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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A Thank You Letter To My Best Friend

All the things I should thank you for more often than I do.
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To My Best Friend,

This thank you is long overdue. There are so many things I want to thank you for, and I’m sure I’m going to still be missing some by the end of this letter. But here is a small token of my gratitude for just being by my side in this life and making it all worthwhile.

Thank you first of all for accepting me and loving me for exactly who I am. This isn’t easy. I can be stubborn, difficult and confusing, but you love and accept me for me. There are days I wonder when you’ll finally come to your senses and move on and find a new BFF, one who isn’t so complicated, but to my amazement, you never do. You tell me you’ll take the good with the bad, and when I question whether I have any good left, you’re always there to reassure me and show me that I do. Thank you for loving me in my dorky and difficult moments, moments where if the rest of the world saw them, they’d probably walk away. Thank you for understanding me like no one else does; if we didn’t have the connection we did, I can’t imagine how lonely and big this world would feel. Because of you, this world seems like a little friendlier place, one I can see myself being a part of.

Thank you for being my biggest fan. Besides my family, you are my biggest supporter, and I know that when I win, you win, and when you win, I win. In this battle we call life, it doesn’t matter who’s in my opponents corner, because I know I am always going to have you in mine, and that’s the best asset I could ever ask for. You encourage me to chase my dreams like no one else does, and I can tell that you sincerely hurt when I hurt — not many people care about me in such a deep way. Whatever crazy dream I tell you I’m going to chase after next, you believe I can do it, even when the rest of the world thinks I’m crazy for even suggesting it. When something good happens, you’re the first person I want to tell, and when something bad happens, you’re the first one I go to for support.

Thank you for being you. You are incredible my dear, and I can’t wait to constantly remind your husband that he got crazy lucky and out kicked his coverage big time. You are beautiful inside and out. On the outside, you are so gorgeous; you’re very own unique and incredible definition of beauty, and I know I’m one of many who see it. You’re intimidating to stand next to in pictures because I know your light shines so bright, but I’ll gladly stand next to you and take a picture, because I’m so excited to show the world how breathtakingly beautiful my best friend is. On the inside you are even prettier, with a warm heart, a sharp mind and an unbelievable personality. You are hands down the funniest person I know, and I still can’t believe that someone as funny and hilarious as you chooses to spend her time with someone as dweeby and awkward as me. I mean, half the time we’re laughing at some fail I had or something stupid I did, so I guess I contribute a little bit to our constant laughing. You are so kind and so sweet, and have the biggest heart of anyone I know. God spent a little extra time when he made you, because you’re the total package: you’re beautiful, awesome and amazing, all wrapped in one, and I’m so lucky he put you in my life—he knows I’d be lost without you.

Thank you for being there for me whenever I need it. It was once said that “all that relationships are are being there for someone when they need you,” and you’re a pro at this. Whether it be because another boy is being stupid or I’m feeling alone, I know all I need to do is call you, and I’ll instantly feel better. You help my through the countless problems Lord knows I have trouble solving, and you reassure me that no matter what, you’re always going to be there for me. This is huge, and something very few people have been able to do for me, but you always have, and I know you always will be. And that is the most reassuring thing I know, knowing that if all hell breaks loose, the world falls apart and I have no one, I’ll have you. And that is all I need.

Thank you for being a spark, a light in my life that no matter how dark the world around us gets, is always there to light my way and show me the way home. Thank you for laughing with me when God blesses us with a funny moment, and crying with me when God is trying to tell me something. Thank you for standing beside me in the greatest of moments and the darkest of hours. Thank you for being the one I share my fondest memories with: all the nights we stayed up really late, all the exciting adventures we went on and all the inside jokes we still laugh about today. Thank you for growing up with me; for being there every step of the way and creating some of my happiest moments with me. Thank you for all the memories I've shared with you, and I can't wait for what crazy adventure we're going to go on next.

So thank you for accepting me, loving me, and supporting me. Thank you for being your wonderful self, and thank you for being there for me, through thick and thin, even when I'm at my lowest. Thank you for shining your brilliant light into my life and illuminating my world.

Oh, and thank you for being my maid of honor. I know I won’t need to ask you for a while, but you had to know it was coming, right?

Thank you for being the godmother to my future children, the sister to my family, and another daughter to my parents.

And finally, thank you for being the best to my friend.

Cover Image Credit: EnkiVillage

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.

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Depending on when you're reading this, Saint Patrick's day has either just passed or is around the corner. For me, Saint Patrick's day is tomorrow. I've been debating this article for some time now because I didn't know how it would be perceived. At this point, though, I feel it's important for me to get out. No, Irish people were never kept as slaves in America, and I will never be one to try and say they were. However, Irish people were treated tremendously awful in America. A lot of people tend to forget, or just try to erase entirely, the history of the Irish in America. So much so that I felt shameful for wanting to celebrate my heritage. Therefore, I want to bring to light the history that everyone brushes under the rug.

In 1845, a potato famine broke out across Ireland. This was a big deal because the Irish lived off, mainly, potatoes. They were cheap, easy to grow, and had tons of nutrients. So when the famine struck, many people either died of starvation or fled to America in seek of refuge. When the Irish arrived in America they were seen as a threat to the decency of America. People viewed them as drunk beasts, sinful savages, barbaric, violent, belligerent, stupid, and white apes. When the Irish would go to look for jobs, many times they found signs that read "Irish Need Not Apply," even when the job was hiring. Therefore, the Irish did the jobs no one wanted, and even jobs African slaves wouldn't do. The biggest example of this is when Irishmen built canals and drained swamps. They were sent to do these things because of the enormous amount of mosquitoes; in the swamp, they would get bit and ultimately die of malaria.

Also, during this time, Irish people were poor and therefore lived in the same neighborhoods as the free African Americans. A lot of the Irish people were friendly with their neighbors of color and even got into interracial relationships. Because the Irish lived in these neighborhoods they were seen as dirty and even a lot of people at this time put African Americans higher on the totem pole than Irish. One person during the time even said, "At least the black families keep their homes clean."

The main reason American's outlook on Irish people changed was that most Irishmen took up fighting for the Union in the Civil War. I make this argument, not because I think the Irish suffered more than African slaves. I don't say this in means of trying to erase the struggles of the African slaves. I do not think that any of our ancestors should have been treated the way they were. I mean to say that the Irish did in fact suffer. Irish people were treated wrongly on the basis of...nothing. Simply because my ancestors hailed from the shores of Eire, they were treated with malice. And I write this simply because I want people to remember. I want people to understand what happened.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, next year, and for the many years to come, I want people to embrace the Irish culture. I want the folks of Irish heritage to not be ashamed of where they come from; to not be ashamed to share their culture the way I have for many years. I want everyone to have a beer, wear some green, eat a potato or two, and dance the Irish step; to celebrate the history of Irish people with a bit more understanding than before.

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