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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

BEG: Continued use of N-word perpetuates consequences

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

The N-word derives from the Latin word “niger,” meaning black. Englishmen adapted the word into the noun “negro.” In the early 19th century, white American men began to use the N-word as a defamatory adjective in front of a white name that was given to slaves to distinguish them from a white man with the same name. American men used the word to both degrade and discriminate against African-Americans. Social scientists agree that the word is used as a belittling nickname and an insult to devalue a group.

No other word from American history carries as much prejudice and discriminatory value as the N-word. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as “the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in English.”

Over time, the purpose of the word has shifted in the African-American community to become a word of endearment and affection toward one another. The use of the word has also increased in popular rap and hip-hop music created by African-American musicians. It is now seen as a term that African-Americans have claimed to combat its offensive history.

Despite this vitriolic connotation of the word, those who are not African-American still feel permitted to use it. Some feel as if their use of the word does not have an effect on dangerous societal perceptions, when in reality it does. I see the word mostly said by other people of color who are not African-American. They may feel permitted to use it because they see African-Americans and themselves both as people of color who face discrimination, so they believe they have permission to use it. However, this reasoning is invalid because American men of other ethnicities do not face nearly the same obstacles that African-Americans do, so their struggles cannot be seen as equal to the difficulties of black people.

The racist weight that is tied to the N-word is solely based on the degradation of African-American communities.  The connotation behind the word is connected directly to its use in American history. Many times these people of color who use it do not come from groups who have had as long and deep of a history in America as black people. African-American boys are constantly killed on the street by police officers simply due to the color of their skin. In no way do Asian men face the same kind of implications for being of Asian descent.

I, as an Asian-American, recognize that even though we all face discrimination for who we are, some have it more difficult than others. Since other minority groups experience certain situations with more privilege than African-Americans, they must acknowledge this and help end racist attitudes others have toward black people. All minorities must work together to end discrimination faced by various groups. One way to accomplish this is to terminate the use of the N-word in their communities.

It is more than just a word. The only real solution is for people who are not from the African-American community to stop using it. There are no kinds of special circumstances that can allow for the word to continue to be used by people who are not justified to use it.

Some people try to emphasize the difficulty of preventing themselves from saying it when it is in a song. Despite this, it is not difficult to skip over a single word when singing along. It is actually pretty easy to pause for the fraction of a second it takes for the artist to use it.

Others try to convince themselves it is permissible when African-Americans give them the permission to say it. Even if this is the case, people should respect African Americans by not using the word. There should not be such a strong compulsion to say a single word, particularly when it evokes a long discriminatory history against African-Americans.

This country has and continues to place African-Americans at an inferior level than the rest of the American public. By continuing to use the word, it further cements this degradation into our culture.

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About the Contributor
Aminah Beg
Aminah Beg is the assistant opinions editor for the Marquette Wire. She is a sophomore from Naperville, Illinois who is majoring in Public Relations and Cognitive Science.

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