A ceremonial dagger is no less deadly for being left on a shelf, its bloody history gaped at. So too it is with The N Word.
This is the fourth time I’ve rewritten this.
In doing my writing for Black History Month I am, yet again, speaking about Race in America. In several of my articles to date, I have made passing mention of the events in my life. I have never expounded in line as that would cause a tangent on its own. With diligence, I aim for an article highlighting those tangents to be complete today.
One of my experiences has to do with The N Word. Again, no surprise there. It was not directed at me, or anyone specific, but was rather read in Huckleberry Finn. I debated with myself whether to allude to the word as I am doing here, or just type it out.
My feelings are that it is a word. Words are, on their own, inert. As A writer I find words to be my tools. Just as I amend my use of the word “trump” as that is the presidents’ surname, so too do I avoid even alluding to The N Word as much as possible. I feel that having the ability to speak candidly and bluntly on matters of Race is the only way to put it to bed.
Still, I have made the choice to not use the word. I am writing on the internet and could be made famous for all the wrong reasons, effectively ending any hopes of a writing career before I really take off.
To anyone that chooses to use the word: It is your choice. You have your reasons which support your decision as I do mine. But, in a country that has granted me little without contest, the use of The N Word is one of very few “allowances”. As a Black Male, I am “permitted” to use it as I see fit. While it is perceived that I am a part of the community, I do not feel that I am. I do not use The N Word in my regular speech so I will not use it in my professional speech.
Do let that sink in. I am “allowed” to use the word, and I make the choice to not use it. I choose to not use the word because it is loaded. I find it a challenge to my verbal skill to (continue to) work around it.
If you use the word not knowing the full history and meaning while being unwilling to learn otherwise, you display your ignorance. If you use the word while knowing the full history and meaning while being unwilling to learn otherwise, you display your malice. Speaking in a way that you know will harm others speaks more of you than whoever you choose to brand. I have been careful about using the words “Racist” and “Racism” for the same reason. They are loaded words.
I see a lot of serious epithets get thrown around a lot, so much that it numbs me to them. I choose to believe that people know what they are talking about, to give speakers the benefit of the doubt to try to hear and address the issues they bring forth. It is not easy with so many people with individual, nuanced feelings, but I will continue to try.
Are there racist ideas that helped found America? Has that system grown, adapted, and evolved over time? Is there something to be said of “systematic racism”? Are there some that benefit from that system more than others, albeit passively? Are there some that use what clout they have to perpetuate the system actively? Have racists, supremacists, and other hate-mongers learned to discriminate covertly rather than openly? I answer yes on all counts. But the “System” in “systemic” is older than any one person alive today. Knowing history is of import. But I will not bash anyone for what is not their fault.
It is the job of those living in the present to ensure that we leave a better world. A more equal world. I will not be content with simply holding the hard-fought ground of my forebears.
With that, back to my main article so that you will be able to understand me more completely.