When is It Ever OK to Use the “N-Word”?

Denaijy Dorsey

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There are a lot of controversial topics in today’s society like actions and words. But one of the most controversial topics in society between races is a word that some believe that is beyond powerful. Some believe the word itself isn’t powerful, but the way it’s used, who uses it, and the context of the word is what makes the impact. And that word is the “N-word.” 

“No one in society should use the word. I don’t believe that the word is very uplifting,” media specialist and librarian Angenine Goode explained. “The word is a slave word and it represents ownership, so why use it when you own yourself. I think that the word has been turned into just another curse word in society, like the F-word. And I think with the whole race situation, other races are thinking if black people can say it, then why can’t I? My point of view on the usage of it would be that there are so many other words in the English dictionary, why use that one?” 

Many people who were asked their position on the usage of the word and who should use it on society replied with all similar answers stating how unacceptable the word is and how offensive it is to be said. 

” The word is just a nasty word that is very unacceptable one to be heard or said in school. It is unacceptable overall but it’s freedom of speech. The word isn’t very helpful and it perpetuates bad things because its used as a slur,” principal Matt Ames stated. 

The “N-word” is defined as a racial slur directed towards black people. The word originated as a variation of the Spanish and Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger, meaning black. The word was used in the mid-20th century derogatorily and was ultimately made out of the original context and made an insult.  

Many well-known celebrities have discussed this topic and still are talking about it because it’s still relevant. They talk about the context of the word, different races with the usage of the word, and how it’s used and the meaning behind it. The late Maya Angelou, Ice Cube, Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, Fat Joe, Chris Rock, and Civil Rights activist’s Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz all have made comment online. 

In a discussion with Dave Chapelle, Maya Angelou talks about the “N-word”.  

“I believe that a word is a thing, it is non-visible and audible for only the time it is there,” Ms. Angelou explained. 

She made a very thoughtful and deep analogy of the “N-word” with a bottle of prescription medicine.  

“The bottle is nothing but the content, its poison. If I pour that content into Bavarian crystal, it is still poison,” she elaborated. 

The controversy was created because of the meaning and content that the word holds. The word itself without that offensive meaning behind it would just be “a thing”.  

Others believe that the word itself has been made out to be something that throughout history was a powerful word and now it’s just a part of today’s slang. 

“For our generation, what we did was we took the word and we took the power out of that word…you know we turned a word that was very ugly and hurtful into a term of endearment so I mean when someone says its still intention behind what you say,” rapper Jay-Z stated. 

In today’s slang, the N-word in the black culture is used as a greeting towards friends and people that associate with each other. 

The black culture isn’t the only culture that uses it meaninglessly. Rapper Fat Joe explains in an interview that white people can be called the “N-word” as well. He says that white people are “white-n***ers” so the word’s meaning and context is changed in that “what’s up my n***a” type of slang. 

This idea goes back to the idea of the content and context of the word itself no matter who uses it. The word can be in comparison to a gun. The gun itself isn’t very impactful until its used and how it’s used. If a gun is used to rob a store and to cause harm then it’s similar to using the N-word as a racist slur and causing racial tension and racial profiling.  

As the late Maya Angelou had said, “Words are things”. The “N-word” is just a word but in society, if someone chooses, they can give that word power. The word in today’s society can mean so many different things, good and bad, which makes it hard to decipher everyone’s true intentions on using it. At the end of the day, the word is just a word unless you choose to give it the power to harm.