Today I want to talk about something that is very controversial, even though I don’t think it should be.
My school has several societies that involve debating, in which one would have discussed the issue of white people saying the N-word. However, this debate topic was cancelled due to it’s controversy and potential of making people upset, which I think was not a valid excuse to cancel a debate for. Debates are supposed to be controversial and is supposed to tackle and even cause cognitive conflict in order to bring right social change and justice. Anyways, I felt this was an important topic to be discussed since a lot of white people and people from other ethnic minorities that aren’t black throw around and use the N-word, without thinking. People that I am even friends with.
I’m not just talking about people who use the word as a way to discrimate and belittle black people. I’m also talking about, particularly in this post, the people who use the word casually, with no bad intentions, and in songs. I mean, I’ve had so many arguments at parties with white boys about this issue and have heard of so many situations where white people will agree not to say the N-word but will hypocritical say it when there’s an absence of black people. That’s still racist.
But before I get into my own personal opinions, let’s recap on the history of the N-word. It started with the word ‘niger’ in Latin, meaning black. Other languages adopted and adapted from this latin word, for example “negro” became the word for a black person in English, but not derogatory, and became the colour black in Spanish and Portuguese.
However, it was in the 1800s when it became a derogative term to use as an ethnic slur. It was and is mainly used against black people but other ethnic minorities have been targeted too. It became heavily used amongst people in day to day lives, featured in literature and was a term that “put black people in their place”. See, black people were considered less evolved cognitively, psychologically and socially, deemed as stupid, aggressive, and inferior. White teachers taught the white students, who were the children to grow up to be the next generation, that black people are less evolved in this way. The media portrayed and represented them as dangerous people and here to serve white people, etc. Everything was very unjust, in terms of education, treatment and the criminal justice system. Some of these unjust qualities are still prominent today but more of that in a different post. The N-word holds these racist connotations. It was normal and socially acceptable at the time to use this word and was heavily used to insult black slaves during the slave trade.
But times are changing.
Yes, They Should Be Allowed
Well, it’s just a word. The N-word consists of racist connotations but by using it today in society, we can create new connotations, that are more positive. And when used casually, there are not bad intentions.
Black people use the word, which is seen as accepting, but when white people (and other ethnic minorities) it’s seen as racist. That’s a double standard.
The N-word is in songs, films, literature. We are surrounded by it in society so we should not be blocked from using a word that exists. Freedom of speech!
No, They Shouldn’t Be Allowed
White people have more power and privilege in society than ethnic minorities, in general. The same way white people have had more power in the past. When a white person uses the N-word, it’s almost reinforcing a time of extreme oppression for black people. The word was formed as a degrading, dehumanising and racist slur by white people. So the use of it by white people, in this day and age, is like passing on the word to generations like the white teachers taught the future generation of white children that black people are inferior. Not the exact same level of racism but the same sort of principle.
Other ethnic minorities shouldn’t use it because it’s still a racist slur against black people and racism is one group being discriminative to a minority group.
So why are black people allowed to say it? Because it’s being used within the sub group of people, who are the target group for the word. The N-word was formed to be demeaning and discriminative to black people, referring to them as property of “the superiors” rather than people (especially during the slave trade). Therefore, it’s more acceptable for a black person to use it because it was a word to oppress them. It’s all about context!
Let me paint you a picture. If my best friend came up to me and said “Hey bitch!” that would be more socially acceptable than a random stranger coming up to me and saying “Hey bitch!” Although the word “bitch” is still deemed a rude word, much like the N-word, it’s more acceptable for my friend to use it to me than a stranger because me and my friend are on the same level within a subgroup, which is friendship. Me and the stranger are not within the same subgroup. Same with black people. It’s more socially acceptable for the N-word to be used amongst black people because they’re in the same subgroup, which is the black community.
And it is a double standard. Deal with it. A lot of things are and for good reason.
But what about songs?
Whether you feel that fate is leading your lives or God has a plan for you, you are responsible for your actions. Full stop. There’s this thing called locus of control, which is the extent to which people believe they are in control of their lives. And there’s two types. High internal locus of control, where people take responsibility for their actions and are more resistant to social influence, and high external locus of control, where people have fatalistic, ‘luck’ dependant attitudes and are not as resistant to social influence. In this situation, you need to have a higher internal locus of control. Just because Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West wrote a song that has the N-word in it, does not mean you can blurt it out just because “it’s in the song”. You have a responsibility to not say it. That’s if you have morals. And it’s not difficult either. Just don’t say it.
Also, as a side note: I’ve heard white people argue with the point that “it’s racist to use the term “cracker” against white people if they’re not allowed to say the N-word.” First of all, reverse racism doesn’t exist. Second of all, “cracker” was created as a word to empower white people as it represented the sound the whips made when beating black slaves. It was made to empower white people not dehumanise them.
Should people, who aren’t black, say the N-word. My answer: no.
It’s a racial slur, with racist connotations and history that it still holds, even in this modern day and age. I understand that it can make people feel uncomfortable, which is also why I think the word should be limited in use amongst black people but I think it’s okay for them to use it.
It used to be socially acceptable (in primarily white societies) in the past decades but as a society, now, we’re moving on to more equality and equity.
That all being said, I strongly believe in freedom of speech. Say what you want. But with that, be prepared for the consequences of your actions (consequences like me arguing with you at a party XD ). And think before you say things. We need to minimise the amount of discrimination and the use of demeaning words like the N-word as well as, of course, staying woke. You can’t really afford to be ignorant right now so take responsibility and educate yourself on issues and controversial debates like this one!
What are your opinions?