So I need to speak my mind,
Now I’ve been a culprit one too many times of using this N word. And who can blame me? Its ‘soo like mainstreaming’. I am dark skinned after all and there is this “not so new craze” that suggests that contemporary usage of this word gives dark skinned people a right, a sense of control and ownership of the word by disarming the hateful and degrading historical definition coined by Caucasian supremacists.
Well at least that’s what Randall Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor is saying. So Mr Kennedy argues this word is colloquially used amongst dark skinned people. Furthermore, the definition has evolved to a neutral, warm, friendly and inclusive tone. In his book, his focus is primarily on African Americans who in turn have a tremendous influence on their racially diverse, citizens of the world counterparts to use or not to use the word.
Since this blog is tailored to my personal experiences, I will let you know why I recently vowed to cease using the N word (and it’s been hard). On a tangent, I do believe it will be quite comical trying to sing along to rap music with the omission of the n word but I will persevere. So historically this very same word is the word that was used to inflict psychological degradation, trauma and enforce an inferiority complex for dark skinned people all over the world. My question now is… how is it any different now? So evidently I am a dark skinned woman (for those that didn’t know). Originally from Zimbabwe. Currently residing in Sydney, Australia: a “multicultural society” (if you ask me, to a degree at least in the major cities).
Well the point I am getting at is that, I have had my fair share of turmoils with this word. Firstly, I had my internal conflict where I had a period where I would hate using this word because of the obvious historical and present connotations associated with the word. Then I went through a very long period of comfortability where I would vociferously and liberally use the word largely due to my immersion in urban culture (which I still love). Until now. You can say, I experienced an epiphany or something but it was an enlightening experience. Repressed memories and recent experiences of non-dark skinned people using this word around and towards me in a colloquial and discriminatory manner reinforced my disgust for the word, the debilitating power of the word and the concept of institutional racism.
A recent casepoint, a Caucasian person called another Caucasian person the N-word in front of me and then turned around to look at me with a guilty facial expression as if to infer an apology. My reaction in that instance and quite proudly was diplomatic. I simply asked her what she meant by that and why she felt guilty for saying that. Admittedly she responded that she had uttered an offensive word (with an inference that it was in the presence of a dark skinned person). Our conversation about that incident was brief but I thanked her for apologising. This scenario demonstrates the extrinsic factors leading to my disuse of this word. I pondered why she might have been comfortable enough to say that word and then I concluded that it is the media that has essentially misinformed her that its alright to say that word. Truth be told, I could have used scenarios that are 10 times worse but I prefer to use minor or if you may say trivial examples to illustrate how subtle racism can be in everyday life. I also used this example because it is recent and different in the sense that she recognised her error and apologised. Whether she apologised wholeheartedly or because she was caught. Who knows but I still appreciated the gesture.
I personally (not forcing my POV) believe that the word is unfortunately now more acceptable in society. Don’t get me wrong, nothing against dark skinned people who choose to use this word since it is their prerogative but I no longer want to utter the word. Dark skinned and non-dark skinned people are using the word conversationally however there are people out there that still use the word in its primitive form. That is, to racially discriminate and belittle a dark skinned person. Why? I don’t know. Well I do know but that’s another blog in itself. But for that reason, I refuse to partake in empowering and promoting the use of a historically and still debilitating term and propose substituting this word with positive vertabim. For instance, instead of my n****, I would say my friend/ brother/ sister.