By Cassie Colby | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Get off the sidewalk nigg*r.”
It was something my best friend heard while walking down King Street on her way to class. She said it to me casually, in a matter-of-fact tone.
I was appalled and continued to sit there stunned as she told me about the rest of her day.
I became increasingly angry as I thought about it. I thought to myself, “How could someone still say something like that to another human being. It’s 2013! Have we not made any progress?!”
It was useless trying to make sense of something like that. Racism, unfortunately, still bares its hideous face in the 21st century.
After coming to terms with the facts, I told her, “We’re in the South … what do you expect?” And we awkwardly laughed it off.
Following a brief pause, our attention turned back to the music playing on my laptop. We continued rapping along to Kendrick Lamar without thinking twice of the profanities and race-related epithets we were calling out.
The N-word, it’s something that has damaged race relations in America for decades and still affects anyone who has compassion for humanity.
However, I’ll be brutally honest. I’ve always felt like it wasn’t a big deal when I said “nig*a,” simply because I’m black. I wouldn’t consider myself a non-compassionate person because I’ve said that word on occasion.
To many, the words nigg*r and nig*a have very separate meanings. In African American culture, many use nig*a as a term of endearment towards others of the same race.
However, I believe nig*a is an expression that marks an unclear boundary between the past and present through its use as an attempt to transform something hideous into gold for the African American culture.
The more I think about the usage of the N-word, the more I question it. I question if nigg*r and nig*a really are different. I question if there’s a double standard in history, and with the word. I question if popular culture has changed the traditional meaning of the word and its usage.
Seeking the answers to these questions has consumed a portion of my free time I have available.
In 2013, CNN has dedicated several televised specials to the N-word and it’s toxic power.
Don Lemon, a CNN anchor, hosted a special on the network about the N-word and its usage in America.
As I watched this peculiar debate unfold, Lemon and a panel acknowledged the differences between the words nigg*r and nig*a, the differences in the time we live in versus the era of Jim Crow, and the history of the word.
The debate quickly escalated. It was apparent that Lemon and the panel were walking on eggshells. They all expressed very strong opinions and shared their different experiences of their encounters with the N-word.
I found myself feeling nervous while listening and watching their reactions, but I understood the delicacy of the topic. I was hoping my questions would be answered.
From the topics they talked about, I fully understood the answers they gave. Lemon and the panel repeated information that has been wired in my brain since a young age. Of course, the N-word has devastating power. Of course, there’s no other word in the English language like it.
The epithet still stands as a strong representation of America’s dark racial history. However, the difference between nigg*r and nig*a will forever be considered as separate terms as long as its use in African American culture continues. I believe both nigg*r and nig*a have a damaging effect on black culture in America.
Regardless of what form the N-word takes; it will always be treated as a double standard and inevitably, American popular culture has accepted the ownership of the word in African American culture.
As I think about the encounter my friend had with a white man born in a different time; I begin to wonder if I’m that much different because I use the word too.