White Wannabes Are ‘N*ggas’ and ‘Thugs’ But Never Victims of Racism


I promised myself I wouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time writing about Iggy Azalea. But, I had to this time for several reasons. The most important being her symbiosis with a sect of whites (American and abroad) who believe that hijacking, hyperbolizing, profiting from, and perpetuating negative stereotypes of black people is a form of appreciation. Yes, she is a co-opting musician. But, her declaration that she should be allowed to use the racial slur “n*gga” is what makes me truly question her intentions. She – like the two white creators behind the “Thug Kitchen” brand – is profiting off of the continued oppression of black and brown people. So, this really has absolutely nothing to do with appreciation and everything to do with immunity from the effects of racism itself.

Yes, you read correctly. Iggy wants to use the word “n*gga” without catching heat about it. She even went so far as to define the word for all of us because she has been knighted the “Arbiter of the Black Lexicon.” She made her stance pretty clear.

“So you’re allowed to say n*gga because you’re black. Yet I can’t say it?  The word n*gga is different from n*gger.  N*gga is used to describe someone who is arrogant.  Idk why it’s such a problem when white people say it, when black people know d*mn well that a MAJORITY of people saying it aren’t even saying it to be racist because most racist don’t say n*gga.”

We are so lucky to have Iggy otherwise none of us out-of-touch black people would be able to understand the many facets of our own oppression, right?

No. Not right. Iggy’s assertions that the words “n*gga” and “nigger” – both meant to degrade, isolate, and undermine the intelligence, abilities, and worth of black people – have different meaning is sorely flawed. The indignation with which she addresses it is actually quite offensive. Simply, this Australian woman has decided that her whiteness gives her the right to spew racial epithets as long as she means the word as something else…which she defined for herself. Oh, to be young, white, and…white.

Like Iggy, many white entrepreneurs have figured out that underhanded racial bigotry is a lucrative business model. You see, telling other white people their racial biases aren’t racist if they don’t mean it that way helps to perpetuate a system of values predicated on the inherent less-ness of black people. There literally are no other ways to explain it. Many whites – like Paula Deen – write-off this phenomenon to tradition, being raised “that way,” or simple ignorance, but the truth is, once their bigotry is identified, many choose to hold on to it rather than acknowledge its racist premises.

I imagine the white people behind “Thug Kitchen” are in much the same boat. The expletive ridden site describes some of the daintiest, vegan food as “f*cking amazing.” They even use “thug slang” to sell asparagus and cous cous. The Root has referred to this bigotry as blackface. The duo purposely hid their identities from public view knowing full well that once their “thug” antics were exposed as an act, they could become the subject of ire from people whose actual lives become endangered when they are labeled thugs. But, they have a stir-fry recipe to keep you from “f*ck[ing] around with some sorry ass ten dollar take out.” So, that’s pretty thuggish…I guess.

Case and point: Richard Sherman was called a thug after yelling on the sidelines after a football game. At the time, he said it was just another word for “n*gger.” Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Mike Brown have been referred to as “thugs” posthumously as justification (mostly from whites) for their murders at the hands of white people. The word itself was used to identify these young black men as somehow less valuable to society, and therefore, less deserving of humanity.  Like Iggy, the white creators of Thug Kitchen know this. And we all know that words have meaning in a world where a simple misconception of one’s background and intentions – say, perhaps, while shopping in a Walmart – can result it death.

I offer an alternative justification for Iggy’s word choice and the naming of the completely un-thuggish Thug Kitchen. Quite simply, “thug” is a costume for white people and it’s also a pseudonym for nigger. Maybe Iggy has just gotten a bit more cavalier in her disassociative identity project aka her job. We have seen it time and time and time again. No doubt we will see it again.

Iggy and the Thug Kitchen folks chose these words specifically to wear blackness without having to experience the consequences black and brown folks do when the labels are thrust upon us. It was the notion that I was a thug which got me arrested in high school. What was I actually doing? Picking up a jelly donut for the Assistant Vice Principal during my free period. But, our humanity and lived experiences are never enough for these people. Iggy and the “Thugs” likely don’t give a shit about the broader meaning of their word choice; however, they certainly care about the Cool White People Credits – sometimes mistaken as the white person’s ‘Black Card’ – they get when they use them.

What I won’t do though is pretend Iggy and the Thuggish Ruggish White Bones aren’t contributing to the continued oppression of black people. They don’t get to cherry-pick their bigotry just like we don’t get to cherry-pick our racialized abuse. I will continue to hold them accountable. Maybe if enough of us find their faux blackness intolerable, they’ll have to don a new costume. Maybe ongoing requests that they stop wearing us for clicks and music sales will eventually be heard.

Well…one can hope.

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

12 Responses

  1. MilaXX says:

    Agree about Iggy but disagree with the Thug Kitchen folks. I’ve followed their blog for a long time and never assumed they were black because they used the word “thug” or because of their f bomb laden posts.

  2. Melissa says:

    “Maybe if enough of us find their faux blackness intolerable”. Herein lies the problem. Far too many of us don’t.

  3. Bri says:

    I just want to say that I love your articles Ms. Jackson, and I appreciate you putting into words so eloquently what the issue is with Iggy’s comment.

  4. I totally agree. Too many of us excuse it when it actually undermines progress.

  5. I don’t think I said anything in here about assuming they were black. That completely misses my point.

    My point is that they are exploiting a word for personal gain which – if used in black and brown communities – can be extremely violent, dangerous, and life-threatening. They knew that in 2012 when they chose the words on the heels of the Trayvon Martin killing. This is not happenstance.

  6. MilaXX says:

    I just don’t think they were targeting black and brown communities. I also don’t think they were aiming to exploit those communities. I always got the impression they were targeting the tough guy who thinks healthy cooking and especially vegan cooking is not for them.

  7. That gets into questions of intent. They don’t have to mean it for it to be problematic or cause collateral damage.

    They started in Aug 2012 just months after Trayvon Martin was killed and was called a “thug.” Oscar Grant’s murderer was still in the news. Whether they were targeting blacks or not, the word is extremely problematic. Failing to acknowledge that and instead use it for economic gain is complicit in the continued oppression this word promotes.

  8. MilaXX says:

    I just don’t see it as being on their radar. Now that the book is out and they have been revealed as a white couple should they come forward with some statement that the context in which they used the word “thug” was not meant to have any association with the “N” word? I don’t see how that would change things. Obviously we see this from different viewpoints. Nothing other than that one word could be seen as having anything to do with anything negative. It simply does not bother me. I am more bothered by someone like Iggy who thinks she can adopt a so call urban lifestyle and use the N word freely.

  9. Voice of reason says:

    Hello MilaXX,

    I’m someone who’s old enough to recall segregation. And all I can tell you is that I recognized a tactic that has been used to sell a product using an exaggerated and stereotypical black persona that repeats itself every so often.

    “Thug kitchen all up in this Facebook. Ready to drop some nutritional knowledge on some fools”

    That quote is how the duo announced themselves on Facebook.

    And with each blog post, they continued the parody until its now blown up in their faces.

    I’m passing this along so that the younger generation will know, so when it comes around again you will recognize it and perhaps speak out.

    Whether it was the 1920s radio show Amos ‘n Andy, where two white males entertained segregated audiences with what some claimed back then were spot on imitations of African Americans, or the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a woman’s group who tried to get a national Mammy Monument on our nation’s capital back in 1923 by touring and doing tributes to Mammies in a dramatic dialect or “voice”.of a black woman.

    Back then there was no internet to hide behind. People used radio, and once successful with their mockery of blacks, they were able to take the show on the road and sell more products in blackface.

    It’s also important that you know the duo behind Thug Kitchen deliberately hid their identity when asked for interviews by several news sources. Instead they insisted on replying by email, using that same exaggerated voice that was thick with slang.

    They also left a digital trail not only on their blog posts, but also interviews and special articles (like one for GQ) where they stuck to the “thug” persona.

    So complete was their ruse, that they began working on a book deal, which I believe was the goal all along.

    The end result was accomplished. but you know what they say about the best laid plans. Now the duo is attempting to backtrack, as if the issue only concerns profanity and their use of the word thug,hoping to distance themselves from the “Thug” persona that they created.

    While they now proclaim Thug is only used in “fun” and it was based on “attitude” the young black males slurred with the word Thug aren’t as fortunate.

    What they engaged in was a stereotypical parody in order to profit from it, much like the examples I previously mentioned. And not only does their blog posts hold the digital trail of deceit, but also their book. So let’s be honest here. Without the “thug” persona they took on, if they’d simply posted a vegan blog with recipes, would it have gained the attention they sought?

    It they’d relied on their cooking skills alone, perhaps in time they may have still attained their dream.

    And you should know, another cookbook had already been released three years ago using profanity. No, they needed another angle. And they found it. And worked it all over the internet.

    But sadly, there are far too many examples in history, especially in black history where individuals have made a living by taking on another culture’s “voice” for mocking humor. And that’s also where they made their biggest mistake, imho

  10. Lucas McFadden says:

    I typically disagree with your articles because I believe you have a skewered view loaded with self righteous attitude. However I hesitate to comment negatively because who the fuck values a reasonable criticism backed with logic these days?

    However, thug is definitely a word used by media to demonize victims of obvious police brutality, would I compare it to nigg*r, no because that came from a different time period where people weren’t ashamed to be racist, thug is definitely overwhelmingly racial but it’s not viewed by the majority as a word with racial ties.

    I however don’t think you quite understand that whites who appropriate stereotypical “black” culture face more scrutiny from their own race and a significant amount from I would assume any black person who doesn’t like their culture being boiled down to a stereotype perpetuated by media. I wouldn’t call that the result of racism towards “wiggas” just intelligent people despising exploitation and stupidity.

    I’m white however and don’t really like culture persay but it’s an interest amongst most of white america because we lack it.

    Before Europeans ever attempted to destroy other cultures, we’d long since destroyed ours and now white americans cling to stereotypes of their own ancestry or cling to anothers, pretty pathetic when I a full second generation Irish American have to hear other Irish Americans tell me they can drink more or fight better, as if it’s the only thing my ancestry ever accomplished.

  11. Chad says:

    Whaaat? Don’t rap artists, various black celebs, he’ll even most black friends use that word as much as a white person would use the word “dude”? Crazy hypocrisy. Just like Prez Obama or the Mayor or Baltimore using the new code word “thug”… but 1 white CNN reporter echoes that same word and she’she’s vilified. Get out.