The Word

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2010 at 5:26 am

Sometime last week I received a call from a dear friend of mine from college:

Me: “Hello”

Dear Friend of Mine: “I was reading your blog to see your comments about Dr. Laura’s use of the N-word.”

Me: “Ahhh.”

Dear Friend of Mine: “No blog about it?”

Me: “Let me think on it some more…”

And I’m still thinking about this. Dr. Laura Schlessinger is no stranger to controversy. Among them include her opposition to same-sex marriage and now for her repeated use of one of the most controversial words in the English language: the N word. The N word does not include the following:
And I could continue.

This one word evokes a feeling within me that is very difficult to describe. Yet, the use of it can be found in our daily lives, our routines. Whether we use it as a term of endearment or affection, or whether we use it as a term to denigrate a race of people, or whether we use it in a song, the use of it surrounds us, wraps us, and breathes as we breathe; we give life to it. Now the question that Dr. Laura posed was why it is ok for African American rappers or comics to use it and not others. However, I believe that Dr. Laura missed a golden opportunity to have an open discussion about the use of the word period. Furthermore, there was an opportunity to discuss the dynamics of interracial marriages and relationships, what acceptable talk is and what is not, or the opportunity to address stereotypes.

As much as I hate to admit this, the word is embedded in our history, our minds. There is hurt, pain, even endearment in the word. Mychal Massie believes the continued use of the word as a term of endearment “is accepted only by those entombed alive at the bottom rungs of our communities. It’s easy to blame hip-hop culture for glamorizing the word, but I believe it is the overall destabilization of the black family that has led to this unsettling devolvement.”

In Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word Randall Kennedy quotes Professor Michael Eric Dyson as saying that “there is nothing necessarily wrong with a white person saying, ‘nigger,’ just as there is nothing necessarily wrong with a black person saying it. What should matter is the context in which the word is spoken — the speaker’s aims, effects, alternatives.”

And the debate continues…I debate with my friends and colleagues…and so Dr. Laura has left her post as a talk show host, yet the debate continues. And this one word, when one looks at it, appears harmless, yet has a deep-seeded controversial history with a double meaning.


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