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The 'N' Word: Should It Die Forever?

Updated on October 10, 2010

We are One...

Black or white, we can live without the 'N' word...

"The words of the tongue have three gatekeepers: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" Arab proverb

I am sitting on the local bus, heading home from a busy day in the city. I take out my latest book and begin reading. It will be a 40-minute ride.

Suddenly, I am aware of a voice about two people away, talking excitedly on her cell phone. She is African-American, about 18, attractive, nicely dressed. As I begin to lose myself in my book once again, I hear the ‘N’ word spew forth from her lips into the phone. She is referring to someone both she and her phone partner know in common, I assume. As the conversation continues, the ‘N’ word flies, virtually in every third or fourth breath. It becomes offensive after a time. Finally, she departs the bus, still talking, still spewing the ‘N’ word.

OK, I understand from my Black friends that the African-American community has owned the ‘N’ word, and that in owning it, has cut its sting, at least among that community. Fine.

But here’s the kicker…

How you talk to the world and to yourself will determine how the world will respond to you, in kind. And the non-Black world sees you as hating yourself. You must, they say, since you use that word to describe yourselves. Often.

The ‘N’ word is a nasty, insulting, and racist word. At least that’s how it stands within non-Black segments of the community. And even though Black people have owned it, when the rest of us hear it, we are still offended. We hear it as a put-down, especially when so many young Black men and women use it. And in public.

Young Black people (and anyone who chooses to use the ‘N’ word in public), get this: As you speak, you create. If you want to hold your head high, get the respect you so richly deserve, and integrate well into society, then, if you must use the word, do so only amongst yourselves. Every time the rest of us hear you use it, we see you as disrespecting yourself. And you really don’t need any more of that. If you show no public respect for yourself, how can anyone else? You are speaking your truth into reality.

Bill Cosby* and other high profile people have called for the African-American community to cease using that racist, slave-era word, not only in public, but also within the Black community itself. How about it?

You are a beautiful, worthy child of the Living Source of All That Is. Please stop referring to yourself by that foul, slave-based, KKK-incited expression.

You’re too good for the ‘N’ word.

*"Your dirty laundry gets out of school at 2:30 p.m. every day. It's cursing and calling each other nigger ... they think they're hip. They can't read; they can't write. They're laughing and giggling, and they're going nowhere." Bill Cosby

(Who am I to write such a page? I’m part Native American and my grandparents actually lived on or near the reservations in Northern California. I would often hear them refer to themselves and family members by the White Man in Town’s term for them: Dirty ol’ Indian! My generation is the first to stop using that term, even as a joke.)


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    • RichardSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Kent Matthews 

      8 years ago from Portland, OR Metro Area

      I wrote this article AFTER having spoken to a number of Black people, friends and acquaintances, who all agree that the 'N' word is a degrading term that people of color must cease using.

      You have to agree that when non-Blacks hear that word flying everywhere, we get a different idea that what you present.

      And no, I wouldn't delete your comment. I am always open to new info and others' opinions. Thanks for participating.

    • teeeheee profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm glad you didn't disapprove my comment, I'm glad that you let other people be heard.

    • RichardSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Kent Matthews 

      8 years ago from Portland, OR Metro Area

      I stand in the middle of a crowded bus with the 'N' word flying all around me. It's not my responsibility to research any further. That word is insulting. Period.

    • teeeheee profile image


      8 years ago

      American Romance, that seemed extremely prejudice. Not all black people say it! Just because SOME black people say it, does NOT mean everyone else should. RichardSpeaks, do you understand that ALL races can be involved in gang violence. If a black person calls themselves a N word, does NOT mean they have self hatred! Before you go saying this STUPID THINGS, research it a little. And I don't mean by reading articles by nonblack people. Ask someone, because everything you two men are saying is WRONG.

    • RichardSpeaks profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Kent Matthews 

      8 years ago from Portland, OR Metro Area

      We all agree that each person has to take responsibility for his/her life. In this case, Black people have had a definite disadvantage socially. Slavery is not long removed from our generation and still tinges many parts of the American psyche. But realizing how we literally speak ourselves into a state of reality can make a difference even with that background. Ending self-derogatory words like the "N" word will begin the real process of self-respect, not the fake kind that leads to gang violence, continued self-hatred, and early death.

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 

      8 years ago from America

      Blacks live the word daily through song and speech, Thugs like Jesse and Sharpton keep it alive through demonizing others! There is little hope for the black community untill they begin to help themselves!


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