Jackie Magazine, Rihanna and the N-Word: We’re to Blame

Reflecting on the n-word flap involving Rihanna and the Dutch magazine, Loop21 blogger Rob Fields says that the pervasive use of the pejorative by African Americans negates our right to become angry when others use it.

Jackie Magazine
Jackie Magazine

In a blog entry at Loop21, Rob Fields reflects on the scandal over Jackie magazine’s use of the n-word in referring to Rihanna. He says that African Americans have misused the pejorative expression for so long that it has been co-opted by other cultures. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves for its misuse.

Poor Eva Hoeke!

If you’re just getting up to speed on this, here’s the short version: Dutch magazine Jackie referred to Rihanna in the following way: “She has street cred, she has a ghetto ass and she has a golden throat. Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate niggabitch and displays that gladly … ” Folks got wind of it and were outraged, Rihanna ripped the magazine a new one via social media, and editor of said magazine resigned soon thereafter. 

I found it difficult to get very worked up about this for two reasons. Yes, the Dutch editor’s choice of words were stupid, but I don’t think it was done with malicious intent; she was trying to offer an honorific to an artist she admires. Second, and more importantly, black people, it’s our fault.

It’s been a slippery slope, but over the last 20 years, we’ve allowed, and in many ways enabled, the normalization of the N-word and its variants, particularly through hip hop. Now, it’s true the word has a long and despicable history in and outside our community, a holdover from this country’s overtly racist past.  If you’ve never read Jabari Asim’s brilliant book The N-Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, And Why, it’s worth it for the 400-year overview of the word’s evolution.

Read Rob Fields’ entire blog entry at Loop21.