The debate of the N-word and its usage within popular culture, I’d say is probably one of the most taboo and ongoing debates to this day. Starting from its stark appearance in minstrel shows and into its common inclusion within millennial vernacular, there’s been no way of escaping it. To this circumstance, I can understand and empathize with those of you who have used it (without the intention of being racist of course) because obviously when you hear a word repeatedly used enough, it tends to lose its meaning and simply become a filler in the way we speak. To some, it’s a harmless term of endearment, calling to a friend, but for many, it’s still the same derogatory phrase used to oppress the black community.
Whether you’d like to admit it or not, the N-word derives from a bleakly negative history notoriously coined by its European creditors. I mean think about, this was the word they used to call out to slaves they treated as tradable livestock, servers, and sex toys. So no matter how you flip it, replacing its “er” ending with an “a” or even excusing your use of it by claiming how many black friends you have, doesn’t make it OK. By the way, this isn’t just a call to anyone of European descent, but to everyone. That’s right, I’m calling on all people of colour, including the black community.
Although, it may seem hard to erase from our vocabulary now, we all know, change begins on small scales. The only reason the N-word was given a positive connotation in the first place is due to the black community’s way of coping with the loss of their identity within Westernized culture and attempting to reclaim it on their own terms. Despite it being a noble attempt at moving on from a dark past, unfortunately, moving on will never erase our roots. The N-word is a twisted idea, seeded skin deep. When you’re not apart of the black community, a community built on brotherhood and sisterhood and you happen to use it towards someone who is, the word turns from a reflection (I see you, I am you) and into a projection of a dark reality (No pun intended. Sorry, I swear I didn’t do that on purpose).
To all people within the black community who have ever allowed a friend outside your race to use the word, more specifically in your presence, this isn’t a call out or clap back towards you by your moral boundaries. You aren’t to blame for not wanting to carry the reminder of all your ancestors’ struggles because:
- You were born outside a generation where any of those extreme hardships were exhibited so of course, you cannot possibly fathom where the weight of the word derives from and shouldn’t feel guilty for that. If anything, you should feel blessed.
- You do not have to conform to a movement simply because of the colour of your skin, you are your own person who has the freedom to say and do what you please, with the respect of yourself and those around you in mind.
However, if you are black and you do use the N word or allow those around you to use it, I would urge you to think about why you do so. Is it really so important you keep the word in your vocabulary? What does the word mean to you and does its meaning ever change when someone outside the black community uses it, more specifically towards you?
Your Black Best Friend