As we left class on Thursday, I decided to ask a question that I have wanted to ask for a while. At 4:15, as class was getting out, I said, “Connie, I have a complicated question that I want a quick answer to. My friends use the ‘n’ word, and I know it’s wrong, but I don’t know what to say to them to prove that it is inappropriate to use. How do I make it clear to them?” After I asked this question, many students chimed in with different times and situations during which they have heard people use this word at any moment, not thinking about the negative effects it can have. One student talked about how, in other parts of the country, the word is not seen as taboo. Here, on the east coast, I take it to be the worst word. If I use curse words or say any other politically incorrect slang words for a group of people, I would never get the same look as I would with the use of the “n” word. Personally, all I need to know is that this word is extremely offensive and I will not use it. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many people. However, because there is such a taboo on the word, it does not take much for someone to understand that, when asked not to use the word, they should not be speaking that way in daily conversation. But then there are the people who do not understand it. They may question why it is offensive and/or why they cannot use it. I never truly had a good understanding and answer until recently.
The truth is that the word stems from serious overt racism, and that is enough of a reason that it can offend any individual who hears it. Given the fact that the Black community has not accepted this word into their culture yet as inoffensive, it remains the way it has always been: a racial slur. Until the community decides that this word is not offensive to them, the Black community has a right to see this word and offensive and racist. After thinking about it after class, I realized that the word brings back a shameful part of our history and it may make an individual of any color uncomfortable to hear. Though some people may not understand why this word should not be used, the answer is quite simple. The reason the word is even in existence is because it was used in a derogatory way. It is offensive, so it shouldn’t be used. It seems simple enough; but as we have learned, getting people to accept their racist tendencies and change their habits is a hard thing to do. We’re still left with the same question: how do we stop racism? And, again, the answer seems to be the same: talk about it. Let people know that that word is simply not acceptable. Hopefully, it will spark a conversation about racism that gives rise to the opportunity to spread your knowledge.