From Nigga to Negus:
New Beginnings for an Old Word
Min. Paul Scott
“You hate me don’t cha/You hate my people
Your plan is to terminate my culture”
Blacker the Berry - Kendrick Lamar
Most of the time when somebody asked K Killa to stop using the N- Word he had a prepared, snappy comeback. He would, on cue, go into a long drawn out monologue about how it was really a term of endearment. But after hearing his favorite rapper, Kendrick Lamar , explain that he was spelling it wrong and the word was really supposed to be “Negus” meaning “ king,” he stopped using it. It was one thing to be a “real nigga” but to be a dumb, illiterate nigga was down right offensive…
The debate over the use of the N word is nothing new, most of the time the conversation stays within the politically correct realm that ends with “well, that’s really something that polite people don’t say” (at least in public.) However, thanks to an interlude from the new Kendrick Lamar cd, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” where he breaks down the definition of Negus (Nagast in plural form) to mean "king" in ancient Ethiopic Ge'ez, , the topic has now been elevated to a more historical, etymological and , even, controversial level.
I mean, for people with short attention spans, quoting Tupac’s acronym (Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished) is relatively, simple The average first grader can quote that in his sleep. However, to do a deep, historical and etymological breakdown that goes back centuries takes more than just the proverbial “street smarts.” It requires somebody to pick up a book, or at the very least, put his Google skills to the test.
So, has K Dot accomplished something that the culture police have been unable to do since NWA came straight outta Compton more than 25 years ago?
Now, the argument over a positive interpretation of the N Word did not start with Kendrick Lamar. In 1934, noted historian, JA Rogers made a similar attempt to defend the use of the word “negro” in his work “100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: With Complete Proof” by saying that it had royal origins.
More recently, scholars such as Kaba Hiawatha Kamene ( Dr. Booker T Coleman ) and Hip Hop artist Hakim Green (Channel Live) have also attempted to give the word a noble heritage using the works of Gerald Massey and writings such as the Kebra Nagast as evidence that a nigga has not always been the dude with a white t-shirt and jeans hangin’ down below his knees. According to the them, the original Nagast wore crowns and royal garments.
The flip side of the argument, as advanced by lecturers, The Irritated Genie and community activists such as Kwabana Sakidi Jijaga Rasuli is that the ancient Ethiopic word ain’t got jack to do with the N-word that was yelled at our ancestors as they were being hanged from trees.
According to most dictionaries, the word “negro” comes, directly , from the 15th century Portuguese slave traders and was not a noun but an adjective meaning “the black,” as in a color. But when white southerners tried to say it with snuff in their mouths, it came out “nigger.” And because of the Stockholm Syndrome, we changed it to “nigga.” So we are, clearly, dealing with two different words.
And even if it did have noble beginnings, the term is now being used to identify white supremacy’s greatest creation, “the Nigga” - a self- hating monster who is programed to kill other black people, whether it be man, woman or child. Or, in the eyes of trigga happy cops “ a natural born criminal who is worthy of instant execution.”
But, hypothetically speaking, suppose that the Honorable Marcus Garvey’s use of the word “negro” could be traced back to the royal lineage of the throne of Ethiopia to, at least , the time of the Queen of Sheba (Makeda) while racists and white supremacists are using the word that came from the Portuguese slave traders. If we are truly going to differentiate the terms and come up with a “positive term of endearment,” it would only make sense that we use the Sankofa principal and go back to the historical Ethiopian origins of the word.
That is why Kimathi Melaku El, minister of education of The Black Talmidim, says that the group is calling for the black community to permanently replace “nigga” with Negus. They are also asking that people use the hashtag #replacewithnegus on social media and substitute the word “nigga” in song lyrics and popular phrases with “Negus.” (For instance, “Nigga With Attitude” becomes “Negus With Attitude,” etc.)
Some may argue that with the recent police killings, the black community has bigger things to worry about than a word. But , isn't it easier to feel that you can get away with killing a nigga than getting away with assassinating a king ?
Also, even the hardest brother on the block doesn't want to feel stupid or like someone jacked him for what was, rightfully, his. So, if we can convince the youth that they have been robbed of their history and bamboozled into accepting a false term, perhaps they will ,at least, consider changing their language.
Kwame Ture once said “every Negro is a potential Black man.” So, just maybe every nigga is a potential Negus.
Min. Paul Scott is founder of the Messianic Afrikan Nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @truthminista