Are You Uncomfortable? Unpacking the N-Word by Anneliese du Boulay

The n-word is a term of mystery. A term of notoriety. A term so carefully scrutinized that it is put in quotations and given a nickname so as to not offend. But who does it offend? And in what contexts is the word branded offensive? Last Wednesday, EBONI opened these questions to fellow students seeking an open discourse with the student body to unpack the ever elusive n-word.

A large part of EBONI’s discussion circled around the use of the term in a classroom setting. Several students brought up extraordinary points that censoring the n-word from literary works erases an important part of our history. It allows people to bypass the constant colloquial use of the term in American history, effectively overlooking even more of the African American story. When the question was raised whether the word could be used in discourse and discussion within a class context, students agreed that the class should gauge the comfortability of the students of color in the room. The lack of focus on the comfort of the white students came from the notion that to be uncomfortable is not always a bad thing—learning and reflective thought are developed from uncomfortable situations, and white students might benefit from this.

While there was debate amongst both students of color and white students on the use of the word, one thing was widely agreed upon—the reclaiming of the n-word is not for the white population. But why are we reclaiming the word at all? One student spoke about his father’s opinion that the Black population is taking back the n-word in order to send a message to white Americans that the word is no longer theirs to use to oppress or demean the Black community. “Nigga” is our term of expression. Our term of endearment. Our term.

EBONI meets Wednesday nights at 8 in the Cultural Center.