I do love it when something inspires me to write in a series. Welcome to the first of a quantity currently unknown multi-part series on Race and its myriad issues. Today’s topic: The N-Word. I find myself today pondering what words really mean, and what their effect can be. In particular one word…that word. The word that is tainted with reminders of our country’s less than stellar past. A word that I’ve actually never been able to have pass through my lips, and that now seems to be more a phrase than a word “The N-Word”.
On August 10th Dr. Laura Schlessinger made headlines by saying The N-Word (only the actual word) repeatedly on her show. The subsequent media brouhaha was predictable. This morning I actually listened to the segment and read the transcript for the first time. My response to it is not what I would have predicted it to be.
After hearing the reports and recounting of it, my thought was this woman is a moron. What was she thinking? How dare she? Now, I find myself thinking she does have a valid point. ACK! LD, did you really just write that? Yes, I did.
Here’s the point that I think she has—and it is a point many people have made: Why is it okay for black people to say it, but not anyone else? Now, granted, she attempted to make that point in a REALLY bad way. While she may not have actually called anyone THAT word, she used it repeatedly and shouldn’t have. More importantly, she was of no help to the woman who called in for her guidance, and I think Dr. L stepped in it big time. But pushing all of that aside, what about THAT word?
I believe the word is reprehensible and should be dropped from everyone’s vernacular period. I have never been able to say it, and don’t expect that to change. However, I have friends that say it with such frequency I find myself wondering if they believe that not saying it would cause their hearts to stop beating.
The fact of the matter is that White America (outside of extremists and certain meetings involving several Ks) stopped using THAT word a long time ago. It is not something that they use because of what it signifies. The only reason it even exists in our lexicon at this point is because of its continued use by Black America—the very people who claim to be so offended by it. But if it is so offensive, why is it used in so many songs? Why can you hear it proudly exclaimed by Blacks in everyday conversations? If the word is so offensive—and I believe it is—then the color of your skin does not give you license to use it.
I’ve heard the argument made that Blacks only use it in the same way one would use “buddy” or “pal”, but that’s not true. I’ve heard plenty of Blacks use it in a derogatory manner to describe other Blacks that are in some manner undesirable—i.e. I know some who say they “won’t do business with N****s”. The rationale is that there is a difference between doing business with Blacks vs. N****s. The latter will cheat you, not follow through, etc, etc. It’s a legitimate concern that when doing business you want the best person possible. But if someone of another race were to say that exact same sentence, it would be that they are racist. Not that they want to do honest business with a good partner, but that they are discriminating based on race. Very unfair double standard.
The bottom line for me is I don’t care who you are or what shade of the rainbow your skin is. There are certain words that need to be dropped from all of our mental dictionaries period. The N-Word is one of them. It is a tainted, offensive word that no one should be using, regardless of whether the intent behind its usage is malicious or not. The English language is a rich, beautiful, ever-evolving thing. We add to it and change it all the time. If I had told you 20 years ago to go Google something, Friend me, surf the web or read my blog, you would have looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Take advantage of the flexibility of language. If the goal is to have a cool word to celebrate togetherness and unity, great. Make up a new word to talk to your friends…who knows, it just might catch on.