By: K Me
I am not Black. Therefore, I cannot say the N word.
Such a concept seems simple, right? Yet here I am writing this, because apparently a group of non-Black Georgetown students thought it was okay to sing along to “Gold Digger” and scream the N word out at the top of their lungs a couple weeks ago.
The thing is, we all understand that the history of the N word is found in its use by White people to keep enslaved Black people “in their place.” The word is deeply rooted in anti-Black racism, a system of oppression that continues today. (read more here)
While most people may conclude that at least White people should not use the N word, I have heard Asians and Latinx (who do not identify as Black) appropriate the word. Although we may not be intentionally using the N word in a derogatory way, we need to consider the sensitivity of the historical context. Our identities as people of color do not give us a pass from being racist and anti-Black. To use the N word as a non-Black person of color ultimately uplifts a system of White supremacy that prevents people of color from building solidarity with each other.
On a similar note, I would not appreciate a Black person using the derogatory word “oriental,” despite the fact that Black people were not the perpetrators of my cultural and racial history with White imperialism. While pejoratives can be reclaimed by the people who suffered under those pejoratives, they are not for anyone else to use.
As Black hip-hop culture continues to disseminate into mainstream pop culture, we need to respect the history and present realities of the Black community that are highlighted in many of the messages of hip hop. So of course, we can definitely, definitely, definitely appreciate Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance, Beyoncé’s Formation, Kanye’s attitude (when it is not misogynistic) and Drake’s mood. But we cannot say the N word.