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Samsara

The N-Word

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Where I live (suburban NJ), it's not uncommon to hear people using the n-word in conversation. It is uncommon, however, or at least slightly frowned upon, when non-black people use it, or people who haven't been accepted into the black "community" to use the word.

 

It's an incredibly complicated issue--one that I haven't been able to choose a stance on yet. There are so many facets: black identity (and the history that entails), hip-hop culture, freedom of language, etc.

 

What I'm asking should everyone be allowed to use the n-word conversationally (NOT as a word of hate)? If not, who should be allowed to use the word, and why? Or should no one be allowed to say it? Do you use the word?

 

Obviously this is an issue in which the experiences that inform your answer may vary depending on where you were brought up or where you live, so please describe the culture/environment/context in which your answer comes from. :)

Edited by Samsara

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Well, yeah, I mean, you have that whole free speech thing over here.

Besides, if the people to which it refers can use it for no reason and without penalty, why can't everyone else?

That's essentially it, and that's as basic as it gets. They get to use that particular word freely. As a result, everyone else should, but the only problem is it's been used derogatorily by non-blacks, thus creating the assumption that all non-blacks using that term must be racist.

 

After reading Shooter's post, I remember that I was going to mention that "either everyone can use it or nobody can".

So yeah.

Edited by Amber Pyre

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I don't believe all people should be allowed to use it, I believe no one should use it. However, it seems pretty hypocritical to me that African Americans should have the license to use it whenever they feel like, but when someone else says it everybody acts like they have just committed a felony (see Riley Cooper incident). Honestly, if it wasn't socially acceptable for African Americans to use it most of us would consider it an archaic word, maybe not even offensive.

 

Some rap contains way too much of it too. I easily heard the word more times in my first month of college than I had in all my life up to getting there.

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Haha, I was really confused. I think people should be allowed to say "swell person" whenever they feel like :P.

 

Damn censors. If you are talking about the N word, I agree this is a really sticky issue. I think it's fine for black people to use it. I don't have a problem with it. However I think people should not act in outrageous ways when a white person uses the N-word. The prevalence of the word just makes it hard not to say for some people. I think the Paula Deen firing over her admission to using the word ridiculous. The Philadelphia Eagles player Riley Cooper got into a similar situation, however he was able to diffuse it, did not get released, and had a good season.

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Words are defined by their meaning, which often depends upon context. I therefore find it excusable to use it as a colloquial substitute for "fellow", "pal", etc., although the complications would make it much easier to just not use it at all.

The problem that I have with non-blacks using it is not a matter of offensiveness, but accuracy. The word's actual definition refers to a black person, so it bothers me just as much as when somebody uses any word out of context.

However, blacks and non-blacks alike should not use it in a deliberately offensive manner, whether racist or not.

 

I believe Philadelphia being my hometown is sufficient experience to properly discuss the topic.

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Haha, I was really confused. I think people should be allowed to say "swell person" whenever they feel like :P.

 

Damn censors. If you are talking about the N word, I agree this is a really sticky issue. I think it's fine for black people to use it. I don't have a problem with it. However I think people should not act in outrageous ways when a white person uses the N-word. The prevalence of the word just makes it hard not to say for some people. I think the Paula Deen firing over her admission to using the word ridiculous. The Philadelphia Eagles player Riley Cooper got into a similar situation, however he was able to diffuse it, did not get released, and had a good season.

 

Haha, yeah, I totally forgot about the censors. I fixed the OP.

 

Do you really think the Paula Deen situation is applicable? Here's a Chicago Tribune article which details the situation. I pulled out the full context of what Deen was being put under fire for here:

 

The lawsuit alleges that when Deen discussed plans for her brother Earl "Bubba" Hiers' 2007 wedding with Jackson, Deen said she wanted a "true Southern plantation-style wedding."

 

"Well, what I would really like is a bunch of little [n-words] to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around," Deen said, according to the lawsuit.

 

Her usage of the word seems way more racist than conversational.

 

Words are defined by their meaning, which often depends upon context. I therefore find it excusable to use it as a colloquial substitute for "fellow", "pal", etc., although the complications would make it much easier to just not use it at all.

The problem that I have with non-blacks using it is not a matter of offensiveness, but accuracy. The word's actual definition refers to a black person, so it bothers me just as much as when somebody uses any word out of context.

However, blacks and non-blacks alike should not use it in a deliberately offensive manner, whether racist or not.

 

I believe Philadelphia being my hometown is sufficient experience to properly discuss the topic.

 

You say here that the word's definition refers to a black person. How do you respond to people saying that the wide usage of the n-word is a reappropriation of the word, of which the goal is to take away the racist impact the word once had by using it as a stop-gap word in everyday conversations?

Edited by Samsara

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Words are defined by their meaning, which often depends upon context. I therefore find it excusable to use it as a colloquial substitute for "fellow", "pal", etc., although the complications would make it much easier to just not use it at all.

The problem that I have with non-blacks using it is not a matter of offensiveness, but accuracy. The word's actual definition refers to a black person, so it bothers me just as much as when somebody uses any word out of context.

However, blacks and non-blacks alike should not use it in a deliberately offensive manner, whether racist or not.

 

I believe Philadelphia being my hometown is sufficient experience to properly discuss the topic.

You say here that the word's definition refers to a black person. How do you respond to people saying that the wide usage of the n-word is a reappropriation of the word, of which the goal is to take away the racist impact the word once had by using it as a stop-gap word in everyday conversations?

To elaborate upon that statement of mine, I'd call the offensiveness a connotation of the word, as silly as that sounds -.-.

I don't think reappropriating the word is a good idea. There are much easier and simpler alternatives. That would be like if you went to get some muffins, and the store had two, one being slightly moldy and the other being in perfect muffinizing condition. To revive the N-word with a different meaning would be like getting the moldy muffin and cutting off all the moldy bits to give it life. Screw that moldy muffin, get the new one. Better yet, go back home and get your existing muffins, son.

 

For that matter, I think "swell person" would be an awesome alternative to the word.

Edited by Guitarguy

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Words are defined by their meaning, which often depends upon context. I therefore find it excusable to use it as a colloquial substitute for "fellow", "pal", etc., although the complications would make it much easier to just not use it at all.

The problem that I have with non-blacks using it is not a matter of offensiveness, but accuracy. The word's actual definition refers to a black person, so it bothers me just as much as when somebody uses any word out of context.

However, blacks and non-blacks alike should not use it in a deliberately offensive manner, whether racist or not.

 

I believe Philadelphia being my hometown is sufficient experience to properly discuss the topic.

You say here that the word's definition refers to a black person. How do you respond to people saying that the wide usage of the n-word is a reappropriation of the word, of which the goal is to take away the racist impact the word once had by using it as a stop-gap word in everyday conversations?

To elaborate upon that statement of mine, I'd call the offensiveness a connotation of the word, as silly as that sounds -.-.

I don't think reappropriating the word is a good idea. There are much easier and simpler alternatives. That would be like if you went to get some muffins, and the store had two, one being slightly moldy and the other being in perfect muffinizing condition. To revive the N-word with a different meaning would be like getting the moldy muffin and cutting off all the moldy bits to give it life. Screw that moldy muffin, get the new one. Better yet, go back home and get your existing muffins, son.

 

For that matter, I think "swell person" would be an awesome alternative to the word.

 

?

 

I don't understand your analogy.

 

Let's say the n-word is a poisonous muffin. You can't throw it away, and you can't stop people from eating it, but you can pump it with enough water and superfluous fluids to slowly reduce the percentage of poison in the muffin. That's how advocates of reappropriation of the n-word see it, as far as I understand.

Edited by Samsara

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Words are defined by their meaning, which often depends upon context. I therefore find it excusable to use it as a colloquial substitute for "fellow", "pal", etc., although the complications would make it much easier to just not use it at all.

The problem that I have with non-blacks using it is not a matter of offensiveness, but accuracy. The word's actual definition refers to a black person, so it bothers me just as much as when somebody uses any word out of context.

However, blacks and non-blacks alike should not use it in a deliberately offensive manner, whether racist or not.

 

I believe Philadelphia being my hometown is sufficient experience to properly discuss the topic.

You say here that the word's definition refers to a black person. How do you respond to people saying that the wide usage of the n-word is a reappropriation of the word, of which the goal is to take away the racist impact the word once had by using it as a stop-gap word in everyday conversations?

To elaborate upon that statement of mine, I'd call the offensiveness a connotation of the word, as silly as that sounds -.-.

I don't think reappropriating the word is a good idea. There are much easier and simpler alternatives. That would be like if you went to get some muffins, and the store had two, one being slightly moldy and the other being in perfect muffinizing condition. To revive the N-word with a different meaning would be like getting the moldy muffin and cutting off all the moldy bits to give it life. Screw that moldy muffin, get the new one. Better yet, go back home and get your existing muffins, son.

 

For that matter, I think "swell person" would be an awesome alternative to the word.

 

?

 

I don't understand your analogy.

 

Let's say the n-word is a poisonous muffin. You can't throw it away, and you can't stop people from eating it, but you can pump it with enough water and superfluous fluids to slowly reduce the percentage of poison in the muffin. That's how advocates of reappropriation of the n-word see it, as far as I understand.

Yes, my analogy sucked.

To relate your analogy to the development of said analogy, your restoration of my analogy was like the very muffin revival that you just mentioned. It probably would have been better off for you to throw away my crappy analogy and make your own, but you instead fixed my analogy.

And although the N-word can't be entirely thrown away, so to speak, and we can't stop people from using it, we can at least try to convince people to stop using it to mitigate its sometimes-harmful impact.

Edited by Guitarguy

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We don't use that word where I live. The word closest to it we use is 'preto' which means literally black, though it is only viewed as an insult in certain situations. Portugal is mostly white people but we do have a big black community due to our ties with our ex-colonies, and while it exists (it exists everywhere) racism isn't really a big thing here. I have a lot of black friends, and I could call them 'pretos' all the time with no problem because they wouldn't find it offensive, we're friends and it's not a real insult after all. It is seen as a joke pretty much lol. But if a random person nobody knows where to call one of my black friends that, it would most likely be seen as an offense, because they would automatically assume it's being used as an insult due to the fact they don't know the person, even though the word isn't even a real insult. It would be like me feeling offended by being called white. It depends on the way th word is used I guess, if it's used by friends nobody takes offense, if it's used by stranger it becomes and insult. Which is sorta weird, I mean if a group of blacks were to call me white I wouldn't find it offensive. :s

 

So ya sorry, I know it's not a great contribution to the discussion because we don't use that word but just felt like explaining what it is like here.

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I don't believe all people should be allowed to use it, I believe no one should use it. However, it seems pretty hypocritical to me that African Americans should have the license to use it whenever they feel like, but when someone else says it everybody acts like they have just committed a felony (see Riley Cooper incident). Honestly, if it wasn't socially acceptable for African Americans to use it most of us would consider it an archaic word, maybe not even offensive.

 

Some rap contains way too much of it too. I easily heard the word more times in my first month of college than I had in all my life up to getting there.

 

Eh it all boils down to the history of the word - white people used it solely for derogatory terms (especially when they owned slaves) and so the connotations of the word equates to inferiority. Therefore if a white person uses the word, it's as if they're calling the person inferior based on their skin colour. If a black person uses the word, they obviously wouldn't be calling the other person inferior based on their skin colour because they're black as well.

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I suppose Samsara is correct in that the Paula Deen situation is not a perfect example here. However the Riley Cooper one still holds pretty well, for those familiar with the situation.

 

What do you all think of the usage of the word "Cracker"? It's generally not considered as severe, but by no means is it a positive or neutral word.

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Should you be allowed? Yes. Should you use it? No. It has such a negative history. There are a bazillion other words non-black people can use to refer to their friends. If using the word offends other people, just don't use it.

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i think the way it is now is fine

when used between african americans, it is used as a term to show good relations, no?

 

when white people use it, it's because they think they're black :/

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If using the word offends other people, just don't use it.

Overused Stephen Fry quote:

It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fudging what.

This isn't about that. Ask yourself why you want to say this particular word, instead of the many, many others you could use. Is it because you want to be edgy? Then you're probably an goosedown. Is it because you're racist? Then there's nothing stopping you. Is it because you think it shouldn't offend people? But it does, and you saying it isn't going to change that.

 

The fact is that it does offend people, and there's no good reason to use it instead of other words.

Edited by reepicheep

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Yeah as long as the context is appropriate you should use it and if it's not appropriate then you're probably already a muppet/idiot

 

 

that's the way i am w/ all my word choice

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If using the word offends other people, just don't use it.

Overused Stephen Fry quote:

It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fudging what.

This isn't about that. Ask yourself why you want to say this particular word, instead of the many, many others you could use. Is it because you want to be edgy? Then you're probably an goosedown. Is it because you're racist? Then there's nothing stopping you. Is it because you think it shouldn't offend people? But it does, and you saying it isn't going to change that.

 

The fact is that it does offend people, and there's no good reason to use it instead of other words.

Yes, let's stop using synonyms too. There's no reason to use them instead of other words.

 

Different words offer different connotations. There's some situations where the word is appropriate. Some where it is not. As long as you understand possible implications and misinterpretations present in the scenario, I don't see anything wrong with an informed use of the word.

 

It's a word.

Sure. I just see very few, if any, reasons to use the n-word for me as opposed to other swear words.

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The only people who use that word are the new generation of colourblind racists. I know older black people who would never dare to use that word because of the history behind it, not just in slavery but the racism in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s

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Yeah as long as the context is appropriate you should use it and if it's not appropriate then you're probably already a muppet/idiot

 

 

that's the way i am w/ all my word choice

Exactly.

 

You would say "fudge you coochie" to your teacher, but you probably would to your friends on the Xboxes. Some people in the world would find it offensive. Does it matter? No.

 

There's nothing wrong with a word if used in the right context

 

i think discussion is already won b'cuz me and Shu agreed on something so that has to be only potential answer

 

EDIT: yea tubbs that shows that it's all based on Context, we've all used poor words while being caught up with friends but do we mean it's literal meaning? (probably not) I know it's fudgeed society lets us find this acceptable but really if there is no harm why can't i call Shu my swell person and 2pac my swell person. We are all brothaz

Edited by Sk8skull

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I don't see the point in using such a word. The "N" word existed as a foul term for black people, and should be left as such. If black people, and whites for that matter, wish to turn it into a slang word that has a similar definition to the word "brotha" by replacing "er" with "a" then by all means. Use of it as a derogatory term is, at least where I live (west coast), unheard of.

 

I suppose another way to present myself would be: Can I use the term "porch monkey" as a colloquial saying when referring to any black people I know? The common reaction here would be "of course not that's awful". Well, exactly my point.

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You have two separate issues.

 

The first one is whether someone's skin colour should have any effect on what terms they are or aren't allowed to use.

 

The second one is whether there should be terms which are prohibited from use.

 

The first question is quite easy to answer, it's effectively asking whether you agree with discrimination based on skin colour; if the answer is no, the skin colour of the individuals using (or not using) terms is irrelevant.

 

If your answer is yes, you're suggesting that discrimination based on skin colour is acceptable, which is contrary to what is generally regarded as an acceptable view to hold in society, and you'd probably have a difficult time trying to justify your view, as people have fought wars as they disagree with it.

 

The second question is more complex, and there aren't really any simple answers. One way of looking at it is through social contract theory, whereby you (and everyone else in society) relinquish some of your freedom in order to guarantee that you all have a greater level of freedom - by restricting everyone's ability to use certain terms, you're restricting the ability of people to verbally abuse each other within your society.

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You have two separate issues.

 

The first one is whether someone's skin colour should have any effect on what terms they are or aren't allowed to use.

 

The second one is whether there should be terms which are prohibited from use.

 

The first question is quite easy to answer, it's effectively asking whether you agree with discrimination based on skin colour; if the answer is no, the skin colour of the individuals using (or not using) terms is irrelevant.

 

If your answer is yes, you're suggesting that discrimination based on skin colour is acceptable, which is contrary to what is generally regarded as an acceptable view to hold in society, and you'd probably have a difficult time trying to justify your view, as people have fought wars as they disagree with it.

 

The second question is more complex, and there aren't really any simple answers. One way of looking at it is through social contract theory, whereby you (and everyone else in society) relinquish some of your freedom in order to guarantee that you all have a greater level of freedom - by restricting everyone's ability to use certain terms, you're restricting the ability of people to verbally abuse each other within your society.

I don't really need the n-word to verbally abuse somebody. There's plenty of ways of doing that, even without words that might be considered explicit.

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You have two separate issues.

 

The first one is whether someone's skin colour should have any effect on what terms they are or aren't allowed to use.

 

The second one is whether there should be terms which are prohibited from use.

 

The first question is quite easy to answer, it's effectively asking whether you agree with discrimination based on skin colour; if the answer is no, the skin colour of the individuals using (or not using) terms is irrelevant.

 

If your answer is yes, you're suggesting that discrimination based on skin colour is acceptable, which is contrary to what is generally regarded as an acceptable view to hold in society, and you'd probably have a difficult time trying to justify your view, as people have fought wars as they disagree with it.

 

The second question is more complex, and there aren't really any simple answers. One way of looking at it is through social contract theory, whereby you (and everyone else in society) relinquish some of your freedom in order to guarantee that you all have a greater level of freedom - by restricting everyone's ability to use certain terms, you're restricting the ability of people to verbally abuse each other within your society.

I don't really need the n-word to verbally abuse somebody. There's plenty of ways of doing that, even without words that might be considered explicit.

 

It's not about "should we ban this word?", it's about "should we ban any words?" - if you agree with the latter, it's not difficult to come up with justification for banning a word that has connotations with slavery/etc.

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Sure. I just see very few, if any, reasons to use the n-word for me as opposed to other swear words.

 

But what if people find those other swear words equally as offensive?

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