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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  • Ray

    What is so difficult about us banning the n word from our vocabularies? "reclaiming" the word? For what? I never use it – i dont need to reclaim it! I really dont care if a white person says it (ive said and thought much worse things about them, and for the most part i dont care what they think anyway) but when continue to use it to describe each other, its a sign of contempt for our own – putting an "a" on it doesnt change a thing!

    • myCrazymind

      what is the point, people treat you the way you treat yourself. I don't see why go after non-black people that use the n-word, yet turn a blind eye to our own people who use it. For the idiots who say it is a difference between N-i-gg-er and N-i-gg-a…BRAINWASHED FOOLS. A white person from the south pronounces the N-word (and has always pronounced it as) N-I-GG-A!!! So get the heck out of here with that "oh it means something else, now days" If it meant something else-the controversy over the use of it would be obsolete. You can not be an INDIVIDUALIST (which seems to be the theme of the Black community now days-that every man for them self mentality) yet things like this anger you or make you feel uncomfortable. I feel like as long as you wear the logo "our dark skin" you are a part of the franchise. Like in any business, if one area of the company is not thriving at it's full potential, it effects and it gives the whole "franchise" a bad rap. (Negativity always out shine the positives) So if our community as a WHOLE can not pull all it's resources together to strengthen our BRAND, we will continue to fight this uphill battle.

      • myCrazymind

        We have a laundry list of more important things that need to be tackled and BANNED. Like banning gangs, dead beat fathers, black kids dropping of of school, black on black violence etc. We are at a crazy time in history right now- NEVER say NEVER. we have no economic foundation-it seems like we are steadily being pushed into an ECONOMIC EXTERMINATION (Carter G. Woodson) the rate we are going if we don't wake up to reality we will soon put ourselves into servitude. Everyday their is a new group of ppl coming into America and regardless of what they are telling you on MTV AND BET….these people come ready to set up shop and with a negative perception in their heads about the black community. SO as a community we have more important issue to tackle. You change peoples minds over what you do and stand for not what you say. Talk is cheap. While the black communities are so caught up in people saying the n-word and integration, other groups and their leaders are advocating ADVANCED ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT, cultural unity and community pride, family values, the value of education, hard word, business and finances. I listen in on a Hispanic Ustream show that has a huge following ..they are talking about a lot of things I don't hear from Black community leaders. They are advocating the importance of Entrepreneurship-so they want need to beg for jobs, so they can keep their own people employed. How they need to be the best in everything they do so they can continue to outshine others. Organization that represent Black ppl are not talking about things like this. The head of the National Urban league is promoting for Black ppl to beg for jobs and to learn Chinese since the Chinese will be the head of American companies soon. But then when that time comes, then we will be pushed to learn Hindu or something because India Economic Boom is up and running. The Black community needs a revival and a Blueprint in a whole different direction, because our current report card as a WHOLE is not looking to good.

  • You can ban a WORD no easier than you can ban the ideology behind the word. It's NEVER going to happen.