Is the use of the n-word ever acceptable?

April 25, 2002, midnight | By L.A. Holmes | 18 years, 9 months ago

L.A. Holmes says NO: The n-word is still unacceptable

Ideally, after years of struggle to overturn negative perceptions of the black race, the n-word would be wiped from the tongue and memory. Since such an act is not naturally possible, we must take steps to eradicate the n-word on our own terms. The way to reach this end is not through black people buying into the false notion that, by using the word, they can extinguish the derogatory connotations of the word.

Rather, discussion like that featured in the recent episode of Fox's Boston Public is a positive step towards educating teens about the true meaning of the word. If people who use the word as a synonym for "friend" knew how it felt to be called a "nigger" or knew how their parents and grandparents felt when they were persecuted because of their skin color, perhaps they would think twice about believing that such a horrible term could be used amicably.

Many in the black community who use the n-word draw a distinction between the words "nigger" and "nigga." But in fact, they are one and the same. A slurred colloquial pronunciation is to be expected over time. "Going" and "goin'" do not have two separate meanings, and arguing that the word "nigga" is not the same as the word "nigger" lends undue credibility to two words of shared meaning.

The argument that adopting the term undermines its derogatory power is nullified by the fact that even blacks use the term derogatorily within their own race. Black comedian Chris Rock draws a distinction between black people and "niggers" in his stand-up routine, specifying that the latter group contains the dirty, rude, poor blacks who exemplify the "nigger" stereotype.
It is no more right for blacks to assign the term to their peers than for whites to use the slur against their minority counterparts.
Such double standards are contradictory and divisive. Saying, "You can't use the word because you're white, but I can because I'm black" is just like saying, "You can't drink at this water fountain, eat at this lunch counter, study in this school or sit at the front of this bus because you're black, but I can because I'm white."

The word "nigger" is a reminder of a time not so far removed from today when blacks were persecuted in every possible way. If a black Blazer was called a "nigger" in the 1950s, he or she would be subject to the stereotype of the uneducated, low-class, subservient race. To say that the 32 percent of Blair students who are black are "niggers" would be to say that they are people designed for slavery, all lacking intelligence or the potential to make futures for themselves.

The n-word is a terrible, offensive term that reminds Americans of a dark period in our history. Never before has a single word carried such an immense historical and social weight. Its meaning will not be changed by a few naive individuals.

Education of the power of the n-word and its historical context is the key to deterring its casual use.

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L.A. Holmes. L.A. Holmes is a SENIOR!! ('03 Baby!) in the Communication Arts Program. L.A. currently reigns as Managing Opinions and Editorials Editor of <i>Silver Chips</i> with her dear friend, Rachel Yood, and she is the first in <i>Silver Chips</i> history to hold the hotly contested and … More »

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