Why No, You May NOT Say The N-Word If You're Not Black

Why No, You May NOT Say The N-Word If You're Not Black

Sincerely, the black girl who's tired of you asking.
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From the title alone, I know there will be wounded Internet warriors in the comment section stabbing away at their keyboards to proclaim "reverse racism" (which by the way doesn't exist). But before you make any assumptions or jump to any conclusions, finish reading.

To kick off Black History Month I decided to focus on topics that affect the black community for the whole of February. And at some point in time, every black person has been in the awkward situation of hearing The N-word from someone non-black. Personally, it's ALWAYS super cringe-worthy and usually leaves me at a loss for words. What makes it worse is that most of the time, the non-black person using the term never even takes into consideration that it might make me, as a black person, uncomfortable. And on the rare occasion that they do have the courtesy to ask beforehand they don't actually expect me to say no. In fact, they're almost annoyed by the notion. They assume that because The N-word is used in rap lyrics and casually amongst Black Americans that gives them the right to use it with me. White people, especially, have some sort of strange infatuation with the term. It's almost as if this one thing they are not entitled to drives them crazy.

"Why can't I use The N-word?"

"If white people shouldn't use it then nobody should use it!"

"You're being racist towards white people for saying we can't do something simply because we are white. Reverse racism!" (Still not a thing.)

Well, I'm sure we all know the history of the N-word. We all know it was a derogatory slur aimed at blacks typically from whites all throughout America's racist history. It was a word that was spat out like dirt from the privileged mouths of those who viewed us as inferior. Those who thought melanin was ugly and African-Americans were subordinate. The same people who would have likely tried to hang my little brother or my father. The same kind of people who wrote "Kill Niggers" on a whiteboard at my university. This is a battle we, Black Americans, have been fighting since the day we were born. It is the same battle our ancestors have been fighting even longer than that. Being a minority in a country where every institution is dominated by a majority, your life chances are automatically statistically lower. White people just don't have the same experiences that we do. That's why you have not earned the right to The N-word.

Let me give you all who still don't understand a more palatable explanation alternative: Your great-grandparents thought they could continue to hurt us with this offensive word, but we reclaimed it and made it ours with several different meanings only our community can use and understand. Get it?

It's the same reason women may call their friends "bitches" and it's not offensive but a man would get slapped for calling a woman a bitch. It's the same reason the LGBTQ+ community may use terms with each other such as "fag" and it's okay. It's a reclaiming of these demeaning terms that these communities recreate to be a term of endearment for each other. You have no right to tell a black person they can't take a negative word and use it positively within their community after years of oppression. Someone may not be comfortable with a white person saying it to them because of what it has meant historically for a white person to say that word to a black person. However, they may be more comfortable with their black friend using the term, and you have to respect that.

Growing up my Jamaican mother loved to tell me, "Word is wind."

To some people, words don’t hold power unless you allow them to.

Those people are liars.

Words hold a lot of power, whether you mean for them to or not.

Your voice is your strongest weapon. Words can hold hope and elation and gratitude and pride. But they can also hold scorn and resentment and shame and envy. Words alone can bring you to tears, whether they be tears of pain or tears of joy. Don't assume because your "one black friend" doesn't care when you say it, that you have a free pass to refer to every other black person you meet as your "nigga". Even so, you will never have to walk the shoes of a Black American and therefore will never be "my nigga".

If you want to use the word that bad, then let's trade: You all get to say The N-word until you turn blue in the face, and we get to control Congress and set policy at the Federal Reserve.

Deal?

Cover Image Credit: Craig Sunter

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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To Fix Taxes, We Have To Rethink 'Wealthy'

"Wealthy" doesn't mean the same for everyone.

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When discussing taxes today, so many politicians are quick to rush to the adage "tax the rich." Bernie Sanders has called for the rich to be taxed higher to pay for Medicare for All. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for a 70% tax on the wealthy.

However, all of these proposals are missing a key thing: a true definition of rich.

When thinking about what counts as rich, it is important to distinguish between the "working wealthy" and the "investment wealthy."

The working wealthy are the people in society that get paid highly because they have a high skill set and provide an extremely valuable service that they deserve just compensation for. This class is made up of professionals like lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. In addition, the working wealthy are characterized by another crucial aspect: over a long term calculation of their earned income over time, they don't come out as prosperous as their annual incomes would seem to suggest. This is because this set of the wealthy has to plunge into student debt for degrees that take years to acquire. These jobs generally also require a huge amount of time invested in lower-paying positions, apprenticeships, and internships before the big-money starts coming in.

On the other hand, the investment wealthy is completely different. These are the people that merely sit back and manipulate money without truly contributing to anything in society. A vast majority of this class is born into money and they use investments into stocks and bonds as well as tax loopholes to generate their money without actually contributing much to society as a whole.

What makes the investment wealthy so different from the working wealthy is their ability to use manipulative techniques to avoid paying taxes. While the working wealthy are rich, they do not have AS many resources or connections to manipulate tax laws the way that the investment wealthy can. The investment wealthy has access to overseas banking accounts to wash money though. The investment wealthy can afford lawyers to comb over tax laws and find loopholes for ridiculous prices. This is tax evasion that the working wealthy simply does not have access to.

That is why it is so incredibly important to make sure that we distinguish between the two when discussing tax policy. When we use blanket statements like "tax the rich," we forget the real reasons that the investment wealthy are able to pay such low taxes now. Imposing a larger marginal tax rate will only give them more incentive to move around taxes while squeezing the working wealthy even more.

Because of this, in our taxation discourse, we need to focus first on making sure people pay their taxes, to begin with. Things like a tax of Wall Street speculation, capital gains taxes, a closing of loopholes, and a simplification of the tax code. These things will have a marked improvement in making sure that the investment wealthy actually pays the taxes we already expect of them now. If we stick to the same message, the only thing we will be changing is the rate that the uber-wealthy are avoiding.

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