Should The N-Word Be Banned…Again?

August 18, 2010  |  

by Charing Ball

Every few years, a discussion comes up as to whether or not we should ban the N-word. Usually, it happens after some closeted celebrity bigots finally loses it in public and show just exactly what he or she thinks of black folks.

This time around, it was the good doctor and Cruella Deville look-a-like, Laura Schlessinger, who verbally attacked a black woman that called into her radio show last week seeking advice to deal with her white husband’s racial insensitivity.

I won’t repeat her disgusting rant but it involved the usage of “N-Word” quite a few times.

For obvious reasons, Dr. Laura’s vile display of racial insensitivity has created a firestorm of controversary over the N-word and many people are, once again, rethinking whether or not the word should be formally abolished all together. Subscribing to this rationale is Democratic Rep. John Mizuno, who is introducing a resolution – albeit symbolic – banning the N-word after he heard Dr. Laura say it on air.

Mizuno’s proposed resolution will follow a long line of similar acts across the country including that from Leroy G. Comrie Jr., a New York City councilman, who sponsored a resolution for a moratorium on the use of the n-word in New York City. That resolution, which was introduced after Seinfield alum Michael Richards berated black audience members with his racial tirade, was passed in 2007.

And in the sleepy town of Brazoria, Texas, several council members tried unsuccessfully to pass an ordinance leveling $500 fines for uttering the word. Not to mention the NAACP, who in 2007, held a symbolic funeral and burial for the N-word at its annual convention.

And yet three years later, the N-word is still very much alive and well.

In hip-hop music, on television, in the movies, the N-word is everywhere and is used by as many black people as it is by folks of other colors.  For many in the African-American community, the use of the N-word, particularly by fellow African Americans, has done nothing more than to perpetuate our own self-loathing and subordination in society. In other words, if we call ourselves “niggers” why should we care if others do too?

Yet others in the African American community, mostly within the younger generation, have subscribed to the spirit of reclamation, which has meant to take a word that has been historically used by whites to degrade and oppress and give it new meaning within the community.  Much like the word “queer” and the word, “Itchbay” had been reclaimed, “N-Word” or its derivative “N***a” has become a sort of duplicity for those of the same skin and struggle to defy those, whom may think it but better not ever say it – at least in public.

Honestly, I can see both sides of the argument, however, none of that really matters as it is clearly a debate spawned by some reactionary folks, who seek only to vilify the hip-hop loving youth on the street for using the word but never question why is has been so important for non-folks of color, particularly white people, to say be able to say “N-Word” in the first place.

The big ole’ elephant in the room is that for some White people, who may feel jilted about their inability to say “N-Word” out in public, using the word freely is just a way to move past the guilt and shame of how the word came to be in the first place.

I imagine for some white folks, it has to be damn hard to confront their own conflicts and explain to the younger generation not only the duplicity of “N-Word” for blacks and whites but the history surrounding the term. And while I don’t doubt for a second that the N-word is used, either around friends or in the company of their own homes, I do believe that given their history with the word, it should make them think twice before using it in any context.

Is that a double standard? You bet it is but so is education, the judicial system, workplace dynamics and a whole host of other separate but not equal systems in our society.

Regardless of  which side of the N-word black folks stand, none of it should be used as justification for folks like Michael Richards or Dr. Laura, who spewed their anti-black nonsense as a way to belittle a person based on the color of their skin.  They are not victims of lexicon but rather victims of their own intolerance and hatred. Besides, racists and bigots never needed justification to say the N-word before, how does African-Americans using it, in whatever context, give permission for them to say it now?

As far as making resolutions to ban the N-word, that, of course, will fail. How does a society police a banned word anyway? If anything should be banned, it’s the term “the N-word” itself. Both juvenile and a politically correct way of just saying “N-Word,” which only proves that if you ban N-Word than another word will take its place.

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