Time Out for the N-Word

Nigger, Nigga or however you want to pronounce is, unfortunately, a part of America’s – no the world’s – lexicon. It isn’t going away anytime soon no matter how much I wish it would.

By now, you may have seen the clip of Sherri Shepherd taking Barbara Walters to task for using the word “nigger” when reporting on the name of Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s family’s hunting ranch. At first, Sherri stated she didn’t like the way Barbara pronounced it. Then, she admitted she didn’t like hearing the word come from white people.

Neither do I.

But the one thing I’m not is a hypocrite. Not only do I not like hearing the word uttered by whites I absolutely loathe hearing it come from the mouths of black people, especially young black people. The popularity of rap music, particularly gangster – excuse me, gangsta – rap has made it hard to escape the word. Our young people – black, white, Hispanic and Asian – think nothing of saying this word openly in mixed company. True story: It was pointed out to one young, black woman who repeatedly said the word at her place of employment that it was rude. She was dumbfounded. “But everybody says nigger,” was her defense. This scene didn’t play out this year; it happened over ten years ago.

If Barbara Walters can’t say “nigger”, then Lil’ Wayne and other rappers shouldn’t be given a pass, either. My deepest concern for black youths is not having an understanding or appreciation of their race’s history with all its injustices, struggles and accomplishments. No other race has taken such a mean-spirited, painful and derogatory term for their culture and turned it into an acceptable mainstream expression. I have never heard a Jewish person greet another with “Hey, kike!” I have never heard a Jewish comic joke about life in a concentration camp, either. And because they don’t make light of their culture’s dark moments, it is not acceptable to disrespect them. I can’t say the same for my race and culture.

And to those who say there is a difference between “nigger” and “nigga”, I say there isn’t. You do yourselves and others a serious disservice by promoting the use of this word in whatever variation as a means of empowerment. It may be empowering if you are a millionaire rapper who travels with an entourage that includes bodyguards. It is hurtful and humiliating to the man sitting at the bus stop being attacked by racist skinheads and the man tied to the back of a truck and dragged until dismemberment.

We as a race have come too far to cling to this disparaging reminder of the past. Let’s do away with this word. Let’s make it unacceptable for anyone to say “nigger”, regardless of race, color or socioeconomic background. We can do it. I know this thought makes me a somewhat of a Pollyanna, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

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