I'm going to assume that every white person has said "nigga" at least once in their life. Respect to those who haven't—even when singing along to rap music by themselves—but it seems like they account for an extremely small percentage of the population. I don't know how to feel about this. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to respond to that word anymore. My gut tells me that I should be offended every time a non-black person uses it, but as much as I hate to say it, I'm not. That's not some Uncle Tom shit either. It's just a waste of time to be up in arms over a single word every other day. I don't give a fuck if Justin Bieber said "nigga" in a joke when he was 15. It happens. Welcome to planet Earth.

Obviously, whites who use the word with malicious intent are liable to get cursed out or hit in the face, but those people would probably say "nigger" before they said "nigga" and they're not who I'm talking about anyway. Fact is, there is a difference between both words and only with the latter are lines blurred on the acceptableness of use by non-blacks. Yeah, it'd be great if no white person ever said "nigga," but that's unrealistic, and part of the blame falls to black people. We made the word cool. We use it incessantly in the most popular music. We took away its racist connotations so effectively that it's gotten to the point where some white people call each other "nigga" as a term of endearment.

Though I love that blacks have subverted "nigga" as a pejorative, and while I'm fairly desensitized to other races using it now, it hasn't always been this way. The first time I heard a white person use the "N-word"—that I can remember in detail—was similar to that scene in White Chicks. I was in a car with two white girls, passing a joint as they cruised the icy streets of Chicago's western suburbs on a cold winter night. I had my iPod on me at all times like everyone did in 2004 and these girls wanted me to play "Forgot About Dre." They rapped each word emphatically and did not censor themselves whatsoever. I sat in the back seat shocked. I wanted to rip out the auxiliary cord on them, but I didn't as my thoughts shifted between, "I don’t want to fuck these girls anymore," to, "It’s just a song, why do I even care?" Were they really being racist? I've never seen two people rap a song as passionately as those girls were rapping "Forgot About Dre" on that night.

Is that what ScHoolboy Q and Meek Mill are thinking when they say they don't mind if white people say "nigga" at their shows? At one of the first concerts I ever went to, Kanye West ranted about how "Gold Digger" had been the No. 1 song in America for 10 weeks and before the chorus kicked in he screamed, "White people! This is your one chance to say nigga!" And believe me when I say that most of them did, just like they do during the Michael Jackson part on "All of the Lights," if you’ve been to any of his recent tours. What can you do? Around the same time, Kanye told TIME that he didn't like the word and attempted to replace it with "homie" on "Crack Music," but that it "just didn't have the same impact."

But lately, more and more, I’m beginning to feel like it doesn’t matter. I guess enough rap concerts will do that to you.

It's all about context. Despite the fact that I was okay with, like, 15,000 white people yelling "nigga" around me at a concert, it was only a few months before that I punched a white boy in his mouth for doing the same thing at a party. This kid kept trying to get my attention in what appeared to be a benign manner. I'd be at the keg and he'd come up to me like, "Ernest, when you get a second, I have a question to ask you." Finally, he goes, "Don't get offended, serious question, I'm only curious. What's the difference between a 'nigga' and a 'nigger'?" He was being a smartass and, not even seconds later, regretted asking me that question.

I'm sometimes left with a feeling of regret if I let a white person say "nigga" in front of me and don't check them. I'll say, "Don't say that shit around me," 95% of the time and it used to be that other 5% when I didn't speak up would haunt me. But lately, more and more, I'm beginning to feel like it doesn't matter. I guess enough rap concerts will do that to you.

I try not to be egregious with my own use of the word—black people who call all of their white friends "nigga" are the corniest motherfuckers in the world—and, honestly, the same goes for calling other black people "nigga" all of the time like it's some kind of superpower. Of course I'm glad that I don’t have to edit myself when rap music is playing and sometimes there's nothing more profound than being able to tell a homie, "You're a real nigga," but I'll never go out of my way to make white people feel like "nigga" is a word that's totally acceptable.

Alas, white people do say "nigga," and always will. Ultimately, it's up to you to gauge each situation for yourself, whether you're black or white. Should I have been mad at my teacher when we read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn aloud during AP English? What's a white person supposed to do when they're rapping along to "My Nigga" and "Lookin' Ass Nigga" and "Hot Nigga" and "Niggas in Paris"? I would probably rap the songs in full myself if I was white. But I'm not. I'm black and empathetic to my race and I fully grasp the meaning and history of that word. It's still difficult to hear and sometimes I feel like white people are getting away with something when they quote lyrics or retweet tweets with "nigga" in them and I wish it didn't happen but I know that it does.

Ernest Baker is a writer living in New York. Follow him on Twitter here.