This article on Salon.com about Brittney Cooper’s experience with the N-word on the 4th of July got me seriously annoyed. It’s time to end the ridiculous, manipulative and/or intellectually lazy (you pick) argument over the double standard regarding the use of the “N-word.”
Okay, so black people can use it and the rest of us can’t. I get that. Actually, I like that.
We live in a country that for generations had laws that said that only white people could own land, enjoy wage and hour protections, and vote. Conceding just one word to a group so royally screwed over by that history is a pretty weak attempt at making amends, but at least its a start. Anyway, mimicking people without their permission is just rude. So even if you can’t accept that saying the word makes you a racist, maybe you should consider the possibility that, racist or not, using it definitely makes you look like an inconsiderate ass.
And yeah, I also get that celebrities like Kanye and Jay Z use it in mixed company all the time. But, they also fly in private jets and vacation on yachts. Of all of those things, you’re wasting your time pining over the use of a word?
The very existence of the controversy is an insult to our collective intelligence.
So, let’s shut it down. Every time the whole tired out discussion comes up (and yeah, I mean among Asians, too), I say answer with your own twist on this:
Why does it mean so incredibly much to you to be able to say that word? It’s not like it’s the last hot dog in the stadium or the last potato chip in the bag. It has no monetary value nor hold the power to magically turn you black. Nope, it does none of those things. In fact, coming through your lips, the only thing it does is offend black people.
So why, oh why does it mean so much to you to offend black people? Why do you feel diminished in your rights and/or your person because you don’t get to make people feel like crap?
If we all speak up, maybe, just maybe the dialogue will finally go beyond it’s usual bounds of specious claims of free speech rights and silly ideas about how I get to if they get to that only suggest that you can concede nothing to black people, not even the use of a word.
For generations, whites’ use of the n-word toward black people was a symbol of white power precisely because black people could not protest against it. When we who are not black use the n-word in spite of the objections of black people, we are thumbing our noses at the long years of black struggle that were required to overcome the white power symbolized by that word. And, it is a reminder that the contest over the citizenship and humanity of black people that is being played out in the fights over voting rights, racial profiling, and the drug war, are still unsettled in our society.