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Students discuss the use of the ‘N’ word

Students discuss the use of the N word

By Turner Smith
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Rowe

Students gathered in the College and Career Center during all four lunch periods last Friday to discuss a topic at the center of popular culture and the minds of many of today’s youth: the use of the ‘N’ word. An idea that blossomed out of the “Stomp the ‘R’ word” initiative that has had enormous success among the student body, this open forum was designed by Dean Jennifer Rowe, I AM sponsor Robyn West, and junior Decarah Myers in order to facilitate conversation among students about the use of the ‘N’ word with the ultimate goal of ending its popular use.

As the circle of students widened with the arrival of more participants, opinions and stances ranged among students. Some felt that the word had become a term of endearment, something that had been transformed from something horrible, hate-filled, and ugly, into something unifying because of its new form and context of use. What in the past was used to degrade, has now, in the opinion of some, become a term used to signify a common bond.

Others felt that it’s time to move past that word, and that it’s much better buried in the past than it is resurrected in the present; there may be some better words for the space that the ‘N’ word would occupy. “The more we progress, the more words we learn, that word begins to fade,” junior Malik Johnson said.

Some students felt that the weight and connotation of the word depended entirely upon the circumstance in which it was used, and the speaker who had used it. “The power is in the context,” senior Jalen Tutt said.

In all accounts, the word was believed to be powerful.

As the day went on, though, students reached a more firm conclusion: if you have to ask permission to say something because of its tendency to offend people, in most cases, it’s best left unsaid. “The students came to an understanding that if someone has to ask permission to say the ‘N’ word and that another is given this permission, then everyone really understands that it is wrong,” Rowe said.  

Because of the word’s roots, most students agreed that it’s always going to be offensive to more than just a few people, and it’s a delicate situation. “People can change the meaning of the word, but the original meaning will never go away,” West said.

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Comments (4)

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  • B

    Blues CluesFeb 26, 2016 at 7:17 am

    I find it funny how there is complaint on the “N” word when the same people in the upper picture listen to the “N” word in their music choices. I’ve never understood how offensive words can be put into the music and people openly sing it in the hallway and play it on their phone’s speakers. The word has changed context when I see people happily saying it to their best friend when greeting them… I don’t really know how to react to backlash on this word when it’s all over the school and social media as a positive light for calling your friends and more.

  • J

    jeffFeb 24, 2016 at 7:45 am

    hello obviously I’m white and I’m going to say something and please I’m not trying to be racist; however im tired of this. A fist hitting someones face is a force that can be measured in newtons, psi or whatever. A words force is measured on how much stock someone in another person’s words. So by that you’re telling me you actually care what everyone thinks and how the actuall racists feel about you. When are you going to get over a word and actually develop a stigma of pride. pride so strong that even actions can’t fade it. Im 100 percent sure someones going to believe im racist for this and as a pride filled white guy I DONT CARE

    • M

      MichelleFeb 25, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      I’m not thinking you’re a racist because of what you said. A word is as forceful as its meaning. It can be used in a casual context but its meaning isn’t erased. I speak for myself when I say I do care what the racist thinks. I care about the fact that they CAN think like that. I know it doesn’t define me, but it upsets me that someone’s heart can be in a place where they can say that word with no shame. I don’t think this issue is about black people needing to be proud. There were proud black people during slavery, but that didn’t stop that word from being used in a hateful spirit. That didn’t stop them from being whipped and raped and from having their kids used as alligator bait or toys for white kids. Pride will only get you so far. It’s sometimes hard to be a proud black person in a society that throws a dehumanizing slur directed towards you into everyday conversation and songs. I agree that black people should be proud of their heritage and know who they really are, but others need to respect us and not keep using that hate- saturated word. And as for black people using it, as a white person, that’s not your problem. We can deal with that in our own community. Note: Just because some black people use that word does not mean it’s ok for you to use it.

      • A

        anonymousFeb 26, 2016 at 7:21 am

        so are you saying only black people are aloud to use the “n” word?

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Students discuss the use of the ‘N’ word