Sigh. I know, bloody hell.
How embarrassing, it’s almost 2017 and we’re still talking about race. Cba. Can’t be asked. Slavery doesn’t exist anymore so why are Black people still complaining? Why are all ethnic minorities still complaining? The Holocaust? Mass genocide? Civil Rights Movement? Jim Crow Laws? Trail of Tears? War on Drugs? Eugenics? Nah.
That happened ages ago, man. Get over it. No one is ‘oppressed’ anymore, so why are we still on this? I mean, do you remember when white people were systematically oppressed by black people and other minorities?
No. Given that much of the societal disparity was bred from institutional racism and community development practices/policies. Yep, you guessed it. It’s all still relevant today.
Before leaving secondary school, I did my final art project in my A-levels on the Black Lives Matter protests, police brutality and racism. I took a NYPD shirt that my brother gifted my mum two years earlier after returning from his trip to America for the summer. She didn’t want it because of what it represented, so I painted “I Can’t Breathe” in red in honour of Eric Garner who was senselessly murdered by the police. This is just one of the many examples of injustices that contribute to the overall oppression of black people.
Seriously, though. Why in the world are people that aren’t black so desperate to use the ‘N’ word? Especially white people.
Especially, white people.
But anyway, first, a quick history lesson. The n-word originates from a dark place in history (the 1600’s, to be specific) a time that saw black people originating from Africa enslaved in America in order to aid in the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco and cotton. The original spelling of the n-word – ‘n*****’ – is a variation of the Spanish and Portuguese noun negro, which in itself is a descendent of the Latin adjective ‘n*ger’ (meaning the colour ‘black’). It’s a word that was used by slave owners and their families to dehumanise an entire race of people. It was at this point that racism was born and it became the norm publicly to use the word when referring to people with black skin, reducing them to less than human.
If you’re going to justify the use of the word, then I feel the follow up question has to be:
“Why do you want to?”
At what point in your life during a conversation do you absolutely need to use that word instead of any alternative? Don’t you find it a little, I don’t know, embarrassing?
But, why do we feel the need to say it at all? As a mixed race half-black girl, with a Kenya born and raised mother, on all levels never do I feel any sort of urge to say the word, nor do I feel taken aback when told that I shouldn’t, or throw a tantrum about “double standards” like a petulant child.
The fact that family members from generations not too far from mine, were subjected to the disrespect and dehumanising tone the word originally carried hurts me, and that makes me view the use of the word differently.
I was 16-years-old when I was reprimanded by my first boyfriend (who was white surprisingly, but just WOKE AF I guess?) for using the n-word in an endearing way, or so I thought so at the time anyway. It was the first and last time I ever said the word, whether in public, behind closed doors, or when repeating the lyrics to a song – I find it really uncomfortable even typing the word in a blog post about the word.
However, the word has been given a positive spin that is received as a form of bonding and sentiment. The excuse “Well nobody should say it. Not even THEM (black people)” that non-black people use against the ‘N’ word is well played out. Black people reclaimed this slur.
Like when men call women bitches, sluts and hoes, they then began calling their friends the same. Same thing with the LGBTQA+ community. It’s almost empowering to reclaim a word and attach a positive stigma to it. Turning something negative into something positive. It’s largely defiant against the white straight patriarchy that has dominated culture.
At the end of the day, the use of the n-word by people other than those who are black is forever going to be a topic of discussion, it’s white privilege in its purest form. The majority likes to think it trumps the minority, but it doesn’t in this instance. The original word is a reminder of pain and suffering. The newer version of the word is a way for some in the black community to eradicate the painfulness of it.
We’ve got a long way to go before racism comes to an end. I look forward to the day we all finally come together and collectively acknowledge the many underlining issues in society that exist due to racism. In the meantime, let’s just all do the basic legwork and not use offensive slurs. Baby steps. One day.