How do I feel about people using the N-word?
Before I delve into this topic, I would like to reveal something about myself. I identify as a black American. I have never been comfortable calling myself an “African-American” because, frankly, I’ve never been to Africa and I know I have a mixed ancestry. I suppose I should look into doing a search into my ancestral background some time, but for all intents and purposes, I’m a mutt.
Every now and then, I will hear or read the N-word. Even if it’s not being aimed directly at me, I find it offensive even if uttered by other people who identify as black — and they usually say it with an “a” at the end of it (as opposed to –er), which I find it less offensive in those cases, but wrong still.
There are exceptions, such as when someone is telling a story told during a certain period in American history or, fictional or not, conducting a serious discussion about social relations. President Obama used the word this year, but he was illustrating a point.
Anyway, the concept of using the N-word is a difficult subject to tackle and it seems that often some people like to act obtuse when told this.
What Have I Said About the Topic Before?
Following is a post I made a few years ago. Hopefully, those reading it will not ignore the points I am making:
The “I will say the N-word because black people say it” excuse is flimsy. I am black and hate that word. I do not call other blacks that and I respect that people of other racial backgrounds would not appreciate being called slurs, either. If a white person uses the N-word, it can be because he wanted to anyway, but some will use the above excuse.
Generally, when blacks call each other the word, they leave off the -er and add -a, and the intent differs from when someone of another racial background calls them that. I still do not agree with it, and would prefer if that term was abandoned entirely. I have watched “Boondocks” and I think that the repeated use of the N-word takes away from the humor. If the term was dropped, that show would be that much better and more watchable for me.
I had originally wrote this post in 2010 after I posted in a thread on NF about racist family members. (We all have them.) The conversation veered toward white people who use the N-bomb then proceed to use the fact that some black people refer to each other by that term. That excuse is a poor one, and I am going to tell you why.
Why Is ‘Black People Use It, Too’ a Poor Excuse?
First off, to anyone who uses the excuse: You’re not black (even though, again, I feel it is wrong for blacks to use the term, too). Get it through your skull.
- Family members may make fun of each other but feel offended if anyone else makes fun of their kin.
- Friends may call each other names (like the B-word), but feel offended if anyone else calls them the same thing.
- I may criticize my state, government, nation, but I do not like it when someone who does not live where I live criticizes my government or the people who live where I live.
The point is, within a particular group, certain things may be said, but they are more often than not said with love. Within that group there is a shared experience and general understanding. The same cannot always be said about those who are not in that circle.
This is the case with the N-word. Once again, I disagree with anyone using the term, but it often means something different when black people use it.
Secondly, I say to the same people that if you have to ask to use it, you know that it’s wrong.
Consider two kids. They may or may not be related to one another but one boy does something he is not allowed to do. The other boy knows that it’s wrong and when caught by his mother says, “Well, Toby did it!” That is an excuse and a pretty lame one at that.
Why Did I Make This Post?
This is actually a repost, but I wanted to readdress this topic because of the renewed discussion.
Recently, this question was posed in terms of Hulk Hogan (A.K.A. Terry Bolea). He is currently suing Gawker Media for $100 million for posting a 2006 sex tape on its website. Late last month, it was revealed that he said the N-word multiple times when talking about his daughter, who was dating a music executive’s son at the time.
What Hulk said was fairly horrible — and there was unkind words he said about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — but there is another caveat to this. In 2009, Hulk Hogan talked about how he had used the word, that he had been called “n—a” by various people, and that he knew if he used the word in certain situations, that would be considered unacceptable.
One incident that is ultimately mentioned is an old promo Booker T did. It was infamous because of what slipped out of his mouth.
While addressing Hulk Hogan, Booker T ultimately said, “I’M COMING FOR YOU, SUCKA! I’M COMING FOR YOU, N***A!” Then Booker T immediately recoiled.
I’ll go even further and point out what sets Booker T apart from Hulk Hogan.
When asked about the incident a few years back, Booker T explained that he made a mistake. He had grown up in a community that freely used the N-word so it slipped out. Besides the whole black thing, Booker also said that he immediately apologized to Hulk and had sworn off using the N-word from that moment on.
Whether or not that last part is true, Booker T regretted what he said. It the same true for Hulk Hogan? Didn’t think so. That means one defense of Hogan is roundly defeated.
As a Side Note …
I do hope Hulk Hogan wins his lawsuit. It’s a lesser of two evils thing.
Hogan is an awful person, to be sure.
He has destroyed the livelihood of many a wrestler, wherever he was. In particular, he did most of the damage while he was with the WCW. For instance, he saddled The Big Show with debt and he took royalties from other wrestlers when their action figures were sold.
Hogan had creative control so he decided who would be put over. But most of the time, he refused to let people get over.
Later on, he went to TNA, which went years without paying its wrestlers.
That said, I also disagree with the WWE wiping all records of him. That is asinine and the only thing worse than that is the refusal to ever refer to Chris Benoit.)
But Bolea is still a horrible human being. Gawker just happens to be worse in this case.
What Is the Real Motivation Behind Non-Blacks Using the N-Word?
When someone asks whether or not they can use the N-word, they are being disingenuous. To be perfectly honest, anyone can say any word, but there may be consequences. This is not answer some people want.
So then, they are being dishonest because they are essentially leaving out a clause and replacing words entirely: The question “Why can’t I say the N-word?” is being asked in place of “Why can’t I [call black people] the N-word [without repercussion]?”
This begs the question of why some people want to use the term so damn badly. It’s a fair question, and I bet most people posed that question would fall eerily silent, if they don’t pull arguments out their butts or run off in a huff.
This ultimately plays into the problems people have with perception vs. reality. Many people have no problem holding onto their prejudices and in some cases, acting on them, but somehow calling someone a racist or even saying they are prejudiced is somehow more offensive. That’s irrational.
Why Is the N-Word Such a Terrible Term?
Besides the above “reasoning,” there is that old saying, “Oh, it’s just a word.” But it is a word with an ugly and brutal history.
The reason the term so offensive goes beyond slavery; it is connected to a destructive and counterproductive mindset. It is repeated often by racists who want to let blacks know that they are hated and unwelcome in certain areas.
And even when someone does not call a black person the N-bomb, they may still hold a deep hatred for blacks in their heart and discriminate because of it. It is not just a word but an attitude and this is true for many other words that are used to demean and degrade.
It can depend on when it is said, who said it and the mood in which one is when the word is flung at them. In is not just about a slur, but the history, connotation, and intent behind it.
What is really stupid beyond words is the racism itself. It is only natural for most humans to be distrustful of strangers and make snap judgments, but it is a step too far to act on them and discriminate against others.
A derogatory term is adding insult to injury. In the end, it is about respect or a lack thereof.
Everyone has prejudices, but there is no excuse for anyone to indulge the more sinister forms and allow them to flourish. It is disgusting to be subjected to an intolerant, hateful atmosphere created by another for things no one can really control.
Even if blacks stopped using the N-bomb, that would not stop others from using it. Now let’s be honest. Non-blacks do not say it because black people do. They say the word because they basically want to anyway.
I will repeat: some non-blacks want to moan about black people being allowed to use the word and not get ostracized for it. Really? That is pretty petty compared to being the target of the slur and actually experiencing the real effects of racism.
Why complain about having to use self-control and not utter a word while that would be considerate at the very least?