As a standard-issue white guy, instead of saying the n-word—

I like to say “neighbor.”

In all seriousness, I genuinely like the way this takes a word that—in its original, racist/pejorative sense—intentionally divides/isolates (via its connotations of inferiority), and, through a convenient phonetic overlap, transforms both the word and its meaning into a concept overtly based in community/inclusivity (via its connotations of equality). Whether referring to a ghetto ‘hood, a rural town just down the road or a suburban development in between, neighbor is a word that’s implicitly inclusive, as opposed to being explicitly exclusive. What’s not to like?

(Note: This applies to the o.g. n-word [assigned] and its modern-era affiliate that ends in “a” [appropriated]. Why not make a distinction between these two? Well, primarily because it’s not my role or my right. If other white folks feel cool saying “nigga,” that’s on them; just don’t do it around me, please.)

Now, to be clear: I don’t throw “neighbor” around all the time. It’s only when I’m, say, in the car, rapping along with Ghostface or Trina or Slim Thug or Eightball or whoever, or when I’m quoting someone who’s used the n-word in a more “authentic” sense (by which, sure, I do mean, “urban”).

So, Ice Cube is the wrong neighbor to fuck with. But he’s also the neighbor you love to hate. (Get your head around that.) And of course, there’s NWA—Neighbors With Attitude. Don’t want to live next door to those guys, am I right?

Of course, as my friend Ritch observed, this does give Mr. Rogers a whole new dimension.

Not that you asked, but yes, I have other examples.

Wu-Tang Clan
Shame on a neighbor who try to run game on a neighbor.

Ghostface Killah
What I did was wack, but you ain’t get a neighbor back like that.

Lil’ Flip
One: Never let a neighbor know your business.

50 Cent
I grew up around some neighbors that’s not my homies.

Biggie
And if you don’t know, now you know, neighbor.

Eightball
And I hate my dead neighbors can’t be here.

Kanye West
Got my neighbors in Paris, and they goin’ gorillas.

Jay-Z
Jigga! My neighbor!

Ludacris
Fuck the dress codes, it’s street clothes, we all street neighbors.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (University of Oklahoma chapter)
There will never be a neighbor SAE.

Mr. Rogers
Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?

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