I have a complicated relationship with the “N” word.
It is a part of the normal vernacular in the neighborhood I grew up in. Depending on the tone of voice used, it can mean a number of different things. It isn’t in my regular vocabulary, but in the past it has been known to roll off of my tongue with ease.
The history of the word in America is where I get tripped up. Deriving from the Latin word for “black” (and a term of endearment in ancient Egyptian culture), it was morphed into a word used as a sword to cut down the spirits of the African-American.
It became a tool to diminish my ancestors into unsophisticated, unintelligent partial-humans. Its syllables dripped with hatred.
NOTE: contains usage of the actual “N” word; please use headphones
I understand and respect the efforts that have been made to take back the word, cutting off its effectiveness as a tool for hatred and reclassifying it as a term of endearment (i.e. “that’s my n***a”). However, knowing what I know, I can’t stand completely behind it.
As much as we claim to live in a post-racial society, this country was built (and continues to thrive) on racism. The Civil Rights Act is only 50 years old and sometimes barely enforced, there are still schools that have separate “white” and “black” proms, and the Klu Klux Klan actually still exists.
We are all granted “freedom of speech” in the United States, but we are not free from the consequences of our words. It is unacceptable to use other racial epithets without consequence; the same courtesy should be extended to this one. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but the “N” word still has a sting to it. I probably won’t act in a negative way if someone uses it in malice, but others react differently.
I can’t control if and when people use the word, and I try not to judge those that do. All I can do is educate those who don’t understand the history of the word and the daggers that it contains.
WARNING: Contains strong language
(article originally posted on No Average Journey)