What does using the n-word say about how we treat each other and communicate?
The N-word has been all over the news lately, due to the unfortunate name of a family hunting camp visited by Texas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry.
Perry was known to bring fellow lawmakers and friends to shoot game at a place called “N****rhead.” The name of the camp was painted on a slab of rock next to the gated entrance.
Perry has called the name or the camp “offensive,” and acknowledged that the historical slur had been visible during at least one of his hunting expeditions.
“My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984,” said Perry. “This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit.”
The land was re-named North Camp Pasture within the last five years. A worker at the ranch claims to have seen the original name on the rock in 2008. Perry’s spokesman adds that when the governor used the camp, it was described at a “northern pasture” and the governor has not used the camp in five years.
Of course, the ladies of “The View” tackled this topic last week. When speaking of the ranch, both Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters used the n-word, but Sherri Shepherd took issue with Walters — but not Goldberg — using the word, even in the context of a journalist quoting the ranch’s name. “It’s something about hearing you say it,” Shepherd told Walters. “I don’t like it when you use the word… when you say it it’s a different connotation… When white people say it, it brings up feelings in me.”
Of the rock, Goldberg said, “Let’s call it what it said!” She added that we should not “pretend” the word does not exist.
For the sake of reporting the news, I have no problem with anyone of any color using the n-word. If something happened that involves the word, then put the facts out there for all to hear.
But other than that, I don’t want to hear anyone use it — man, woman, child or any color, including my own. I’m not a fan of the n-word and take the infamous Richard Pryor approach, which is loosely, ‘there is no such thing as n***ers,” a revelation that the comedian, once a strong proponent of re-claiming the n-word, had while visiting Nairobi, Kenya.
For me, it’s never been the use by white people that fuels those “feelings” that Shepherd describes. That comes when I hear Black teenagers on the train using the n-word to address each other, and peppering it throughout their sentences. I’m reminded of Lawrence Fishburne confronting Samuel L. Jackson in the Popeye’s parking lot with, “You’re not n****rs!”
The n-word is an ugly word. But if we’re going to spend time examining it, it’s more important to tackle what using it to address each other says about how we really feel about ourselves.
Do you use the n-word? Why or why not?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk
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