N-Word Privileges

"Oh no, I'm white — I can't read that word."
Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

When people are not allowed to say derogatory slurs, or similar comments about a group of people, unless they are part of that group or otherwise granted special dispensation.

Derogatory slurs are wrong. They are used as a way to imply that a whole group of people is inferior to another group in some way(s), or, as Richard Pryor memorably worded it, they "perpetuate [the] wretchedness" of a group of people. Yet, because words gain meaning from context, including the characteristics of the speaker saying those words, slurs are sometimes considered acceptable if they are spoken by people belonging to the group the slur is about, or someone given special dispensation by members of that group.

The most notable is the word "nigger." Probably the most offensive word in the English language, it has become a term of fellowship in American hip-hop culture, especially in the slang form "nigga." Yet, that fellowship only extends to those who have been accorded N-Word Privileges. Putting it simply, some black people call each other this colloquially, generally when they are close friends; but if you address one of them with the word as a non-black (especially white) individual, it can be an exceptionally effective method for getting some very dirty looks.

So who has N-Word Privileges? Generally, those who are part of the group to whom the term originally applies usually get a free pass when speaking among themselves, at the risk of looking crass if saying it in mixed company. The occasional "honorary pass" is given to others, such as Latinos saying the N-word, or straight women with lots of gay friends saying "fag," but this can be rather inconsistent, such as Jennifer Lopez catching flack for using the N-word in a song awhile back when the Latin rap group Terror Squad would use it all the time.

This was lampshaded by George Carlin, who said in one of his routines, "You take the word 'nigger'. There is nothing wrong with the word 'nigger'. It's the racist asshole who's using it you ought to be concerned about. We don't care when Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor say it because they're not racists. They're niggers!".

Some of My Best Friends Are X will generally not work here. Even if such friends grant permission to use the slur in question, it still has the possibility of horrifying or angering anyone else.

Many people of all backgrounds find this trope problematic. Those belonging to the group in question wonder if they can really "reclaim" a word with such a loaded history, or the point in doing so, as they believe it makes them sound crass and uneducated. Those belonging to the dominant social group cite hypocrisy and discrimination when privileges aren't extended to them (not that they'd ever use them, mind, but It's the Principle of the Thing).

A Sub-Trope of Appropriated Appellation and Double Standard.

Compare Offending the Creator's Own (when a work, rather than a word, is thought to be offensive), T-Word Euphemism (which this page demonstrates), and Race Name Basis (when a character's race is used in place of their name which could lead to this).

Note that simply using a slur is not enough. To be an example, the use of a slur must be considered acceptable for some people but unacceptable for others. If it's acceptable for everyone, it's not this trope.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • In Naruto the term jinchuriki means "power of the human sacrifice" and refers to people with bijuus sealed in them. The titular character is enraged when people who view jinchuriki as tools use it to dehumanize them but accepts it when used as a technical term. He's also okay with it being used by current/former jinchuriki.

     Comic Books  
  • In Y: The Last Man, white Yorick's black bodyguard, Agent 355, tells him, "Nigga, please!" when asked if she's in love with him. Later, when asked if he's in love with her, he echoes her answer. She gives him a momentary look as if she's about to object, and then apparently decides to let it slide, implicitly extending him N-Word Privileges, at least in the context of that conversation.
  • The Quantum and Woody issue "Noogie" explicitly refers to this in an intro saying that they've been forbidden to use the "N-word," and will use the word "Noogie" instead. It then subverts it when a poor black character repeatedly calls Quantum "noogie". Quantum, whose full-body costume covers his identity, demands to know how the man knows he's black, only to be told "You're black? S-Word!"
  • Referenced, Fantastic Racism style, in Ultimate X-Men:
    Northstar: Sophomore year I realize I'm gay, and now you're telling me I'm a mutie?
    Angel: Um, you may want to live the life for a bit before you start slinging derogatory terms like that, even if you're trying to reappropriate them, or whatever.
  • In one Strontium Dog story, Johnny and Wulf receive some information from a fellow Bounty Hunter, Cecil 'Frog' Parsons. Wulf thanks him for this, referring to him as 'Frog', which causes Frog to fly into a rage about people who refer to him by his mutation instead of his name. Wulf apologizes, and then Johnny gives Frog a payment for the info, also calling him 'Frog'. When Wulf asks why he didn't get angry at Johnny, Frog matter-of-factly points out that Johnny is also a mutant, so it's different.
  • In X-Statix, the black team member Anarchist calls a black applicant a spear-chucker, and tells the Orphan (who is a purple-skinned Caucasian mutant) that he wouldn't be allowed to do the same. The Spike literally throws spears, as it happens. And this is all the more ironic when you consider that the Anarchist is adopted and his parents are white, so the Spike thinks he didn't have the right in the first place.
  • Mocked by Superman villain Manchester Black (who was visually Caucasian), who would frequently use this kind of word and immediately after claim it was okay for him to say that, because he was 1/16th (insert relevant minority group). At the end of his first appearance after being beaten by Superman, the Man of Steel uses this against him by taking a shot at his leadership skills, and then saying "And I can say that because I am a leader."

     Fan Fics 
  • In Discworld/The Big Bang Theory crossover The Many Worlds Interpretation, Raj Kooprathali displays Indian patriotism in his disparaging opinion of India's Pakistani neighbors. He uses a Hindu equivalent of the N-Word to describe Pakistanis in general and one colleague in particular.note . The author stresses in a footnote that Raj can use the word as it's in a language mutually understood by Indians and Pakistanis. But to anyone outside the subcontinent it's a bit inflammatory. note . The Pakistani colleague promptly comes back with the Urdu/Moslem pejorative "kaffir", which boggles the mind of a "South African" who is listening to the discourse. (See note below for "kafur/kaffir"). Mutual insult over, the two go away together amicably talking about cricket - always safe ground for Pakistanis and Indians forced into each other's company.
  • [[The Celestia Code features a unicorn, Jigsaw, finding out about some of the things other ancient unicorns were doing, along the lines of tribal supremacy (in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic canon, the various kinds of ponies are referred to as tribes—and, in ancient times, they hated each others' guts). One insult that catches a shocked gasp from nearby Twilight is 'screwhead', referring to the horn. Jigsaw justifies it, being a unicorn herself: 'Hey, I'm a unicorn, I can use the S-word if I want!'

  • Blazing Saddles. The black characters in the movie use the N-word toward each other in a friendly manner, but all white characters who use it are stupid racists, including the little old lady. Mel Brooks stated that he intentionally wanted to overuse the word in the movie to the point that it became such nonsense that nobody could possibly be offended by it anymore.
  • In Mean Girls, Janis claims calling Damian "too gay to function" is only funny when she says it and gets upset over it being written in the burn book.
  • In Rush Hour, Carter (Chris Tucker) says, "Wassup, mah nigga!" to some of his friends at a bar — after having told Lee (Jackie Chan) to follow his lead. When Carter leaves the room to question an informant, Lee (who's new to the United States) cheerfully uses the same greeting with the bartender, completely unaware of any Unfortunate Implications. It doesn't go down so well. And when Lee is asked to repeat himself, he says it AGAIN, slowly and clearly...
  • In White Chicks, two black men under cover as white Rich Bitches make the mistake of singing along with a rap song on the radio, which they are clearly used to doing as black men but which is horrifying coming out of the mouths of what (ostensibly) appear to be white women. When the genuine Rich Bitches in the car with them get shocked, they respond, "No one's listening, right?" Cut to the whole car singing along with a Cluster N Bomb, grinning and giggling girlishly at their transgressiveness.
  • Bamboozled: An in-character discussion of who is actually entitled to N-word privileges occurs in the film. Wayans has a conversation with his white boss. The boss contrasts himself with the starch-suited, very carefully spoken, single and uptown-living Wayans, saying, "I have a black wife, black children, hell, I even used to live in the ghetto, so I feel I'm entitled to use that word." Wayans says he'd prefer his boss didn't, at which the boss scowls and proceeds to drop a cluster N-bomb, never at any point directing it at Wayans, just saying the word a lot. The scene (without apparent transition) then becomes a fantasy Wayans has of violently assaulting his boss and beating his face in all while screaming "Whitey! Whitey! Whitey!"
  • Leprechaun in the Hood and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood have pretty much all the black characters regularly using the word to refer to each other, almost exclusively good naturedly. In the latter, when a minor white character cheerfully uses it during a drug deal everyone (including people in the background) just stare at him in disgust, with a record scratch noise (and the sound of a car braking) even being heard when the guy utters the word. Of note, at one point in the movie one of the main characters tells another that "nigga" is actually out and that the new word is "ninja".
    The Leprechaun: Whassup, ninjas!?
  • In the 1990 movie Heart Condition, Bob Hoskins is a racist cop who, on arresting a black man (Denzel Washington), uses the N-word. His (black) boss explains to him that that while he (the boss) can say "Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger," Hoskins' character, being white, cannot. Hoskins later gets to justifiably refer to Washington's character as a "spook."
  • In the 1950 film The Lawless, fruit pickers Lopo and Paul address each other as "cholo," but when overprivileged white boy Joe uses the term, those are fighting words.
  • Inverted in Tropic Thunder : when black rapper Alpa Chino uses the word, Kirk Lazarus (a white actor in blackface) gets dead serious and sternly chastises him for it, claiming that "for four hundred years, that word has kept us down". Predictably, this confuses the hell out of Alpa.
  • In Down To Earth (Chris Rock's remake of Heaven Can Wait), the main character tends to forget that he's a black man who's trapped in a white body. The first time he performs his regular comedy routine in his new body, the audience is shocked into silence. He later gets knocked out by a couple of black guys for singing N-word containing lyrics in public.
  • The blaxploitation film Boss Nigger concerns two black bounty hunters who set themselves up as sheriffs in a white town. They declare it illegal for the "whiteys" to refer to them as "niggers", but use the word indiscriminately themselves.
  • An example of privileges beings extended (sort of) to a out-group member from Brian's Song: during a workout/physical therapy session for his friend Gale Sayers (played by Billy Dee Williams), Brian Piccolo (played by James Caan) calls him a nigger, hoping to motivate Sayers by making him angry enough to forget his despondency over his low chances of recovery. As soon as he says it, Sayers stares at him, shocked, for a few seconds... then busts up laughing.
    Gale Sayers: [to his wife, through tears of laughter] Oh, babe, you won't believe it. Brian tried to call me 'nigger'!
  • The documentary Fagbug is an interesting example: in 2007, a lesbian graduate student named Erin Davies discovered her VW Bug to have been vandalized by someone who spray-painted the words "fag" and "U R Gay," presumably because she had a rainbow sticker in her window. After discover her insurance wouldn't cover the cost to get the paint removed, she decided to just drive around with the car as is, and after getting many interesting reactions to the car decided to drive around the country interviewing people about their reactions to it: some were supportive of her, others were obviously uncomfortable with the word showing up in public, and some people even tried to remove the word from her car (Davies even had to re-paint the word "fag" back onto her window before her trip). She also discovered she couldn't get vanity license plates with the word "FagBug" on them, so she had to settle for "FG BUG". After a year she got the paint removed... and got her car detailed so it's now rainbow colored and has the word "Fag Bug" emblazoned on its side. Davies now uses the car as an instructional tool for her talks about homophobia and prejudice.
  • Cree Canadian filmmaker Neil Diamond opens the narration of his 2009 documentary film Reel Injun thusly: "I am an Injun," the last word of which is currently considered a heavily racist slur. (He's not a Boomerang Bigot; the movie then does an excellent job picking apart Hollywood's depiction of the indigenous people of North America, who have historically been called 'Indians' or 'Injuns'.)
  • Played with in Cabin Fever when a very redneck-looking man says his gun is "for niggers." The main characters are all thoroughly shocked and want to get away from him as soon as possible. Turns into a Brick Joke at the end of the movie when a bunch of Black guys show up and it is revealed that the white guy was just holding the gun for them and he really does have N=Word Privileges with them, since they're his friends.
  • Inverted by Gregory Peck in Gentleman's Agreement to his Jewish secretary that he thinks it's wrong to be using those words — even when you're referring to yourself, as she did when she called herself as a "kike" — in which he says, "I find it offensive when someone calls another person, or even themselves, a kike, a spic, a wop, a nigger, a dago, or a gook, because, whether you realize it or not, it's meant to demean and to degrade them."
  • Gridlock'd: Stretch, a white man, is True Companions with Spoon and Cookie, a black man and woman. Consequently, he has N-Word Privileges with them. However, he manages to enrage a black drug dealer by using the word on him. Spoon has to pull Stretch aside and remind him that he can't use the word around other black people, but Stretch stubbornly insists that it's a "term of endearment."
  • Cleaver Family Reunion has the black family members using the term quite extensively, especially Grandma Cleaver. When it turns out that Grandma Cleaver is actually biologically white, her right to use the word is questioned, but she reasserts it by using it several more times in the next sentence.
  • Boyz n the Hood: Subverted. The black police officer Coffey uses the N-word freely... because he's a terrifying Boomerang Bigot who hates other blacks. When he uses it, it's with genuine malintent.
  • In Dope, Will comments that it doesn't seem fair that the main three can call him the word but he can't use it.
  • Deconstructed in Coach Carter:
    Carter: N***r is a degrogatory term used to insult our ancestors. See, if a white man used it, you'd be ready to fight. Your using it teaches him to use it. You're saying it's cool. Well, it's not cool, and when you're around me, I don't want to hear that shit! Are we clear?

  • Discworld:
    • The equivalent 'n-word' for Dwarfs is "lawn ornament" which is considered a killing insult for non-dwarfs but is used by one Dwarf boss to his crew in Moving Pictures. In Wyrd Sisters Hwel allows Vitoller to call him that, because they're old friends, but not anyone else.
    • In Jingo, Captain Carrot has entered a crime scene surreptitiously by pretending he's renting the flat, and then let Angua (a werewolf) through the window. When the landlady approaches, Carrot reminds Angua he was told he wasn't allowed women in his room, and Angua replies, "Or pets, so she's got me coming and going. Don't look at me like that, it's only bad taste if somebody else says it."
    • Throughout the series, being called a monkey is the Librarian's Berserk Button (orangutans are apes, thank you very much). Even saying the word monkey, regardless of the context, will get his dander up. However, he has used the word monkey himself several times. In The Science of Discworld, he uses the phrase "Monkey see, monkey do" after teaching Roundworld's proto-humans to use tools. Rincewind replies, "I'm glad it was you who said it."
  • Nonverbal: In The Chemo Kid, the titular kid shows up to the school Halloween party wearing a grotesque mask that parodies someone undergoing chemotherapy. The coach is incensed, until the kid takes the mask off.
  • A Fantastic Racism example can be found in Warhammer 40,000 universe, specifically in the Eisenhorn novels. In the Imperium, the word "twist" is used as a derogatory term for mutants; the mutants themselves have reclaimed this word, wearing it as a badge of pride, and Inquisitor Eisenhorn notes that "a slur stops being a slur when you use it to describe yourself."
  • In Artemis Fowl, Foaly notes that it is only acceptable to call a fairy by their species name if the speaker is a close friend. This presumably glances off the real-world use of "fairy" as an insulting term for homosexual males. (There are no concerted attempts by gay men to reclaim that word.)
  • The novel Nigger Heaven. Blacks can call themselves the N-Word as a form of self identity, but as soon as a white uses it, it becomes derogatory. And the term "Negress" isn't allowed at ALL.
  • A Running Gag in one of Robert Rankin's Brentford novels is a character using a derogatory word and when called on it, saying "It's not racist if you're <minority group>". Eventually subverted when the police inspector says this after calling Omalley a "mick". A constable points out he's not Irish and gets the response "No lad, I'm a policeman."
  • Stephen King's IT has a variant on this in that the Loser's club all have "N-word privileges" with respect to each other. Thus, it's okay for a member of the club to make fun of Stan for being Jewish or Ben for being fat or Bill for his stutter, but God help any outsider who does the same thing.
  • In The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert, there's a black guy who's in a relationship with a white girl and is called a "damn nigger" by her father. He claims it was done in an affectionate way and wasn't worse for him than someone using the words "blondie" or "redhead", but adds that you may have to be black to understand this reasoning. (The story is set in a kinda utopian community, which is also a Town with a Dark Secret.)
  • Subverted in Black Man. When Carl (a Brit of African decent) spends some time in a Florida jail he doesn't appreciate when his fellow black inmates uses their privilege.
  • In Dresden Files, Harry's mentor Ebeneezer McCoy is friends with a Native American member of the White Council and refers to him as "Injun Joe". Joe makes it clear that McCoy is the only person allowed to call him that because they've been friends for several lifetimes. He also gets in his own zingers, responding that McCoy is too much of a backwoods hick to realize that the modern, politically correct term is "Native American Joe".

     Live Action TV  
  • The introduction to Turk in the first episode of Scrubs featured him and JD having a conversation about whether JD could say the "N word" if it comes up in a rap song to which they're singing along. (For the record, Turk said no.)
  • The UK series of Big Brother 2007 ejected a housemate named Emily Parr because she had used the N-Bomb in conversation with fellow housemate Charley...who had also used it. Yet, Emily Parr was ejected, Charley remained. Charley was black, which is probably why she was allowed to get away with it. Of course similar controversies arose because she had also used the word and had used it several times throughout the series. (The incident in question happened early on.)
  • Boston Public:
    • An episode featured a white teacher using the standard slur when teaching a history class of mostly black students in order to start talking about Afrophobia and language, with the subsequent uproar. He was actually teaching them about the cultural impact about it because of two students. One black, one white. The black one referred to the white one as "His nigga." and in turn, let the white one refer to him as such. Both were completely comfortable with this situation. Enter third party, skin color black, plot ensues.
    • The old Jewish teacher gets away with it because he's not only very very old (in his 80's) but he has a black son, grandson, and great-grandson.
  • Spoofed in NewsRadio: Bill is complaining about rap lyrics that include the N-word. When Matthew asks Token Minority Catherine what the N-word is, she whispers in his ear:
    Matthew: Nincompoop?
    Catherine: Hey! I'll let it pass this time, but don't let me catch you saying that word again.
  • 30 Rock:
    • Played with when Tracy calls Toofer by the "n" word. The square Toofer didn't know about how the term had been reappropriated. This is made even funnier when Toofer later attempts to use the N-Word in the same way and everyone reacts with offense that he has just "dropped the N-bomb"... the joke being that although black, Toofer is so "whitefied" that it sounds like a slur coming from him. Interestingly, both of the N-words have to be obscured with sound effects. N-Word Privileges don't cut it with the censors.
    • Jack also gives a pretty good summary for why this trope is in play.
      Jack: You see Toofer, the African-American community has adopted that word for everyday use, in an attempt to rob it of its meaning.
    • Jack and Liz are also under the impression that "Puerto Rican" works like this.
    • In another episode, Liz refers to herself as a "sister" during a phone conversation with a black woman, only to quickly claim she meant it in the "feminist" way. She then tries to claim it's okay for her to use "sister" while talking to black people because she too is black, but ends up admitting she isn't when she realizes she's going to meet the woman in person anyway.
    • And another example in "Argus", where Liz reads aloud from a note given to her by Grizz.
      Liz: "And if you care about me, you'll respect my decision. I will always be your..." Oh no, I'm white. I can't say that word. Um... "Friend from the neighborhood. Grizz."
  • In an episode of the black sitcom Girlfriends, Joan and Toni are irritated by Lynn's sister (via adoption), a Caucasian so deeply immersed in black culture that she acts "blacker" than the main cast, but Lynn and Maya defend her... until a Jay-Z song comes on the radio and she makes the mistake of singing along.
  • Angel provides a Fantastic Racism example in electric-powered mutant Gwen: "What I don't appreciate, Elliot, is being called a freak. That's my word, and I get cranky when people like you use it."
  • The Daily Show:
    • Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore, discussing Barack Obama's potential choice of running mates, explained that he needed to choose someone who wouldn't turn him into a sidekick or the Magical Negro.
      Jon Stewart: The magical...?
      Larry Wilmore: You can say it.
      Jon Stewart: The magical... I'd rather not.
      Larry Wilmore: Good, that was a test.
    • Also spoofed on a segment specifically on the N word, where one of the (white) correspondents dragged Larry around with him on interviews for the sole purpose of saying it. (Members of other minorities made very brief cameo appearances to provide their own examples of slurs.)
    • Spoofed in a Running Gag involving a minor controversy over a hunting camp with an unfortunate name regularly used by Rick Perry. Perry keeps avoiding saying its name for obvious reasons, and none of the Daily Show staff want to either, so whenever it comes up they replay a clip of Herman Cain explaining that "the place is called Niggerhead".
  • For the "Wilmore Awards", one of the categories was "White people who think it's okay to use the N-word". Wilmore uses it to make a point, and then makes clear that no, adopting a black kid does not give you N-Word Privileges.
  • Colbert has a Running Gag of "I don't see race. My friends tell me I'm white, and I believe them because of (insert reason here)". One of the reasons was his not being allowed to say the "N" word.
  • There is also Colbert's interview with Jabari Asim, author of The N-Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why:
    Colbert: First question. Did you want to name the book The N-Word and they said, "No, you have to call it The N-Word"? Or, did you say, "I want to name this book The N-Word," and they assumed you meant, you know, The N-Word, when in fact you meant The N-Word?
    Asim: I think I suggested calling it The N-Word and they thought it was a good idea to play it safe and call it The N-Word.
    Colbert: OK, this actually, this raises another interesting subject to me, is that the N-word has become so anonymous [sic] with the N-word, uh, is saying the N-word pretty much like saying the N-word? Because I would never say the N-word, but I don't want somebody to think I'm saying the N-word by saying the N-word. You know what I mean? Because I would never say that word that begins with the letter after M.
  • A running gag of a Mind of Mencia sketch involves Carlos Mencia attempting to get a license plate with some permutation of letters similar to the N-word. (Claiming his family is Indian and their family name is Neega, etc.) Finally, he asks for a plate with the word "wetback" (an equivalent word, but used to attack Mexicans) and is immediately approved.
  • Seinfeld:
    • Spoofed on an episode where Jerry suspects a dentist converted to Judaism just so that he could make Jewish jokes without causing offense. He also still tells Catholic jokes, justifying it by saying he used to be Catholic. Jerry theorizes that he's after "total joke-telling immunity" and is afraid that "if he ever gets Polish citizenship, there'll be no stopping him!". Later Jerry visits the dentist's former Catholic priest and tells him about this.
      Priest: And this offends you as a Jewish person?
      Jerry: No, it offends me as a comedian!
  • On The Muppet Show, pigs are particularly sensitive to non-pigs who make reference to the meat of pigs, even the mention of Sir Francis Bacon as part of a panel discussion on whether he was the true author of works attributed to William Shakespeare. Pigs, on the other hand, can make such jokes freely.
  • A variation on this appears on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip when Matt writes a sketch in which Jesus Christ rises from the dead to become the president of network Standards and Practices. The result is that everyone in the scene ends up saying "Jesus Christ" a bunch of times—something standards would not ordinarily allow—and the ACTUAL standards & practices people would have had a hard time stopping him.
  • Andy Sipowicz of NYPD Blue is a fairly mild - but still straight-up - racist in the show's early years (from a combination of his father's racist attitude influencing him, and his distaste at being placed undercover to infiltrate a left-leaning militant black group just after his return from Vietnam). He begins to get over it when he arrests a black man who taunts Sipowicz by saying that he is "dealing with a nigger who knows how the system works", causing Sipowicz to respond that he's "dealing with a nigger who's too dumb to know when someone's trying to help him." After the man's death, which Andy feels responsible for, Sipowicz apologizes to the man's young daughter for referring to her father with "that word". The man's wife coldly tells her daughter to remember that Sipowicz was "the man that called your daddy a nigger", causing Sipowicz to later emotionally lament the woman "telling that little girl to hate me", and also realize that his attitude is helping perpetuate the cycle. No one, apparently, objects to the man's original self-applied use of the word.
  • In the Wizards of Waverly Place episode "Third Wheel", Alex and her new wizard friend make fun of media portrayals of wizards by donning pointy hats and beards. When Harper tries to join in the fun by holding her hair in front of her face and pretending it's a beard, both Alex and Justin tell her it's offensive.
  • In one episode of How I Met Your Mother Marshall says 'something' that offends his travel buddy Daphne, and she is shown yelling "You don't get to call us that! Only we're allowed to call ourselves that!" To which he responds "...I'm sorry I called you a Trekkie."
  • The second episode of Louie opens with Louie and his comedian friends discussing whether it's okay to say "faggot" (one of these friends being gay) on stage or not. Said gay friend says that he personally is not very affected, but for any other gay people who would be in the audience, the word's very powerful, as they've most likely had it hurled at them repeatedly, or said while they were being beaten. The gay friend also says while he has no problem with Louie using it because "he knows he's joking", he would not let another card buddy (who has a habit of always having to have the last word) use it, because "you really mean it". After an uncomfortable silence, said card buddy breaks the ice with a "faggot" joke, which causes all of them (including the gay friend) to burst into laughter.
  • In the episode of My Name Is Earl where Joy's affair with Darnell comes out in the form of a Chocolate Baby, Earl is (rightly) questioning Joy and how this could have happened. She doesn't want to admit she cheated, so she tells him that he might have "a repressed black gene," going on about how "his great great grandmother must have let a slave get in a few licks of his own." A black nurse in the room looks at her and says, "Excuse me?" to which Joy replies, "Oh, it' OK, I just had a black baby. I can say it." The nurse just rolls her eyes.
  • Averted in the Reality Show Black and White, which featured an African-American family and a White family switching places with each other (by the use of body paint) in order to experience what it was like to be the other race. The son in the black family explicitly did not care who used the N-word in his presence, whether they were black or white. The rest of his family felt that he should take the matter more seriously than he did and, most interestingly, a white girl with whom he was acquainted objected to his use of the word.
  • Treme: Delmond is offended by New Yorkers criticizing New Orleans, despite often saying the same things himself. "I get to say that. They don't!"
  • Key & Peele has a sketch which is an advertisement for a smartphone app called the "negrometer", which examines the darkness or lightness of the user's skin and determines whether they have N-word privileges. Dark-skinned individuals and families cheerfully announce, "We can say it!" while a white man in a suit and tie announces, just as cheerfully, "Not a chance! I'd like to, but now I know I can't."
  • The hosts of Queer Eye routinely call themselves and each other "fag," "queen" and so on, while the straight guys they make over stick with "gay." (Even the title was a bit edgy at the time the show premiered, since positive uses of "queer" weren't much heard in the straight world outside of academia.)
  • The creators of Hogan's Heroes cast Jewish actors for many of the characters (particularly the German ones) to dispel any potential complaints that the show's lightheartedness was a disservice to the victims of the Holocaust.
  • Black-ish:
    • One episode revolves around this discussion after Jack gets in trouble for saying the word while singing "Gold Digger" at a school talent show. Whether or not it was okay for him to use the word in public even though he's black is debated back and forth, as well as which racial groups can and cannot say it. In an interesting aversion of the Latino Is Brown trope, it's mentioned at one point that certain Latinos can say the word since there's a large number of Latinos of African descent.
    • In another episode, Dre's coworker Lucy gets in trouble after calling herself a "Proud Jew" even though she's Jewish. When she uses the word again, her boss gets angry and sends her to see the HR manager.

  • Eminem refuses to follow his rap peers and use the N-word in his hits.note  He says, "It's just a word I don't feel comfortable with. It wouldn't sound right coming out of my mouth. If a white kid came up to me and said it, I probably would look at him funny. And if given the time to sit down with him I'd say, 'Look, just don't say the word. It's not meant to be used by us.'" The implication being that he'd have less objection to a black kid using it.
  • When Anya Marina (a white singer) covered T.I.'s "Whatever You Like", she changed some of the lyrics from "niggas" to "brothers", presumably because of this trope.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Boondocks usually censors it but the practice is still in place with the characters. At one point, two opposing sides of the debate N.G.R.O.E. and N.G.G.R. are presented and contrasted. The author himself uses the word in real life.

     Standup Comedy 
  • George Carlin:
    • Deconstructed.
      George carlin: There's a different group to get pissed off at you in this country for everything your not supposed to say. Can't say Nigger, Boogie, Jig, Jigaboo, Skinhead, Moolimoolinyon, Schwarzer, Junglebunny. Greaser, Greaseball, Dago, Guinea, Wop, Ginzo, Kike, Zebe, Hebe, Yid, Mocky, Himie, Mick, Donkey, Turkey, Limey, Frog. Zip, Zipperhead, Squarehead, Kraut, Heinie, Jerry, Hun, Slope, Slopehead, Chink, Gook. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those words in and of themselves. They're only words. It's the context that counts. It's the user. It's the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral. The words are innocent. I get tired of people talking about bad words and bad language. Bullshit! It's the context that makes them good or bad. The context. That makes them good or bad. For instance, you take the word "Nigger." There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word "Nigger" in and of itself. It's the racist asshole who's using it that you ought to be concerned about. We don't mind when Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy say it. Why? Because we know they're not racist. They're Niggers! Context. Context. We don't mind their context because we know they're black. Hey, I know I'm whitey, the blue-eyed devil, paddy-o, fay gray boy, honkey, mother-fucker myself. Don't bother my ass. They're only words. You can't be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it's an unpleasant truth, like the fact that there's a bigot and a racist in every living room on every street corner in this country.
  • Rich Vos, following a tasteful joke about Obama's black heritage to an audience filled with black people enjoying the show, only to be called out by one black audience member. Naturally, he chose to question it:
    Rich vos: They're all upset about the white guy talking about black people. Loosen up. Turn on any black comedy and watch black comics trash white people for an hour. "White people crazy! They pay taxes! Crazy ass crackers!".
  • Donald Glover:
    • He talks about this, saying that some black people just can't say the n-word.
      Donald Glover: [imitating Obama] We stand here today, there are still some Americans who don't believe I have their best interests at heart, and I'd like to put those fears to rest today. But before I do that, I'd like to talk about how niggas be trippin'. They be trippin'. Niggas be trippin. Especially when bitches be around.
    • He discusses it again in his hour-long special, saying that Charlie Sheen has N-word privileges after he had the audacity to call his white wife a "nigger", and that in order to remove the stigma, more white people have to start using the word casually, even though "we will lose some of you in the process".
  • Eddie Gossling put it simply:
    Gossling: Some people wonder why black people can say the N-word and white people can't, and I think it's because we haven't always used it properly in the past. Yeah, we got a little bossy with it. Our N-word privileges have been revoked.
  • Elon Gold says that he can say "fag", because he has a brother who is gay, and if you have a gay family member who you love and support, then you can say "fag". The same is true if you have a black family member and you love and accept them... well, then you can say "fag" too, because "you don't want to mess with that other shit".
  • Chris Rock has visited the subject on several occasions:
    • In one HBO special, he outlines the only instance in which a white person could have temporary N-word Privileges (for exactly one month). It's a very long drawn out scenario, involving a popular Christmas toy on Christmas Eve, being beaten up and peed on by a black man with a brick, within a certain time frame in the wee hours of the morning. Riverdance is also involved. If this improbable series of events occurs to you, you get privileges for a month. But you must carry the police report with you, to prove it happened.
    • Rock has a "Black people vs Niggaz" routine in which he contrasts "black people" (nice, normal black folks who just want to live and let live) with "niggaz" (obnoxious people who live down to the worst stereotypes). In one pre-show sketch, a number of black fans tell Rock how much they love the routine without incident, but a white fan who quotes the routine by saying that he loves black people but hates "niggaz" receives a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. In recent years Rock himself has become uncomfortable with that routine, due to the number of truly racist whites who use this argument as justification for saying the n-word.
    • Another routine involves the "Doctor Dre Rules," wherein white people are allowed to say the n-word if singing along with their interracial posse whenever a Doctor Dre song starts playing at a club, because "it's just sad seeing a bunch of white people doing a niggerless rendition of a Doctor Dre song."
  • Comedian Mike Birbiglia invokes this in a small skit on Two Drink Mike. "This black guy came up to me after a show and he says, 'My cracker.' 'Actually, you can't call me a cracker. You can say 'cracka ', but not 'cracker
  • Tim Minchin" "Only a ginger can call another ginger ginger."
  • Subverted in a Eugene Mirman joke:
    Mirman: Sometimes people say "I can say fag because I have a gay family member, thus it's okay". That's a horrible reason! See, it's okay for me to say fag, because I am full of hate!

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Rifts' Underseas, members of the Amphib race (humanoid mutants with fish- or frog-like features) are sometimes teased with names like "Froggy" or "Fish Face" as children. But since Amphibs have been accepted in Tritonian society since before the Great Cataclysm, it's treated as no big deal, and something that the kids eventually outgrow. In other words, Tritonia has F-Word Privileges.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, mutants refer to each other as "twists", however a non-mutant use of the word is considered an insult.
  • In Shadowrun, the word "trog" (referring to orks and trolls) is used in much the same way as "nigger", including by certain orks and trolls who are trying to defang it.

    Video Games 

  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance employs this. The Beorc (humanlike folk) refer to themselves as "human" and the Laguz (beastmen) as "sub-humans", with the latter being an ethnic slur. The Laguz have turned that on its head towards the Beorc. Thanks to the racist member of the party giving him the wrong impression, Ike thinks that "sub-human" is the correct term for Laguz but after realizing its real connotations he stops using it and starts addressing both races by their proper terms.
  • In Zettai Hero Project, after repeatedly referring to himself as a "loser underdog", Bizarro Frank gets very mad at Etranger when she does the same (because, unlike him, she isn't a loser underdog herself).

     Web Comics  
  • Parodied in Sinfest when Squigley, an anthropomorphic pig, berates the human Slick for calling him "pigga" as a term of endearment. He says that only pigs can call each other that (see the previous page).
  • Polkster from Polk Out makes Jewish jokes and can get away with it because he's Jewish.
  • Leslie of Shortpacked! only lets people call her "the lesbian" if they sleep with her. This backfires the one time she invokes it against a woman she did just have a sexual encounter with.
  • In The Hero Business storyline "The All-New Bravado," Superman expy Bravado goes through a series of revamps to make him more relatable. During a brief "Hipper and Edgier" stint, he addresses a team of X-Men stand-ins as "muties," which causes outrage because he's not a mutant and that is their word.

     Web Original 
  • When Tatsudoshi hosts his Spam Plays, he and his guests usually leave their humor completely uncensored...except for "nigger", which only The Khold One is allowed to use because he's Southern. Hilariously inverted during the Spam Play of Mirror's Edge, where Khold becomes a bit too trigger-happy with his Cluster N Bombs and Tatsudoshi takes away his "nigger privileges" for a few episodes, and later imposes a limit on the number of N-bombs per episode.
  • The image board 4 Chan defies this trope, using the word "fag" to refer to everyone. Anonymous who draw are "drawfags", writers are "writefags", and there are even a few Christians on the boardnote  who refer to themselves as "Christfags". They also like to use the word "nigger" to refer to certain black people, much like the Chris Rock routine mentioned above. Interestingly, some Anons have forsaken the "-fag" suffix in favor of "-friend". The term's use as a suffix meaning "person" is also taken to its logical conclusion, and in threads about sexuality, you'll see "straightfags," and yes— "gayfag."
  • Averted in Snoop meets Parappa, a mashup of Snoop Dogg and Parappa The Rapper, by having the player "miss" the lyric instead of causing Parappa to successfully repeat Snoop's N-word.
  • Diamanda Hagan, despite being portrayed as (almost) utterly evil, still doesn't have these privileges, as she found out when trying to review a film with the n-word in the title. In that same video she is pissed when the censor machine goes haywire and it lets pass many other racial slurs, but one word is censored that she does have privilege to say (possibly 'mick', as Diamanda is Irish).
    Diamanda: I can't say *BLEEP*? I am a lesbian *BLEEP*! Who built that damn thing?!?
    Minion: You did, mistress! I think you were drunk!
  • Beached Az had the koalas that refer to everyone as "bear" but that's their word and the whale is not allowed to use it.
  • From Ultra Fast Pony:
    Dragon: What's a pegger like you doing out of the fields?
    Fluttershy: Oh, hell no! You can't say that word! Only pegasus' can say that word!
  • This was played around with in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, where "flatscan" is a derogatory term used by some superhumans for normal human beings. When the supervillain Armageddon, leader of a metahuman supremacy group, dismissed Diamond (a Powered Armor wearing heroine) as "an uppity flatscan in a tin suit", she told him flat out that he didn't have "F-Word Privileges" before blasting him with her lasers.
  • Random Assault: One of Matt's friends regardless of race said "Fucking Niggas in the butt." in which a Hispanic woman who overheard it looked shocked and afraid. Kate often claims that Tony has granted her The Privileges. In fact, Tony mailed N-Word Privileges cards to all the hosts.

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in South Park in quite a few episodes.
    • Although one episode has an aversion, Butters is confronted by the ghost of Biggie Smalls. Smalls threatens to shoot Butters unless he takes him to a party Satan is throwing. When Biggie tells him what to do, Butters just repeats what Biggie says, including the N word. Biggie looks at him askance but doesn't call him on it, implicitly extending him Privileges (at least in the context of a direct quote).
    • South Park spoofs this in the episode "It Hits The Fan" (also known as the "shit" episode because they say shit 162 times), with Mr. Garrison explaining that even though they could all say "shit" without getting bleeped, he was the only one who could say "fag", since he is gay. Uncle Jimbo then inadvertently outed himself by saying "fag" without getting bleeped. (In a later episode, everyone can say "fag" without being bleeped as long as they're using it to refer to annoying people such as bikers rather than gay people.)
  • The Boondocks:
    • A whole episode is devoted to the subject when a white teacher calls Riley a "nigga", who complains that Riley himself uses it so much (with no apparent consequences) that it loses all meaning to those around him. Riley and Grandad celebrate what they see as a chance to sue the school district, but nothing comes of it and nothing is resolved. Considered Truth in Television, since this is a parody of an actual event.
    • Subverted when Ed and Rumy, who are white, address each other as the n-word, and no one seems to think that is odd. Of course it helps when your dad 'owns the police'. Of course, Ed and Rumy are voiced by Samuel L. Jackson and Charlie Murphy, who enjoy the privilege in Real Life.
  • Inverted on The Simpsons, Homer complains about a gay character using "queer." "That's our word for making fun of you. We need it!"
    • Also parodied in the "The Haw-Hawed Couple" with the word bully, which only bullies are allowed to use.
  • Family Guy:
    • Parodied in Family Guy Presents: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball where Lois and Peter's recreation of Leia and Han's sniping from the start of The Empire Strikes Back ends with Lois calling Peter a "nerf herder"... at which point Peter punches her in the face and yells, "You can't use that word! Only we can use that word!" Shortly after that, we see Peter and Brian are playfully calling each other "my nerf herder".
    • In one more recent episode, everyone thinks the world is ending so they're living for the moment. Peter tells Lois that he's going to go to a majority black neighborhood and shout "the you-know-what word" to see what happens. He returns wearing Requisite Royal Regalia and a sash that reads "King of the Black People", informing Lois "They respected me for it."
  • Referenced in a The Cleveland Show episode: When Rollo accuses Cleveland of breaking his leg, eating all his fish sticks and tater tots, sitting in his chair, and calling him the N-word, Cleveland shrugs and says "I'm allowed to, right?" In another episode Lester, mistaking every black person he sees in New York as Cleveland, uses "that word you call Rollo all the time" off screen. He is going to be killed until Cleveland turns up to rescue him and invokes an apparently well-known rule to the crowd that he gets one free pass on use of the word if he has one black friend.
    • In a non-verbal example, one episode features a situation where Cleveland has disguised himself as Lester, complete with whiteface; Holt enters dressed as Cleveland in blackface, to which Cleveland angrily responds "We may dress up as you, but you may NEVER dress up as us!"
    • In another episode, Cleveland, having been recently crowned "the whitest black person in America," responds with horror to the word "cracker" that "that word is just as offensive to them as the N-word is to us!" Token White Guy Federline corrects him that it's "not even close."
  • Played with in American Dad!, episode "White Rice." Francine has a budding stand-up comic career based on her experiences growing up... as a white girl adopted by a Chinese family (she performs under her unmarried name, "Francine Ling"). Her catchphrase is "I can say it; you can't!". Her privileges are later revoked, however, as as her sitcom is pulled after one Asian joke.

     Real Life  
  • Indian Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh was famously put in charge of a Chicago drug gang for a day. In his book, Gang Leader For A Day, he describes how his attempt to talk the part became awkward when he asked a man to "talk to me, nigger" who had just been perfectly okay with the real gang leader saying the exact same thing seconds previously. Needless to say everyone else involved was black. In fact the real leader drew a class distinction between Black, African-American and Nigger and had earlier refused to identify as black.
  • The English Premier League has a curious example involving Tottenham Hotspur FC. The club are from an area of London with a traditionally high Jewish population, and some of the supporters, and at times owners, have been Jewish. This has led supporters of other teams, often those with particularly strong extreme-right-wing tendencies, to insult Spurs and their supporters as "Yids". Some Spurs supporters embrace the name, whether they are Jewish or not, and call themselves the "Yid Army". As a result, there has been ongoing debate about whether it is OK for Jewish or non-Jewish Spurs supporters to call themselves "Yids" or whether it's an anti-Semitic slur that shouldn't even be used affectionately or as a self-definition. Even David Cameron found it necessary to weigh in on the subject.
  • Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN political commentator, during an interview with Trinidad Jame$, Ben Ferguson, and Don Lemon about who has n-word privileges said to Ferguson (who is white), "Maybe, just maybe, it isn't white people's position to tell black people what we can and can't say. I might see Trinidad Jame$ on the street and call him 'my nigga.' Why? Because he is my nigga. And the difference between Trinidad Jame$ and you is that Trinidad Jame$ has to deal with the same oppressive situations, he was born in a world where anti-black racism prevails, he lives in a world where police might shoot him on the street no matter how much money he has. We share a collective condition known as "nigga," white people don't. I'm not saying it should be illegal for white people to use it, I'm saying y'all shouldn't want to use it given everything that's happened after 400 years of exploitation and institutional racism."
  • Averted by some, but not all, Cajuns. The word "coonass", a term of uncertain origin used to describe Cajuns, is generally seen as an ethnic slur when used by non-Cajuns. Among Cajuns themselves, usage is mixed. According to The Other Wiki, working-class Cajuns tend to use the term with pride, while middle- and upper-class Cajuns are likely to object to other Cajuns using it, even to describe themselves.