Letters to the Museum

N-Word

My name is James Crosby and I am an Eastern Michigan student at the moment studing African-American culture. Recently for our first assignment we had to bring in an article with something relating to the African-American culture. I decided to find one on what the teacher made a comment about in class. That being the use of the word nigger by Eminem in some of his songs and if it is alright.

This in itself is not important nor the article I found. It was what I discovered in the process that I found interesting that I shared with the class. I wanted to find some information and get different opinions on the use of the word, so I was going to put in the actual word into Google and see what I would get. But wait! There are people around and the thought of any one seeing one my screen the word nigger in anything but the lowest font regradless of its academic nature seemed to scare me into instead putting in the phrase "the N-word." I poked around and found a few interesting points and ideas until I came across an online article about a writer whose employer would not let them print the word nigger in their article regradless of the fact that it was a speech made by a former president.

This gave me the idea of how the media and everyone else is trying to simply erase this vile term. So I used Google to search as to how many responses i could get for the phrase "the N-word" and came up with a total of 110 million. The total for the actual word nigger was only 2 million. I thought that this information was interesting and decided to share it with the class. I have to say that even myself, not racist in the least bit, was a little nervous about bringing up this issue with an African-American teacher and a class with only three white people. But in the name of knowledge I opined and was shot down.

"I hate that word!, I hate that word!....don't ever say that word...don't ever say that or bitch or hoe or someone will get beat down." She made it clear that in her opinion no mention of that word is appropriate. I in my opinion disagree. Perhaps it is my subjectivness of being white but I think it is childish to simply erase a word like that. I felt even a little childish having to say "the N word" in class, even in this kind of academic setting.

My opinion is that words convey meaning and that one meaning of that word is very negative, but by simply erasing the word out of print or mouth does nothing to the underlying issue of racism. What I proposed to her is that it makes more sense to change the meaning, do more adopting of the word, morph it into something positive and it will be a slap to the face to racists. Erasing it is just avoiding the issue. Not that he is the best person to quote but Tupac once said that the word Nigga means, "Never Ignorant, Gets Goals Accomplished."

That is in my opinion a step in the right direction not an improper word use. That is the spirit of non-violence standing up and saying that your words cannot harm me. You cannot fight racism by avoiding it and erasing its vocabulary because there will always be another word. The laundery list of offenesive words against darker skinned people should attest to that. I could go on forever but I think that is enough. Where you come in is that i was hoping that i could get some other peoples' opinion on this. Thank you for your time.

James Crosby
Eastern Michigan University

-- Jan. 14, 2006


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