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  • Writer's pictureNicole Doyley

Who’s Keeping the N Word Alive?

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

About a week ago, my oldest son came home and said, “Mom! A kid called me the N

word – and he’s black!” Through gritted teeth, I tried to explain why some black

people call other black people the N word. It made no sense to him and it makes no

sense to me.

There are two movie scenes that I still vividly remember from childhood. One was

the scene of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. I can’t tell you how much

sleep I lost because of those stupid monkeys. The other was not so ridiculous and it

still effects me today: it is the scene from the original 1977 Roots miniseries when

Kunta Kinte’s master brutally beat him until he finally submitted and gasped, “My

name is Toby.”

Forcing slaves to abandon their African names and take on new Anglo names was

part of the subjugation. If I name you I own you; all African identity had to be

forsaken and left behind. Not only that, but I can call you any vile thing I’d like.

A little while later in the movie, Toby’s master beat him again so severely that he

knocked him out, spat on him and called him the N word with utter contempt. This

word conjures centuries of pain. It represents a period of time when white people

ruled so supremely, that they could call anybody anything they wanted with

impunity. The N word is a word of domination, disrespect and derision. It

communicates, “You’re not a person. You’re a dog.”

This word needs to die. And yet today, two types of people keep it alive: shameless

racists and some hip hop artists. We expect nothing less from the racist. But the

black hip hop artist… really? Why?

Similar is the phenomenon of female artists liberally calling other women bitches

and hoes. Do they not realize the blood, sweat and tears of the women before them

who stared into the scornful eyes of an unashamed sexist culture and demanded to

be treated as equal human beings?

So many black people endured trauma and violence fighting for their right to name

themselves, and despite the discouraging events that still occur, we’re making

tremendous progress -- but this word sets us back every time.

When it comes to the hip hop artists, it has to be about the money and that is

unacceptable. Those who rap these words and those who buy these albums should

look around and see the company with whom they keep. They are linking arms

racists and misogynists and they should be ashamed.

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