The Norman Transcript

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December 9, 2013

It’s time to bury the need for the N-word

(Continued)

NORMAN —

The N-word is unique. It was present at the act of mass kidnap that created “black America,” it drove the ship to get here, signed the contracts at flesh auctions on Southern ports as mother was torn from child, love from love and self from self. It had a front-row center seat for the acts of blood, rape, castration, exclusion and psychological destruction by which the created people were kept down and in their place. The whole weight of our history dictates that word cannot be used except as an expression of contempt for African-Americans. The only difference when a Matt Barnes or Ta-Nehisi Coates uses it is that the contempt is black-on-black.

“Context?” That argument grows more threadbare every time it’s made. It may also be less effective in cowing white people of good will. As Richard Prince recently noted in his online “Journal-isms” column, a number of white journalists have refused to be silenced. That includes Mike Wise of the Washington Post, who wrote a brave piece confronting those who would deny him the right to be concerned because of race.

“That doesn’t work for me,” he said. “I deserve a seat at this table. This is about the world my 3-year-old is going to live in.” Indeed, it is about the world all our children will inherit. African-Americans are not walled off from that world, cannot commit this sin of self-denigration in our little corner of existence and command everyone else to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t matter.

Our stubborn insistence otherwise speaks volumes. As does the fact that some so determinedly defend the indefensible. How can we require others to respect us when this word suggests we don’t respect ourselves?

So burying the N-word, well-intentioned, as it was, turns out to have been fruitless. Something in some of us seems to need this word. And to agree with it. Let us find a way to bury that instead.

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