N-Word, (Why?)

By Gabrielle Abesamis

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In third grade, I went to George B. Armstrong Elementary School, where Aftrican American History Month was highly celebrated. The three-story school was decorated with research projects and I was Harriet Tubman in a play about the underground railroad. The curiculum was full of activities dedicated to African-American History for the entire month.  It became my favorite time of the school year.

Because of this foundation, I respected African Americans to a great extent.  It broke my heart when I came across racists. As I got older, I didn’t hear the word “African American”, “Jamaican” and specific races so much, I only heard the word “black”. And honestly, it took me such a long time to be able to call African Americans that. It wasn’t until I started coming across people who weren’t African American, and mistaking them for it that I used the word “black”. They were  Haitian, French, Barbadians and people who didn’t consider themselves African. As a sixth grader, there was no way I could distinguish them at that time. I came across friends of lighter skin that didn’t know their race, so I couldn’t call them Polish, German, Swedish, or Italian. Everyone else started calling them “white” and “black”, and they didn’t seem to have a problem with that.

Growing up, I never thought that the N-word would be something so casual. It was so insulting to African Americans, how could it be used without intentionally trying to break someone? It was a word that was used as a reason to kill someone, it was a word that was used to make people feel ashamed of who they were. During the African-American Civil Rights Movement and before that, it was used to bring down a type of human race. When I entered Niles West, the word became so popular in ganster rap, and others picked up on the songs, they changed the spelling by sometimes replacing the G’s with Q’s and the E’s and R’s with A’s and sometime’s H’s, and I felt it  became word with positive connotations.

“Rappers use it casually and in the black  community is considered a term of endearment, but it really isn’t,” administrative assistant Phyllis Coleman said. “I never heard that word used in my home, but I always heard it from friends. I can’t say that it bothered me when I was younger, but as I got older, I realized how offensive it it was.”

“My N-Word,” “Thanks, Gabby. You’re a true N-Word,” and all of a sudden, it’s posh. The N-Word was something you wanted to be called, it started being associated with a type of respect, but I still felt uncomfortable saying it. I thought, “This would pass, people will realize how horrible the word is.”  It’s almost been four years since I was introduced to this kind of word, and I only started becoming comfortable hearing it and saying it maybe a week ago, but I’m still confused.

Senior and treasurer of Black Student Union Hameenah Williams said she won’t use the N-word so lightly.

“I would not use the N-word. They way I grew up, my mom and aunts and uncles made sure I knew what it meant and why a word like that shouldn’t be used. The way we all saw it was, people fought in past to make sure that word wouldn’t be used, it had a degrading notion to it. People literally got worked up about what it used to mean, ” Williams said.

On the other hand senior Kyle Kent believes there are appropriate ways to use the word.

“As long as you’re not ignorant to the meaning of the word and you feel that you’re using it in an appropriate way, then sure, use it. Make sure you know what you’re saying,” Kent said.

Junior Paul Ceneac said people are forgetting about the past.

“The people who use it don’t have an understanding of the history of the word. It’s a word full of hate. It’s not a good thing that the word is starting to have a positive connotation with everything, it makes people forget, there was actually a big movement to get rid of that word in the early 90s and now it’s just misunderstood because of rap music,” Ceneac said.

Even though I don’t think using the word is right, I’m not going to preach to you about how you should stop using it. But, the next time you decide to use the N-word, ask yourself what you’re doing. Do you mean well when you’re calling someone that? If you are, you’re being ignorant of the past. You’re saying it’s okay that we had slavery and had so many people die from racism.