What’s N a Word?

Last week, while reading a passage from Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, I saw a student’s jaw drop out of the corner of my eye. “Dr. E,” she said when I completed the passage. “You used the hard -er.”

I had indeed. The quote from the play reads, “Cal, if I catch a nigger in this town going shooting, you know what’s going to happen.” The character who says it is a coward and a thief–and a racist. His use of that word confirms the play’s dim view of his actions and his politics. I explained to the student that I do my best to read in character; that I read things the way they’re written; and that I don’t expect students to do the same if there are phrases that offend them.

However, that moment in class opened the door for a broader discussion of the n-word: how should we deal with its history? how do we place it in context? who can use it? who can’t? why isn’t it always offensive–or is it? what’s the difference between the hard -er and an -a?

The ensuing discussion kept even the droopiest eyelids wide open, but it hardly proved conclusive. If you’d like to present your ideas about the questions above, feel free to do so. Be forewarned, though, that you must employ a respectful tone. You should also know that there’s one particular train of thought that many in the class found immediately objectionable: that if a word can be used by one group of people, then it should be used by all. Finally, don’t be afraid to link research or other commentary in your posts.

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33 Responses to What’s N a Word?

  1. Niamke Buchanan says:

    Unpopular opinion: anyone and everyone can say it, hard “r” or otherwise. Alright, hear me out. Yes, the word has a racist history. Yes it is considered a “bad word” and rightfully so. However so are the other curse/cuss words people claim they don’t say and need to be kept away from small children. The thing is, we are currently living in a society that is post-civil rights, and is arguably still supporting racial bias and insensitivity. Even so, racial tensions have greatly eased and the fault now only falls upon individuals, not institutions or systems supporting racism (with the exception of affirmative action and diversity hiring practices.) With this in mind, the only way to fully move past racism is to release ourselves and our country of the thoughts related to continuing racial tensions such as the “n-word.” If we want people to stop seeing each other as different races, we must be able to freely say what we want to each other without regard for factors they cannot change. I’m not saying that the word is a good word or does not have a bad history, but we have a “forgive and forget” mentality. What happened happened and we can’t change that, but we can strive to be a more open and accepting society. I personally still cringe and feel disrespected when non-blacks say the word, but that is because of my upbringing that pushed a victim mentality on me and others of my race. Seeing the world for what it is, I know that restricting people from saying things will only breed further desire and envy.
    Side note, I still don’t understand why it’s okay for blacks to say it and no one else. Can anyone answer me that? If the word is demeaning to blacks, shouldn’t it be WORSE when we say it to each other? Food for thought.

    • Xavier Lucas-Cooper says:

      In my opinion, the N-word is and always will be a topic of discussion that sets a polarizing tone in our society. As stated above, yes, the word has a negative history, as well as a negative denotation. While we all propose all of these concepts about how the word should be used, we do not think about how it is used presently. Its used by the African-American population as slang for “bro” or “friend”. It is considered racist if someone that is not black says the word in today’s society. A solution for the problem that is non-black people saying the word, I propose the notion of no one saying the word at all. At this point, I think we can say that the African-American population has “reclaimed” the word, so what is the harm in eliminating the word now? However, do not forget that the word is entirely disrespectful. As someone who has heard the word said by non-black students in a non-educational context at MSMS, I cannot deny that the word still carries the overwhelming weight of ignorance and disrespect. Unfortunately, people are going to do what they want. People are still going to say the word regardless, but if we can all get on the same page on why the word should not be said, I think that is a step in the right direction. Instead of this topic being about whether or not whomever can say the N-word, it should be whether or not whomever should say a curse word. In response to the point made that we need to stop seeing each other as different races, that is entirely untrue. The importance of realizing one’s race is vital to one’s cultural awareness. Someone saying, “I don’t see color.” or “I am colorblind” reveals that the person doesn’t have the capacity to be racist or even identify examples of racism. That is basically ignoring that racism even exists. After all, the importance of seeing race allows for the celebration of advancements of the races that have achieved something that has not been done before. For example, Sandra Oh being the first Asian woman to win the Golden Globe for Best Lead Actress in a Drama, Barack Obama being the first black president, or Sonia Sotomayor being the first Hispanic person to serve as a Supreme Court judge. These advancements serve as a realization of how America is becoming more accepting and more diverse in its places of power. What is the point in someone coming to America if they do not feel as if they can go for the same opportunities as someone else? As for the use of the word in media as it is now, I do not have a problem with it. It is used as an educational tool to help people realize the harsh reality that was experienced by those before us. This helps the people who watch it learn how to change themselves for the better.

      • Niamke Buchanan says:

        NOTE: Slurs are used for context and information in this post. Snowflakes and SJW’s beware.
        You do make a good point about no one saying the word, or other curse words, at all, and I think it is a good idea, but as you stated, people will unfortunately do whatever they want. In response, please think about these 2 counterarguments.
        First, from my experience, white people don’t get angry when they’re called “cracker” by anyone. Asians don’t get angry when they’re called “chink/chinaman” by anyone. Hispanics don’t get angry when they’re called “beaner/wetback/etc” by anyone. Again, this is only my experience. The difference between these circumstances, is that, again from my experience, blacks are the only group that openly and wholeheartedly refer to each other with a racial slur. I have never un-ironically heard an Asian call another Asian a “chink,” a Hispanic call another Hispanic a “beaner,” or an Arab call another Arab a “towel/rag-head.” Is that the defining factor? If the group doesn’t use it and doesn’t care about the word then it’s not a “curse” word per-say and does not have a socially-unacceptable connotation? If the group does use it then they’re the only ones that can? To be fair, slavery was a harsh issue, and many died because of it. If that’s why this word is wrong and we can “reclaim” the word, then “chink,” a term used to degrade Asians (specifically Japanese) during WWII due to Executive Order 9066, which created and made compulsory Japanese internment camps, should be exclusive to Asians and needs to be reclaimed, yet no one seems to care about this word. What’s the difference?
        Second, what makes a word bad? What defines a curse word? They’re simply another set of words that people don’t use. I recently saw a video that can explain this argument in a much more concise and humorous way than I can, so I urge anyone interested to watch it. No racial slurs are used, but there is heavy use of the 7 curse words plus a few. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a0qw5Ziqm8&t=0s

        • N says:

          You make a very good argument. Your question about what makes up the difference between the usage of the n-word and “chink” (or any other racial slur) really has me thinking. Whether or not my response answers your question is up to you. I’m strictly referring only to “chink” because I am Asian and am speaking for myself.

          I personally think that the n-word carries a much more impactful history than “chink” does, especially in American culture. We’ve grown up learning year after year about our history with slavery and civil rights. We read books and watch films that tell real stories of oppression and murder against blacks. And this is what the n-word is associated with. I’ve heard the word “chink” thrown around all my life and even directed at me, and it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized it’s a derogatory term deemed racist. But I’ve always known that the n-word is unacceptable, that it embodies inferiority. We don’t talk about racism against East Asians, so many people remain ignorant of it.

  2. Alyssa says:

    Personally I feel as if that it is more acceptable for people to use the word ending in -a than -er. There is just so much negativity that is associated with the first word. In order to take that word back as something more empowering, people have slightly changed the word to be usable. Depending on who you ask it is totally acceptable for anyone of any color use -a word, as long as it is in no way demeaning. But you also have to take into account that some are offended by that word no matter if you are using it in a light hearted way. I feel as if the KKK can say the -er word freely without consequences, then anyone should be able to use the -a word in a friendly manner.
    The same would go for others slanders that is wanted to be changed into more powerful meanings, sl*t. Not everyone agrees with the use of this word because of it original meaning. When looking back at what is believed as one of the true meanings of the n word, it was very empowering from the start. Lots of people believe that the word originates from the ancient Egyptian use of “N-g-r” which is supposed to mean “God”. There were many different forms of this word to refer to many different things, and you can see many words/names that are in Africa that have these three letters in it, just with actual vowels in between. It was just the Romans started to use this, they mistakenly used it for all Africans or blacks that originated from Africa, when it really should have only been used to refer the Pharaoh. When the negative connotation came into play exactly is unknown to me, but it was most like after the fall of the Roman empire, because as we have learned in Latin, the Romans actually treated their servants and slaves with great respect.

  3. Faith Brown says:

    This topic is a sticky one, to say the least, but as a BLACK young woman, I believe that if you are not black you should not say this word, at all. Most people in this time and day say this word as a joke or as a greeting, but it is not! It is honestly disrespectful to go around using this word as a way of “being cool”. Whether it is the hard -r or the soft -a, it is not appropriate for non-blacks to say this word. It is a cultural appropriation for non-blacks to go around saying the N-word, period. This word is apart of our culture and should not be used by anyone other than us. It was used by non-blacks, throughout many centuries, as a way to degrade black people, and by letting the word slip from your mouth so easily or to chuckle and laugh at the word is something that I will never understand. It should not be something that you just let slip from your mouth, at all. There is an importance to this topic, and it needs to be acknowledged and addressed. When Black people use this word, in most cases, it is a way of understanding, it also is the acknowledgment of what our people have been through. It is a way of brotherhood, something that links us and our different cultures together. While I acknowledge that some people are ignorant to what this word means and the importance of them not saying it, I also acknowledge that there are some black people that are also ignorant to the history that this word holds and use it in a derogatory way. Although I do not support the use of it in that way, I also believe that black people reserve the right to say this word and others can not. We also have to acknowledge that black people have taken this word back and given a positive conation to it. Instead of using it as a way to acknowledge only the negative points of history, they now have used it as a way of friendship and brotherhood. There is something about being black and understanding what we go through, together, that I believe allows us to reserve this right. Saying this word comes with a certain experience of being black and if you have not experienced it there is no way to fully understand and grasp the points and things we go through. This word holds history, and that history withholds many horrors that even I, as a young, African American cannot even begin to fully grasp, so Why could people who are not black even begin to?
    PS. So-called “Black Cards” don’t allow you to say this word or understand what we go through. Just because your “woke” does not mean that you understand everything we go through, there is a certain experience that if your not black you haven’t experienced!

    • Niamke Buchanan says:

      I don’t mean to insult you, but you’re very contradictory with your statement. The term is derogatory, yet fine when we say it? It’s derogatory, but even GOOD when we say it? We can recognize the history associated with the term and move past that part of us but non-blacks can’t? You say that non-blacks can’t use the term because they don’t understand the history and pain associated with it, yet you say that you don’t understand it either? You being here at this school says that you’re a very smart person, and if you don’t understand the history, do you truly think someone without your level of education can understand it? Although I don’t know if you would use the word yourself, by your own logic, since you do not have the understanding, you should not be able to use the word.
      I also would like to know if you think that the word is available for use in a historical context. For example, in two famous, and in my opinion amazing, movies, Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave, white actors portraying slave owners and other whites of the time period say the word. Is this ok?

  4. Geneva Hamilton says:

    I don’t think any one, especially non-African Americans should say nigger or nigga.
    I don’t believe that an a ending is supposed to all of a sudden have a friendlier meaning than the more derogatory counterpart. The seemingly obvious reason to not use the n-word is respect. You should want to respect the fact that it is offensive to an entire group of people. That in itself should be a reason to not say it. Society does that for every other curse word and derogatory slur, but why is there such a desire to say the n-word. I also don’t like how the younger black generation has normalized the use of the word though it derives from black people taking the power back from the whites who felt powerful saying it. Still that does not permit any other race’s use of the word. Saying this, the only exception for the use of the word is historical reenactments which depict how life really was during that time period.

  5. KT says:

    Like Niamke, I don’t fully understand why it’s much more socially acceptable for black men and women to say this word than if a white man or woman said it. I don’t know that it should only be restricted by race, but I recognize that it is and I get caught off guard when white people use the word. It could be for respect’s sake, in that, from what I can tell, most African Americans deem it disrespectful when other races use this word. I know of instances where a white male was given a “pass,” yet still refused to say the word. As well, I’m sure that there are African Americans who choose not to say the word either. It is an uncomfortable word with an uncomfortable history. In the case of accurately portraying different time periods I think that it should be okay for whoever to use it, but again, I don’t know why it’s a segregated word in the first place.

  6. Whitney Fairley says:

    As a person that is both black and white, I feel like there is an especially large amount of confusion around who can say the word. My mother, my white parent, always taught me that it was a hateful word and she would slap me into 2030 if she heard me say it. She didn’t like the word and she always felt that it was a slur. My father on the other hand , my black parent, uses the word sometimes. One day I curiously asked him if the n word was a bad word. He told me that it was originally a word that white slave owners used to demean their slaves and to assert dominance over them. White people using this word was a way of showing black people that they had power over them. So, as time progressed, white people still used the word to make themselves feel like they were above black people and still had this power over them. During the rap movement of the 90s, groups like NWA reinvented this word. They used this word to refer to black people in an empowering and positive way. In doing this they were taking the power back and the use of the word was meant to serve as a slap to the face to white people. In my opinion, I feel that if a black person wants to use the word to empower themselves then power on. I also feel that if a non-black person wants to use the word they should think about the history of the word and how it is used. They should be mindful of other people’s opinion and also that EVERY BLACK PERSON IS NOT GOING TO HAVE THE SAME OPINION. Some black people don’t think that anyone should use the word. I think that white people should understand that the controversy around the word should be whether or not black people should use it. Whether or not white people should use it shouldn’t even be a question, considering the history of how white people originally used it. I personally don’t like to use the word, but I can understand why people have both opinions about the word. P.S. Nobody come for me about my opinions. I am just saying what I think and I just want to be respectful of other people’s opinion.

  7. Cameron Thomas says:

    To be honest, I don’t think the word should be used at all. Of course, it’s going to be in literature because of the time period, and I don’t mind that because it shows a deep truth about the past that we really shouldn’t run away from; therefore, I would consider it fair-game in plays, books,movies, etc. In reality, however,(away from literature or the arts), it should be dismissed from the entire English language. It’s demeaning and degrading regardless of whether it is said with an”a” or the hard “er.” People of other races don’t even have to say it all because we, as black people, demean each other enough for everyone. Though it has a different connotation when we say it(some say it is a way of empowerment but I disagree), that still doesn’t take away from the fact it was used to as a method to try to ‘keep us in our places,’ to let us know that we weren’t classified as an entire a person, so why are we accepting that? Black or not, let’s just do away with it people.

    • Niamke Buchanan says:

      I feel like you’ve gotten closer to the meat of the problem than anyone else here. Yes it has a bad history, and our continued use of it is the MOST offensive use of the word. Regardless of our “reclaiming” the word, why should we be satisfied with ANYONE’S use of it?
      The ultimate issue is not the connotation, denotation, history, or reclaiming of the word; the ultimate issue is the black culture. The black culture has self-segregated itself by saying “we can use it and no one else can.” This act in itself is a RACIST act, that does the exact opposite of the goal of reclaiming it: this mentality perpetuates the racism our ancestors fought so hard to end. Until each and every black person decides “we are no longer going to be victims” and gets out of this mentality, we will spur on the racism we despise so much. The real issue is not the ghost of “systemic/institutional racism” that our culture claims still exists (it doesn’t: no law in this country holds us back from doing anything because of our race, and public institutions are expressly prohibited from doing so; individuals and private companies are not held to this same standard, and should not be,) the real issue is that (to use a common phrase that I personally would not use but serves this purpose well) “black people never left the plantation.”

  8. Aja Ceesay says:

    I completely agree with Whitney and the fact that modern culture, such as the rap group NWA, took a demeaning word and made it positive. The fact that black people were able to bounce back from such a slur shows how strong we as African Americans really are. Now for the important part, why only black people should be able to use the word. Back in the day, the n-word with a hard -er was used by white people to make black people feel as if they were any less than human. It was used to make white people feel superior because, according to them, black people were nothing more than a white man’s property. Why is it so wrong when African Americans take that word and make it have a more positive connotation? White people would physically spit in the faces of black people and charge them for crimes they never committed, yet it’s wrong when we tell them to leave one word out of their vocabulary? Did society ever say anything to the racists when they would call African Americans the n-word as a racial slur? No. So why should it be a problem when we as black people say the word when referring to our friend or when we are rapping the words to a rap song? Additionally, I don’t think that any other group should be able to use the word (Latinx, Arabs, Native Americans, etc.) because they simply do not have the rights. Of course they, along with black people, suffered from blatant racism and the use of racial slurs, but the n-word was not always directed at them. Those people of color did not take the n-word and create something positive with it, black people did.

  9. Nathan Lee says:

    In my opinion, the n-word is acceptable when used in certain contexts or environments. For example, when reading literature like Dr. Easterling, it is acceptable to say because of the word’s relation to the story. In the case of human interactions, if the people you talk to are okay with your usage of the word, there’s no harm in doing so. The meaning of a word depends on both the user’s intention and the word’s history. When the word is used in a lighthearted way, the past history doesn’t make the word entirely negative.
    On a related note, usage of mental illnesses is far more prevalent and accepted throughout society. Most people do not give a second thought when using the words “retarded” or “autistic” as negative descriptors. I mention this to give perspective, not undermine the severity of any slur used with negative intent.

  10. X says:

    The N-word with the hard -er is just a word. It’s as word of a word as the word word. But society perceives it differently from the word word; it views it as a negative derogatorily insulting nickname for African Americans. It’s hard to tell others to just “move on” from its history and avoid using it in general. In this day and time, it is only considered OK for blacks to call other blacks this word, and say, if a white person says “what’s up (insert N-word),” more than likely, the black person would take offense. I don’t see a difference between the hard -er and an -a. I wouldn’t personally use either because I consider it as a part of the swearing language. But just like the derogatory “cracker” for whites, it shouldn’t be considered as a part of the swearing language. Personally, I don’t know how it should be placed into context. The decision is up to those involved.

  11. Erin says:

    So many people feel differently about the word, it’s hard to know when/how to use it or not. I think the -a has a better meaning than -er because so people used it differently. -er is usually thought of as racist, and makes people think of slavery and segregation. -a is used by some African Americans like others use the term friend. Regardless of which one, it’s hard to know how people feel about the word before you use it or not. I’d prefer that no one used the word, but some people just won’t let the term go.

  12. Linda Arnoldus says:

    My personal opinion can be summed up in one statement: if you’re not black, don’t say the N word. As a non-black person, I have never felt the urge to say the N word, even when singing songs. I will never understand why non-black people intentionally link themselves to a history of racism other than 1) they don’t understand the power of their words 2) they are racist. I understand that the topic can be a little tricky when dealing with mixed race black people, but that can be dealt with on an individual basis. Some argue that black people saying the N word is racist in itself because the word is racist. I disagree. Black people saying the N word is a display of power and community. Either way, my view is the same. If you’re not black, don’t say it.

  13. E. T. says:

    Like many of the responses before, the question of using “nigger” or “nigga” is difficult to explain in today’s environment. While some herald it as an opportunity for the African-American community to rise above their history, its hard to justify usage within everyday language today. Noting that this word was used derogatorily less than 200 years ago, perhaps its too early in embracing it. With people coming from different points and worldviews, there’s many that still resent the mistreatment and pain associated with the “N” word either as a hard “er” or “a”.

    Mr. Fasehan drives a persuasive case where even well-intended, the context of words may cause drastic consequences. In a classroom, one may reenact the tension between our races, but the saying the same words “might be met with violence in black-majority environments like South Side, Chicago, or Newark, New Jersey.” A close buddy may greet with “nigga”, but underneath the fondness, there lies a “dark history of denigrating black Americans”. Language directed to one may be completely misinterpreted on one’s upbringing which brings me to my next point

    Artistically, the importance of remembering black history coexists with the words and intents behind them. Softening them with euphemisms such as the “N” word or “racial slur” takes away from the painful history we have come from. Words represent the expression of ourselves and therein lies the difficulty of discerning proper etiquette for a dynamic world.

    Article : https://bowdoinorient.com/2017/10/20/reclaiming-words/

  14. Eli Dosda says:

    Personally, I believe that the word should not be used outside of historical contexts. In a piece of literature that was created in a time period where racism was prevalent, it is used now as a lesson on what is so clearly wrong, so it’s acceptable to truly show the atrocities that people in the past committed upon African-Americans both in imagery and in derogatories.

    The problem is that in society we’ve constructed that word now to have a completely new meaning. When people hear this word, they no longer remember the lessons we were taught, or the dark history behind it, they only see the new meaning as “bro” or “friend”.

    There’s also the double standard, which it’s okay for one group to use a particularly hateful word but it doesn’t mean anything, but when another group uses it it retains its derogatory connotations, which is altogether odd. If we’re to only partly forget the past behind the word, why do we still hold that past close to us when it comes to specific case scenarios?

    Another example: In my case, it be if someone used the F**/F***** word.
    The F** word comes from a very hateful root, and still to some extent maintains it’s derogatory connotation. In the last 10 or so years, perception of same-sexual attraction has changed dramatically, and now people rarely use that word in its derogatory context (It still happens a lot in the south though).

    It’s not something I’m personally offended by, but it’s still something I dislike people using in any context. I don’t want to use it towards anyone else with same-sex attractions, and I don’t want anyone without same-sex attractions to use it either. Every time I hear it, I’m just reminded of some of the people who say it with hatred in their voice instead of it’s same new connotation that the n word has.

    In the same way, when I hear people use the N word, I can’t help but remember the roots of hatred that the word has.

    A key difference between the F and N words is that African Americans have had both time and community to reclaim the word and transform it into something different, while the people with same-sex attractions don’t have that same community or haven’t had anywhere close to the amount of time to transform the word.

    In that way, the F word still retains a huge amount of it’s sting, but in a good amount of years, I’m not sure if it would still retain it’s meaning, or be changed to something new.

    I still would wish people now and in the future to restrain themselves from using it though.

    I can’t help but feel that the people from the past who suffered the atrocities committed unto them would feel the same way about the N word.

  15. JoJo Kaler says:

    I do believe that all people should be able to use it when quoting others. If you are quoting someone, even today, you can possibly lose the meaning or the true impact of the quote. If a racist bigot yelled racial slurs including the n word at someone before committing a hate crime against him, and you were standing before the court trying to prove that it was a hate crime, it would be much more impactful to quote him exactly with the hard er, regardless of the race of the one giving the testimony. Even without such extreme circumstances, like quoting it in a historical context, or singing someone else’s song it should be able to be said despite the mouth it comes out of. What really matters is the mind it came out of. I think that it should be classed as a special type of cuss word that those of whom would not be offended by it should avoid its usage unless quoting those who have already used it.

  16. Ezra McWilliams says:

    This topic will be in discussion for a very long time. I think we covered the fundamentals that no other race is allowed to say it. Likewise, it can be said about other racial epithets. Every race has its own racial epithet. Like no other race is allowed to say the N-word to African Americans, African Americans should not say other racial epithets to other races of people. While each racial epithet has its own race, it somewhat creates a self-segregated field for each race, further driving races apart from one another. If we want to bring more people together, there has to be a solution for these racial epithets, either we used their integral and make a positive derivative from it, or we kill it.

  17. Khytavia Fleming says:

    Coming from a predominantly black school, “nigga” was a word I heard daily. It was a normal part of my life, and I never really paid it any mind. When spoken, it always came off as a sense of love, respect, and friendship. However, by coming to MSMS and being surrounded by a variety of races, when I hear “nigga” or “nigger” out of race’s mouth other than black a switch clicks in my head. Most times I assess the situation. I think about who’s saying and why are they saying it before I act. I don’t have a problem with other races reading the N word in a text, but don’t put emphasis on it.
    Honestly, I strongly believe that other races other than black should not be saying “nigga” and especially not “nigger” just for “fun”. If I can be respectful enough to not go around saying “cracker,” then my fellow peers and everyone else should have enough respect to not go around saying the N word. That’s just life. Some black people don’t care who says it while others do. In most cases, it’s better to not even say the N word. As a black person, I don’t even use the word “nigger” when speaking, and I rarely use the word “nigga” in every day life. Most importantly, I make it my responsibility to not say the N word around races that aren’t black. “Nigga”is a word that brings controversy when there are a million other topics to talk about. If I can stop a conflict from happening by editing the word from my vocabulary while around a certain group of people, then I will.

  18. Bubba says:

    Personally, this word should be able to be used for an academic purpose. In this day, this word is usually used as a slang, offensive and not offensive at times. When people of the same group use it to refer to someone, it does not take offense. However, when people of different race use it, other people get offended. This word was prominently used by white people in the past to refer to the black people. I feel like even though everyone has the right to use it, they should respect the word and use it when it seems relevant to the context. However, I also think that in a discussion in class, teachers should be free to say it since it is part of the class lesson and also part of us understanding the background of this word. To me, I do not see a difference between the hard -er and an -a. They both mean the same thing. If people want to use either of them, they should know when this can be used and when it cannot.

  19. Catherine Li says:

    This topic somehow always comes up, but when it does, I usually come up with the same conclusion: don’t say it if you aren’t of the race. Almost every conversation I have or see in real life or on social media agrees. However, I do understand the usage of it in historical contexts, reading literature, and academic purposes. The first time I heard a teacher use the N-word was as a sophomore when my teacher read aloud To Kill A Mockingbird. My teacher was a small, sweet white lady, and at first, I was alarmed because I had never heard it used in a situation like that, but everyone else seemed fine. She then proceeded to explain the racial conditions of the time in the South and that it was wrong. I believe the usage of the N-word, in that case, is acceptable because it is used in a teaching setting where the teacher is respectful. However, in the real world, people who aren’t African American should not be able to use it.

  20. Chloe Jackson says:

    Regardless of how many “passes” you get from your black friends if you are not black you have no right to utter the N word. Not for the sake of being literary, historical, or lyrical purism. The same way you skip over curse words in song when are in front of your mom you can skip over the N word anywhere (it is not rocket science). More importantly why are non-black people itching to utter the N word because, historically their ancestors where spewing 50 different shades of hatred). “wHY dO ThEy gEt tO sAy iT anD I caN’t.” When non-people of color deal with discrimination, mass-incarceration, elevated rates of police brutality, lagging family structures, and more we can talk about it. Until till then non-people of color can go live a N word free exist.

  21. t says:

    Quite frankly, I do not prefer to use the hard –er or the –a, but I know that the words will still be used by others. I have no control over what others say. I only have control over what I say. I understand the usage of the hard –er being used in literature classes, though it’s cringy. Yes, I will take offense when another race says it, especially if it is used in an offensive context.

  22. William Sutton says:

    I rather agree with Niamke’s and Cameron’s views on the subject. We as a nation have done our best to attempt to get rid of statues and figures that represent the tragically racist past that we are trying to put behind us. We have taken down statues, gotten rid of flags, and tabooed anything that is remotely racist and absconded it to the museums. That’s a big leap from the beatings and lynchings that were occurring in the 60’s and before. These are all great advances towards the destruction of racism, these things should be laid to rest (not forgotten so that we do not fall back into what we once were) but things of the past should stay in the past. The N word was one of those artifacts that we as nation once used to label and demoralize a group of people, but ironically this piece of racist memorabilia was something we held on too. Word like many things eventually fall out of use (just like we don’t say thy or thine) but one of the ones that has hurt so many is being attempted to be revitalized through popular culture and hip-hop music. Do we as nation not see this as the hypocrisy that it is. We spit on those who use black face, or boast a confederate flag, but a word that was some times branded into slaves is trying to be used as one that means friend. This word is history and that’s what it should be. It does not matter who you are (black or someone who thinks that they have the ability to say the N word) this word should not be used period. I personally don’t believe that civil rights heroes such Fredrick Douglass, and MLK fought and (maybe died) for a name that had once limited their entire race be used as common street slang.

  23. Samaria Swims says:

    In my opinion, I believe no one should use the n word. I am an African American, and my family and I do not use that word. The n word is considered a bad word in my family and that’s why we do not use it. I think that using the n word shows a sign of disrespect. A lot of people have different opinions about people using the n word. I would just prefer that people will stop using the word, but in my opinion people will never stop using the word.

  24. Ellen Overstreet says:

    I am white, so I can not use the n word. That is a normal opinion that everyone should agree with. It makes me uncomfortable when anyone, no matter their race, says it. However, black people have more of a right to say it since it was used against them for so long. It is as if they are reclaiming the word and creating a new connotation for themselves.

  25. Joshua Seid says:

    Words are words… nothing more nothing less. In this particular case, the “N word” is disputed over and over again. The conflict never seems to die out. The way I see it, words only have as much power as you give them, no matter what. If used in a derogatory context, it should be taken as no more or less as any other insult, the same as “idiot,” “stupid,” “imbecile,” and so on. These examples are deemed lesser forms of insult, but why?? What if someone is actually stupid… it can have the same effect as the “N-word” today. Moving on from insults, even adjectives can be offensive… like “fat,” “sick,” “black,” “yellow,” “poor.” The list, once again, goes on. These words, depending on who they are directed to and with what intentions can have literally the same effect as the “N-word.”

    Basically, what I’m trying to say is words will always be words no matter the history. The only thing that should be taken into account is the context and intentions and it should not be distorted or inflated in any way.

  26. This is quite a controversial topic, but I believe that anyone can say it in a non-derogatory way. This means that a non-black person should not say it to a black person in a tone of voice that is intended to make them upset or enraged. It also means that black people should not tease non- blacks about it because it is a touchy word after all. I do not know how to discuss this without upsetting someone because of the word’s history after all, but we need to do the best we can when it comes to respecting other people, and history itself because if a law, or taboo against something exists, its because it occurred in the past.

  27. Gracie Rowland says:

    If you’re a non-black individual- don’t say it. It truly is that simple. The N-word was used as a racial slur for years, and it was used to oppress the black community and maintain white control. It is undeniably linked with a history of white violence and brutality, and the current usage of it by non-blacks is either wildly ignorant or extremely disrespectful. Many members of the black community use the word to reclaim their heritage and to take ownership of their power, and the usage of it by non-black individuals takes away from that newfound ownership.

    Hell, the fact that there is even a debate over the usage of the word illustrates the controversy surrounding it. One of my best friends from Dallas came to me crying one day after school because she had been (jokingly) referred to as an N-word. The intentions of the speaker were not cruel, but the consequences of the actions were still prevalent. Simply put- if you’re not white, don’t say it. It’s not difficult to take one word out of your vocabulary, and if you think that it is, chill. Be cognizant of the history surrounding the word, and choose to be respectful.

  28. Alisha says:

    Looking through all of these comments I’m shocked that this is even a debate. I came from a school that held all blacks and one white there. And as long as she’s hung around us since kindergarten she has never thought it was okay to say that word. Yes, people attempted to give her the pass but she never accepted it because she knew it wasn’t fine to say. Not only that but she even came from a family where all her little brothers and sisters where mixed raced and she still never used that word. All I’m saying is that if she can refrain from using the word for her eighteen years of living on this earth than why is it so hard for non-blacks to stop their desire from saying it. If its just a word that what are you going to gain from getting allowed the power to speak it. The desire of non-blacks to say it gives it as much power as blacks give it too. Educational reasons are understandable but any attempt to make it rated E (everyone) is not acceptable.

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