One somewhat academic tangent of that national, unproductive conversation was that black Americans are saying “nigga” whereas “nigger” will always remain a racist slur.  Horseshit!  That’s retarded, silly.  How, with the myriad twangs on accent and individual manifestations of speech and dialects prevalent even in a province, much more the world, can you determine if a whitey or anyone for that matter is saying nigga with an “a” or nigger with an “er”?  I think it’s safe to assume that if a pasty white fuck wearing a white sheet, somewhere in the southern states of America yells “Hey! Nigga!!” that he’s a hostile piece of shit but, beyond that, the whole “it’s how you spell it” offering seems like irrelevant semantics to me and a poor contribution to that whole debate.  I won’t get into the whole phenomenon of black Americans calling themselves “nigga” to begin with but, on that point, if you call one another by that name, and you’re successful in impacting world culture and your terminology passes into the vernac of earth, well, well done and deal with it.  You did it.  Now I do too.

In my heart, I say it in love.  Wam nigga.  Impossible?  Never entitled?  Never allowed unless by grace?  Well, not for all of us, né?  I’ll tell you where I got the phrase from – Lebo.  Lebo who was once my cousin-in-law who walked into the house one Sunday carrying stuff for a salad and waltzed into the kitchen and said “Wam niggaz!” by way of greeting.  She’s a CA and black and cool and, I don’t know, it was just so cool and cute and dope all at once, hearing her say that, affirming me as a black man, accepted, present and relaxed, beyond race, beyond anything.  Just people making salad before a braai. I’m sorry, but I am aware of our colour and culture differences in the way that God meant us to be – joyously.  He had a genocidal moment that went on for centuries in the old book, but he got better, remember?  No one slaughters Amellekites nowadays.  I, way far and completely more value someone for their differences that are so interesting to me – individual and cultural differences that make each person you meet unique – than recoil into my own identity.  I suppose I have just enough distaste, alienation and fatigue from being white middle class to be perfectly hovering, wraith-like, beyond contamination of core racism and, well, yes, possibly even core identity.  I’ll tell the shrink… the point is or the question was, since seeing me slapping palms on a city street without knowing anything of this and just seeing white man saying “wam nigga” to a black man – is that kosher?  See?  There we go…  Awe. Kosher. Schweet. Lekker. Mal. Tit. Befok. Nca. Ayoba. Dope, bra…  Eita, wam nigga…  Maybe I’m just supercool? If supercool is pathological disdain, a patent inability to give a flying fuck about the ramifications of what one says and an insistence on everyone else being supercool too, then, ja, maybe.  That doesn’t answer things for me, though.

If I’m introspective and frank about it, I guess I also just flout race stereo-typification, even classification, on principle.  I just don’t think classifying anyone or just seeing the person walking towards you as a colour first and a human second aids anything almost ever, so…  I say that, but I totally gawp at hot black chicks and, yes, because they’re black.  That’s in there somewhere. I dunno…

Having dipped into a pondering of this in words, coming as I do from a few years traveling with the term in my vocab, I now feel like I’m gravitating back towards that disdain.  Wragtig.  Since I have never ever had anyone – black or white – rebuke me for employing the term, not only am I relaxing back into the innately cosmopolitan sensation I have always enjoyed by being blessedly colour blind in all the right ways, I am also realising that it is a global term now, whether black America likes it or not.  No, here we never witnessed black folk take hold of the term “kaffir” and own it as some kind of milestone jargon all hip and cool (although saying “hola mlungu” between black men trended a while back and is still present), so I guess a straight pasting-over-imagining of a similar happenstance here is flawed.  But, I can lag lekker with my coloured mates, calling them “bushy” (an adaptation of “bushman” vir diegene wat gister gebore was), so the cool, piss-in-your-racist-face thing has happened there.  With hindsight, coloured folk have always had that laaste lag sense of humour in their language, né?  Who was going to emulate the ownership of nigga here as in the States if not them?  Oddly enough, now being called “m’larney” by coloured acquaintances jars a liiiitle on me…  M’larney was almost a nod to your white, better face, originally?  Now it feels like an unwelcome identification, one I’d rather not have or, rather, one that disappoints slightly, since I know I am at least a quarter coloured, if not a whole lot more.  Perhaps even odder, being called “mlungu” by black folk has become neutral to me now.  That doesn’t jar on me at all.  It seems to contain just the right touch of an identification of a difference as well as a welcome. Maybe I’m just biased.  Black girlfriend, black neighbours, black mom-in-law-to-be, black “other” family to visit, black other place you might find me…  Maybe I’m biased, ja.

Wam niggers…  there’s also the comedy value of an older white male using the word.  Somehow, no matter that the backdrop may be shit brown sometimes, what we went through, indeed, what we are, here in South Africa, allows me to say it.  Also, since the term doesn’t belong to black South Africa nor white South Africa, it’s kind of got a mutually foreign OK-ness to it.  Not for Julius Malema, no doubt, but we all know he’s a doos…  Make that a Doos.  Capital “D”, please.  Maybe the relative newness of the mush-mash of languages we have here, now able to be meshed and welded and blended and live alongside one another, also allows nigga and dope and chill and too many other cool terms to mention to slip in to this fertile play ground, South Africa.

I’m OK saying it.  I like it.  It’s both a lag and a statement of total OK-ness.

I hope.

I’ll let you know if ever I lose teeth over it.  Until then, soentjies, catch you, wam nigga.

Watkykertjie bydraeCan I say nigga, my nigga?

Comments

  1. David

    Terblanche het die 999 design boet, en hys was fokken aaklig, so daar moer daai gedeelte plat, en toe verloor ek moed om verder te lees

  2. Peanut

    Daai 10 minute is moertoe en sal dit nooit terugkry nie…..skoon moeg na daardie relaas

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