Print this post Print this post

A Brief Episode in the History of “Nigger”

Tana Mongeau

2,693 words

Tana Mongeau is an attractive and generally likeable performer on YouTube. She is eighteen, though some of her critics suspect that she may be fibbing about her age. She makes drama-laden videos on subjects like “iPhone Repairman Broke My Phone” and “The First Time I Got Blackout Drunk.” She also does bad-girl, clickbait titles like “I Got Banged with a Toothbrush” and “Weird Childhood Dildo Stories.” She is vacuous, but in a better world she would be harmless. Because she is so successful, with over two million followers, more than a few competitors envy her and take pleasure in her current troubles.

When she was younger, Tana Mongeau was in the habit of using the word “nigger.” These “niggers” were, to use Tana’s own classification, n-words with a hard-r, not tame n-words that end in a vowel. She likely thought that they added an edgy coolness to her evolving persona. Saying “nigger” is daring for a Caucasian and has been so for at least fifty years, with varying degrees of risk.

In our era, when even a strong swearword like “motherfucker” is gradually becoming domesticated, “nigger” possesses a verbal power now increasingly denied to traditional profanity. For many whites, “nigger” is an attractive cultural asset now owned by blacks that they covet. They wish they could freely call their friends and enemies niggers, just like colorful black folk do in movies, and because they are not themselves negroes, they also know that their use of the word carries a special, dangerous edginess that not even the darkest Africans can wield.

There is a long history of using “nigger” to display or illuminate a speaker’s character. In 1940, Raymond Chandler put “nigger” into the vocabulary of his most famous detective to demonstrate hard-boiled toughness: “I was with him yesterday – when he killed the nigger over on Central.” Tana Mongeau, likely speaking to another white, spoke the n-word for a similar reason: “You know you’re a stupid nigger, right?”

With growing Internet success, there came a change. The old (good) Tana could joke about “that awkward moment when the gas station attendant hits on you and is as black as the ace of spades.” The new, PC Tana is worried that “racism and prejudiceism and inequality is fucking everywhere. And now that we have a man as our President that doesn’t even believe in inequality, it’s the saddest thing in the world.”

The new Tana believed, despite a regular use of “nigger” in her recent past, that she could do some virtue-signaling by attacking another YouTube celebrity over Twitter for the same verbal offense that she once so frequently committed: “3 million ppl subscribe to u and u openly say the n-word and retard???? Kill yourself.”

Her target was Ian Carter, known as iDubbbz from the name of his YouTube channel. The new Tana Mongeau affected outrage at his frequent failure to observe the unwritten law that prohibits Caucasians from saying “nigger”: “Like literally if iDubbbz broke both his legs and lost all his subscribers I would be genuinely happy. Like he’s a terrible person. Like you’re white and you just say the n-word.”

At a meet-and-greet for Tana in San Francisco, iDubbbz retaliated by posing as a fan and, while both were staring into a camera, asking her to “saaay nigger.” Tastes in humor vary, but I found his encounter with Tana funny. In any case, it forced her to flee the scene in shock and caused iDubbbz, clad in his new pink Tana fan-shirt, to be escorted from the building as a potential danger to public safety, which was also funny.

Tana Mongeau being trolled by Idubbbz

Tana recounted her trauma on Twitter: “seeing racism like that before my eyes brought me to tears and I’m so shaken from it. I need to make a video about this as soon as possible.” She later added, “I . . . was literally terrified for my life.” The emotional and unintentionally comical video that followed was a disaster in the eyes of all but Tana’s most dedicated fans. She reported, for example, that there are still black survivors of American slavery walking around today, elderly but still breathing. She also alleged that iDubbbz had clamped his arm around her neck, which was visibly untrue. She dedicated herself to fighting a mythical villain named “white privilege.” She presented herself as an educator for contemporary youth.

Tana Mongeau’s “N-Word” has received over five million views. Idubbbz’ video presenting his side of the dispute received over five million views in one day. It now has over eight million. Videos made by others about Tana’s trouble with “nigger,” most of them unsympathetic, have received millions of views as well.

Tana Mongeau and “nigger” have thus become a major event, more culturally significant than any given 60 Minutes telecast or the latest news from Syria. Perhaps a million people, myself included, first learned about Tana Mongeau only because she made the mistake, with dark skeletons in her own closet, of attempting to police another white person’s language.

The YouTube world is, of course, highly artificial, since only anti-racists, or people pretending to be anti-racists, are allowed to participate freely. Within this artificial world governed by the ideas of antiracism, an informal discussion took place among a long list of YouTube personalities to determine which of the two major participants in the Mongeau-Idubbbz conflict was the most offensive, and after pondering relative degrees of offensiveness, their collective finger ended up pointing at Tana, who has now been adjudged an offensive and hypocritical “racist” by a jury of her peers. She is at risk of becoming the Paula Deen of her generation, with a “racial epithet controversy” appended to her biography.

With the revelation that she was once guilty of illicit uses of the word “nigger,” some of them dating to when she was fourteen, Tana fears losing subscribers and all the success she has achieved. In the immediate aftermath of this major cultural event, she lost fifteen thousand subscribers and iDubbbz gained two hundred thousand. As the matter stands now, in the first half of February, the smart anti-racist man who currently says “nigger” has come out the winner, and the dumb anti-racist woman who used to say “nigger” (but doesn’t anymore) is the loser. She is now promising the appropriate video apologies to everyone offended (and thus injured) by her youthful mistakes.

In Tana Mongeau’s brief life, the normal pattern she has observed in the world around her is that anti-racists alleging the presence of “racism” in others win, and that anyone against whom “racism” is alleged loses, crumples, and must make groveling apologies.

It did not work out that way in her case, but it is understandable that she assumed it would, especially since her target was both white and a serial speaker of “nigger” in his comedic videos. In a teary-eyed livestream, so emotional that some fans worried that Tana might soon kill herself, she touched on exactly that issue: “All I see is this white guy saying the n-word a million times . . . how does this person have millions of subscribers and just get away with that?”

The word “nigger” is protean, as Randall Kennedy observed in his book on the subject. But though it has carried different meanings at different times and in different contexts, it has long been a possible strong slur when written or spoken by a non-black. Kennedy cites a black writer, Hosea Easton, who in the 1830s described the n-word as “an opprobrious term, employed to impose contempt upon [blacks] as an inferior race.” Yet during the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, “nigger” was more often only a mild pejorative, not much different from calling an old horse a “nag” or a small house a “shack.” Today it has been correctly called “the nuclear bomb of racial epithets,” and it was that explosive nigger-word that both Tana and iDubbbz were tossing around, with bad results for her and good results for him.

Despite recent claims from aggressively anti-racist academics that strong racial slurs such as “nigger” express no real semantic content, and thus should not be protected by the First Amendment, a racial slur is a word like any other and can be analyzed accordingly.

In normal usage, the words “niggers” and “blacks” name exactly the same group of people. Put more technically, a racial slur or epithet can be coextensive in its physical referents with a corresponding neutral correlate. They are, in that limited sense, synonyms: the principal meaning of “nigger” is black person in most traditional dictionaries.

The slur “nigger” adds to neutral “negro/black” derogatory meanings drawn from a set of beliefs about the group available within the culture, such as propensity to kill or deficiency in intelligence. Members of the group being derogated by the slur are naturally disinclined to accept those beliefs. Thus the slur and its meanings are always potentially controversial. The power of the group being derogated will be an important predictor of the level of controversy any slur provokes, as will the degree to which the ingroup that may use the derogatory word as a racial slur accepts or denies the applicability of the negative traits that it ascribes to a targeted outgroup. Today, most whites do not believe that the negative traits “nigger” predicates of blacks are genuinely applicable to blacks as a group, so the distance of slur-word “nigger” from neutral “black” (or “African-American”) is large.

“Nigger,” or any other racial slur, can therefore be an abbreviated argument or opinion put forward in a larger debate. Because it is inflammatory and so highly abbreviated, it will never be a valuable part of any debate, but it can, if examined dispassionately, convey important social and political meanings.

“Nigger” provokes controversy not because it names people of African descent, but because it can ascribe to them traits whose applicability to the group is contested and denied within the culture. Tana Mongeau’s “you know you’re a stupid nigger, right?” contains a contentious idea that happens to be true as a broad generalization, though she clearly did not intend it that way. If the negative traits ascribed to blacks by the racial slur “nigger” were universally acknowledged as truthful generalizations, then “nigger” and its neutral correlates would share the same broad meaning, and “nigger” would become redundant or obsolete as a slur.

When H. W. Fowler published his influential Modern English Usage in 1926, the semantic difference between “nigger” and neutral “negro” was, in his expert eyes, so slight that he advised strongly that the former should be restricted to “full or partial negroes,” since it became offensive when applied to anyone else. Obviously, this piece of language etiquette dates from a time when we still controlled our own vocabulary.

Fowler had in mind the British practice of attaching “nigger” to people from the Indian sub-continent. He believed it was unfair, and even an indication of a speaker’s inhumanity, to describe a Hindu from Bombay as a “nigger.” In Fowler’s usage, “negroes are niggers” would have been very close to a tautology, whereas today, “Kanye West is a black man” and “Kanye West is a nigger” convey substantially different meanings. The first is a neutral statement of a racial fact; the second contains a strong slur that conveys an opinion about Kanye West as a member of the black race. “Nigger” is in essence an unflattering interpretation of “black.”

In 1940, Chandler could write “nigger” without suffering punishment, because most whites then held rational views concerning black abilities and behavior. The world has changed in the intervening decades, and white “racism” has become an unpardonable sin, hence Tana Mongeau’s troubles.

In our era of anti-racism’s cultural dominance, beliefs that were once part of matter-of-fact practical wisdom have been marginalized. The semantic gap between “nigger” and its neutral correlates (“colored/negro/black”), which was growing but still small when Philip Marlowe talked casually about niggers, is now much larger. When the negative traits that “nigger” predicates of blacks became highly contentious, the word that does the most effective and economical predicating of those traits became explosive. Although it is a truism that word meanings change over time, in this case it may be more accurate to say that “nigger” did not change, but the culture it inhabits did.

In 1910, Algernon Blackwood, the great writer of weird tales, employed “nigger” as an adjective to help describe a volatile white character, a Canadian woodsman in northern Ontario: “Hank . . . was swearing like a mad African in a New York nigger saloon.” The idea was that a saloon patronized by blacks would normally be loud and volatile. A mad African swearing in a nigger saloon would be even louder and more volatile than the saloon’s regular black patrons. Saloons are generally loud; black saloons are louder than white saloons; and an insane African swearing in a black saloon would be louder still.

Blackwood was writing before the n-word gained its notoriety. His simile was intended as a humorous comment about Hank Davis, a sympathetic character who enjoys hurling “meaningless oaths” during angry but short-lived arguments with his best friends. It relies on common knowledge among readers in 1910 regarding a fact of black behavior, namely that blacks in groups tend to be loud and volatile. Frederick Douglass, the nineteenth century’s most esteemed black leader, once complained about this typical black trait. Today, the loudness of blacks in movie theaters is a well-known irritant, and the extreme volatility of blacks in groups is a dangerous fact of life in cities, a fact that now must be excluded from all respectable discussions of race.

Beliefs about blacks that were once commonly assumed by most whites are now so contentious that they cannot be stated within mainstream discourse. In our present culture, we could define “mainstream” negatively as any physical or textual location in which such ideas cannot be openly expressed. A word that can briefly signal those excluded beliefs is therefore dangerous and incendiary. In that respect, nigger-policing of whites, especially when it is conducted by other whites, is an indication (as well as an instrument) of anti-racism’s power, and any sign that this policing is weakening is good.

There may be hopeful news on the horizon. In a popular culture awash with n-words, a rule that forbids whites from speaking n-words, a rule with a sub-section that distinguishes an n-word that ends with a vowel from an n-word that ends with a consonant, cannot easily survive.

As Tana Mongeau tried to explain to her tormentors, she has heard the n-word thousands of times in the rap songs that swirl around in popular culture, and it was unreasonable to expect that she would never repeat what she heard.

And as the discussion among various YouTube personalities of the old Tana’s use of “nigger” demonstrated, complaining about someone else’s illicit use of “nigger” without saying “nigger” would be impossibly frustrating. One respectably anti-racist YouTuber had a video banned as hate speech because he felt compelled by his subject matter to say “nigger” too often. There is some poetic justice in that: formerly offensive Tana still has her channel, yet a critic of her old offensiveness had his criticism removed. Hyper-vigilance over illicit uses of “nigger” by whites, coupled with frequent uses of “nigger” despite such hyper-vigilance, could be a harbinger of its detoxification.

In the early 1960s the Jewish comedian Lenny Bruce advised President Kennedy to say “‘nigger-nigger-nigger-nigger-nigger-nigger-nigger’ at every nigger he saw . . . till nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, till nigger lost its meaning.” This defanging of “nigger” would, Bruce claimed to believe, help end the scourge of white “racism.”

The opposite is closer to the truth. No anti-racist should yearn for the day that “nigger” is toppled from its pedestal, since its preeminence as the world’s most offensive slur is a symptom of the monitoring and policing of white speech that a system of anti-racism requires.

The word “nigger” will lose most of its current power when the traits that it now aggressively predicates of blacks as a group are once again accepted as uncontroversial facts. It will then return to being a mild pejorative, hardly worth speaking and certainly not worth talking about.

Related

This entry was posted in North American New Right and tagged , , , , , , , . Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

10 Comments

  1. Sandy
    Posted February 17, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Funny how words change. Growing up (many years ago) one of our nursery books was Ten Little Nigger Boys in which one went off to be a lawyer which I thought was rather complimentary – if one doesn’t mind lawyers.

  2. Randy
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Words are strange mystical things. “Irishman” is okay but “Chinaman” not. This is not just some double-standard of political correctness, it’s how the word sounds. “Nigger” sounds debased. It does not sound like something one wants to be. How can a word sound debased? Don’t know. Don’t think anyone can say how word sounds derive their magic, not even poets. It goes back to growling and barking though, rest assured. “Racist” is a hiss. Pure poetry. It does not sound like something one wants to be. In fact, primordially speaking, when some nigger calls you racist, they are literally snarling at you sub-verbally.

    • Posted February 16, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Words are strange mystical things. “Irishman” is okay but “Chinaman” not. This is not just some double-standard of political correctness, it’s how the word sounds. “Nigger” sounds debased.

      “Nigger” sounds low and angry, because we have been trained, over many decades, to hear it that way. There is no mysticism in the word, and it possesses no special phonetic properties or speech sounds that make it sound hard or (to use your term) debased. “Figure” can rhyme with “nigger,” but no one thinks that the former sounds hard or debased.

      Despite what I wrote in the essay above, I agree with Greg Johnson that we should avoid the word “nigger,” especially in a forum like Counter Currents. But after reading and thinking about “nigger” for a while, and after writing about it in both this piece and another to come, “nigger” is beginning to sound to me like a normal word, which in fact it is.

      “Fucking” is not a strong word in Tana Mongeau’s personal lexicon, because she says it every second sentence.

      ===

      The demonization of the word [racist] is an exercise in Jewish MSM editorial power.

      It wasn’t really demonization. From the outset of its history “racism” was intended as an attack on white racial solidarity.

      The Origins of the Word “Racism”
      http://nationalvanguard.org/2015/05/the-origins-of-the-word-racism/

      — Irmin

  3. Randy
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I don’t think nigger is an exact synonym of negro the way cracker is not exactly synonymous with white person. Funny though that “racist” as a slur against whites has more power than “nigger” has toward blacks. Ask any verbal policeman which is worse to be called, racist or nigger? Also, as Charles Bukowski said, “nigger” is not going away because it is poetic. Same thing can be said about “racist”. The demonization of the word is an exercise in Jewish MSM editorial power. They don’t care about actually getting rid of the word or its insult. If they did all they had to do was get out of the way as the kids reclaimed it. The Jews have fought hard to keep nigger offensive. Such is the Kali Yuga.

  4. Peter Quint
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    “_De-fa-go!_”

  5. James O'Meara
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    “Fowler had in mind the British practice of attaching “nigger” to people from the Indian sub-continent. He believed it was unfair, and even an indication of a speaker’s inhumanity, to describe a Hindu from Bombay as a “nigger.””

    Everyone knows the correct term is “wog” and that the Wogs begin at Calais.

    In John O’Hara’s Butterfield 8, the main character (Liz Taylor in the movie) addresses a maid as “nigger” but only to show how flustered she’s become. Today, it would indicate the author considers her as worse than Hitler.

  6. Toks David
    Posted February 15, 2017 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    In Nigeria we call Whites “Oyinbo” (pale honey in Yoruba) casually. It’s informal and the few whites that visit here accept it as that – a Us vs. Them distinction. It is a casual epithet. It is our language. Whites used to have that too in reference to Blacks. It’s a pity that the right to privately and publicly use epithets has all but been taken away from Whites. To my mind, a people that cannot freely use casual epithets (whether mild or offensive) to identify ‘The Other’ are not a free people. That seems to be the position Whites are in today as a group: other groups can ‘otherize’ whites, but Whites are not allowed to otherize others. It’s a clear injustice.

    • ReinDeDio
      Posted February 15, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      double standards are how the commies survive

  7. cecilhenry
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Yes.

    Wait long enough and ‘African American’ will have exactly the same connotation and will sound exactly like the epithet the ‘nigger’ is now.

    Words mean things. They are used to convey thoughts and beliefs and truths that people have.

    Word control is an attempt at thought control. But people are free, and they will use words to mean the truths they know.

    Banning ‘nigger’ as hate speech will not alter the meaning and truth behind the word. There is also another word to serve the same meaning.

    A word by any other name….

    • Director
      Posted February 15, 2017 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      I maintain that too. The word is tainted by what it describes. Whatever that word is.

    Kindle Subscription
  • Our Titles

    You Asked For It

    More Artists of the Right

    Extremists: Studies in Metapolitics

    Rising

    The Importance of James Bond

    In Defense of Prejudice

    Confessions of a Reluctant Hater (2nd ed.)

    The Hypocrisies of Heaven

    Waking Up from the American Dream

    Green Nazis in Space!

    Truth, Justice, and a Nice White Country

    Heidegger in Chicago

    The End of an Era

    Sexual Utopia in Power

    What is a Rune? & Other Essays

    Son of Trevor Lynch's White Nationalist Guide to the Movies

    The Lightning & the Sun

    The Eldritch Evola

    Western Civilization Bites Back

    New Right vs. Old Right

    Lost Violent Souls

    Journey Late at Night: Poems and Translations

    The Non-Hindu Indians & Indian Unity

    Baader Meinhof ceramic pistol, Charles Kraaft 2013

    Jonathan Bowden as Dirty Harry

    The Lost Philosopher, Second Expanded Edition

    Trevor Lynch's A White Nationalist Guide to the Movies

    And Time Rolls On

    The Homo & the Negro

    Artists of the Right

    North American New Right, Vol. 1

    Forever and Ever

    Some Thoughts on Hitler

    Tikkun Olam and Other Poems

    Under the Nihil

    Summoning the Gods

    Hold Back This Day

    The Columbine Pilgrim

    Confessions of a Reluctant Hater

    Taking Our Own Side

    Toward the White Republic

    Distributed Titles

    Tyr, Vol. 4

    Reuben

    The Node

    A Sky Without Eagles

    The Way of Men

    The New Austerities

    Morning Crafts

    The Passing of a Profit & Other Forgotten Stories

    Asatru: A Native European Spirituality

    The Prison Notes

    Standardbearers

    Tyr

    The Lost Philosopher

    Impeachment of Man

    Gold in the Furnace

    Defiance