why is the n word so offensive
Our people gave up the privilege to use that word the moment we invented it as a tool of oppression. 2. Why Should We Get a Say in the Conversation about That Word? б
There is a lively debate in African American communities between those who think itБs time to Б Б and those who think it can be reclaimed as a word ofб camaraderieб and brotherhood/sisterhood. In his brilliant piece entitled Б,Б Coleman Collins explains, There are generally four schools of thought on the word nigga. There s the first and largest group black working-class (but not exclusively so) people who say it casually because it s what they ve always done, or simply because they don t like being told what to do. There s the small but vocal group of middle-class black intellectuals who claim to have reclaimed the word, to have turned it into a term of endearment instead of a tool of oppression. It s a neat solution to a messy problem. It ends in A, after all! The third group is comprised of the respectable Negroes, the bootstrap types, the don t you embarrass me in front of these White folks crowd. Also largely middle- and upper-middle class, the worst of these would have us believe that if black men only pulled their pants up, stopped littering, and stopped calling each other that word, racism and poverty would come to an end. б Last but certainly not least, you have the extremely sympathetic older generation that worked to have the word eradicated from White people s vocabularies only to find it shouted from street corners and blasted from car windows in the future they worked so hard for. If White folks are interested in this debate, we should listen, but we should not assume that there is consensus within Black communities on the issue. That is a healthy conversation, and itБs a part of a long history of marginalized communities attempting to БreclaimБ words that were once oppressive. No matter how long that conversation goes on in Black communities, though, White people do not get to take part. IБm sorry. As the ones from whom the word of violence and oppression must be reclaimed, we do not get to have a word in that conversation.
Plain and simple. 3. Not Everything Should Be in Bounds to Us as White People The question of why White people canБt use the n-word is, in essence, the epitome ofб. As White folks, we tend to think that every door should be open to us, every conversation should be ours, and every space should welcome us. We think this way because, when it comes to racialized spaces, that tends to be the case. We have the privilege of having our voices heard and our presence recognized in just about every space there is. Thus, we hate it when we are told that we are not actually welcome in a conversation. But hereБs what we need to understand: WeБre the only people that get the privilege of access to whatever racialized space we want. There is hardly a single context in the United States in which a White person (but particularly White, cisgender men) cannot assert themselves into a space and have their voice heard. White women can hopefully begin to (though never fully) understand this when you think about the ways in which you are denied voice and space by dominant men. Though these oppressions cannot be compared, hopefully this comparison can help generate a little empathy into why it simply is not okay for us as White people to expect our voices to be heard in every conversation. Just because we are not welcome to use one word in the English language does not mean that we are being discriminated against. No, itБs not Б Б to assert that certain things are off limits to us, as people of privilege. 4. It Is Not, in Fact, a Double Standard Б ItБs a Standard ThereБs literally nothing more on this one I could say than what Jay Smooth of ThatБs it! б ThatБs all you need to know! Which means that we can put this whole thing to rest, right? Yeah? No? Well, if youБre still not convinced, then take 5 minutes and 15 seconds and listen to Chesca Leigh drop all the knowledge (plus, her lipstick is too fierce And when youБre done, say it with me: БAs a White person, I wonБt use the n-word any more.
Б Jamie Utt is a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. He is the Founder and Director of Education atб , a comprehensive bullying prevention program, a diversity and inclusion consultant, and sexual violence prevention educator based in Minneapolis, MN. He lives with his loving partner and his funtastic dog. He blogs weekly atб. Learn more about his work at hisб б and follow him on Twitterб. б б andб Filed Under:, Tagged With: he most recent Jeremy Clarkson row, in which he in unbroadcast footage from the BBC's Top Gear, raises the question how, or even if, journalists should quote those who have used the word. In its about Clarkson, the Guardian used a direct quote from the presenter, which included the N-word spelt out in full. When news is breaking and there is no cast-iron rule about the usage of a particular word, it often means editors must make a swift judgment call. Context is key, of course, so the decision may not be the same for all stories relating to racist terms or actions. My personal view is that we should avoid altering direct quotes by censoring or abbreviating them, even when they contain deeply offensive words. Whether intended to or not, it could play a role in attempts to sanitise or gloss over what the speaker has said. That said, a single reference to the offensive word somewhere in the body of the article is enough Б or we run the risk of being gratuitous and insensitive. The underlying principle is that our job as journalists reporting the news is to establish the facts and let readers make up their own minds. By using the unaltered quote and explaining the context in which it was used, the facts are laid bare for our readers Б who, as the Guardian's style guide editor, David Marsh, says, "are grownup enough to handle such things" Б citing the Guardian's coverage of the, where it was the only paper to quote the actual words at the heart of the case. The Guardian's first readers editor, that there was not necessarily a consensus within the company on how the N-word should be dealt with in stories.
Unlike other newspapers, Guardian policy is to not censor out or use asterisks for offensive words. This is where the debate becomes more complicated because I don't believe the N-word should be lumped in with any old swearword or off-colour phrase. It has such historical significance that many people deem its use Б in any context Б entirely unacceptable. As the Guardian's assistant comment editor : "The use of this word among black Britons is not the norm. Indeed, most absolutely condemn its usage in all cases. " One Guardian reader who shares that view complained about the Clarkson article. She wrote: "Doesn't the paper have a house style and a position on the use of this racist word? It is just as objectionable coming out of the mouth of Clarkson, or anyone else, as it is seeing it in print in the Guardian. " On the other hand, there are those who insist the word has been reclaimed by black people and that its modern-day usage doesn't necessarily signal racism. There's unlikely to be any general consensus on that either, but whatever progress may have been made in reclaiming it, the N-word continues Б and will continue Б to be used as a racial slur and wielded as an insult by some people. Even though I believe writing out the word in full can be justified in very limited circumstances when quoting someone, there is no denying that it remains deeply offensive to many people. It continues to provoke a fierce reaction in a way that other offensive words simply don't. When reporting on the use of the N-word, whether in a news story or a comment piece, striking a balance between sensitivity and transparency is an absolutely crucial part of the journalistic process. I would be interested to know what readers think about whether the N-word should ever be spelt out. Is it necessary for the sake of transparency? Acceptable in limited circumstances? Or simply never appropriate? Tola Onanuga is a freelance journalist who works for the Guardian and other publications. She writes on a range of topics including culture, technology and race issues. Twitter: Tola_o
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