The Myth of the Soft “A”

Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith
8 min readMar 30, 2024

The following essay may be uncomfortable for some readers. It contains the use of the term, “Nigger.” It is, however, important for the comprehension, context, and connotation of this essay that the word, Nigger be spelled out and used entirely. Throughout the essay, Nigger will be italicized.

Every time I hear someone trying to rationalize the use of the word, “Nigger,” I am left with an emptiness only attributable to those in the community of Blackness who do not understand the history and meaning of its use, or if understood, have been so generationally conditioned that they no longer care. This ascription of desensitization and acceptance is etched into the fabric of the Black community today, but as is always the case, history tells a deeper story.

During the days of bondage and enslavement, the term, “Negro” was used to describe what kind of chattel they were. It was a term to dehumanize and acknowledge the enslaved as literal beasts of the field. The pejorative term, Nigger was most likely used by the white people of the time because many of them could not pronounce Negro. An article in the African American Registry stated it “is probable that Nigger is a phonetic spelling of the White Southern mispronunciation of Negro.” Excerpts from the article encapsulated the horrendous nature of the word, its contexts and connotations:

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Dr. Cynthia Alease Smith

Anti-Racism Essayist & Educator offering discussions about Race, Racism, White Supremacy and the language used, from perspectives not ordinarily considered.