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Why the N-Word Still Hurts

I don’t care how you try to change it or what context you try to put it in; I will never be comfortable with hearing the n-word in public. I don’t care if you drop the “er” and replace it with an “a”. I don’t care if it’s spoken by Richard Simmons or Jim Brown, I don’t want to hear it.

I don’t want to hear it because there was a time in this country where that word would have been my only name. It would have been my mother’s name, my sister’s name, my brother’s name, and the name of anyone else carrying a drop of black blood.  

Sometimes I feel like people want to forget slavery ever happened. White people may admit that it was horrible, but if you claim that the racial prejudices stemming from slavery are still prevalent today, they will immediately put up walls.

“My family didn’t own slaves” “It was so long ago” “It wasn’t my fault” (All these things were said to me by my white friends when I tried to talk to them about slavery.)

Black people will also undermine the long lasting effects of slavery if they fill it is necessary to their social climbing. I’m sorry brothers and sisters, you can climb as high as you want, but you will never be white. That will be the one thing that will always be out of reach. Even the president of the United States gets called the n-word by conservatives racist people.

This was a word meant to degrade and dehumanize black people. It’s not a term of endearment or a friendly nickname; it’s an insult to me and all the members of my race.

Unfortunately, the members of my race are also its biggest advocates.  

At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I will admit that I am a huge rap fan. I love rap, and I listen to all kinds. I listen to the conscious and the misogynistic, the violent and the soulful. I respect anyone who has the talent to tell an entertaining story through spoken word even if I don’t always agree with their message. But almost every rapper from Jay Electronica to Waka Flocka Flame is still trapped in the mindset that the n-word is a synonym for black, and it’s not.

In order to make real social progress in this world I think all the black entertainers need to speak out against that word and encourage other black people to stop using it. Entertainers, especially black entertainers, are the trend setters for the whole planet. If Jay-Z claims he can make the Yankee cap more famous than the New York Yankees, then surely he can encourage others to stop using one word.

But it won’t happen. There have been plenty of arguments far more articulate than mine decrying the use of the n-word, and yet, we still use it. I don’t get it. No other culture tries to turn the racial slur targeted at them into a good thing. Can you imagine what would happen if anyone started using the K-word in a public setting? Every synagogue in the country would protest.

I’ve heard the argument that using the n-word takes away its power, but I don’t think it does. When I hear white boys calling each other the n-word on campus, I don’t feel a sense of greater equality, I feel ashamed. I’m ashamed because I know exactly what they mean when they use that word on each other. They’re calling each other ignorant, lazy, irresponsible, and all the other negatives that are identified with black people.

I’m aware that white people will always use the n-word, but I preferred it when they at least looked around first to make sure no black people were around. This country’s hipster obsession with being ironic and post-modern has gotten out of hand.

Oh I see! Sarah Silverman can use the n-word in her stand-up acts because she knows its offensive. She’s just making fun of the politically correct police.

So as long as you are aware that what you are saying is incredibly offensive all is forgiven? I’ll keep that in mind next time there’s a breast cancer marathon. I’ll be sure to bring my dirty laundry, and there better be a sandwich ready!

Once again, I knew this is futile. But I feel like I had to say something just to maintain my own sanity. It’s not cool to take anything seriously anymore. Anyway who doesn’t take a “whatever” approach to life is automatically labeled as a killjoy. And I bet if I ever did try to confront one of the white guys on campus for using the n-word, they would gladly point me in the direction of their “black friend” who said it was OK.

 Say whatever you want to say in the privacy of your own home. Just don’t say it around me, because I don’t get the joke.





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