By now, I’m sure most people have heard about the University of Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and the racist chant heard round the world. Beyond the college dismantling the organization and expelling two of the students involved, the act has ignited conversations and debates about the use of the “N-word.”
I’ve seen news stories that commend the school for their disciplinary action and condemn the participants. But I have noticed another disturbing trend in the wake of things, something I liken to victim blaming.
Journalist Piers Morgan penned a column for the “Daily Mail” <> seemingly reprimanding black Americans for using the “N-word” themselves, and lectured about the need for them to stop using it if other races are expected to do so. In his words, it should be, “Eradicated, obliterated, tied to a literary post and whipped into such brutal submission that it never rears its vicious head again,” – insert tasteless slavery metaphor here.
I don’t care for the use of the word no matter who is using it. I do not now, nor have I ever, used it myself. And I don’t know many people who say it in excess. It could be attributed to my upbringing; it was not a word that was thrown around when I was growing up. But this “excuse” struck me.
I applaud Piers Morgan for his instant fix for racism – insert sarcasm here. I think his “solution” is misguided and useless. And making the word go away won’t make racism disappear. Black Americans using the word amongst themselves does not issue a permission slip to every other race to use it – like it or not.
Somewhere along the way, I think some have begun to feel that the “N-word” is just another word – it is not. Originating as a demeaning and disparaging slang description of slaves, even today it is used as a racial slur. Neutralizing the impact of the word, the –er on the end was replaced with an –a, and blacks began using it with each other as a sign of solidarity.
Present day, the derivative is used liberally in music and conversation. Too liberally in my opinion.
The question of whether or not it is a double standard that a race can use a word amongst themselves but get offended when others use it often arises, and my answer is this: It is not. Even when there is no ill intent, accounting for the history and the origins of the word, I think it’s a line that need not be crossed.
As I stated before, I don’t use it, and I don’t like hearing anyone using it. But I must admit, and I know many who would agree, that I find it more offensive when I hear it spoken by a person of another race. I understand how it can become ingrained in your vocabulary when you grow up around it and hear it in normal speech, because I see it every day.
But when it is a word that you decide to pick up and casually begin using, in any derivative of the word – I cannot say that I understand. There are so many other words in the English language available for use.
This is not something I have experienced often, but when I have, I must admit, I’ve said nothing. It is something that I have preferred to let slide off my back rather than battle over.
But what was on that video was not a poor word choice, nor was it the regurgitation of rap lyrics. It was done with malicious intent. There is no excuse for reciting a song vehemently expressing that a race is unwelcome in an organization – one that ironically had black members.
Victims of racism are not to blame and ending racism is not as simple as Mr. Morgan would like to lead readers to believe.