The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Respect and Education: The N-Word

By Staff Writers Kikue Higuchi & Shray Vaidya

As music by African-American artists becomes more popular, the n-word is heard more, seen more, and used more. This has resulted in widespread awareness of the word’s meaning and has also prompted some musicians to take action. For instance, at the start of 2018, Indonesian rapper Rich Chigga changed his name to Rich Brian, telling Billboard that “Rich Chigga isn’t me anymore,” and saying on social media that he’d “been meaning to do [it] forever.”

Unfortunately, Rich Brian seems to be the exception, not the rule. The n-word is still widely used and can even be heard on campus, tossed over the shoulders of students. Flippant use of the n-word disregards the history of prejudice and suffering it symbolizes while undermining attempts by the African-American community to negate its oppressive power. The n-word should never be used by non-African-Americans, especially in casual settings.

The n-word has come to represent one of the most horrifying institutions in human history: slavery. The lasting effects of the practice of slavery and the racial ideologies that evolved to justify it can still be felt today. Words have weight and the n-word, among other slurs and stereotypes, is one of the heaviest.

As a result, using the n-word in a casual setting ignores the derogatory and painful meaning the word still carries. This neglect is the reason why American society is still healing from the deep divide slavery created, and use of the n-word by people other than African-Americans only weakens efforts to promote equality and weed out injustice.

In recent years, the African-American community has begun an unofficial campaign to reclaim the n-word in an attempt to nullify the oppressive power it holds. The use of the n-word by the African-American community has led to the normalization of the word in pop-culture, especially in the music industry. However, the frequent use of the n-word in the media does not strip the word of its history, nor does it mean it is acceptable for non-African-Americans to use it. In fact, the use of the word by non-African-Americans only hinders efforts to make the word a vehicle of protest and cultural pride for the African-American community.

Reclaiming the n-word is meant to take the derogatory power away from the word and restore that power to African-Americans. If someone is not African-American, they cannot reclaim the n-word, as it was never used to hurt, hinder, or label them. The n-word is something the African-American community must grapple with, and their right to use the n-word as they see fit should be respected by people of all races and ethnicities.

It is the duty of younger generations, to respect and understand people of all races and the struggles they may have endured. With a population that is largely made up of people of color, the MSJ community should be the last to promote racism, yet the n-word is treated as a part of everyday vernacular by some students. Individual effort must be made to combat this systemic insensitivity within our school’s culture.

MSJ prides itself on its position in the upper echelon of education, but students continually abuse a word that perpetuates ignorance. Academic intelligence is not the only education that matters; social education is equally, if not more, important. Having a deep understanding and respect for other cultures and ethnicities is essential to healing American society and changing it for the better.

Graphic by Graphics Editor Victor Zhou

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