I have to admit, I just don’t understand the allure of using the “N” word for otherwise well-meaning White people. Sure, I get why white supremacists and racist types would use it. What I struggle with is people that would otherwise seem to be on the right side of racial issues. You know, people that would argue against racism or at the very least consider themselves to be colorblind (which is an entirely different topic that I won’t dig into here).
I’ve spent a lot of time discussing, reading, and listening to various points on both sides of this and I still don’t get it. I do understand the “free speech” side of the argument, but just because you’re free to say something doesn’t mean that you should. Isn’t that why we limit children from swearing? To teach them that there’s a difference between appropriate and inappropriate speech? Why would a grown adult use language that they know to be hateful, disrespectful and condescending to a huge group of people they’ve never met? Whether it’s targeted at an individual or used generically is irrelevant. Perhaps they just don’t have a sense of the impact. There’s no equivalent word that can be used to imply all Whites are “less than” in the way that the “N” word implies a belief that all Black people are somehow below you.
A classic example was how Bill Maher used it recently. There’s a guy that, whatever you may think of his intellect or his politics, is generally thought of as someone that wouldn’t intentionally attempt to degrade an entire race. However, that’s exactly what he expressed when he used the phrase, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house N…” He was trying to be funny, but what he did instead was imply that somehow, some slaves “had it good” and that he would somehow have had a choice in the matter of what kind of slave he would be. Hmmm… you think the slave masters also felt field work was beneath them? Now, Bill apologized and maybe learned something along the way, but I just can’t wrap my head around how someone that makes a living from being informed on the current social and political climate could be so ignorant in the first place.
So, for those of you that stumbled on this silly little posting and happen to be White, here are some rules I’ve been able to put together based on my extensive research:
- DON’T SAY IT.
- Seriously, it’s not funny, it’s not artistically expressive, it’s not cool or hip, it’s not somehow ok because you think you’ve earned anti-racism credits by marching or having Black friends, spouses, kids or whatever. It’s hateful. It’s hateful at the deepest level. Using it, no matter the context, conveys that you feel you have the privilege to define its meaning instead of the people it hurts. So, don’t. Just… no.