By CJ Guion/Staff Writer
If you were offended by the picture on the front page of the Nubian Message this week, that is the same reaction of which some people have to use of the “n-word.” For many years the n-word has been used to degrade and demean African Americans or black people, all throughout the country. It continues to be used in that way even though we want to believe in our hearts that it was left behind in the years of slavery. Today, African Americans have turned the word into a so called “positive” term of endearment, but has it really been beneficial to the African American community as a whole?
There are many different perspectives on the use of the n-word, and honestly I am not sure what side of the fence that I sit on, because every single argument has its good points and bad points. Some people say that African Americans should be able to use the word, because it doesn’t mean the same thing that it meant back in slavery. Some people say that the word should not be used at all. Why is it that African Americans have never found a name that truly fits us? For years and years, the race has gone through many name changes. Some of the names we did not like at first, and some were taken and given a positive meaning just like the n-word. However, I doubt that we would ever see a test where we are expected to check in the race section whether we are any variation of the n-word.
Why is it that we must continue to use a word which we constantly have to make exceptions for? For example, if a black professor walked into a classroom full of black people and said “hey ni$$as,” it would be for the most part acceptable, but if a white member of student media said the same exact line the class would be in an uproar and that person would have to be placed under police protection. Some people constantly get mad at the use of the word from some people, but constantly give people of other races the permission to use it. How can you give certain white people the permission to use a word that is a term of endearment to “black people,” but get upset if another person uses it. If you allow the white person to use “ni&&a” as your friend, chances are if you ever cross them they are going to drop the -a and add the –er, whether they say it to your face or behind your back. When you allow them to say it in front of you, do you actually think that they are not going to feel as if they are privileged to use it when they are in the presence of other people? If adding the -a to the end really makes such a difference, why do we still get mad if another race uses any variation of it? So would you really have a right to get upset if you allowed them to use it with you at the house, and they decided to use it when you were the only black person in a group of white people? Deep down inside the word still has the same negative meaning that it had back then if it able to still cause as much controversy.
That is one of the issues with the over-usage of the word in music. Statistics have said for years that the average consumer of Hip Hop CDs in America is a suburban, white teenager. So knowing this, why would Rappers continue to put out music using the word for which they clearly know white people are listening to and expect them to know every word of the song, but wait you have to skip over the n-word. It’s like you’re saying it’s acceptable for them to say it in the privacy of their homes, but it shouldn’t be said in public. Big companies believe that “ignorance” sells in the African American community and they have found a strategic marketing plan to sell this image by using African Americans as the spokesmen. More than likely if you go to the top floor of these record companies, black people are not the CEOs of the companies. Even though a black person is the head of something like BET, the truth of the matter is Viacom, a white-owned media conglamerate, runs the channel. They also run MTV and I doubt they would ever take the chance of letting BET surpass MTV. This is why we have seen BET become a black ripoff of MTV. The point is that the people who are marketing the n-word as a positive image are in the business of marketing ignorance to the African American community.
However, why can’t African Americans use a word that was used to oppress them for many years? The African American community has been known to be a group of people who for many years have taken negativity and turned it into positivity. African Americans were given pig intestines as slops, but turned it into a delicacy. African American families were broken apart, but we saw the rise of the “independent black woman.” Black was meant to have a negative meaning, but we became “black and proud.” So, could the n-word be a form of this as well? Is this the community’s way of saying that yes, the word was used to demean us, but we are going to take it as a way to build up the community? I’m really not sure. The point is that the term is still meant to demean in the mainstream community, as well as in the African American community. We believe we are so free that we have the right to say whatever we want, until we get offended. No matter how free this country is billed to be, it’s not free at all. If we have to make all these complex exceptions for one word, what is use of even saying it at all?
While I doubt that America would ever completely make the word illegal, steps could be taken to slowly destroy the word. It starts with the African American community. People have to actually decide as a whole whether you use the word or kill it. You can’t keep allowing certain people to say it and expect others not to feel as if they have the right to say it. I truly believe that if African Americans as a collective community decided that it was time to erase the word from the mainstream society it could happen. However, as long as the two sides continue to stay on opposite sides of the fence, the n-word will live on. What are your thoughts?