Considering the fact that the N-word was created as a racially demeaning term used to marginalize an entire race of oppressed people, it is hard to understand why the word is still a fixture in urban discourse. The debate on whether or not the term should be informally abolished is still raging in America, though there is a general lack of consensus with regard to the sensitive issue. While the rules banning most if not all other races from using the term are clear, we are still unable to let go of the historically rooted profanity, turned term of endearment.
Recently, Jonathan E. McCoy, an 11 year old boy took a stance against use of the N-word. His smart, honest approach to criticizing the word’s implementation in urban culture is among the most poignant ever offered by such a young orator. In his speech, McCoy states:
“Unfortunately this misinterpretation of our heritage has been perpetuated among our own race. Rather than obliterate this disrespectful term we have adapted it as a cultural phrase. You’ve heard it, “What’s up my n-word?” Or maybe you’ve said it, “Get out my face n-word.”So why have we taken this word to use it in our everyday language to communicate to or about ourselves? Let me dispel the myth, as a people we are neither economically, politically, nor socially disenfranchised…..So I’m petitioning you to join me in deleting this word from our vocabulary as a people, as a nation and as a world.”
While this young man is aware of the benefits of abolishing the N-word, other more public figures differ in opinion. There are scarcely any hip hop artists that omit the word “ni*ger” from their music, much less their personal vocabularies. Prominent rappers (who are also consequently our youth’s role models) glorify its use, and encourage it regularly. Jay-Z, who is perhaps at the apex of hip hop fame, is one of the most vocal advocates of the N-word. In a recent interview with Fuse TV, the super star explained his views on the N-word when asked whether it was still appropriate to use the word ni*ger with someone like Barack Obama in office, Jay-Z responded:
“No i disagree with that, I think that what we did with the word ni*ger is turned it on its ear. We took the power out of the word because people give words power. If we eliminate the word ni*ger, i mean, its a great gesture. But i don’t believe that’s the answer to the problem. If we eliminate the word ni*ger it will be porch monkey. People give words power…Before [Barack Obama] was there, this word existed and we took that word and turned it on its ear and made it a term of endearment. Like ‘this is my nigga, jigga my nigga.’ We took the power away from that word…I think the larger problem is fixing that. Fixing racism at its core that’s the only thing you can fix. You can’t fix words.”
While both are conscious of the fact that racism is the foundation upon which the N-word was built, their opinions of what it has been built into varies. Whats your view? Is the N-word just a derogatory remnant of the past, or have we as a people taken control of it and made it a positive term?
Should the N-word be abolished?
Here is the footage of Jay-Z’s interview with Fuse. Check for the racism discussion around the 16 minute mark:
Here is a gallery of the most infamous N-word supporters: