The Forgotten “N” Word in the Bible (by William Dwight McKissic, Sr)

By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.

The NFL is currently discussing penalizing players who use the “N” word during a game. Two White NFL players, Riley Cooper and Incognito, have been recorded using the “N” word as a slur directed toward African American males. Black NFL players reportedly commonly use the term during games in a myriad of context, some affirmative and some pejorative. Recently, an Anglo female student at the high school in Texas where my daughter teaches—at a school-wide sanctioned event, across a microphone—made reference to all the “high yellow ‘N’s,’” in the audience. The mixed-race audience, predominately Black, screamed with laughter and approval at her remark.

The word “Christian” was originated by non-Christians, and used initially as a term of derision. However, Christians adopted the term and transformed it into a term of identification with our Lord, and as a testimony.

The “N” word had a similar transformative history. This word was originally used by White persons as a term of derision and disrespect toward Blacks. Blacks adopted the term and transformed it into a term of endearment; a term of respect; and a term of brotherhood. One of the highest compliments one Black Male can give to another Black Male is to call him a “Big N.”  The “N” word was and is also used toward Blacks as a term of derision and disrespect. Context determines meaning. It is seldom, if ever, misunderstood when talking Black to Black. But, until recently, it was always a closeted term, never used in mixed company.

The hip-hop rap generation over the past 20-25 years have radically, and perhaps, irreversibly, changed the use of the “N” word, from private use to public use. They started using the term on public air waves 25 or so years ago.  They sold records by the millions; yes, to White persons as well, where the “N” word was used prominently. The lyrics of their songs, including and featuring the “N” word were printed in the record label jackets. This, in a sense, gave permission to Whites and others to use the term. How could Whites attend the same rap concert; listen to the same rap lyrics; buy the same rap music; read the same rap lyrics; and not be allowed to say, read, sing, etc., the same “N” word? It is unfortunate that the church has not had this kind of inter-racial and inter-cultural impact on the fusion of Black and White culture as the rappers have had.

The public use and cross racial use of the “N” word has caused a generational divide in the Black community. Ray Lewis disapproves of Incognito’s use of the “N” word. I attended and spoke at a Men’s conference in Maryland last year where Lewis said, that would not have been tolerated in his locker room. Yet, Mike Pouncey, an African-American Center for the Dolphins, approves of Incognito’s use of the “N” word. The difference between how Ray Lewis and Mike Pouncey, both African Americans, view this differently has everything to do with their ages—about a 15-year difference.

I am 57 years old. There were two times you were expected to physically fight when I was a boy. (1) If someone talked about your mother. It was called for some reason—“playing the dozens.” If that took place, a fight was on. (2) If a White person called you the “N” word. If you didn’t fight in those two instances, you lost any and all respect among your peers. You may have even lost your parents respect, if you didn’t fight in this scenario. Most parents did not approve of fighting for “playing the dozen,” but, they were quietly supportive or understanding if you fought a White person for calling you the “N” word.

Fast forward to today and we have a generation that’s allowing White persons to call them by some derivative of the “N” word, or the “N” word itself. This is quite disgusting.

The changing use and acceptance of the “N” word documents the fact that the “N” word has a complex, convoluted, controversial and ever-changing history.

We will discover that because the “N” word has historically been misconstrued and mis-associated with other words that begin with the letter “N,” it has caused us to overlook, under emphasize or downright ignore another “N” word, that’s actually recorded in the Bible—the word “Niger” (Acts 13:1).

The word “Niger” has absolutely no etymological or social relationship to the “N” word that’s commonly used today. Yet, in a Bible study class that I was conducting recently, I discovered that several persons viewed the biblical Acts 13:1 “N” word, as synonymous with the controversial “N” word. They even pronounced it the same.

Therefore, I felt inspired to write this article on the “N” word in the Bible, and to clarify and distinguish between these two unrelated terms. Furthermore, I want to discuss the word “Negro,” a derivative of the word “Niger” and its non-association with the controversial “N” word. The “N” word in the Bible is a positive and affirming word that connects descendants of Africa with prominence, productivity, and a place at the welcome table in the Father’s Kingdom.

The Biblical “N” word Provides, Proof Positive that God loves persons of African Descent and He included us in His plan of redemption. Acts 13:1 reads:

“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

“Simeon who was called Niger” was a prophet, teacher, and leader in the church at Antioch. The church at Antioch was the first Gentile congregation in history. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). Luke found it necessary to place it in the inerrant, infallible, and eternal word of God that two men of African descent were leaders in the early church. “Lucius of Cyrene” was also mentioned by name and country of origin. Cyrene was located in North Africa. According to David Adamo, Ph.D. in OT, Baylor University, in his book Africa and Africans in the New Testament (P.52), “The city of Cyrene was in the area where Libya is today and was originally populated by black people in history before the advent and the domination of European people.”

“The word Niger occurs only once in the New Testament, namely in Acts 13:1. Adamo argues that Niger is a Latin word, which means ‘black.’ In the New Testament, the words Ethiopia and Niger were used as the equivalent of the Old Testament word Cush. The Hebrew word, Cush, in the Old Testament means black, and in the Septuagint it was translated Ethiopia, and that also means black. Roman literature described swarthy, or dark-skinned people as Niger among the various terms employed. The people in this category are Africans, including the Egyptians, Libyans, Moors, some Indians and certain persons of mixed parentage with black and white. In Latin, the adjective most frequently used for the Ethiopians who are of black skinned is Niger as equivalence of Ethiopia,” according to Adamo (p. 32) .

“The legendary Ethiopian king called Memnon (600 BCE) who fought in the Trojan War of Troy was referred to sometimes as Memnon aethiops, and other times as Memnon Niger” (Adamo, p. 33).

“In the New Testament, the Greek word Niger was transliterated “Niger” respectively by The King James Version. The Revised Standard Version, The American Standard Version, the New International, and Jerusalem Bible Versions also translated it “Niger.” The Good News Bible, The New American Standard Version, The Living Bible and the New Living Translation, translated it “the black person.” This is highly commendable” (Adamo, p. 33).

According to J.A. Rogers, a distinguished Black scholar, the term “Negro” is a derivative of the word “Niger,” and simply means “black.” Rogers further maintains that contrary to popular scholarly opinion, the word Niger was not originally a Latin or European term, but an African term originating from a native African language. There is a Niger River in Africa and countries called Niger and Nigeria. Adewunni Williams, a native Nigerian that I’m acquainted with reports that in his native Nigerian tongue, the word “Inago” is somewhat similar in spelling and sound to the word “Negro,” and is identical in meaning—“Black Man.” According to Rogers, there was nothing inherently negative with reference to Black people within the etymology or original usage of the words “Niger” or “Negro.” The Europeans borrowed these terms from Africans. The terms “Niger,” “Negro,” “Black,” and “African,” are etymologically the same—originating from African language and meaning “Black” or “dark.”

There is absolutely no etymological connection between the African words “Niger” and “Negro” and the English words “niggard” or “nigger.” Unfortunately, these words have been misconstrued and mis-pronounced. The Ethiopians and the Egyptians used the word “Negus” to refer to kings and royalty. The English words “niggard” and “nigger” have absolutely nothing to do with race. These words described a stingy person regardless of their race.

So what is the proper name designation for persons of African descent here in America? In the final analysis, each person must decide for him­self or herself. One must choose the term that is least offensive to his or her sensibilities. There is a context in which I proudly answer to all of these terms (African-American, Black and Negro). Psychologically and emotionally, I am extremely proud of my African descent. Nationally and culturally, I am proud to be an American. The word “Black” etymo­logically and ethnically connects me with the ancient Cushites (Ethiopi­ans), Sumerians (Blackheads) and Hamites (Egyptians), who were the prominent people of ancient history. My complexion is literally “black”, of which I’m also proud.

I also proudly answer to the term “Negro.” Why? Because I under­stand the historicity and etymology of the term. The appellation Negro (Niger) encompasses my African roots and biblical roots (Acts 13:1) and ethnologically links me with dark-skinned persons throughout the globe who do not necessarily trace their roots back to Africa. Finally, if the word Negro was good enough for Dr. WE.B. Du Bois, the first Black to graduate with a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University; and the word Negro was good enough for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who used the term often and proudly; and if the word Niger or Negro was good enough for the pages of Scripture (Acts 13:1), then the word Negro is good enough for me. Historically and ethnically, I am proud to be a Negro. However, I repeat: There is a context in which I proudly answer to all of these terms. An older Negro preacher in Arkansas was known for saying that Black is an adjective and Negro is a noun; and he would rather be a noun than an adjective.

The biblical “N” word provides positive proof that persons of African descent were committed to the triune God, before Mohammed and Islam had come into existence. The “N” word in history was an English term that originally had absolutely nothing to do with one’s race, but with one’s attitude and disposition—regardless of race. This word was transformed into a racial insult directed toward Black people. It is now time that all people, including, Blacks of all ages, in all context consider the disallowance and non-use of this word. Now that society is integrated in ways that it was not when this word was a popular closeted term, we must accept the fact that there cannot be a word that is off limits to one set of people, but can be used by another and they are all together at the same place. The time has come to have a funeral and bury the English “N” word while maintaining the biblical “N” word. The pronunciation, spelling and the definition of those two words are different and should not be confused. Our young people should immediately stop affirming the abuse and misuse of the English “N” word.



  1. Todd Benkert says

    Great article, Dwight.

    Just one question. Do you have a source that would support your claim that the etymology of the “N” word is related to the English word “niggard” and not “negro” or “Niger”? Every source I have seen makes the opposite claim and your assertion on that point seems counter-intuitive.

    Etymology aside, I thought this was a good piece.

    • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


      If the word “Niger” and “Negro,” originated in Africa as I believe that they did–and if memory serves me directly, J. A. Rogers, in his book, “100 Amazing Facts About The Negro,”– also traces the roots of the words, back to Africa–and if the “N” word and the English word “niggard” are traced to English speaking people–and if “niggard” has no meaning at all related to race–and if the word Niger and Negro–are recorded and spoken in history, long before the recording and usage of the “N” word–why then would anybody etymologically, historically, or any other way connect the two words? I will recheck my sources, and I would like for you to cite one of your sources that suggest that there is an etymological relationship between the “N” word, and the words Niger and/or Negro. Great question though, and I will as time permits look deeper into your question. But, again, I made my statement based on origination and chronological sequence occurrence.

      If Niger and Nigeria, both countries in Africa, and “Niger” is mentioned in the Bible in the 1st century; how then could the “N” word be related to Niger, and it did not appear in the world”s vocabulary–if memory serves me correctly until sometime between 1400 and 1600 AD, in conjunction with the slave trade. If Niger is not and never was a negative expression, but the “N” word always was and is a negative expression when used by Whites toward Blacks, how then could the two words be etymologically and historically connected?

        • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


          It is a matter of dispute whether or not these words derive from Latin orgin. We do know that they were used in Africa, by Africans, very early in history. Perhaps Latin influence factored into the names of the country of Niger and Nigeria in Africa today, along with the Niger River in Africa. That is not impossible. But until someone proves to me otherwise, I am going to trust the scholarship of J A Rogers, and view “Niger” and “Negro” as indigenous African terms. Arthur Custance, A White scholar published by Zondervan Press, in his book and essays called “The Doorway Papers,” or “Noah’s Three Sons: Human History In Three Dimensions,”–mentioned that the word Negro originated in Egypt, which is on the continent of Africa.

          • Dale Pugh says

            I grew up with the word. I hate the word. The conotations are vile and completely unacceptable. Wherever the word came from it needs to be buried in its historical context. As I said, I completely agree with and support the point of your post. That’s one reason why I taught two little white boys to use respectful language no matter who they were addressing. I’m proud to say that they still do so, and they relate to people with complete disregard for skin color.

  2. Nick Horton says

    Good article, Dwight. I don’t have anything to add other than agreement to sunset the “N” word fully.

  3. Dale Pugh says

    “The English words “niggard” and “nigger” have absolutely nothing to do with race. These words described a stingy person regardless of their race.”

    Dwight, everything in your article is right up to this point. The fact is that the two words are totally unrelated to one another etymologically. The former does refer to a stingy person. The latter, however, is an Anglicized corruption of the Spanish/Portuguese “negro,” derived from the Latin “niger” which means “black.” Sorry, but you need to do a little more investigation of this point.

    I do agree with the substance of your article.

  4. Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


    I don’t take issue with the substance and content of what you say here. If indeed you are correct and the “N” word is an Anglicized corruption of the word Negro, then that proves my point that (A) the word “nigger” is an English term (B) it was often associated with the word niggard, and White persons were also addressed by this term. The late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd(?) of West Virginia or Virginia made this point in a Fox News interview before his passing when he said that there are “White Niggers.” Google this ad you will find it on utube. His point was that the English word “niggard” or “nigger” did not necessarily reference race but behavior and attitude.

    Dale, if you are right , and you may be, that the “N” word was an intentional mispronouncing of the word Negro, then what that means is that Black people need some backbone and insist that our name or race designation be pronounced correctly. Perhaps, this why our parents gave us permission to fight over the mispronouncing of this name.

    To watch the younger generation allow this, and allow non-African Americans to use this term in a jovial and fraternal sense–is like watching the blood of the slaves and their descendants being trampled over. This word was used in a pejorative sense as Black people were being lynched. Now, to see it being used in a casual, comical sense, or derogatory sense by Whites, as if that’s permissible, is extremely painful to watch. Ray Lewis is right. The only reason that this generation allows this is because they are simply ignorant of history. Their being ignorant of history is the fault of the parents, churches, and schools. The Bible teaches that it is the responsibility of fathers to teach history to their children(Psalm 78). Today’s kids are being raised without their fathers, and not having a good understanding of the history of the “N” word is the result of what we are seeing today.

    • Dale Pugh says

      No argument to the substance of your point. Just saying that the etymology doesn’t hold up.

      Not going to highjack your post further. I agree that it is a disgusting and inppropriate practice.

    • Todd Benkert says

      Didn’t mean to sidetrack the content of your post, but I don’t see any evidence that there is any relation between “nigger” and “niggardly” other than that they are similar sounding words.

      From the Oxford dictionary: “The words niggard and niggardly have no connection with the highly offensive term nigger”

    • Tarheel says

      Robert Byrd, was a Senator from WV and was one our nations longest serving senators. He was a racist, and unabashedly so, but because he had that (D) behind his name….well…never-mind….that’s off topic.

      He was a card carrying grand wizard of the KKK…so his interpretation of what is and what is not racist in completely suspect to me.

      Politics is a hobby of mine so I will not go there…as I am sure to derail the discussion that is going on here.

      Dwight, good post…I enjoyed reading it. I agree with you on the points you make.

  5. Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


    I have heard White people defend the use of the “N” word by hiding behind the dictionary definition of the word “niggard” or “niggardly.” Indeed my wife and I have such a letter in our files addressed to her by a White man who defended his use of the term citing the dictionary and definition in his letter to her. My point is that these words have been convoluted in history. They need to be properly understood. We agree that there is no etymological relationship between “niggard” and “Niger.” I am willing to simply acknowledge what J A Rogers said again, ant that is, it is contrary to popular opinion, but the word Niger and Negro are not Latin terms, but rather, indigenous African terms. Based on history, geography, and chronology, I simply trust what J A Rogers has to say. I do recognize that ours is the minority opinion though. I appreciate your dialogue and interaction on this subject. I was unaware of the Randall Kennedy book on this subject. Thanks. Gret find. Will order as soon as possible.

    • Todd Benkert says

      That’s not the part I was quibbeling with you about. Assuming you are correct about early African use of term Niger/Negro, the word was also used in the romantic languages and the “N” word still comes from negro/niger not niggard.

      That’s my last word on the subject — word origins are a bit of a hobby for me :)

      Now let’s discuss the main point of your article…

      • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


        You’ve added value to this conversation. I was in Chicago recently speaking at North Park College. Whenever I have another occasion to visit there, I hope that you would be available to break bread and talk word orgins. I find them interesting as well.

        Just curious. I hesitated talking about how the “N” word is used privately among Blacks. What was your reaction to that portion of my post? Was that information that was “old hat” to you, or was their anything stated that you found informative, and perhaps helpful to your ministry, as we all seek to understand, and better communicate with, and tto reach people of other cultures, unlike our own?

        • Todd Benkert says

          I have mixed feelings about the issue. Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

          1. My cultural anthropology professor was fond of reminding us that “words do not have meanings, they have uses.” So it makes sense to me how the term could be used pejoratively in one context and a term of endearment in another.

          2. Non-racist white people generally do not make this distinction when it comes to this word and have a very difficult time seeing how a term that they have been taught is one of the most derogatory and offensive in the English language can be used in any other way.

          3. Whites are often clueless about how blacks experience racial discrimination in every aspect of life and so are hung up about so-called “fairness” – if we can’t say it, why can they say it?!?

          4. Many whites are afraid to use ANY term to describe Black people, … I mean African-American people, … I mean people of color, I mean people of a non-white hue because they have more melanin than me (I hope I didn’t offend you by calling you the wrong thing).

          5. Whites are afraid of being racist, so are often afraid to give their opinion about whether blacks should use the “N”-word, and those who are not afraid to give their opinion often come off as racist or at least racially insensitive because of the way they give their opinion.

          6. When whites hear blacks use the “N” word, it tends to lessen their opinion of them, much like when one uses a vulgar term.

          7. When blacks use the term in a mixed-race groups, it make other races feel uncomfortable and unsure how to feel and react.

          8. If our goal is racial unity and racial reconciliation, then people of all races and ethnicities have a responsibility to hear, learn from, and understand one another and make accommodations in our speech so as not to cause unnecessary offense.

          9. The use of the “N”-word by blacks, even if one can argue that it’s use is technically acceptable, tends to be a barrier to racial unity and reconciliation.

          All things considered, I agree with you that all people, regardless of color or intent, should stop using the word and its derivatives. But I will endeavor not to be offended when I hear black friends use the term with one another.

          • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


            Thanks for your critical feedback. It was quite helpful to me to hear these thoughts from a different perspective. Some of what you said was new insight for me, such as how Whites feel about the use if the N word when used by African Americans in different context. Those things I did not know. I was aware that Whites often aren’t sure as to how to classify Black People, and are afraid of addressing them racially in an offensive manner.

            Justice Clarence Thomas said recently that all races in America are too sensitive nowadays, and he is right. He said that we are not to be so quick to play the race card. I so believed what he said that I was willing to overlook a clear, blatant, racist retort, or comment, on another comment thread because I agree with Justice Thomas: we shouldn’t be overly sensitive about race.

            The good new is that I did not have to defend myself, or be the first one to throw the race flag. A man named Eric, that I don’t know, Dale, David R., Alan Cross, and others stepped in and addressed the matter. It was really unnecessary for me to say anything, although I did. Mark Lamprecht, a brother that I often disagree with, removed the racist comment from the thread, before “Bishop Dave Miller”-:) could step up to the plate and pronounce a firm and final verdict on the matter. The beauty of what took place was that I was not a lone Black man screaming racism, while everyone else remained silent, or quietly supported the racist thread comment. I was the Kingdom brother that watched my fellow Kingdom brothers step up to the plate and do what should have been done.Therefore, dialogue and brotherhood is important. The responses of the brethren made me feel like a family member, and not the Black Sheep either.

            Finally, as much as I dislike what the rappers have done in a carnal, negative, and sinful sense to hurt our culture, in a strange way they have impacted race relations stronger than the church. They have manage to take the sting out of the N word and has transformed it into a word that both races of people 30 and under, now use in a way where there is no offense among them. Again, I think that horrible, but, I must admit, it does make a statement that culture can be changed. As a boy, I never thought that I would see the day when young people could communicate fraternally around this word. I am still baffled by that.

          • Todd Benkert says

            Thanks, Dwight. Glad you had that experience here at Voices.

            As for my previous comments, just so we’re clear, the statements I made about whites are not based on research but my personal observations and experience.

        • Todd Benkert says

          I would love to break bread with you — in Chicago or Baltimore or wherever our paths might cross.

    • Dave Miller says

      Frankly, I think most of us would avoid using the term niggard just because of the risk of misunderstanding.

      • says

        I remember when “niggard/niggardly” came up on the SAT vocab list in jr high school, and we had several people ready to start a fight over it. The teacher had to settle everyone down and point out that it’s not a related word.

        But I think most of us decided that it’s a word that is done for–too much risk for confusion due to sound.

        • Dwight McKissic says


          Your comment points out at the very last all persons need to be educated regarding the the meaning , spellings, pronunciations, and proper and improper usage if these terms. I trust that my post and the comment thread will contribute to that process. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Dale Pugh says

    Dwight, I do see great significance in the fact that the early Christian mission extended into Africa almost immediately after Christ’s ascension. Surely it shows the power of the Gospel to save across every linguistic, ethnic, and racial barrier established by men. I have often wondered about the Ethiopian eunuch and his place in missionary history. I wish we knew his name and more about the direct results of his conversion to Christ. I think we can still see it extended down through the ages in the lives of Ethiopian Christians. I had the disctinct pleasure of meeting some Ethiopian Christians at FBC San Francisco when I was at GGBTS in the 80’s. They are a wonderful witness to the Good News.

  7. says

    I’m a *leedle* bit nervous about commenting one of Dwight’s posts, as the last time I made a non-humorous comment on one of his posts, I stuck my foot in my mouth *clear* up to the knee-cap. Anyways:

    One slight quibble (though I’m actually quibbling with Adamo): The New American Standard does not appear to be one of the translations that renders niger as ‘black’ or ‘black man’, unless it was revisioned in to one printing and revisioned out in a later one (The NASB does have something of a history of making changes from one printing to the next). This stood out to me only because I grew up on the NASB (and wore out two orange-covered NASBs).

    The interesting thing came, though, when wading through English translations for this verse over at The BibleGateway rendering for the Wycliffe Bible has “Simon, that was called Black”. Yes, that’s the Wycliffe that preceded the KJV. I think BibleGateway has modernized that, though, as the Wycliffe Bible in my Olive Tree Bible Reader has this as the Middle-English ‘Symount, that was clepid Blac’. I’m not sure whether that’s the early Wycliffe version or the later (or if there was any difference between the two in this verse).

    Also of interest is a Thomas Nelson-published translation named “The Voice”, which has “Simeon (a dark man from Central Africa), Lucius (from Cyrene in North Africa)”. The italicized words use the convention that they are not in the original, but are added for clarity).

    • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


      Thanks. Helpful information. I am grateful for the input and feedback that all have offered on this thread. I am eventually going to include this information in a book. The corrections, updates, revisions, and feedback–particularly helping me to understand this subject matter from A White perspective is very, very helpful.

  8. says

    I’ve always thought that the “n-word” was just southern-white for “negro”. I mean, when I heard it (usually by the older white folks) it was pronounced “nigra”. I think this is very likely since we butcher most other English words as well.
    If that’s the case, then the rub is who says it and in what context. Either way, it lacks class.

    On a different topic, I was speaking to a black friend of mine and we were discussing how white folks use terms like “african-american” and “persons of color” around black people. He said that when this happens it is an indicator to him that the speaker is more congnizant and less comfortable about their race differences and is attempting to navigate the uncomfortable by using formal terms that are proven not to offend. He says that just saying “my black friend” indicated that the speaker was more comfortable about their differences and felt more endearing to him that the cold formality of “african-american”.
    Just sayin’

    • says

      This has been a cordial and respectful discussion. But I cannot tell you how nervous it makes me to see that certain word so often! I think I’m going to have a nervous breakdown!!

      When I was in my first pastorate (in the South) I heard “that” word too often. But I think it is accurate to say that in my 23 years in Iowa I’ve not heard that word a single time – that I can remember.

      Dwight, I appreciate your honesty here! And the productive discussion.

        • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


          We may cringe at that word, but we better learn how to get comfortable talking about race. The church is behind on this issue. If we don’t see inter-racial churches coming into existence over the next 10-20 years, the church will continue to lose influence in society. It is a huge credibility issue for the church, when thereis more inter-racial harmony at the average sporting event, or night club, than you will find Sunday Morning in church. I pray that the Lord would let us learn how to talk openly, honestly, and redemptively, regarding race so that we can heal the land.

      • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


        You are a brave soul to host this discussion. I told my assistant that this is the one post that I would not be surprised if Dave decided not to post, because of the nature of this topic. But, thank God, I was wrong.

        If we are going to improve race relations in this country these kind of conversations are a must. The churches are withdrawn from each other, while the world is in dialogue with each other concerning these matters.

        Alan Cross preached a incredible message on race at our place this past Sunday. I held an Elders meeting last night, and they mentioned Alan’s message, and the tremendous insight that he brought, which was, at the root of racism is selfishness and pride. The N word was birth out of a spirit of superiority, selfishness, and pride. That is why I want to disassociate this word from the word “Niger’ and “Negro.”

        David, I believe that the SBC is the only denomination that has the potential to change the culture as the rappers have done. Of course, we want to change it for the good, Conversations like these can lead to greater unity, appreciation, and understanding.

        At some point SBC Anglo Churches and SBC African-American Churches need to create a dialogue on the subject of planting churches in needed areas that are inter-racial from the start. An inter-racial married couple don’t have to pray about having an inter-racial child. It is a natural by-product of their love. So it is with an inter-racial church, they will develop and grow into a larger inter=racial church, because their DNA is inter-racial. Conversations like the one that we are having would be absolutely necessary, if an inter-racial church is to succeed. I wish NAMB would embrace an initiative to launch discussions and prayer, that could lead to inter-racial congregations.

        Thanks again Dave, for the courage to have this conversation.

    • Tarheel says

      Adam G.,

      The pronunciation you used is one I have heard from older (really old like 80+)

      As the “my African American friend” / “my black friend” delineations.

      I think both of them perhaps contain at least a tinge of racism….in that win I hear people say it, it isn’t necessary. It’s a description that often (appears) to be justifying ones relationship with the person they are so identifying.

      Another that bothers me and i tend to think carries a tinge (at least) of racism with it is; “he’s black, but he’s cool” or “he’s (insert complimentary modifier) for a black dude”…as if that’s unusual an needs to be specified.

      • Adam G. in NC says

        I was really using this in the context of whites using the terms “african-american” and “black” in a racially mixed setting. I understand what you’re saying, but that’s not really what I was talking about.

    • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says

      Adam G.,

      Jesse Jackson lobbied major newspaper editors about 25-30 years ago to stop using the words “Black” and “Negro,” but instead to use the term African-American, because “Black,” or “Negro” didn’t tie or connect Black people to a land, but African-American does. Jackson succeeded in his goal to change the nomenclature. Another reason he and other Blacks argued against the word “Negro” is for the reason that you mentioned. It was easy to mispronounce, and to confuse with similar sounding words. As Dave said earlier, it is probably better to avoid any similar sounding word. You mentioned the commonly used Southern White term “nigra,”; Blacks are very much familiar with that term and despise it greatly. You are right; that term lacks class. We always thought that that term represented a polite way for Southern Whites to call us the “N” word. Adam, I appreciate the dialogue. Too often we have these kinds of conversations when there is only a single race present. I personally belive that it is of value to have these conversations with each other, and not just about each other.

      • Adam G. in NC says

        Mr.McKissic, you’re still the most gracious blogger on here. A true minority in that sense. (pun intended)

        As for the word “nigra”, when I heard it used, I can assure you they were not being polite. Tarheel may have just heard it a few times by some very old folks, but (until the great cultural rise of hip hop) from my own personal experience, when I heard the “n-word” used by white folks, it was pronounced “nigra”…but I do live back in the sticks.

        I really believe that the “n-word” gets its roots from different forms of the word for “black” in some languages. I’m not convinced it comes from the genteel english for a miser or something like that. I can understand why you would want to change this, but revisionism wont solve the real problem. The problem is the real hatred and disgust that props up a term like the “n-word”.

        All the people in the world whose ancestors cam out of africa have a great heritage either way.

  9. Christiane says

    When we were little, geography was a BIG, IMPORTANT subject and being able to name (and correctly spell) the major rivers of a continent was expected, so the Niger River was as familiar to me as was the Nile River.

    I remember the older folks using the term ‘negroes’, and today that seems somehow wrong, as ‘blacks’ or African Americans seems to be the preferred way to speak about our American citizens of African descent.

    I am seeing more and more ‘mixed’ marriages with beautiful children, and I am hopeful that one day, being ‘human’ will be race label enough. My own father, of blessed memory, came from Canada and was discriminated against because of his French Canadian ancestry and his initial inability to speak English (the nuns taught him English at school in New England). So I have no love for ‘labels’ or for the contempt and suffering that flows from seeing ‘others’ as ‘different’ and not deserving of the respect that ought to be given to all human beings as made in the image of their Creator.

    When I taught in the inner city, the ‘n’ word was forbidden both at the Catholic schools and the public schools as a word that was an insult and provocative . . . my own students were disciplined if I saw or heard any signs of contempt for each other whether it was racial or not. My first line of defense was that during the initial three weeks of classroom orientation, we did ‘character formation’ and we talked about the right ways to behave in class and in the school, and I was direct with the children about the consequences of hearing someone disrespect another classmate. I also spent time with students who needed extra guidance with their behaviors (this done in a positive and caring way which always paid off later).

    Life has left me with pride in my father’s ethnic heritage, yes. But more than that, I am left with the desire for the future that next to the word ‘race’ on forms, people will learn to write ‘HUMAN’, and not to do it as a joke or a cop-out, but because that is how they most clearly express their solidarity with all humanity.

  10. Dwight McKissic says


    Thanks for adding positively to this dialogue.

    Why do you think that there is less of an emphasis on geography since your childhood educational years and mine?

    I appreciate your focus on our commonalities rather than our differences.

    • Christiane says

      Hi Dr. McKissic,
      Thank you for your reply.
      That ‘less emphasis’ is notable, isn’t it ?

      As to the ‘Why’ of it, I can only say that all ‘basic’ learning has taken a hit in public education in favor of pushing the young into more advanced subject matter . . .

      an example:
      we were given a ‘restructured’ curriculum for sixth graders by the state and were told to begin teaching economics, including some fairly difficult economic theory, to the children. Problem was that many sixth graders are not fully ready yet to work with abstract ideas, so we had to sort out ways to teach the subject at a level where it made sense to them, unless we were to resort to having them ‘memorize’ without comprehension (something I could never do, as I thought it unethical to put the children through this).
      Reason for the imposition of economic theory into that grade level? We thought it was a political decision because of some of the materials we were given, but we didn’t have a choice of whether or not to teach what was mandated. We did have a choice of HOW to teach, and breaking the subject down as basically as possible with practical examples and role-playing turned out to be our best way to help the children through this difficult entry into a complex subject.

      Another example of abandoning basic skills is in mathematics, where children are given a calculator and no longer expected to master basic facts from memory . . . this has led to ALL sorts of problems. I always taught basic skills, along with all the other curriculum requests, because I was trained by nuns to do it. So my first year in sixth grade in a public school, at the end of the year, two parents came up to me and the father, in his words said, ‘I want to meet the first teacher who cared enough to teach my son his times tables’. There was something about this that broke my heart for all the young ones who had not been given the basic building blocks they needed for their math comprehension.

      As for reading, the skipping of basic skills is legendary and the impact shows up in so many leaving school before they graduate.

      Geography? Dr. McKissic, I think it’s the same attitude . . . people think it’s a ‘waste of time’ to teach basics . . . they have a more advanced agenda in mind for the education of our young . . . but I think you and I know that is not fair to young people. Those ‘basics’ are building blocks that form a sound foundation for learning. And the children need them. Maybe that is why so many send their children to Catholic schools, where the basics are thoroughly taught in most cases, still.

      When my incoming sixth-graders were questioned about local geography, some didn’t know much beyond their neighborhood, so guess what subject I also ‘included’ for them in the required curriculum topics, when I could. :) Extra credit for map work, books from the library lined up on the chalk board to read after their lessons were completed, carefully-chosen explanations with back-ground given to fill in the many ‘gaps’ in their learning . . . I did what I could, because it was the right thing to do for them. I didn’t make the rules or have input into the curriculum that failed them, but I could could SOMETHING to help. And it was my great joy to do it.

  11. Dwight McKissic says


    Thanks for such a thoughtful answer, that your background and experience so greatly aided in providing such a plausible, on-point, and probably as close to totally accurate answer as anyone could possibly give. I learned much from your insight. Thanks again.

  12. cb scott says

    Hey Dwight,

    This is a good post. I am glad all of you folks here are standing around the campfire, holding hands, and singing Kumbaya and giving Dwight and Dave and Alan all these grand atta-boys.

    However, here is what I wanna know. I wanna know when Dwight or Dave or Alan is going to write a decent post about us Irish folks? (Historically, the most hated tribe on earth other than the Hebrews) When?

    Here it is, almost St. Patrick’s Day and not one of you has written a post apologizing to the Irish. We were the Wild Geese is all of your wars. Some of you would not let us live in your countries and when you did, you assigned us to the slums. . . . until you needed us to fight in another one of your wars. Then you would pay us a few coins and a promise of better days later, but never payed off your debts for defeatin’ your enemies.

    So what about it fellows? Ya gonna write an ode to the Irish or not? Ya all used us to fight your wars as Wild Geese, but paid us little-a-nothin’ to do yo fightin’ fo ya.

    So what about it, Dwight, Dave, or Alan? Du we get a St. Paddy’s Day post or no?
    . . . and an apology or two to go with it, especially from all you English, French, German, and “Yankee” American boys who we kept free from time to time throughout the history of the world, by our grit, wit, and sword? . . . only then, to return and get kicked outta ya countries or put in the slums . . . . . ah, yeah, ya know I’m right, now, don’t ya? Hah? Yeah, ya do.

    So, Pony-up, boys, give us a decent St Patrick’s Day post and don’t call him a Catholic Saint either. . . . for he was definitely not. He was a true Proddy all the way. . . . and tough as whet leather, yeah he was.

    • Dwight McKissic says


      I look forward to learning about Irish history and heritage from you. Sincerely,I would be interested. My knowledge of Irish history at this point on a scale of 1-10, and 10 being the highest would be 0. I do recall once a year, from ’bout the 1st -9th grade, we wore something green, or placed a green lapel on our clothing in honor of St. Patrick s day. I also recognizes that St. Patrick’s Day had Irish roots. Beyond that, I know absolutely nothing, including any biographical data ’bout St. Patrick beyond his name. Please enlighten me CB. I would really appreciate learning 40 years later, why I had to wear green back then on SP day.
      For a hillbilly, you sure are a brilliant man-:). You, Bart, and Paige Patterson remind me of Bubba with graduate degrees.

      • cb scott says

        “For a hillbilly, you sure are a . . . ”

        Hey Dwight,

        Did you know that on a worldwide scope there are more ethnic slurs in reference to we Irish folks than about Black folks?

        For instance, take the word “Hillbilly.” The history of that word is actually an ethnic slur toward the Scots-Irish.

        Ulster Scots who supported the Protestant King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne came to be known as “Billy Boys.” The combination of “hill” and “billy” first came into use at this time. A large number of Appalachian settlers were Scots-Irish, and the term arrived with them.

        Tell Dave to write a post on St. Paddy. You know that if I write it, I will just go to braggin’ and you know how we Irishmen are prone to brag, right? . . . especially about ‘taters and Irish whiskey and fightin’, ’cause as you know, we are all ‘tater eatin’ drunks who are good for nothin’ but fightin’. 😉

        • Dwight McKissic says


          LOL. You write the post. Dave know’s nothing about it would be my assumption. You know everything about it. It would be quite interesting. At the very least, explain to me tge significance and relataibility of me having to wear green, once a year. And, BTW, who was St. Patrick? What did he do? Why is his name annually invoked in Anerican history and folklore? I could look up these answers, but that would be to much like right. My guess is that you could stroke out the a sees to my questions in two minutes or less. Please enlighten all of us. Thanks.

          • cb scott says

            BTW, Dwight, in all seriousness, your post is excellent. . . . and you can call me a Hillbilly anytime. Just don’t call me late to supper, especially if ‘taters are involved. :-)

    • says

      Now this could get interesting–CB, bring it on. I’d like to see which version of the various legends regarding Patrick you take as accurate.

      I think the main focus would be well done on this: enslaved, saved, emancipated, and returned to the people that enslaved him as a missionary. Of course, tipping the hat to the snake thing isn’t a bad idea :)

  13. Tarheel says


    I love to see an article written by you on that topic…you seem to be pretty knowledgable and passionate about it.

    Also, as for standing around the fire singing “kum ba ya” don’t forget that next will be “stand by me” which will be followed up with “friends are friends forever”. 😉

    • cb scott says


      “Stand By Me” is the ring tone on my Iphone that rings when my wife calls. 😉

      • volfan007 says

        I’m a hillbilly cracker. Hey, that’s what I am. I’m fine with that.

        David :)

      • Dwight McKissic says

        CB & Volfan,

        I will call you all a hillbilly. After all, being from Arkansas, I’ve been called a hillbilly a time or two myself. I relate to hillbillies. It’s apart if my heritage. If CB is correct on his hillbilly Irish history, I have been “grafted” into the Irish hillbilly family, based on my Arkansas roots.

        But, I am going to stay away from the ‘C word. When I was a boy, this was an insulting an intended hate word used toward White persons. So, if we I am going to bury the ‘N’ word, I must also bury the ‘C word.

        Just curious though, I believe that I know the answer but I am going to ask anyhow; do White people use the ‘C word in various and sundry ways like Blacks use the ‘N word? Is it a word used in pop culture among Whites? Is it a part of the lyrics of White pop-culture music? Is it bantered around in private conversations of Whites only? Just curious!!!

        • says

          It’s not really used in most white culture that I experience.

          Typically, I hear it from folks who are talking about being tired of “political correctness,” which is quite the vague phrasing, and how they don’t get upset about being called a “cracker.” There was a just a burst of “I’m not a cracker, I’m a Saltine American” that went through the Redneck branch of my Facebook feed recently, but that’s about it.

          I’d guess that Redneck is used more commonly as an internal slang term in pop culture. But I’m in a more rural area–maybe city folks have a different situation.

          • says


            Thanks. You confirmed my suspicions. It is a good thing that it is not commonly used among Whites. The PC Crowd is probably right on this one. If they can be called the ‘C word, it gives them permission to call others the ‘N word. Therefore, both words probably need to be buried simultaneously.

          • Adam G. in NC says

            It is used. Usually by youths who are emulating the way in which black people use the “n-word” among themselves. It’s definitely not as common, but it gets used. Usually with a crude, comedic intent.

  14. says


    This is the only time in my life I recall wanting be White, so that you could add me to that list of luminaries, Tim, C B, and Bart, and call me the ‘C word-:).

    • volfan007 says


      I still want you, Dave Miller, Robin Foster, and me to go to an “All you can eat” buffet, restaurant…and, I want us to all go up to the buffet, together….all of us grab a plate, and then stare at the restaurant manager for a little while, before we hit the buffet….and, watch that ole boy sweat it out!!! Because, he’s about to lose a lot of his profits…



  15. says

    You asked about the “C” word. I don’t recall hearing it much in my younger days, only in recent years. I do occasionally hear white boys calling each other by that name. Usually just joking around. It never has bothered me much.

    By the way, “boy” is a word country white folks use of each other in a complimentary way. As in (of a white man), “That’s a good old boy,” or “That is one big boy.” Kind of like hillbilly and redneck are used.
    Boy is also used as in “Boy, it sure is hot today.” Similar to “Man, it sure is hot today.”
    I know that “boy” has been used in racist ways, but it is also often used in ways that have nothing to do with racism.
    So, I’ve known of times when a white person forgets, and uses “boy” toward a black person – not in a racist way, but forgetting for a moment that the word has been used of African-Americans in a derogatory way. Sometimes I think both sides need to realize those things occasionally innocently happen.
    David R. Brumbelow

  16. says

    David B.,

    Thanks. Just as the ‘C’ word is not commonly used among Whites according to you & I believe Doug H., it would be a good thing if the ‘N’ word is rarely used in Black to Black conversations. I appreciate learning things about these matters, from you guys. As the SBC continues to integrate, these are important conversations from my vantage point.