“I have black friends so therefore I can say the n-word”
The topic of racial slurs, especially the ’n’ word comes with a lot of opinions which is the example we should use in this context.
Some say that if you’re not black then you can’t say it. Some say that they can say it because they have black friends.
Some say that slavery ended decades ago and we should move on and be able to use whatever we want because freedom of speech and at least ‘we don’t use a hard ‘R’ at the end of the word’.
Racial swears, and in this context the ’n’ word isn’t only used by white people, but people of colour too such as Asians (and when I say Asian I mean the East and the South and in between) and Hispanics.
But is it racist when you’re not using it to discriminate or to be derogatory?
My answer leads towards yes.
Of course if you have black friends and they say it’s fine for you to use it with them then their words supersedes mine because they’re part of the community themselves. HOWEVER, it doesn’t mean you have the liberty or that you should use it as an excuse to use it all the time outside the context of you being with your friends.
Is slavery over? No it isn’t because it’s still a thing that happens today. Human trafficking is a thing that’s rampant and given that the definition of slavery is ‘ a condition in which individuals are owned by others, who control where they live and at what they work’ then it is still a thing.
And just because black slaves in America isn’t a thing, it doesn’t mean that racism towards people of colour, especially those who are black or brown, don’t exist. In fact, it is still the same. Black people are still being excessively incarcerated, are being overpoliced and are facing oppression everywhere in the world and even though it’s mainly done by Caucasians, they are not the only ones who discriminate black people and people of a darker shade of skin. Heck anti-black groups such as the KKK are still prevalent, and the neo-Nazi movement and protests still occur to this day which isn’t much different to back then when black slavery was still a norm.
The concept of blackness and discriminating on people with a darker shade of skin is still a thing that occurs in all ethnicities. Racism and colourism still exist. Even Asians look down on their fellow Asians and those in the same ethnic group as them.
“But I’m a woman I’ve been oppressed”. Having been oppressed does not mean you’ve automatically been added to the Oppressed Club where the usage of slurs is included in the membership. And white women may be oppressed for their gender but race and gender are intersectional. A white woman would face lesser oppression compared to men of colour, and even lesser than women of colour.
I’m a Muslim woman of colour. I may face discrimination for the scarf around my head or the colour of my skin or my gender, but even I am aware of my position and privilege. I am aware that no matter what, I will never face the magnitude of oppression my black brothers and sisters face.
And I will also never understand that just because your friends give you permission to use the ’n’ word in their presence as to why you feel the need or think it’s so important to use it? There are so many alternative words to connect with a community and with friends besides using slurs. Why is it that out of all the words you could use, you use one with connotations and a history of oppression (and this isn’t even a form of expression where you get paid less, but where you are brutally murdered and incarcerated and raped and enslaved)?
This post isn’t to tell people what word to use or not to use. I’m ambitious but I’m also realistic enough to know that those words will still be used. But I just want people to be mindful of the word and the weight it holds. The connotation of the word may have changed, but the history of it still remains the same.
Disclaimer: All opinions stated are my own and are not affiliated with the organisations I work for.
I am also aware that I am not part of the black community and my skin, albeit not white, is far from dark. I may have knowledge about the situation and may be able to speak about it from the eyes of someone who has experienced racism. However in the context of black oppression and the usage of racial slurs, the words of the community supersedes mine for I personally will never undergo the same level of the kind of oppression that they did and are still going through.