I am tired. I truly am.
As a black woman who has lived in Cabot, Arkansas for eight years, I am still shocked at the sheer audacity of some of these people.
And I am tired of saying the same thing over and over again: if you are not black, DO NOT SAY THE N-WORD!
Before anyone harps on me that “there are bigger fish to fry”, keep your nonblack opinion to yourself because I couldn't care less.
Disclaimer: this is not my normal article writing style. An incident happened at my workplace that left me feeling extremely disrespected… and now here we are.
The History of the N-Word
As we all (should) know, the n-word is a derogatory, racial slur that stems from slavery. What started of as the non offensive “negro” transformed into “n*gger” as early on as the 17th century according to a Learning for Justice article discussing the evolution of the word. But, the Public Broadcasting Service notes that “n*gger” wasn’t considered a pejorative until the early 19th century.
Since then, the black community has reclaimed the word in an attempt to redefine it with kinship and unity; but the dark history of the word cannot be erased. The n-word (whether with the “er” or without it) coming out of the white mouth continues to be an insult to the black community. Furthermore, when other races claim a word that wasn’t originally for them, it can be equally as frustrating.
A Question to Non-blacks
Now that we’ve gotten the little history lesson out of the way, I have a question for nonblacks: why do you wish to say the n-word? Is it because it makes you feel “cool”? Is it because it makes you feel powerful? White people, when you use the n-word, do you think about the way your grandparents would glare at mine with disgust in their eyes and that word on their lips? When you say “the n-word is just another way of saying ‘friend’”, do you seriously think the word “comrade” was the first thing that came to my parent’s mind when your parents decided “n*gga” was the only way to describe them? Non-blacks, do you truly believe that Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Chance the Rapper, Rhianna, Tyler the Creator, or any other black artist utilize the n-word for you to use freely?
You might say, “But the past is in the past”. Recognizing the past is what defines the present. Non-blacks, when you use the n-word you are denying the past and upholding the beliefs your ancestors used against my people. I know it’s hard for you to believe, but it is not your right to decide when a word isn’t offensive; it is up to those who are offended by it.
You might say, “But the first amendment says that I can say whatever I want”. The Constitution Center reveals that “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of speech”. Let me type that out one more time. CONGRESS cannot prohibit you from saying the n-word. Congress cannot shield you from the social repercussions of you using that word in the presence of black people. So if you get fired from your job of five years because you couldn’t bear to take that word out of your vocabulary, good. If you get disowned by half of your family because your racist rhetoric didn’t fly with their up-to-date standards, you deserve it. If you end up saying that word around the wrong group of people and they absolutely rock your shit, then I hope you're in pain until I get my reparations check because I have no sympathy for you.
You know what that word means. You know where it came from. You know the amount of blood that word holds. So why do you choose to say it anyway?
My Final Demand
I am tired of the arguing, of the disrespect, and of the excuses. I don’t care if you’ve grown up around black people your entire life-- don’t say it. I don’t care if your adoptive parents are black-- don’t say it. I don’t care if your dog is black-- don’t say it.
Just don’t say it.
Non-blacks think that their opinions are being censored, when it’s actually the black voice that is silenced. We tried to explain to you why the n-word coming out of your mouth is different from when it is coming from ours. We tried to teach you the art of reclaiming, and how it was for ourselves, not for you.
We have asked you nicely, we have begged you plenty, now I am demanding that you take that word out of your vocabulary.
Cabot High School Senior
“Huck Finn Teachers Guide: Huck Finn in Context: The Curriculum: Section 1: The ‘N’ Word.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/teachers/huck/section1_2.html.
McCollum, Sean, et al. “Straight Talk About the N-Word.” Learning for Justice, 2011, www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/fall-2011/straight-talk-about-the-nword.
“The U.S. Constitution.” The Constitution - Full Text | The National Constitution Center, The National Constitution Center, constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text.