Jonathan

Why Not Ban the N-Word If It’s Still Such a Huge Problem?

As a citizen of the planet earth, I’m writing this article straight from my chakras. I think we all realize that we live in a world full of conflicts, injustice, indifference and more issues we don’t agree with. However, at Enfnts Terribles we’d rather discuss the matter instead of avoiding the subject and live with it. This time I’ll talk about the awkwardness surrounding the N-word. To those who are willing to change a tiny bit of this world, may my words speak to you. If you don’t feel a change is necessary, I’m sure one day you will see the light.

Consider this personal letter, from me to you, a petition to ban the N-word.

My roots reduced to a word

First of all, the N-word comes from the word *egro meaning “black” in Spanish and Portuguese. During the slave trade the English-speaking countries adopted the word. Later the N-word ending with *egro, evolved into the N-word ending with *igger. Particularly in the United States of America it was used to slander the enslaved black population. Despite the fact that the USA abolished the slave trade in 1808, the word is still alive and kicking amongst people until this day.

We can argue all day about the intentions one has when saying the N-word. Either way, that’s just crazy since that label carries centuries of unimaginable pain and suffering. If the word was a descriptive term in let’s say the Congolese vocabulary or wasn’t linked to centuries of slavery, I’d understand. But It’s not! Same goes for women and gay people calling each other “bitch”, “faggot” and other useless slurs. It’s not okay!

To me, the infamous N-word is a patronizing name used to describe a man or woman of a dark skin rich in melanin. Containing the same negative connotation, the term downgrades a human being to merely an object. Regardless of my background, my last name, my culture, my achievements, my emotions, I am often reduced to a bad word that my people never came up with themselves. So why do we keep on using that racist label? Am I still not a man and a brother?

Abolition Medallion - Ban the N-word

Abolition Medallion

My bad romance with the N-word

Before I start I have to be totally honest with you. I, a 28-year-old man with African roots living in Belgium, have used the N-word before. Yet, that doesn’t make it less awkward. After a couple of heartbreaking situations, I really had to put myself into question.

My last encounter with the N-word was during a party in Antwerp. A dear friend of mine, of African descent, casually threw the word around. I stopped him and asked what the word meant to him. To which he answered: “It means nothing to me man, I call my bro’s and friends N-word all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that. I can use it, but white people can’t.” His statement, which I obviously heard before, was deranging because again, I was wondering: “Why do we use that racist word?

Before the club incident, another shady situation happened last year at a cozy dinner amongst friends downtown. This was one of the most bittersweet dinners I’ve ever attended. Everything was going great until I hear Tom (let’s just call the ignorant guy Tom for his own sake), who is a friend of a friend, shouting: “N-word, N-word, N-word, hahahaha.” I went outside to explain Tom why he shouldn’t be using the N-word. To which he responded: “I know where we’re going and I’m not going to apologize for using the N-word. I said what I said.” All I wanted to do at that moment was to put my cigarette in his eye or throw my drink over him. This privileged white kid showed no empathy, none whatsoever, but the dinner went on. I wasn’t about to let him ruin my night. However, memories of that event often recurred and I remember sitting there, thinking: “Everyone saw it happening and no one blinked or tried to come up for me. Are they all okay with this boy screaming the N-word like it’s a normal thing? Or am I being a drama queen?

By sharing these two stories, I want to point out how uncomfortable it gets when the N-word is dropped, by both people of color and white people.

While for some, it’s considered the proper term to use when addressing a black guy, I don’t see it like that. I couldn’t live with it back then and I still can’t now. Every single time someone mentions the N-word I have a defensive reaction.

Never was I hostile towards those people, but I had to force myself to stay calm and explain to them how hurtful it can be for some who experience this word as downgrading. I personally don’t use such slang and I won’t accept the N-word to be said in my presence. Because guess what? I refuse to denigrate myself and my culture to a word that was once used to describe black enslaved human beings, no matter their nationality, background, tribe etc. I won’t play that game any longer.

In order to change things, we need to set a good example ourselves. Rappers and other people with a positive influence in this world can really make a change. We can’t let that word be alive out there, knowing that it works only in negative ways.

Kendrick Lamar, The N-word and poor Delaney

In this case, I have to bring up Kendrick Lamar’s onstage fail awhile ago. You might’ve heard about the Kendrick incident during his performance at the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper invited a group of people from the crowd for a rap-along to his 2012 single “M.A.A.D. City”. Everything was going smoothly until this young fan, a white female called Delaney, had the lyrics a bit too right. As she stood on that stage rapping her heart out, word after word, she said the N-word a few times already. Lamar, who then became angry and mad, told Delaney to “get off his fucking stage”.

Even though she should’ve known better at that moment, Lamar’s reaction was misplaced. 10 years ago I would’ve agreed with him. However, if you look at it from a distance, you could only say that it’s hypocrite and not fair. If Kendrick Lamar hadn’t used the N-word in his songs, this unfortunate situation could have been avoided.

Kendrick Lamar and the N-word

Can you really blame a white girl?

This incident led to mixed responses. Some accused the young girl of being insensitive. While others were wondering why Lamar used the N-word in his lyrics to begin with. I’ve been asking myself the same question for a while now. When you think about it with an honest mind, can you blame the girl for foolishly reciting her favorite rap song? Knowing that there’s this huge problematic history surrounding this word. Rap song or not, I don’t think any self-respecting, intelligent human being should call himself or his peers by the N-word.

In music, mainly in hip-hop, but also film and television the term is still very present. Hip-hop has been one of the greatest promoters of the N-word. Young people grow up hearing this term or word used by their role models all the time. And guess what? They think it’s okay. At least it’s all good when it comes from someone of the same ethnic group, right?

However, when it comes out of the mouth of the “wrong person”, it turns into something offensive. How are we ever going to get rid of the N-word if we have to pick and choose when the word is okay or not okay. To be honest, that’s hypocrisy it’s ridiculous and a serious waste of energy.

Lastly, my opinion stands, no one should ever use this label, no matter your skin color. Especially because of the very negative historical background the word carries with it. So in order to make the world a better place, let’s all work together, blacks, white, gay, bi… on banning the N-word.

May baby Jesus bless you for days.

Kendrick Lamar

Photo credits: I-D Magazine, Pinterest, 

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