Sunday, June 11, 2006

Keeping The N-Word

As a result of reading Changeseeker's post on her blog about a site called AbolishTheNWord (Caution: The intro may not be work-friendly), I decided to air my thoughts about the site here. It's clear to me that this group has good intentions. However, I just don't agree with their campaign. While I do understand that hearing the n-word causes pain to some, I do not think that makes it a term that should never be used except in regards to historical matters. This group states that it shouldn't even be used in art. Now even if other uses are debatable, there is simply no way that I could ever go along with this campaign because of this part of their stance. The authors reminisce about a time when rap songs didn't use the n-word. However, I have different memories of that time period. I remember rap/hip hop artists who eagerly objectified and degraded women with almost no protest even from those who considered themselves to be "enlightened" black folk.

Part of the reason why this group claims that people shouldn't use the n-word is because elders would view it as a slap in the face and any use of it constitutes blatant disrespect for our ancestors. Well, who are they to decide what our ancestors would approve of? None of my ancestors gave them any authority to speak on their behalf. Furthermore, while the unnamed authors claim that the word can not be reappropriated, such reappropriation is already taking place. If it were not, then the very things that they complain about (e.g. it being used as a term of endearment, a greeting, etc.) would not occur at all.

The authors have decided, sans proof, that the term was created by slave masters when in reality, that is not an established fact. The truth is, no one knows who was the first to use it but the evidence points to the fact that it came from a word that was a relatively neutral descriptive term for dark(er) skinned people. Now, if someone feels that the fact that it was used by slavemasters is enough reason for them not to use it, then that's fine with me. However, I don't see that as any reason why others should change their own views about the word.


nubian said...

i really appreciate the group for trying to abolish the word nigger, but really, i don't know if they are all too persusaive.

Xolo said...

The debate over this word is one that usually engages my students the most. They all have something to say about it. It is a unique word that carries so much history, meaning, reading, and power. I usually show the film "The N-Word" before we discuss the issue. It is thought provoking and presents various perspectives.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

I don't use it in casual conversation, but I hear it in the hip-hop that I buy, and it comes up in the poetry I listen to, or in the things that I watch (like the Boondocks or Chappelle Show).

I think using it in art and popular culture (at least in some contexts) takes away whatever power it may have. Trying to "abolish" it just gives it more power.

But if people use it simply as a slur, they should definitely be called on it and held responsible.

brownfemipower said...

i agree with abdul--esp in a place like flint michigan, you can really see who is who between white folks--it's kind of a way to protect yourself as a poc/black quickly will it take this white person to spew off an "n" bomb. or, which white guy, if any, is gonna tell his friend to shut up when he goes screaming about the N*ggers in the bar. you know what i mean?