DeErricka Green | Staff Writer
Is it better to say “nigger” or the “n-word”?
Christopher Darden, an African American prosecutor during the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, then described “nigger” as the vilest word in the English language.
Amidst implications that Mark Fuhrman, an investigator who allegedly falsely implicated Simpson at the scene of the crime, used racist language, Darden added , that the “n-word” was so perojative it should not be repeated in court.
Though the euphemism “n-word” existed before 1995 (it appears in various African American Vernacular English dictionaries written as early as 1980), the term became prominent in the public sphere during Simpson’s trial.
Over time, the word to which the euphemism refers has become victim of African American Vernacular English, which features the dropping of “r” in words such as throw. As a result, today the slanderous racial slur “nigger” has transformed to “nigga”, a casual term that means “real,” “authentic” and “unassimilated” within black, white, and Hispanic communities alike.
To make a case as to whether the word should or should not be used is moot at this point. There will continue to be arguments in support of both sides, for a long time.
However, out of this conversation sparks a new debate: if using the actual word “nigger” sparks such debate in our society, euphemizing it as the “n-word,” sanitizing it by banning the word altogether, or replacing it with mild words creates an entirely new set of problems.
The word “nigger” evokes feelings of bitterness rooted in centuries of American holocaust. Despite the emotions associated with the word, it’s silly to think that you can protect society from the reality of our country’s history.
It is silly to think that erasing the horrors of our past is as easy as publishing a new edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, in which the 215 occasions of “nigger” are replaced with “slave.”
It is silly to think that cutting the word from newscasts, stage performances and textbooks will protect Americans from the harsh reality.
Censoring and sanitizing the word in the public sphere is not protection, it’s denial. Euphemizing nigger into the “n-word” arguably shuts the door on the historical past, whitewashing it and acting as though it never occurred.
Choosing to ignore the conversations that the word sparks is not for the protection of community relations, but for the protection for America against it’s harsh past. Avoiding these conversations delays the education that is needed if this word were ever to be disarmed in the future.
Ultimately, to ignore the bite and sting of “nigger” by euphemizing is to suggest that the struggles of African Americans and the results of the past on this country can be minimized and need to be avoided.
That is silly to think.