The N Word (Part 3) Is it Love?

So why do Black people claim it is a term of endearment? Somewhere along the line the N-Word became shorthand for “I understand.” It’s not that the N Word is a good word at all. But it is shorthand. It is shorthand for saying “I know you understand the struggle. I know you understand what it’s like to be marginalized. I know you understand what it’s like to be followed in the store. I know you know what it’s like to be stereotyped as a criminal. I know you know what it’s like for White women to be afraid of you. I know you know what it’s like to be a victim of racism.”

The sentiment is that we have shared a history of oppression and we’re still here to talk about it. We’re survivors of the same struggle, we’re products of the same environment, and we’re dealing with the same psychosis. For that reason we are brothers in arms, and when it comes down to the matters of racial tension that still wrack this country I know I’m not alone. It’s not a term of endearment it’s shorthand for trauma and we’ve been living with it so long we mistake familiarity for love. It’s sad.

So for that reason I don’t use the word. If I want to show someone I love them I call him/her my brother, sister, son, or daughter. I’m interested in speaking to future leaders, not a N-word. I don’t need to use the word for people to know that I am a Black man and I am accustomed with marginalization in America any more than Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or President Obama need to be associated with that word for people to know they understand the Black experience.

Finally, for those who say that n***er is different from n***a. I just have to say I don’t think so. It is about as different as the word gangster is from gangsta, or the word whatever is from whateva. Just think about it. It’s the same word.

I don’t need to own the N-word. What I need to own is my own identity. I would submit that the only way we can do that as a culture is to understand our history. It’s not easy. But once we do that we can understand how the N-word isn’t a word we should seek to change the meaning of. We will find that when we construct and own our identities, it’s a word we just don’t have a use for.

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