If You're Not Black, Just Don't Use The N-Word
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

If You're Not Black, Just Don't Use The N-Word

And no – a hip hop or rap song playing at a party is still not an excuse to say the n-word if you're not black.

If You're Not Black, Just Don't Use The N-Word
Teresa Jacob

At its root, the N-word comes from a Latin word that translates to black. However, this word has a transfigured into a cultural relic, reminding us of the systematic oppression and suffering that black people have encountered and challenged in the United States across history, from chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the rise of the KKK, voting poll taxes and literacy tests, lynching, redlining, to contemporary police brutality and the prison industrial complex.

In 1619, when Africans were brought to the shores of Jamestown, Virginia and enslaved, white slave masters used the word in a derogatory way against black slaves in cotton plantations, promoting a racist ideology that black people were inferior and inhumane in comparison to the white man. This two-syllable phrase remains a tangible symbol of how racism and white supremacy has evolved in this country. There is even historical indication that British Red Coats in 1775 during the Revolutionary War used to N-word to taunt American Revolutionaries, claiming "you're so weak that you have to use n***** to bolster your army," according to Jabari Asim, notable author of "The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why."

During the early twentieth century, black people were still being unfairly dehumanized — they were frequently lynched and faced harsh segregation. In the 1915 silent film, "The Birth Of A Nation," the white knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist terrorist organization, were portrayed as heroes and protectors in society while black people were portrayed as animalistic, lowly, villainous, and criminal throughout the film; the film incorporated repeated derogatory use of the phrase. A private screening of the film was remarkably even presented at the White House during the Woodrow Wilson administration. This derogatory phrase essentially became a tool to bring down the black community while maintaining white supremacy.

By 1920, the N-word flooded pop culture and media. Popular songs of the time, notable movies like "Gone With The Wind," even fruit and vegetable labels, board games, and card games all incorporated demeaning, offensive exploitation of the phrase to bring down the black community.

Desegregation of schools in 1954, the lynching of black 14-year-old Emmett Till, and the Birmingham Church bombing, all set the course and sparked the Civil Rights movement from 1954-1968. Soon, black R&B and soul artists like James Brown in "Say it Loud – I'm Black & Proud," Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, The Temptations, The Supremes, Etta James, Ottis Redding, and Tina Turner became catalysts of black power, social justice, and equal representation. Movies like "Superfly" and Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" and black comedians like Richard Pryor centered and brought light to the common struggle of the black experience using the N-word. By 1988, black hip hop and rap groups like NWA – N***** with Attitude – became a method for the black community to reclaim use of the N-word and condemn white supremacy using music. Reclaiming the use of the N-word from white people transfigured into a form of black solidarity.

Today, the black community still use the N-word as a tool — especially across hip hop music — to reclaim it from the systematic oppression that they still face every day. Because of the cultural sensitivity and history behind this word, when a person who is not African American ignorantly says the word during a hip hop song and claims "it's just in the song," or "I didn't use a hard r," or "why are black people allowed to say it and I can't" — this is a tactic to whitewash the racist history behind the derogatory term and maintain white supremacy. To put it plainly, if you're not directly experiencing the historical and racial struggles of being black in America, saying the N-word is ignorant, disrespectful, and simply racist.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments