The Student Senate Chambers in the Witherspoon building was the hosting place for a controversial discussion on last Thursday. The topic was the ‘N’ word. Kornelius Bascombe, sophomore in criminology and BSB chair, opened the discussion with video clips from YouTube.com showing how controversial the ‘N’ word is. Prior to playing the first clips Bascombe took a vote by show of hands to see how many students, mostly African-American, used the ‘N’ word. The vast majority of those in attendance had their hands raised.
The ‘N’ word was originally derived from the Latin word “niger” meaning black and from the Spanish and Portuguese word “negro” also meaning black but as in color not as in racial ethnicity. The ‘N’ word coming from those not of the African American decent is usually an expression of hatred and bigotry. However, those of the African American race who use the ‘N’ word use it in a non-offensive manner. Keyuntae Ward, sophomore in the transition programs, said that it is more of a greeting for him He went on to say, “I grew up hearing older people in my family and community say it as well as friends so I use it now because I thought it was ok. Everyone from where I’m from use it.” This was the reasoning that many others gave to justify why they use the ‘N’ word in daily conversation with their peers.
The first video clip was of Michael Richards who is a comedian and actor. Richards, who was performing at the Laugh Factory comedy club, detoured completely from his act to address some African Americans in the audience who were supposedly being disruptive. He made several derogatory and racist comments and you could hear some laughing while others remained silent out of shock of such rude and vain statements. Richards went on to make more comments about how the African American race was cheap and disrespectful and should be thrown out of the club just based on their race. With Richard many comments being said, it disrupted the audience and many people began to leave. An irate audience member retaliated against Richards to let him know that his comments were “uncalled for and unnecessary.” Richards tried to justify himself by saying, “well, you interrupted me pal, that’s what happens when you interrupt the white man.” This open act of discrimination was in the media and it shows how racial discrimination is still present in today’s society. Even though Richards apologized publically it still did not settle all issues regarding his outrageous remarks.
This video clip lead Bascombe to ask the question, “Why isn’t it ok when a white person calls us the ‘N’ word but we, Blacks of course, use it daily towards each other?” Cierra Pearson, senior in Spanish and interpersonal communications major, said that she uses the ‘N’ word all the time but it’s never in an offensive manner. It’s just something that is engrained into her vocabulary but she repeatedly said she’s going to stop using it and find a better choice of vocabulary to use instead of the ‘N’ word.
A short documentary was read on the origin of the ‘N’ word and how it was used decades ago. This reading was informative and captivated the essence of the ‘N’ word and how it affected our ancestors and how it still affects our society today. Another video clip of Julian Curry reciting a poem on Def Poetry entitled “Niggers, Niggas and Niggaz” was shown. This was a real attention getter. Curry recited this poem which was educational and inspirational that showed how we should not define ourselves or each other as the ‘N’ word because of what it used to mean to our ancestors. At the conclusion of this clip, a round of applause was give and Bascombe asked the question, “So how many of you will try to stop using the ‘N’ word after this meeting?” The number of hands raised was impressive. Shariva Hope, BSB graduate advisor, challenged everyone who uses the ‘N’ word to stop and to encourage all others to stop using it also. Hope said, “You need to be the change that you want to see. If you stop using the ‘N’ words and tell those around you to stop using it too then you can begin to see change happening.”
The African-American community needs to unite and challenge each other to stop using the ‘N’ word in hope of seeing a change, regardless if the ‘N’ word is being used in a derogatory manner or as a friendly greeting. History shows that the ‘N’ word was a derogatory term that slaveholders used to call their slaves. We have overcome slavery so we should disregard the ‘N’ word also.