Can we have a moratorium on the n-word? No, I am not referring to the word nigger. I am actually referring to the phrase the n-word. I despise it. If one finds the word nigger distasteful—and honestly, I loathe using the word—one can simply use the plainest phrase available to identify exactly what word you are referring to: a racial slur used to denigrate black people.
If one considers oneself a journalist, a writer, an adult, one should not infantilize words, especially words as loaded and cruel as ethnic and racial slurs. There is a history in our selected speech that should be confronted and addressed. In addition, in selecting only a racial slur regarding black people to tiptoe around with a wink, a nod, and a childish phrase—there is no w-word, k-word, c-word, s-word—it is clear that the user feels as though black people are simply too childish, too sensitive, too volatile to hear the word nigger in any context. Trust me. That is not the case. We have laid the foundation of this country beneath the word nigger. We have raised black children and white beneath the word nigger. We have heard it used repeatedly in stores, in back alleys, in police stations, and in boardrooms; in e-mails, in music, and from the mouths of every ethnic group that has ventured to America and wished to assert its status in this country via the disrespect of the descendants of its first laborers. We’ve endured.
The phrase the n-word is not used to spare the feelings of black people; it is used to mock. Were it not, the simple phrase racial slur would be used—just as it is when addressing slurs that denigrate countless other groups. Yet the world is incensed that black people would dare rise above our station and question the language of others. The juvenile phrase the n-word is used to put us back in our place. It is akin to spelling out terms in front of children to avoid conversation. Grown folks are talkin’, boy.
As I said, we endure.