In October, author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed students at Evanston Township High School in Illinois during an event, where he discussed history, race and white supremacy. During the Q&A portion of the event, a student asked Coates why White people weren’t allowed to use the n-word while rapping along to songs and the We Were Eight Years in Power writer gave the perfect response.
“Words don’t have a meaning without context,” Coates explained, going on to explain words that are acceptable to use in some situations and not others. “My wife with her girlfriends will use the word ‘b—h,’ I do not join in. I don’t do that ― and perhaps more importantly, I don’t have a desire to do it.”
Coates added that because some communities use derogatory words ironically, doesn’t mean others can join in.
“The question one must ask is why so many White people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact to Black people,” Coates added. “And I think I know why.”
He continued, “For White people, I think the experience of being a hip-hop fan and not being able to use the word ‘n—a’ will be very insightful. This will give you just a little peek into the world of what it means to be Black. Because to be Black is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you cannot do.”