When can white people say the n-word?

Can you?
Can you?
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

There are few people in the world that get to say they rapped on stage with Kendrick Lamar. A white woman, calling herself Delaney, had the honor of doing so during Lamar’s concert at the Hangout Festival in Alabama this week. But Lamar stopped Delaney while she sang his song M.A.A.D City after she repeatedly used the n-word. As the crowd booed, Lamar reportedly told her: “You gotta bleep one single word.”

The incident sparked yet another round of debate on a loaded question: Should white people ever use the n-word? The merit of using the n-word is a question that is still asked in classrooms, among hip-hop fans, and during heated discussions on free speech. It is one of the most divisive words in the English language.

But for whatever situation that arises, here’s a quiz to refresh your memory on when it’s appropriate for a white person to say the n-word.

As acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out last year, context matters. Coates adds that white hip-hop fans’ anger at not being able to sing along to many of their favorite songs hints at an uncomfortable truth about race relations in the US:

For white people, I think the experience of being a hip-hop fan and not being able to use the word “nigger” is actually very, very insightful. It will give you just a little peek into the world of what it means to be black. Because to be black is to walk through the world, and watch people doing things that you cannot do, that you can’t join in and do. So, I think there’s actually a lot to be learned from refraining.